We had eleven people at tonight’s Socrates Cafe meeting and the chosen subject was; How do we know what is true? Most of the basic things were covered so I will mention only a few that were not quite so basic.
Truth is a word and like all words, it only means what it means in the context of its usage in the current context. Only physical reality of some sort is amenable to scientific style testing, and those kinds of things are available to our senses, which includes real-world extensions of our senses like telescopes. Those things that are wholly within our minds are not directly accessible to external observation although things going on inside of our brains are the essence of our personal reality. What is going on in other people’s minds can never be known accurately to us outside observers. We can only have a partial understanding of what it is they are trying to communicate to us, and so we will inevitably be partially misunderstanding what they say. Their mental truth is forever internal and directly unknowable by us, and thus the statements we hear from others are potentially nonsense.
Our personal truth is inevitably filtered through our need to support our previous conceptions of reality. Because there isn’t the rigor of the scientific feedback system in place in our minds, it is inevitable that there will be misconceptions and thus inappropriate reactions to our own real-world situations. I proposed to J that if we have another SAC meeting where we play the “Question Game” my question will be; What do I believe that is clearly untrue? Really, false!” The basic rule of that game is that each person writes down a question, and when their turn comes reads it out loud. Then the other participants are limited to asking questions and only the subject gives declarative statements. The people who submitted to this game claimed they got real help from the inquisition.
One idea came up that was simple but intrigued me. Would you rather fly in a Boeing 777 that was built and operated by experts or fly in a homebuilt airplane operated by an amateur pilot? The answer, if you value your life, is to choose the 777. Now, apply that same logic to religion. Would you rather place your faith in the trustworthiness of an old and reality-tested religion operated by people with years of professional training or place your life with a local guy who created his own religion and has only his own personal experience for guiding you?
Our trust must always come back to the filters of our personal experience.