How Do We Keep Honesty? (part IV)
The previous post related just a few examples I’ve personally experienced, of course. I’m sure there are many more psychological avoidance techniques which can be bent to their cause: to always get their way. If there are problems in their lives, it simply must be someone else’s fault — never their own. If there are people who are less than flattering to them, it must be due to jealousy or spite — never because the criticism is constructive or deserved. They are masters of ignoring or avoiding the consequences of their actions, even if the only way to do so is to perpetuate their own mistaken self importance. It’s a little… sad, a little pathetic, to watch their constant bemusement as to why they constantly run out of friends every two years or so… assuming they allow themselves to remember that clearly.
There is a phrase in philosophy, which I rather like and aspire to: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” To those who deceive themselves regarding being the center of the universe, this phrase is apparently not just utter nonsense — it is greatly to be feared and avoided. Their most important goal is to absolutely never attempt the philosophical goal of knowing oneself — to emphatically not think about what the terrifying, liberating truth actually is.
Whew! The above is a tough issue to write about, since it usually involves painful emotional escapism when you stumble across it. However, let’s get back to our original experimental question: is lying involved?
As we previously noted, the initial false statement given to you, believed by the speaker to be true, does not qualify as a lie — the speaker is not deliberately promoting falsehood. However, their personal beliefs do qualify as lies. These delusional individuals are clearly and deliberately promoting falsehood regarding their own importance in the world — both to themselves and, indirectly, to you. Sounds simple when you put it that way, of course. However, there is a version of this sort of absolute conviction of personal rightness which I find harder to quantify. Let us take the example of a believer in creationism — someone who believes the world came into being not through the process of evolution, but through the creative efforts of some higher being.
We may amusedly scoff at creationists for “clinging to their primitive belief system” — but is a rudely dismissive “evolutionist” who is just repeating what he’s been told really “better” or “smarter” than a thoughtful creationist? Which one has actually given some thought to their beliefs, and which is just blindly following majority opinion? If you try discussing this issue with a creationist and they respond with reasoned arguments, then it’s obvious they’re not self-righteously delusional, as are the cases I mention above. Instead it shows they have examined the data and have drawn what are to them logical conclusions.
Regardless of subject matter, just because someone draws different conclusions than I, when examining data, does not automatically make them wrong or stupid. I’ve heard at least one good argument from creationists, too, which I cannot refute: i.e. the theory of evolution is just that — a theory. That means it has not been conclusively proven.
Theory: “a tentative [explanation] of the natural world; a concept that is not yet verified but that if true would explain certain facts or phenomena”
Example: “A scientific hypothesis that survives experimental testing becomes a scientific theory”
From the wonderful and useful Rhymezone web site — thanks, Dave!
Admittedly, the reason it cannot be definitively proved is because nothing’s been alive long enough to completely see or record it. Thus we use the next best thing to empirical proof — we examine the data and draw what we believe are logical conclusions from it. To me this is conclusive enough. I have examined and pondered historical data; I have seen and touched fossils. Both are quite miraculous and wondrous to me — and also quite convincing. In a nutshell, to me there is enough data to conclusively demonstrate the existence of the slow, constant miracle of evolution.
However, even though I’ve never seen any proof of the existence of a creator deity, and have determined personally convincing logic which precludes the existence of one, for me… I cannot conclusively prove one does not exist! Furthermore, even though I have no such proof, I know there are individuals who feel they do have such proof. I may not find it convincing — but they do.
Does this make them wrong? I don’t know, but I’m guessing we’ll find out definitively, after our individual deaths, whether or not there’s a creator deity. Does this make creationists liars? I don’t think so, using this article’s working definition of lying. They’re asserting what they honestly believe to be truth. At best they’re right, and I’m the one who’s wrong; at worst they’re simply mistaken.