How Do You Determine Truth?
www.physicsforums.com between myself, DT Strain, and another poster, Ishop. There were also interesting exchanges with other posters, but for the sake of brevity, I have only included those between myself Ishop, which were the most interesting of them. Corrections have been made in the case of obvious omissions and typos...
Imagine the following person...
John (totally random name) is a man who believes anything anyone tries to tell him. He is easily convinced of the truth of anything told to him and, if you want to know what he believes, just ask the last person who spoke to him, as he will agree with them. John is completely gullible in the sense that he will fall for any line of "reasoning" he's given. Everything sounds convincing to him. His worst fear is that someone may call him "close minded", or "dogmatic". Therefore, he will gladly accept the possibility of every contradictory claim and not give the slightest weight to one over the other. John will never say, "I believe x" or "I don't believe y".
1) Is John the ideal perfect thinker? Is john the model of how modern-day society says we ought to live and think?
2) If not, what would you suggest as a way for John to become less gullible? How should John tell truth from fiction?
Psychologically I'd say "john" has some issues that are hurting his ability to come to his own conclusions. However I think you mean this to be a hypothetical question and are looking for a certain type of answer. The question I believe is "How does one come to the truth?"
"John" needs to study logic. Logic is the only way to make conclusions that will benefit the most. Logic has a hard time being true however because the problems which we want to conclude are flawed. For instance:
If "John" thinks that all red headed people are daemons and are going to kill him and everyone else any minute now, the logical conclusion would be to kill them first. Obviously "John" would be insane. His reasoning for coming up with this logical conclusion is flawed. Red headed people are not daemons. Well, not all of them lol.
So "John" must not only know how to reach a logical conclusion but also to make sure his reasoning and problem that needs to be concluded is logical. The dog is hungry. I will feed the dog. This is a logical conclusion to a logical problem. The dog is rabid, I will drop it off in the country. This obviously is not. The purpose of logic is to reach an unbiased conclusion that benefits all the most.
In "John's" decision making, John must first learn to analyze a problem, assess if that problem is needing a conclusion, consider all facts, theories, and opinions given on the problem, look for compromise or improvement among the information accumulated, use reason to make sure it all works correctly, and concluded your ideas by double checking with an opposing argument. Once this is done, "John" will have no choice but to accept one conclusion. The only thing that can stop him is if his reasoning is flawed. Every human being can reason, but it is false information that can make our reason fail. In the end he will have a conclusion that, with the information given, is the most logical. If he finds his information to be wrong, then he should repeat the gathering information, use it to reason and conclude his idea.
I agree with the general thrust of your response. However, logic alone is not really enough. Logic tells you how to reach a certain goal, but it does not tell you what that goal should be. For example, if I wanted to blow up a city, I could use logic to determine the best way of doing so. If I wanted to create world peace, I could use logic to work toward that goal. Our end goals are neither logical nor illogical - they simply "are". Naturally, when people talk about something being logical to do, there is an ASSUMED shared goal which is usually so universal as to be understood. For example, one might talk about it being logical to make peace. But there is an un-stated assumed goal of prosperity for humanity (or something like that). It is not logical or illogical to work for the prosperity or survival of humanity or ourselves - it is simply a goal we have out of our own interests. In other words, logic cannot define values, but it can only help us achieve them. And as far as determining truth goes, you said, "The purpose of logic is to reach an unbiased conclusion that benefits all the most." Not really. The purpose of logic in determining truth is to reach an unbiased conclusion. Who it benefits is irrelevant.
I was trying to say this but maybe I didn't communicate it correctly. So we both agree on this. I was trying to point out that Reason and Logic are both important in finding truth. The reason takes care of "what that goal should be".
Problem with this is there is a whole argument that there is no truth, or that it is unreachable. I am not really for this argument, but it is interesting to add to this idea. Assuming that there is a truth about everything, then one must accept that there is only one truth. Either there is matter or there is not, either there is a god or there is not. Obviously one of these is provable by science the other is not. Both beg for an answer. Science tends to give a reasonable hypothesis and then tries to disprove it in order to prove it. This is an interesting way to approach truth. However it is not (in my opinion) the best way. I could say that there are blue balls that bounce constantly inside pumpkin shaped gas clouds on the first planet of the Alpha Centauri system. This (right now) is unable to be proven for or against. This system does not help reach truth. Truth can only be reached when all the facts are given. I can say there is a god of some sort and say now prove me wrong. There is no real way to do this. The only way we can reach truth is to have all of the information, and most likely that will never be possible. At least I hope there will never be a day when there is no longer anything for man to discover. So in short, there is no real practical way to come up with truth....only the most likeliest of truths.
Ishop: I was trying to say this but maybe I didn't communicate it correctly. So we both agree on this. I was trying to point out that Reason and Logic are both important in finding truth. The reason takes care of "what that goal should
I thought that perhaps we were more similar in position, but wasn't sure - thanks for the clarification. Although I'm not certain "reason" determines goals. I tend to think that all goals of human beings if you trace them deep enough will eventually lead back to some primal biological instinct, that exists simply because of natural selection. This doesn't mean that everything we do is a result of evolution or instinct, but it means that we have basic urges and priorities, and all of our more sophisticated priorities are built upon those. If my goal is world peace, I think this relates to some priority that's there because of some instinct. Ironically, the same can be said for people bent on destroying the world. All of these basic instincts of desire, love, attention, jealousy, hate, and so on have their routes in out base-brains, and the intricate series of more elaborate goals relate back to those in some way. I suppose you could say we use reason to establish the "higher goals" which in the long run will fulfill our general base-instinct goals.
Ishop: Truth: Problem with this is there is a whole argument that there is no truth, or that it is unreachable.
The idea that there IS no objective truth is highly influenced by "post-modernism" (a different post-modernism that in the world of art). I'm not too hot on the idea either. Primarily because it seems unlikely that there would be as much correspondence as there is. It also seems that what ideas work or don't work for inventions would not be nearly as consistent as they are. And then, out of basic practicality, I think we have to assume an objective reality for the sake of being able to operate in our world, so it kind of makes the issue moot to begin with. The day a post-modernist cures a disease or creates an invention I'll reconsider.
Ishop: Science tends to give a reasonable hypothesis and then tries to disprove it in order to prove it. This is an interesting way to approach truth. However it is not (in my opinion) the best way. I could say that there are blue balls that bounce constantly inside pumpkin shaped gas clouds on the first planet of the Alpha Centauri system. This (right now) is unable to be proven for or against.
This view of science is not entirely accurate. If it were, we'd see a lot more "blue ball" theories floating around out there, that were considered hard science. Instead, there's pretty much none like you describe. The first thing you don't have exactly right in your description above is that you don't just throw out a hypothesis and then people start trying to disprove it. If that were true, then all the improvable religious claims would be a valid part of science. What's missing in your description are the following...
1) Utility: A hypothesis must be necessary to answer some unanswered question, account for unexplained phenomenon, or some conflicting data. Your blue ball hypothesis comes out of nowhere and doesn't seek to answer anything - it in fact creates more questions than it answers.
2) Occam's razor: the hypothesis must be the simplest explanation for question at hand, containing the fewest assumptions. It must elegantly move between known points of data, connecting the dots in as straight a line as possible.
3) Disprovable: The hypothesis must, at least in principle, be DISprovable. If there is no logical way someone could disprove a hypothesis, then it is automatically non-scientific and invalid.
And mainly, there's no logical way to ever completely prove something. It can only be supported by evidence. You can never prove something because there could have always been some coincidental series of events that made your explanation only SEEM to be the correct one. But you CAN logically DISprove something. The more support for a theory there is, and the longer it goes without being disproved, the stronger it is assumed to be, but it is never assumed infallible.
Ishop: This system does not help reach truth.
If this were true our lifespans would not have doubled in a single century, airplanes would not work, we would not have computers, etc. It seems to me that "effectiveness" is an indicator that you are on to truth.
Ishop: Truth can only be reached when all the facts are given.
TOTAL truth, yes. But science only says, "this is the most likely truth, given the facts we have at present". If it didn't say this, no one would be hiring scientists any more because there would be no more facts left to collect.
Ishop: I can say there is a god of some sort and say now prove me wrong. There is no real way to do this.
Which is why that's not science, and why science is superior to that.
Ishop: So in short, there is no real practical way to come up with truth....only the most likeliest of truths.
You're right about my post...I inaccurately used the word and concept of hypothesis. Thanks. This is what happens when I spit out a response without checking it reasonably before I hit "post new reply" hehe. However possibly what this brings up is a good way of isolating your question. By truth you could mean finding truth to improvable ideas or provable ideas. Knowing you as I do I'm betting you meant provable. Or at least mostly provable since we already went over "absolute truth" and "most likely truth (theory)". So, then it seems that to attain theory (most likely truth) you must use the scientific method. I think you might agree with this. However I have absolutely no idea of the best way to go about attaining "most likely truth" to improvable things. It seems to me that your way of dealing with improvable things is to deny that they exist, ie. god, dragons, fairies, Martians. I can't argue against this o course since I have no idea how to attain most likely truth for improvable things. I suggest that it is personal preference. Seems there is no answer to that part of truth, which I am fine with since there are no facts (improvable) then it is most likely impossible to attain even a "most likely truth" for these improvable things.
Ishop: ...So, then it seems that to attain theory (most likely truth) you must use the scientific method. I think you might agree with this. However I have absolutely no idea of the best way to go about attaining "most likely truth" to improvable things.
me either. :)
Ishop: It seems to me that your way of dealing with improvable things is to deny that they exist, ie. god, dragons, fairies, Martians. I can't argue against this o course since I have no idea how to attain most likely truth for improvable things. I suggest that it is personal preference.
I think that's the perspective a lot of people take. However, my personal preference would be to believe that I'm going to live forever (which I don't). When you say it seems that my "way of dealing with improvable things is to deny that they exist", this is not entirely accurate. Let me explain a bit as to how I handle the improvable, and why that means I'm an atheist...
Because, as you mention above, we have no idea as to how to determine the most likely truth for the improvable, then there's really nothing meaningful we can say about such things. "Logical Positivism" phrases it like this: There are basically 3 types of statements (whether we know their classification or not). There are True statements, False statements, and Meaningless statements. To cut to the chase, statements which cannot, even in principle, ever be proven or disproved are meaningless. So, to use the most obvious example, "god exists" is a meaningless statement because we have no way of ever proving or disproving it.
Now, whether its meaningless or not, we don't need to know for certain. The fact is that, at present, it is unproven. We basically have three choices about unproven claims:
1) Believe them all unless or until they are DISproved.
2) Believe those things which we like believing and disregard the rest.
3) Believe in none of them unless or until they are Proven.
#1 is what John does. There are a few I've encountered that might fit this category to a lesser degree because they've totally accepted the social ideology in style today, which is to have a hugely opened mind no matter what. Of course, the problem with this is that you have to believe contradictory things, which cannot logically co-exist or be true simultaneously. This is why MOST people tend toward #2. They will often not really believe this is what they are doing, referring to their special sensory abilities, unique perspective or reasoning, supernatural revelations, and so on - but it's all basically #2. This is what the silly human animal will tend toward if we don't watch ourselves, and we're all guilty of it to some degree. We seem then to be left with #3.
Of course, "proven" is often a fuzzy thing and there are more often "degrees" to which things are proven, or supported by the evidence. This is where a very important principle of healthy skepticism (not cynicism) comes in:
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
Or, put another way, the degree of belief in a proposition should be proportionate to the degree of evidence for that proposition. This is like a "gradated", more precise version of #3.
So does this mean that I "deny the existence" of the unproven? So far it seems that way, but not technically. Of course gods, or any number of other things, might actually exist. But here's a crucial point to understanding my position: the lack of a belief, is not the same thing as the belief in its opposite.
For example, let's suppose you BELIEVE there is a quarter in my pocket right now (the same as Billy Graham BELIEVED in god). And let's suppose your friend says, "I have no idea, whether DT Strain has a quarter in his pocket right now, how could we possibly know such a thing?" Your friend would not hold the belief that I had a quarter in my pocket. In other words, if BELIEF1 = "has quarter in pocket", then you either HAVE that belief, or you don't. So then you might ask your friend, "How do you KNOW he doesn't have a quarter in his pocket?" But your friend doesn't claim to know this. We could also say, BELIEF2 = "has NO quarter in pocket". You would be claiming that, because he does not hold BELIEF1, that he MUST hold BELIEF2. And this is not the case. In other words, I can say "I DON'T hold a belief in god" or "I DON'T believe in god" - same thing. But this is not the same as saying "I DO believe that there IS NO god." To know such a thing would take as much superhuman ability/faith/whatever as to know that there WERE a god.
So, right now many are probably thinking I'm agnostic. Well, what's described above is actually what an atheist is - this touches on the biggest single misconception in and about all of the non-believing world.
Many atheists DO hold a belief that there IS no god. But this is not what makes them atheists - that is merely incidental. Let's look at another word which uses the same format...
MORAL = in compliance with moral/ethical standards
IMMORAL = opposed to or contradictory to such standards
AMORAL = having nothing to do with morality - neither supportive or opposed to.
THEISM works the same way. An A-THEIST, is a person who LACKS theism. This means that ANYONE, who lacks a belief in god is an atheist. There's not really a word for IMtheism, but IMtheists (or anti-theists) would be a SUBset of Atheism. They would be atheists, but they wouldn't be the only atheists. Agnostics lack a belief in god, AND they lack a belief that there is no god - they don't hold either belief. But the anti-theists holding BELIEF2 and the agnostics NOT holding BELIEF2, has nothing to do with the fact that classifies them both as atheists - which is that neither of them hold BELIEF1.
So, anyone who does not hold a belief in a god/s is an atheist (i.e. "without" theism). That means a baby is an atheist, a dog is an atheist (probably, unless you're his god hehe). Now, the reason a lot of people don't know this is that the anti-theists tend to be the more vocal (although not really serious philosophical atheists, but merely PO'd people who have some sort of beef with religious people). This makes a lot of people think that if you're an atheist that you DENY the possibility of there being a god, thus the misconception. I don't DENY the possibility that there is life on Europa, but I wouldn't say I HOLD the BELIEF that there IS LIFE ON EUROPA. I'm an a-europist, until I see some evidence. I'm also an a-anti-europist. In fact, I'm an a-imtheist.
Because of the bad connotation atheists have received in a nation of mostly religious people who tend to vilify them, Thomas Huxley coined the word "agnostic" just to emphasize the fact that he doesn't think its possible to prove or disprove it, and that he is not an anti-theist. But, as I said, since agnostics lack BELIEF1, then they are a sub-category of atheist (a = "without" theism).
Others recently have begun using the word "nontheist". The reason is that Agnostics include a lot of people who simply "don't know" what to believe - they are either undecided, unsure, and so on. But nontheists are not wishy-washy on the matter. I myself BELIEVE solidly that anyone who claims to have knowledge that there is or is not a god IS irrational - agnostics simply aren't sure either way - nontheists ARE sure that both are wrong to hold the beliefs they hold, even though ONE of them MUST logically be right. It is irrational to hold a belief for which you have no evidence.
So, finally, (whew!) that brings me to what I am - which is a humanist. Just about all modern humanism has a totally naturalistic worldview (i.e. no "supernaturalism"). This means we are all atheists. But Humanists also have a philosophy of secular ethics, which atheists may or may not have. So, I prefer to go by "humanist" rather than "atheist". The reason is that I'd much rather be defined by what I DO believe, than by what I DON'T believe (just as Christians would not be satisfied by simply being "a-hindus").
I used god as an example but this applies to all unproven and improvable phenomena. Therefore, I do not "deny" the improvable exists - I simply LACK a belief in it, and that belief will grow in proportion to the rise in empirical evidence available.
I see one thing you missed in proving improvable things. Personal experience. While this too is improvable, you still believe you saw the cow/dog. Same thing for me and god. I do not believe there is a god because some book says there is. Nor do I actually believe in the book. But because of personal experience (emotional response, not "miracles" that can be explained in other ways) I believe in a god. However, anyone else believing what I do without that personal experience would most likely be much like you. In other words, if I did not have the personal experience, I would most likely believe as you do. Just as if you had not seen the cow/dog, you would believe as I do, that you just saw something that "resembled" it in a way. So while this type of experience is totally improvable itself, it serves to personally prove to people that which is improvable.
I think it is important to lock down exactly what "truth" you meant to get to. Improvable truth, or mostly provable truth? Improvable truth (ie. gods, aliens, etc.) would be impossible to prove or come to the truth...that is their nature. In this case "truth" isn't even part of the equation. The end product here is faith. Unfortunately faith is not comprised of facts but of experiences which are disputable. This is why there is a possibility of various levels of faith from complete faith to none. The sum of experiences and assessment of those experiences = faith. Even if that experience like a child is just being told that god exists. Later on a person will assess that information and that assessment will determine their level of faith in that situation.
However you may not be asking about improvable truths. Therefore I stand by what I said before that our best method of coming to a most likely truth is the scientific method.
I have not forgotten personal experience. The problem with personal experience is that things like culture, emotional stress, wishes, peer pressure, and the like can all influence the way one interprets experiences. In the more severe cases, things such as illness, hunger, exhaustion, drugs, and psychosis can affect perception.
I doubt it is coincidence that people in Christian cultures have Christian experiences and those in Hindu cultures have Hindu experiences, and so on. Furthermore, people have experiences that indicate things which are contradictory to what the experiences others have suggest, yet, both are felt just as strongly and are just as convincing. This is why the standards for believing extraordinary things must be higher than the standards for believing routine things. This is true whether you are talking about the world at large or we as individuals.
I understand that I what I saw was much more likely a deformed or injured dog, or some unusual breed. With the lack of any evidence (even for myself), and with how extraordinary such a claim is, I must consider that such is highly unlikely. This is quite different than how those having religious experiences respond, such as claiming to “know” it is the truth, and even basing their whole lives on what these experiences suggest to them is the nature of their existence. I could never, no matter how convincing to me, go that far based on a an experience which had many other more logical explanations and which I could not prove.
In any case, if I were to experience something extraordinary and had no proof, I would expect that others should rightly doubt my claims. Furthermore, we cannot play favorites with ourselves. If we experience something, no matter how real it seems to us, then we must acknowledge the following...
• The contradictory, yet, just as personally convincing “experiences” of people all over the world indicate the unreliability of such experiences at determining truth, regardless of how real they feel.
• Given that we know such unreliable experiences feel absolutely real to the person having them - if we really understand and believe this, then we should not be surprised if we had such an experience, that it would feel absolutely real to us. In any event, we should treat the experience with as much skepticism as if someone else we trusted was being honest had the experience and was telling us about it - otherwise we are forgetting all rationality and playing favorites with ourselves. This would be hypocritical.
And finally, should it turn out that some experiences really are “real”. Then we have no way of sifting them out from the overwhelming flood of other people’s experiences that offer contradictory world views. Even if we ourselves have these experiences and they seem real to us, we have no way of knowing if we were one of the ones experiencing the “real thing” or if we were one of those experiencing a delusionary or self-concocted experience.
The “Truth” I’m talking about, since you asked, is “The true state of affairs”, as they are independent from our perception of them (and we both agree that there is a true state independent of our perception, according to earlier posts).
When I ask, “how do we determine truth?” I am beginning from the assumed likelihood that we are limited in our ability to do so with perfection. Instead, we must take our perceptions, measurements, and whatever else, and then process them according to some sort of standards (logic, feeling, psychic powers, etc) to arrive at a “model” of the truth, which we hope is similar to the actual Truth.
Naturally, the raw data we have, and the more sound and reliable our methods for processing such data, the more likely it is that our model of the truth is equal to the actual truth.
So that’s what I’m asking - what methods and standards are the most likely to yield a more accurate model of the Truth?
Well, I have to say I agree with your perceptions of things. However it seems to me that your answer for "improvable truths" is to not believe in any of it. While this may seem logical, I hardly think it is true to ourselves. We are perceptual beings. I have chosen to trust certain feelings and experiences, you do not. I see that your choice may be the more logical and unbiased one, but I think it leads to a problem. If cannot trust our own perceptions, even ones validated by some of the people around us, then what can we trust? Can we trust that the street light is green instead of red? If your choice were applied to everything (stretching it a bit of course) then no one would ever take off after the street light turned green because they would be waiting for others to go first to validate their perception. While this is a far stretch from believing in a god, it is along the same lines. Say I'm sitting at a football game (another stretch lol) and the seat is empty next to me. Suddenly a guy looking like what I would assume Jesus would look like is there. He turns to me eating his popcorn and says what’s up. I say hi. He looks at the football game and says, "hey, see that quarterback there, think I’ll let him throw the ball so hard that it goes out of the stadium." And then he does. Then I see him evaporate in front of my eyes. Now is I tell anyone about this I will be thought of as insane. I will believe no matter what, that what I saw was true. You seem like by what you say, that right after it happened you would promptly get up, walk to your car, drive right to the insane asylum and check yourself in. True again this is drastic. But I think there is a line that we move around saying I'll believe this much, but not this much. I think our lines are close, but still in different areas. Insane people most likely can't even see the line...."the line is a dot to them" to quote Friends hehe. In other words, I think your view is extreme. And I believe that most Christians views are extreme attaching the word "miracle" to anything good in life.
As for your question, again, as simple as the answer is, I think the Scientific Method is still our best bet at finding truth. Since the process allows for continuous change, it best fits a reality that can never COMPLETELY prove truth.
Ishop: Well, I have to say I agree with your perceptions of things. However it seems to me that your answer for "improvable truths" is to not believe in any of it. While this may seem logical, I hardly think it is true to ourselves. We are perceptual beings. I have chosen to trust certain feelings and experiences, you do not.
True, as long as people respect each other's views, I have nothing against people doing this is they feel they must, and would even die fighting to defend their right to do so. I do think this sort of thinking can lead to some very bad problems for them personally though - and that's the best case scenario (in other words, leaving out all of the religious conflicts, and oppression that can happen to others outside their faith).
Ishop: I see that your choice may be the more logical and unbiased one...
I know - it must sound a lot like, "The Vulcan Science academy has decreed that time travel is impossible." hehe
Ishop: ...but I think it leads to a problem. If [we] cannot trust our own perceptions, even ones validated by some of the people around us, then what can we trust?
I might make a side comment here that, although validation by others is an important part of the acceptability of evidence, it only counts if the validation is using methods which have been shown to be reliable. If the "validation" is merely the fact that others have similar (but separate) experiences, then counting this as validation would allow all sorts of crazy things to come in the door (not to say yours is one of the "crazy" things - but it would allow for such).
Ishop: Can we trust that the street light is green instead of red? If your choice were applied to everything (stretching it a bit of course) then no one would ever take off after the street light turned green because they would be waiting for others to go first to validate their perception.
Yes that's stretching it, but my position already accounts for such "stretching". As you'll recall, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This implies that ordinary claims require only ordinary evidence. A light being green or red is so mundane a thing, that we can accept everyday evidence for it. Furthermore, the method we use at obtaining this fact can be duplicated by others on that very same event. I will admit that if you require "extraordinary evidence for ordinary claims" the philosophy falls apart - so I wouldn't advocate that.
Ishop: ...Say I'm sitting at a football game (another stretch lol) and the seat is empty next to me. Suddenly a guy looking like what I would assume Jesus would look like is there. He turns to me eating his popcorn and says what’s up. I say hi. He looks at the football game and says, "hey, see that quarterback there, think I’ll let him throw the ball so hard that it goes out of the stadium." And then he does. Then I see him evaporate in front of my eyes. Now is I tell anyone about this I will be thought of as insane. I will believe no matter what, that what I saw was true. You seem like by what you say, that right after it happened you would promptly get up, walk to your car, drive right to the insane asylum and check yourself in.
hehe :) Well, you have to admit that this is not quite the type of overt experience most people are talking about when they say they've experienced Jesus. One of the factors here is that, with the religious experience, you have much more subtle things going on in one's head, which depend on emotional and psychological intricacies. These are all quite easily explainable by other more ordinary means. What you are describing suggests that either something really bizarre has occurred, or the person is suffering from severe delusion. Again, the empirical philosophy works on a gradated scale of reasonableness, and when you apply standards on one end of the scale for events on the other, it falls apart. This can all get somewhat subjective, which is why you have to look at these things on a case by case basis.
To satisfy your curiosity though, if this were to happen to me. I would ask others around me if they saw what I did. If no one else saw it, I would next probably like my food to be examined. I would indeed also go to my doctor for a checkup, as many medical situations can lead to delusions. Assuming all that checked out as normal, I might think that something really bizarre actually occurred (note, I still wouldn't tell anyone just yet what I'd seen). However, there are many explanations...
1) I DID have some sort of delusion - perhaps I was subconsciously feeling guilty about not being a Christian and the stress brought on the delusion
2) Some powerful/tricky people pulled off an elaborate hoax
3) Some alien beings, posing as the popular religious figure of the day, was impersonating them and watching the responses
4) Jesus actually appeared to me
All of these are possible, yet they are all listed in order of most likely to least likely. The reason this is, is because the level of unproven phenomenon in each one increases with each step. The aliens are more likely than Jesus because they do not require the assumption of an entire realm of existence outside this universe, and technologies are more of a "known" possibility than supernatural powers. All in all, without any further experiences, I would have to leave it as a bizarre occurrence that I might have to accept will forever go unexplained. I would then probably tll only a few select people close to me about it. At most, after that, I might try to pray or go to churches or temples a few times, to see if I could summon up another such experience (be it real or delusional), just for the sake of investigation.
But instant conversion to Christianity would be highly unlikely. For one, there is simply too much within the Christian cosmological world view I find to be ridiculously unlikely. Secondly, if a being wants my worship, he'll have to do better than being one of the many unproven religions, with a hat-trick thrown in on the side. If I am to base my life on something, I expect to understand why. The argument that we cannot comprehend everything doesn't do it for me either. Since this god would be all powerful, then our level of comprehension would be set by him. This being the case, anything we couldn't comprehend can be viewed exactly the same as simply being kept from us. And, like I said, I would need more data. And finally, I can't imagine a case in which I would approve of the very concept of worship itself, regardless of how powerful or good a being was (perhaps friendly love and appreciation, but not worship).
Ishop: Truth: ...Insane people most likely can't even see the line...."the line is a dot to them" to quote Friends hehe. In other words, I think your view is extreme. And I believe that most Christians views are extreme attaching the word "miracle" to anything good in life.
That's fair. But I think my view is only extreme in response to extreme statements. And, as a side note, Insanity need not be the only thing and it need not be "yes or no". Sometimes perfectly sane normal people can have delusions in strange situations. But most people having religious experiences are feeling something even much more ordinary - similar to the elation many get when they have conversion experiences to other religions. In fact, I recall a similar elation when I "converted" to humanism.
Ishop: As for your question, again, as simple as the answer is, I think the Scientific Method is still our best bet at finding truth. Since the process allows for continuous change, it best fits a reality that can never COMPLETELY prove truth.
Never completely no, but that is our lot it seems :)
Ok what if Jesus was riding a half dog half cow LOL...just kidding. I know where you're coming from, and like I said, had I not had certain experiences and trusted in them for what I perceived them to be, its most likely that I would believe exactly as you do. I have a very different view of Christianity though. I call myself a basicist. I do not believe the Bible is the "Word of God" and so forth, however I will not defend that statement. I have many times thought to write down my beliefs and exactly why I do believe them, but I choose not to. Simply because I fear the damage it will do. I am being (from my view) responsible with my opinions. I will tell you privately however. Basically, anyone not strong enough in their convictions of their experience or belief would (excuse the insinuation that you are not correct) fall into believing as you do. Since I believe that would do more bad than good I cannot share publicly the details of why I believe what I believe. Let's just say it would make a great logical argument for atheist that no denomination could defend against. Even with he annoying statement "well we aren't meant to know everything". Now sorry to digress your thread about the truth. I really do think that it is finished though. Improvable truths are left to opinion (not possible to know) and mostly provable truths are best defined by the Scientific Method. Is that the answer you were looking for?
Well, I'm not really looking for a specific answer. I know what I believe - so I'm just interested to hear what and why everyone else thinks. True, I can't really debate about your personal experience - only you can determine how you're going to interpret or respond to that.