William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Absolute Objectivity In Our Search For Truth Is Impossible, But . . .

The question was put:

"I've been doing a lot of pondering of late. Thinking about what is fair, what is honest, what I know and what I don't know and what within me leads to believe what.

The nut of this is that I've come to the conclusion that if you have never given something a fair trial, then you can't say you know anything about it's truth. If all you have ever eaten are fuji apples, then you can't really say that fuji apples are the very best in the world can you. They very well may be, but you can't say that. If you have a lot invested in fuji apples being the best in the world, your self esteem, life experiences, time, money and your family will give you hell if you ever say anything different - well how honest are you when you say that "I know fuji apples are the best in the world" ? Are you being honest with yourself is you do say that ?

And so it goes for the Church. If it's all you've ever known can you truly say you know it's true ? Oh, I hear you all out there already - but I have spiritual experiences . . . yea, I'll get to those in a moment.

How many people here have really, truly, given the Church a fair trial ? Fair meaning starting from as unbiased position as is possible and then working you way from there ? It's not fair, if you start from the "it's true" and then look at all the evidence and say you still believe - that in my book is not being fair, it's being biased, and the temptation to either knowingly or unknowingly support your bias is beyond what humans can do.

We are all taught that we must be converted at some time in our lives. I submit that without doing as unbiased trial as is possible you can not truly become converted, and say you KNOW the church is true. You can hope it's true, you can believe it's true, you can really, really need it to be true, but you can not know that it is.

back to the spiritual experiences . . . yea, I've heard it all before Let me submit that there are well over 10,000 religions on this planet with full time clergy. If you were to interview them how many of them do you think would say "I've had a spiritual experience" or something similar ? The vast, vast majority of people on earth are not LDS. Of those who are religions how many of them would say they have had a religious experience ? A lot, a whole lot.

In any test of truth - we can have errors. Either a false positive - the answer is false, but we got a true - or we can have a false negative - the answer is true but we got a false.
I submit that if spiritual experience is the yardstick for which we should solely base our 'truth' on, then we also have to acknowledge that for the population of the earth, given that the LDS Church is true, then spiritual feelings have a false positive error rate of 99.9999+ precent. Therefore it is not a valid test upon we should heavily weight an answer.

That's an example of what I mean by being fair - unbiased. You have to look at the issue from all sides. You can look at spiritual experiences and weigh them differently, but you should have a good reason for doing so in the face of the above paragraph. If all you do is say "I've had this experience, and therefore it's true" well, is that really being honest ? As painful as that is to contemplate.

OK, so what makes your spiritual experience different from everyone else on the earth ? you do know that people have converted, and deconverted and so we have people we can ask about these things ? Do those here really think that the LDS spiritual experience is vastly superior to others - without trying others ? Aren't we right back to the fuji apple comparison ?

Again, how many people here have had the courage to truly look ? To truly give the Church a fair, unbiased trial ? Otherwise, our own bias, will prevent us from knowing anything.

Just my thoughts and musings for the day. Carry on, and I'm looking forward to hearing about your experiences and answers, and not looking for a debate. I've come to my own conclusion about how to proceed in my life based on my own best judgment, now I'm trying to understand that of others."

To which I responded:

I agree with most of what you have said, but I think it is important to note a couple of points:

1. While it is critical that we attempt to remain completely unbiased in our quest for the truth, we have to accept from the outset that it will not be possible. Our own prejudices, fears, and self interest will inevitably get in the way sometimes. In fact, self interest can even have the opposite effect when combined with fear. Example: a prospective catholic priest, very much wanting to get married because his instinct and sex drive are pointing him in that direction, decides that when he puts the question to God concerning whether he should marry or whether instead to devote himself to the ministry, he thinks he cannot trust any answer that he should marry, because he thinks that such an answer is simply the product of his own carnal desires; but if he gets the answer that he should devote himself to a celibate life as a priest, he trusts that the answer must have come from God because he thinks that his mind (tainted by his self-interest) could not have manufactured the perceived spiritual experience, and therefore concludes that the answer was authentic revelation from God.

I give this "fear-tainted" example because LDS people have often criticized my own convictions as being mere attempts to "justify" my supposed sins and positions on various church doctrines and policies. So, just as self-interest can taint perceived revelation, so can fear. As I strongly believe that God created us to have joy in the plain sense of the word (not just some re-defined sense which is really just another way of expressing the social acceptance and lack of guilt people can feel when they follow all of the standards and doctrines emphasized within their circle of TBM peers), I believe that we should never disregard a perceived truth just because its truth would have the net effect of giving us greater joy or pleasure.

2. There is still a place for faith, and we cannot demand that all truth will be made known to us by study alone. All we can do is temper our faith by rejecting those doctrines/positions which appear unreasonable or unlikely in light of the evidence and arguments available to us.

3. Although we are inherently biased in our search for the truth, our conclusions will be much less prone to error if, as we study and ponder and pray, we bear in mind our proactive moral duty to do good in the world, even if that means a reasonable amount of self-sacrifice.

Read my blog and you will see how I have treated this subject in greater detail.

No comments:

Post a Comment