Bias With a Remote Possibility

This post begins a series on exploring the different ways we can discover truth. Three main areas I want to focus on are the following:

1. Science
2. History
3. Philosophy

I may discuss the area of religion/spirituality as well. When I say “area”, I am referring to either one of these subjects or any other subject we can use to discover truth. Before moving on to these areas, I’m going to post a few of my thoughts on our search for truth. So here we go…

1. We should start our investigation of a truth proposition without assuming limitations. In other words, we should be willing to look for truth in any area where it could potentially be found. If we assume without reason that truth cannot be found in a particular place, then we may only discover part of the truth, or completely miss something important. However, if there is good reason to not consider a particular area or truth claim, then it may be appropriate to leave it out of the investigation. I will explain this point further when posting about the specific areas.

2. Despite point #1, we are almost always going to have a bias when considering truth. We look at the world in a certain way based on our past experiences and our thoughts about different topics. This perspective of life is called, quite simply, a “worldview”. A worldview encompasses your overall beliefs and opinions about life. Since everyone has a worldview of some sort, it is essentially impossible to enter an investigation completely “objective” and “unbiased”. 

People also tend to want to confirm the worldview that they began with in their investigation, so becoming unbiased is even more difficult. However, there are things we can do to move towards an unbiased look at truth. We can look at the strongest arguments from various claims to the same truth. Then, we can “weigh” those arguments to see which one seems the most reasonable. And we can be careful to not leave out evidence that would strengthen an argument we disagree with. 

Personally, in terms of the area of religion, I grew up going to a Christian church weekly, and have not deviated from belief in the religion of Christianity. I have a bias towards the Christian worldview, and tend to try to confirm that view more than opposing views. However, I do try to “fight against” that bias by considering arguments from other sides (i.e. the atheist “no god exists” side) and weighing those arguments against the ones supporting Christianity. Thus far, I have found that Christianity is the most reasonable explanation of how the world works, but am open to changing that belief if an opposing view appears to be the most reasonable instead. If I found another view to be much more reasonable overall than Christianity, it would not make sense to continue holding the Christian worldview. I would basically be denying myself from knowing truth at that point.

3. We can have some degree of confidence about truth. Although there are a lot of possible answers to a topic, we do not need to quit the investigation of that topic altogether. As described above in my personal example, we can weigh those different possibilities and find that one possibility is the most reasonable, or almost certain. We can believe that a possibility is true even though we may not be one hundred percent certain we are correct.

We incorporate this point in everyday life. I’ll use an example of my hypothetical friend Brad using a remote to turn on a TV. Brad comes home from a long day of work and collapses on the couch. He grabs the remote and hits the “on” button with the belief that such an action will turn on the TV. Is he 100% sure that his action will turn on the TV? Maybe, but there is a possibility that the batteries ran out of juice. Brad could also come up with more absurd possibilities. Maybe his cat ate through the TV power cable while he was gone. Maybe the power company cut off electricity to his house. Maybe he was unknowingly teleported to an alternate world where remotes no longer turn on TVs (that’s right, back to the old days of getting up to turn the TV on!) 

I could continue listing possibility after possibility of non-TV-turn-on scenarios. But based on past experiences, Brad has better reason to believe that the TV will turn on than he has for any other conceivable possibility. His strong degree of confidence in the truth proposition that “this remote will turn on the TV” led to his action of pressing the big red “on” button. In the same way, we can have confidence that a proposition is true even of there is a possibility that it is not true. We make decisions every day based on this principal.

These are just three things to consider with the topic of truth; there are plenty more. For my next post, I will start to discuss the areas of truth listed at the beginning of this post, likely starting with science. 
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