Straight Thinking About Facts — Part 2
There’s even more to straight thinking about facts than the issues to which I referred in my last article. We must consider how we will proceed when evidence is unavailable. What do we rely on to determine whether we are considering verifiable facts when there is no abundance of evidence? Does bias always negatively affect our thinking? And what is the role of consistency in straight thinking (i.e., in finding truth)? Let’s examine these.
Finding Truth When Evidence is Unavailable
When we lack the ability to examine evidence or it lies beyond our capabilities to verify, “sufficient” evidence is a way of arriving at an acceptably verified fact. If the evidence is abundant, or in some other way convincing, it can be used to determine facts on which our straight thinking can then reasonably depend. Evidence can be found everywhere in our physical universe, including in all the minutest details of design and purpose from those seen in the functioning of a living creature’s cells, to the amazing laws that govern the design of our universe, and in our valid subjective experiences and spiritual realities (which we can personally verify in our human experiences).
Common Sense Facts
We refer to some of these facts as “facts evidenced by common sense.” That’s because of their common acceptance or of their being commonly verified. Many of our daily experiences of life’s realities fall into this category. It makes common sense to brush and clean our teeth and to dress adequately for the weather conditions. The seemingly endless facts called common sense would fill volumes — and are hardly worth the effort to list them. What do we rely on when the evidence in dispute is not sufficient beyond a reasonable doubt?
Arguments and beliefs based on inadequate evidence and factual support are suspect. Perhaps the most common causes of disagreement are when the evidence in a dispute is not sufficient beyond a reasonable doubt. Some things remain open questions for this reason.
Moral and Spiritual Truths
Because some are challenging moral and spiritual truths these days as having no absolute truth to them (which in this case is crooked thinking), we must find verification in the repeated experiences of humans and in the results those moral and spiritual truths are producing and have consistently produced. For example, the moral actions that are best for a person’s health and wellbeing can be verified and reasoned as undeniable facts. Another example: the majority of research projects that have studied faith and well-being have found that faith in a divine reality reduces the negative effects of stress and becomes a positive factor toward health and wellbeing. So, let’s try to constantly improve our straight thinking skills. Evidence must be carefully and honestly weighed and fairly and logically reported.
Bias’s Role in Finding Truth
Bias raises its suspicious head in all our thinking because all of us have formed values and beliefs on which we build our thoughts. If we have no values or beliefs, we have come to no decisions. Show me someone who has evaded making any decision in all matters of their life and I will show you someone who hasn’t been born yet. Every time we make a decision we adopt a bias. I like the color red, a juicy grilled steak, and a good night’s sleep. Therefore, I am biased.
So, is bias bad or good? It can be either. The crookedness of biased thinking is when the bias refuses to face all the facts or misrepresents the facts. This is when bias becomes destructive — the common tools of all crooked thinking: dishonesty, lying, and deception.
The Need for Consistency
Consistency is also important. Commonly, people will present their reasons why they believe certain things and then, change their opinions midstream in a presentation of argument to avoid being trapped in some obvious error. This inconsistency is the bread and butter of salacious arguments. It is not straight thinking.
What are we teaching ourselves and our children? Beliefs and arguments are to be based on verifiable facts, not on unsubstantiated opinions.
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