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There is more than one truth in the universe

 
 

Western society is driven by the belief that there is only one truth in the world, and once that truth is discovered all things can be determined from that truth. This seems to have its origins in the ancient Semitic teaching, known as the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods besides me." If there is only one truth then everything else must be false. And since truth is good, then error is evil.

But need any aspect of nature or life be limited to good and bad, or true and false? Need it even be limited to shades of gray? More and more evidence suggests that the universe is not limited to true and false. What's more, other cultures are not limited by this belief system. And most spiritual philosophies look to rising above the duality - right vs. wrong, true vs. false, male vs. female. (Joseph Campbell) (Jesus, 2)


Quantum Physics - the nature of the universe

In the last century the science community has been driven by a new understanding. The fundamental elements of the universe have split personalities: Sometimes they are particles, sometimes they are waves. This leads to a contradiction of possible truths: neither light, nor subatomic particles, can be both particles and waves at the same time! They must chose, and they will chose either, depending on what they are interacting with. Subject a fundamental constituent of nature to a wave filter, and it will be a wave. Subject it to a particle filter and it will be a particle. The very basis of our physical being exists in inconsistent truths.

On the one side of physics is quantum theory that says that light and matter will change its nature. They will live according to inconsistent truths. On the other side of physics is relativity that says that space and time, the very universe itself will present a different truth to each observer. Space and time are not constant truths.

If the universe itself works with inconsistent truths, why then, should we believe that there is only one truth in our lives? Incidentally, there exists the implication in quantum physics that there are more than two truths. Simply, we have only discovered two physical truths so far.


Internal Truth vs. External Truth - the nature of experience

Now if we were introspective, we would realize that we have (at least) two core truths that define our everyday experience. There is external truth: what really happened. And there is internal truth: how did we perceive, or feel, about what really happened. Different people tend to focus on one or the other as being the absolute truth. But both are true, even when they are inconsistent.

Some people, particularly technically oriented males, see external truth as being the absolute truth. Others, particularly artists and females, see internal truth as being absolute. This naturally creates for conflict. Its a disturbing feeling for a technical male to describe something that happened - the sequence of physical events, only to have the female in his life say, "That's not how it felt to me." It's a disheartening feeling for a humanist to hear a technical male oppose his values claiming they are functionally false. The technical male errs in that he projects external truths inward, to where they don't belong. The artist/humanist errs in that she projects internal truths outward to where they don't belong. But then, there are places, where both external truth and internal truth are valid, even though they give inconsistent answers.


Anecdotal

I once took a standardized test where question gave the word "church" and asked which matches best: bell, congregation, steeple, choir. For anyone raised Christian, there is a clear correct answer, namely "congregation," and he has heard sermons on this subject. To a non-Christian who lived in a city with many churches, there is a clear answer. The thing that distinguishes churches from other buildings is the steeple. This fact is quite clear, to any observant city dweller. But to a non-Christian from a small town, he will periodically see his neighbors flock to church when the bell rings. It will be clear that the bell distinguishes the church from other buildings or institutions. Each of these three answers is correct, depending on how and where a person was raised. How can the producers of the standardized test honestly grade this question!

A spiritual leader once encouraged me to continue to strive for making right choices over wrong choices. I told him life has never given me that option. Each step of the way I have had to chose between options each of which had both positive aspects and negative. I gave the example of our national election. Every four years I've been asked to chose between two candidates, one who has many negative qualities and some good, and the other has some good qualities and many negative. The opportunity to chose between right and wrong, good and evil, never occurred.


Implications

When a culture believes that all things must be either true or false it creates many unfortunate situations. We argue rather than discuss. After all, those with differing views must be wrong! We look with contempt at those who see things differently. We label them, and judge them according to those labels. "Oh, so you are a 'conservative.' " Even those who call themselves open-minded will speak condescending blanket statements about members of groups with differing views.

As a culture, we seek to determine who is right, and who is wrong. We punish the one we judge as wrong, reward the one we see as right. This is the mentality that drives our excessive lawsuits. We teach our children the five paragraph essay, where we tell them you must pick a side. We tell them they failed if their essay validates more than one side. To pass they must chose only one side as right, and the other as wrong. We pass laws and regulations, and go to war against those we have determined to be wrong, or "evil" as George W. calls them. We frequently look at those who are down and out and say, "He must deserve it," or "God is punishing him for what he has done wrong." We look at those who have amassed great wealth and say, "he must be great/ be talented/ have good business sense, have produced the best product, ...."


Alternatives

What we are not doing is solving problems. We are not teaching our young to resolve conflicts. We are not acting to respect everybody involved. We are not tolerant.

In other cultures, such as Asian, and American Indian ("native American") the goal is to resolve the conflict, either by respecting the tribe as a whole, or by respecting the differing values and needs of the individuals involved. Who's right and who's wrong need never be asked, it doesn't help the process. We can ask, "what does each person really need?" We can ask, "what are the costs, benefits, and risks of each choice?"


Examples:
  • In Columbine, students abused those who they saw as wrong, until those "wrong" students snapped. After they snapped they were labeled as wrong for having snapped. The conflict could have been resolved, but instead it was pursued even after they all died.
  • Environmental problems typically have two outcomes. We wait so long for sufficient proof that it is "true" that it is too late to do anything once we know it is true. Or we are so sure that it is true that we pass strict regulations without considering the social or economic consequences of our actions.
  • I observed a vegetarian discussing diet with a person on the low carb diet. How can a person that believed that meat (primarily protein & fat) is wrong find common ground with a person that believes that excess carbohydrates (fruit & vegetable products) is unhealthy.

Summation

As long as we focus on right and wrong, true and false, we wont successfully resolve major conflicts, or solve critical problems. We won't be tolerant of each other. We will not "love our neighbor as ourselves." We won't see the universe as it actually is. We won't appreciate spirituality as it can fully be experienced.

Once we acknowledge multiple truths, we become more tolerant of both our neighbor and the universe. We open ourselves to resolving conflicts. We can find peace when the universe presents us with "evil."

 

 

For other references on Multiple Truths
how life is understood multiple intelligences(1, 2, 3), Myers Briggs(1, 2, 3)
how life is experienced temperaments(1, 2, 3), eneagram(1, 2, 3), Apostle Paul
how we communicate gender styles, 5 love languages, cultural styles
how the universe functions quantum, relativity