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On truth, fact, and logic

Ray Wolbrecht, my favorite dentist, retired without my permission, which I’d never have given had he asked. My trust is complete in his skill in all things between the nose and chin; his reasoning, however, sometimes leaves me baffled.

Ray’s dumpster rummage for Truth is as good as any. One never knows where Truth will be found, and the search may be as valuable as the find. Some say that’s so, and such a search begins with unraveling cherished notions, picked up along the way but having little relationship to reality. Accuracy, as Ray pointed out, has more than a passing relationship to Truth, so let’s talk about accuracy.   

Ray stated as fact (no evidence included) that philosophers, sociologists, theologists, environmentalists, Egyptologists, archeologists and psychologists gather in their respective groups, present evidence, ask questions, debate facts, and then vote on what the truth is. WHAT??

I have at least a hundred psychological conferences under my belt, and with archeology and Egyptology as favorite hobbies, I go to meetings on those subjects as well. Interest in world religions takes me to yet more conferences. Never have I seen any of these groups vote on what is “true” or do anything remotely resembling that. I suspect that any attendee proposing such a thing would be either ignored or laughed out of the building.

Possibly he is confused by hearing about the Jesus Seminar, a group once dedicated to separating fact from fiction about Jesus. After examining the Bible, other documents, archeological data, and whatever else they could find, they voted on the probable accuracy of each biblical account of Jesus. I know nothing about their quality in scholarship, but I know that it is a mistake (to put it politely) to say their technique is or ever was followed by the groups he mentioned. 

Next Ray tackles either secular humanists or the theory of evolution; it’s hard to tell which. If it’s evolution, it should be noted that theory and wild guess are not the same animal. Theory presents evidence and invites further investigation to prove or disprove its premise; wild guesses don’t. Galileo barely escaped death for presenting evidence that Earth circled the sun. Inquisitors insisted his “foolish and absurd” theory conflicted with biblical teaching. Had his students not persisted, we might still believe Earth is the center of the universe. So long, satellites and cell phones.

Some theories fall apart after further study, like the one that proposed eating bat wings to deter demons from causing disease. Sounds crazy now, but who’d have guessed that organisms too small to see could kill people? Its end came after the microscope was invented.

Verifiable facts: Charles Darwin, Origin of the Species author, was a deeply religious man who studied for the ministry before taking up science. He never suggested that God was nonexistent, but rather that genes follow natural laws that help animal life survive. Nature has laws, like the one that makes a hammer fall back down if you throw it up. Every time. I’ve not heard anyone say that accepting the law of gravity interferes with religious beliefs.

Ray said if something works, it has to be true. Lies, slander, prejudice and murder “work” frighteningly well, but that discussion is for anther time. Meanwhile, I wish Ray happy dumpster diving … in every way. I’ll try it too.

This column is a part of “Two Friend in Search of Truth.” See I Could Be Wrong here.

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