Archived 2-27-04

“The Truth About Truth”

By Larry John

We all believe some things to be true in all areas of life, from politics to religion.  Being the amateur “thinking scientist” that I am, I strive to know what is true. Not only is it important for me to know what is true, but what is false, and even if something be true or not, is there any real benefit in my life if it is true? Many times the experience, result, effect, or benefit of a truth is no different because it is true than if it were false based on my practical way of thinking. It comes as no surprise that as a pragmatic thinker, I enjoy questioning not only my beliefs, but the beliefs of others as it relates to truth. Here is how I question. What do I think or believe to be true? If it were true, what difference, if any, would it make in anyone’s life? In other words, what would the practical results, benefits, effects and experience be if it were true? If it were false, would the practical results be any different? And finally, even if the truth is found to be true, what is the truth’s “cash value,” or worth, as it relates to life’s experience?  Many of life’s experiences would be the same even if something we thought to be true were false. The value of truth lies in the practical results or tangible experiences in life. If the truth makes no difference in the “experience” of life…it has no value, whether it be true or false.

When I talk to some people, they say that they “feel” something to be true. They say their “heart” tells them that something they have learned is truth. But is truth known through feeling, or is truth known through thinking. Or can truth really be known at all? Better said, is there anything that is universally true or absolutely true?

Now at this point I want to make it clear that I don’t want to offend those who have had a “religious witness”. I will never have the warm, heart felt religious feelings that so many people have. Don’t get me wrong, I live a very spiritual life filled with an enthusiasm for living, but in my search for truth I am not looking for a religious experience. I have to be more pragmatic about my thinking. I am as scientific in my investigation of truth as I can be. Others, who don’t think as pragmatically and as practically as I, and want a religious experience will always have a much greater, heart felt experience with religion than I would. These people talk about being “spiritually” moved, a statement I understand, but refuse to give much credence to as proof of truth.

I always say, if a “feeling “is proof of God, then I believe that God is a “radish.” Now, I don’t really think that God is a “radish,” but for the purpose of discussion I bear my testimony to the fact that I worship a radish that I keep on my mantel and this radish has performed great miracles in my life and the life of my family. I love my radish. I even cry from a full and grateful heart when I think about the things that my radish has done for me. I will be eternally grateful. “Wonderful” be the name of RADISH. Now, before lighting strikes me and my neighbors break down my door and haul me away for being blasphemous, let me say that I am just kidding. I don’t have a radish that I worship.  But the example of using the “feeling” burning deep down in my soul as certified proof that God is a radish still holds. A person can have any feeling for or against anything. Truth cannot be based on a “feeling” or…like I said…. God is a radish and I “feel” and “know” beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is true.

So for the purpose of this pragmatic commentary, I would like to hold fast to the scientific method of proving, pragmatically of course, our declarations of truth. If we declare truth to be true based on “my feeling,” then every belief or declaration of truth I hold to be true can have no more validity than someone else’s declared truth based on “his or her feeling.” Practically and pragmatically, truth must be more than mere “gut feelings” or wherever in your body you get your feeling from.  In order for truth to be true, it must be true based on universal acceptance based on practical experience. As a “thinking” scientist I will be the first to admit nothing is universally accepted as true, because as in all sciences, including mathematics, there is always an exception to the rule. When the truth is put to the scientific test of reason, logic, and experience, and the result or experience is universal, that is truth. I am looking for truth that has the same predictable and practical outcome or effect each and every time for each and every individual. Then again, for me even if a truth is true, it must have some worth in my life or it has no value to me. Like I said before, many of life’s experiences would be the same even if something we thought to be true were false. The value of truth lies in the practical results or tangible experience. If the truth makes no difference in the “experience” of life…it has no value whether true or false.

For example, let’s have some fun and say that you are convinced that people from outer space are constantly coming to earth to spy on us. You declare as truth that aliens in UFOs are real. So if I want to find out for myself if what you say is true, I will put it to the scientific test. You say that people from outer space are flying to earth to spy on us. If this were true, what difference would it make in my life? Well…I might live in fear and look up in the sky a lot. I might start attending UFO conventions.  I might start reading more editions of the Enquirer and the Globe. Or I might pull all my money out of the stock market. What good will money be if space aliens take over the planet? Needless to say, in “my” life, even if people from outer space were flying here all the time, it wouldn’t change my life in a practical way at all. Life as I know it would continue to be the same. So even if what you say were true, it would make no practical difference in my life. But if aliens were NOT really coming here to earth and your belief were false, would my experience in life be any different? Nope. Practically speaking, my life would remain the same whether your statement were true or false. So regardless if it were true that people from outer space really do exist and are flying here to spy on us, my life wouldn’t change in the least. So does this truth declared by you have any “cash value,” or worth, to me? Not even a little! You’re truth is a great big pragmatic SO WHAT to me.

In order to be pragmatic in your thinking, by definition you must be scientific in your testing of declared truth regarding politics, religion, health, wealth, wisdom and more.  If truth has no “cash value,” regardless of whether it is true or false, what good is it? So what? Even if my neighbor thinks that God is a radish and can cure my ulcer, and by scientific investigation of doubt, questioning, and testing, I find that his radish only cures ulcers 10% of the time, that ain’t good enough proof for me to declare his radish to be God. The proof is in the pudding. Truth must have practical “cash value” that changes life’s experiences to be pragmatically true. You can still have your “feelings” but to me, feelings are “nothing more than feelings.”  I might be wrong, so prove me wrong. Right or wrong, if knowing the truth doesn’t change your experience of life…. forget about it. Think about it.