what is truth, anyway?
Okay, so I've figured out a few things about life:
  • I know I exist.
  • I know I like cheese.
  • I'm pretty sure Logic is valid.
  • I'm pretty sure some sort of God exists.
Where does that leave us? Oh, yeah. Nowhere. So, we've got to get something a little more useful out of this. You can't expect to get anything done if you wander around all day wondering if you've really got five fingers on each hand, or if it's an illusion. Trying to prove trivial facts, beyond any logical doubt, is pointless.

Where Truth ends, beliefs begin.

What is belief?

I define a belief as a theory which explains everyday life well enough that we can interact successfully with the world. Beliefs are the "facts" we base our lives on.

I believe I have two arms. This saves me no end of embarrassment. For example, I never try to hold my drink with my invisible third arm. I also believe, as Einstein did, that gravity is an effect of four-dimensional inertia, and that it generally pulls everything downward. But it would be just as valid, for most people, to believe something completely different about gravity. Consider this theory:

Gravity is an omnipresent demon who pulls us downward to keep us from reaching heaven.
Such a theory may be blatantly wrong, but it explains the everyday experience of weight. Anyone with this belief would probably get along in the world just as well as a follower of Einstein. At least, as far as gravity is concerned.

So long as a theory explains everything it needs to, it may be considered a valid belief. But as soon as something unexplained pops up, it's time to get a new theory. That's what science is all about. It doesn't give us answers. It is a search for better questions. Science, though some may disagree, is all about finding the holes in our theories and replacing them with more plausible theories. But our scientific theories and "proofs" are probably just as false as a wooden leg.

Really, that's all our beliefs are. A wooden leg. The leg is useful, and enables us to accomplish things. But it's just a tool. We have no way of knowing the truth of the theories, and it really doesn't matter.

Last modified: October 07, 2003 @ 1:17 MDT
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