Questionable Motives

June 22, 2010

Why should we care about what’s true?

Filed under: Greta Christina,Truth — tildeb @ 7:15 pm

For me, caring about what is true is central to how I inform my perspective about the world. If what I think is true turns out to be false, then my perspective by necessity must be skewed. The more falsehoods I empower, the greater is my skewed perspective until what I think is true and what is actually true finds me caught between incompatibilities. I cannot feel enabled to offer what I can to function well and help solve real world issues if what I have to offer is, to put it bluntly, wrong. My actions would add to rather than reduce the very problems I was hoping to mitigate by my actions. So what is true truly matters.

From one of my favourite atheist writers, Greta Christina, comes this thought-provoking article asking the question Do you care whether the religious ideas you believe in are true or not? and explains in much greater detail and humour why we should.

She adds:

Perspective is more than an intellectual discipline. It’s a moral obligation. The willingness to step back from our experience, to examine our beliefs about the world and let go of them when the evidence contradicts them, is a huge part of how we gain the humility we need to see our true place in the world. Caring whether the things we believe are true is a crucial part of caring, period.

We need to understand reality, so we know how to behave in it. If we believe things about reality that aren’t true, we’re going to make bad decisions. Understanding reality is how we know how to behave in it. Understanding cause and effect, which causes lead to what effects, is how we make better decisions — decisions that are more likely to lead to outcomes we’re hoping for. And if we’re going to understand reality, we have to care whether the things we believe are true.

And here’s the money quote:

Skepticism is a discipline. It does not come naturally to the human mind. The human mind is wired to believe what it already believes, and what it wants to believe. The habit of questioning whether the things we believe are true — and letting go of beliefs we’re attached to when the evidence contradicts them — takes practice.

And that’s the tough job each of us faces. But it starts with caring about what’s true.

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