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Not only do two wrongs not make a right, but what is even worse
is that they are often only the beginning. - Michael Armstrong
To say, "I don't know" may be honesty.
To say, "I can't know" may be stupidity.
If you flatter yourself that you are an intellectually responsible seeker
of the truth, consider this:
In 1669, The distinguished English physicist,
Robert Hooke, made a wonderful discovery. He obtained the long-sought
proof of the Copernican heliocentric theory of the solar system by
demonstrating stellar parallax—a perceived difference in [the] position of
a star due to the Earth's motion around the Sun. One of the first to use a
telescope for this purpose, Hooke observed the star Gamma Draconis and soon
reported to the Royal Society that he had found what he was looking for; The
star had a parallax of almost  seconds of arc. Here, at last, was
impeccable experimental proof of the Copernican theory.
This heartening triumph of empirical science
was only momentarily dashed when the Frenchman, Jean Picard, announced he
had observed the star Alpha Lyrae by the same method but had failed to find
any parallax at all. A few years later, England's first Astronomer Royal,
the brilliant observer, John Flamsteed, reported that the Pole Star had a
parallax of at least  seconds.
Hooke and Flamsteed, outstanding scientists of
their day, are leading lights in the history of science. But they fell
victim to an effect that, to this day, has continued to trap...scientists
in its treacherous coils. It is the phenomenon of experimenter expectancy,
or, seeing what you want to see. There is, indeed, a stellar parallax, but,
because of the vast distances of all stars from Earth, the parallax is
extremely small—about  second of arc. It cannot be detected by the
relatively crude telescopes used by Hooke and Flamsteed.
Self-deception is a problem of pervasive
importance in science. The most rigorous training in objective observations
is often a feeble defense against the desire to obtain a particular result.
Time and again, an experimenter's expectation of what he will see has
shaped the data he recorded to the detriment of the truth. This unconscious
shaping of results can come about in numerous, subtle ways. Nor is it a
phenomenon that affects only individuals. Sometimes a whole community of
researchers falls prey to a common delusion...
Expectancy leads to self-deception, and
self-deception leads to the propensity to be deceived by others. - Broad,
William, and Wade, Nicholas, "Self-deception and Gullibility," Betrayers
of the Truth (New York,1982), pp. 107-108.
Although I have unshakeable belief in my own
reasoning ability, I find that I cannot accept it as
either perfect or complete, and cannot and do not
get comfortable with the outcome until I have
affirmation/confirmation(?) from some other person
that is capable and that I trust. I have made too
many careless mistakes in the past for this to be
anything other than this cautious approach to be foolish. This applies to ALL
areas of intellectual activity in ALL of the realms,
be they philosophical, theological, or relating to
physical theory. Of course there are always varying
degrees of conviction, and I do not abandon my
positions for any other reason than rigorous logic
and reason that shows them to be false or
incomplete. And I can hold my convictions in the
face of ALL other minds claiming they are wrong,
until they engage with me to reason together, and we
come to a mutual better understanding. I am actually
eager to do this, because I have faith that the
truth is always good and valuable, and more so than
my own temporary ego gratification.
The world is a noisy and confusing place, where thousands of voices using
dozens of well-tested approaches and ploys are appealing to our
self-interest and angst, claiming they have the truth and that we should
travel down their path. If a person wakes up at some point and begins to
challenge what they have been programmed to believe, that is a traumatic
enough experience, fraught with resistance from church and society, family
and friends. On top of that, they have all this noise, confusion, and all
these voices to contend with. But as if that is not enough, now we know it
gets worse! There is this ever-present tendency for the above described
self-deception. It seem like seeking the truth is not for the weak or faint-hearted!
What to do? Maybe this is where really sincere prayer starts.