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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Is truth an opinion?

Is truth just an opinion?
You might know the story of the 5 blind men and the elephant, where each person tells what he observed to the other and it turns out that they all are wrong in reality.

We come across several incidents in day to day life, and while we have our point of view, truth happens to underly reality. To be more clear, just as the saying goes, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, truth too has a framework of its own. Each person observes different things in his life, and it is the occurrence of this duality that makes us question truth.

So lets try to look at a link connecting opinion and truth.

We say seeing is believing. But in reality, truth tends to have its own limitations. This is exactly where religion fails. Each religion preaches some beliefs depending on the person who initially perceived it with his 5 senses. But when attempted to put the different views from different people together, we turn up with something that we turn up in the story of the “5 blind men and the elephant”, the resulting entity is nothing close to an elephant.

Sometimes truth changes over time. For example, the flat model of the earth and the theories like the geocentric theories have prevailed in society we had mathematically consistent models of motion and time. It took a change in mindset to accept that the earth is indeed round and of course the heliocentric theory and now we have bent the math around what we now believe as the truth. 

How truth is different from belief:
Most of us believe whatever we know as the truth. This kind of a mechanism helps us survive as individuals, because, if we really had to find out the truth all by ourselves, there would not be any time for the more important things in our lives. 

For instance we believe our parents that they really are our parents. We believe that our name is so and so and continue with that. We believe that the world was here before we were born and will continue after we are gone

When a teacher says things like electricity and magnetism, we believe our teachers, even though none of these phenomenon have been completely understood. We believe in mathematics and things like elementary particles and string theory even tough in reality we don’t have contemporary analogies. For that reason, we tend to rely on analogies more than reality while understanding the mechanism of most phenomenon (misuse of vocabulary).

As children we are taught to speak the truth and from experience we learn that good morals are indeed a pre-requisite for a good way of life. However some situations lead us to question the fundamental principles and when we don’t find answers to such situations, we tend to come up with our own ideas on what might have happened. At his point we see that truth can be made up just as easily as an opinion.

This is it true that truth is just an opinion?
No. Like most human behaviour, truth too is assimilated with a negative feedback attitude. We perform different experiments in real life which tells us how to react to different situations we come across, as we learn we label different things as true depending on reliability of the argument. Whereas opinion is just what we think at one specific moment in our lives. In a broader sense, opinions are the way we reach the truth or what we tend to conclude as the truth.

Does it really matter?
No. Like I initially argued, it does not matter, because whatever happens in reality we each find explanations and try to move on. We are so good at modeling things with mathematics that when we find mathematics showing results on extrapolation, we tend to come up with realities based on our observations; take string theory, chaos theory, extra dimensions for instance, where mathematics expalins everything perfectly but we are limited by our sense.

It is a common opinion that proverbs are universally applicable. However there are several proverbs which contradict each other! this clearly helps us to distinguish beliefs, opinion, truth and fact.

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