Tuesday, May 5, 2020

You're Right

You’re right. Of course you are right. Everyone wants to be right. If you are doing something or saying something that you know is wrong that’s antisocial personality disorder.  You are only wrong for as long as it takes to correct yourself, then everything is right again. You are right, but you are not always right. If you think you are always right, then you would be arrogant and obnoxious. Being right includes admitting that you might be wrong. Right?

If you want to check if you’re right, surround yourself with people who are willing to tell you when you are wrong. This is what you do when you seek an education. They could be wrong too but you can’t both be right if you disagree. Knowing what’s true is a different conversation. If everyone around you is agreeing with you and telling you that you are right, you might be surrounded by people with antisocial personality disorder or at least people who want something from you. It’s good to have friends who support you no matter what but real friends will let you know if you are wrong when it matters.


Just a few quick notes on this topic. I might refine it later.

Knowing what is true turns out to be kind of complicated. You can avoid all the philosophy and just remember the last time you stubbed your toe or hit your head. It doesn’t get much more real than that.

Otherwise you have to start with definitions, and they won’t answer “why” and they will leave us with more questions. That’s the human experience. First, truth is that which comports with reality. Great start huh? Reality is that which we can demonstrate is true. That’s circular. I did warn you. Truth is demonstrated by collecting empirical evidence. That is done using our senses, and extending our senses with instruments, and extrapolating from those results with reason and logic. All of this can fail at any point along the way.

We can’t be certain about anything. Not even what I just said. We still say things like “settled science” or “that’s a fact”, but technically, we are always speaking of probabilities. A “proof” is something you do in mathematics. You define rules about numbers and prove that equations will always have certain results. You can’t do that with people, or history, or psychology, or pretty much any animal behavior.

However, not being able to prove anything is different than not being able to know anything with a high probability of being accurate. People didn’t know about the shape of the earth at one time, and they were way off on the shape of the universe. But their being wrong then says very little about how accurate we think we are now. Truth may always be elusive, but we know how much evidence we have, how well we have checked it, and how consistently our experiments have verified it.

We use evidence and reason naturally every time we take a step or hear something new. We may not use formulas or check every fact, but there is nothing we can use to reason away reason. As soon as you try to explain whatever else might replace it, you are using reason to do it. The best we have to extend our knowledge and our experiences, is each other. Together, we’ve done some pretty amazing things.

All models are wrong, some are useful - George Box