What Is True?
August 19, 2002
Edited: December 30, 2008
 
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Introduction - Part V - Why the Alternative Topics?

This site is an exploration of ideas. For example, in addition to modern libertarian writers, I plan to read more about the ideas of people like John Locke, Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, and I plan to share my comments about what I read.

Comments from readers are welcome on any subject. Usually I will be discussing ideas that might matter to anyone, regardless of educational background. Ideas about ethics, liberty and reality are for everyone.

Although I am inclined towards philosophies that advocate reason, I also want to find out how much reason and value there might be in radically different systems of thought, such as hermetic philosophy and alchemy. For example, I hope to discover what Giordano Bruno did not like about Aristotle, read more about the esoteric subjects Newton studied, and comment on these things as I go along. Of course this will take forever.

In addition to philosophies that are challenging, this site will touch on theories and evidence about the natural world that may also be challenging or disturbing. Reports could come from mainstream scientific discoveries as well as from alternative researchers who challenge conventional theories.

I use the term "natural", but certain topics might involve elements that some call "paranormal" or "supernatural". To me, it is alternative research concerning the boundaries of human knowledge.

Some dismiss these questions, but some of us want to consider them seriously. These questions are often very relevant to some religious doctrines, but why should they be left up to religious authorities? It is better to take an interest in these subjects independently without getting caught up in a dogmatic organization that claims to have all the answers.

For example:

Did an intelligent being create us?
To me, it just seems that way. If someone could convince me that, "God (or gods) does not exist", or, "Life and the universe just happened without intelligent design", then I might change my opinion. I don't expect any proof of statements like these, but it would make things very neat and tidy if they were true.

As a child, I got fed up being force-fed the theory of evolution by the media. To me, there was a contradiction between evolution and the Bible, both of which belong to the culture in which I lived. Some combine the book of Genesis with the theory of evolution, but I didnít see why an all-powerful God would require millions of years to create mankind.

I must have felt like I was forced into a corner between science and religion, and had to choose between the secular world and the "Word of God". In my mind, I felt I had to choose between the "world" and the ďtruth of the Bible", which included the doctrine of evolution. So I made the unnecessary and unhealthy choice of giving up reason in exchange for revelation. By ďreasonĒ, I mean using my mind, paying attention to my own intuition and doing my own thinking.

It is not like it is my favourite subject at all, and I am much more neutral about it now, but I don't find the theory of evolution convincing as an explanation for the existence of life. If evolutionists have a good case, then they should make their case and stop treating it like a religion that canít be questioned.

I think there is a fear about these subjects, fear of recognizing that human beings are not in complete control over the world and that human beings do not know everything. For example, in recent years people have begun to recognize the potential danger of asteroids causing devastation to the earth. We are just barely out of the denial stage about this, so science might be able to take action to prevent this sort of disaster. If we did not live with such a narrow view of reality, I think we would actually be able to cope better with potential threats like this. Politically, we should stop pretending it is a good safe thing to concentrate more power in the hands of governments.

If you do not feel that evolution is convincing, you do not have to join a cult or pick a set of doctrines that explains the universe. Think it through. Consider whether you may have a valid point of view that does not depend on scripture, and that your view can perhaps be argued based on evidence and reason. Also, there may be plenty of others who would agree with you.

Consider the possibility that the literal creation story in the Bible might not be accurate. Don't ignore contradictions. If you have doubts about the Bible, I believe itís not right to tie your mind to everything in the Bible. When I was a "believer", there were always doubts and questions in my mind about this or that verse in the Bible. Instead of considering whether some point in the Bible might be in error, I rationalized the contradiction in some clever way. I believed the Bible could not be wrong.

There are actually other religious and scientific ideas about origins, and I think it is more interesting to stick to your own instincts and learn all you can about what interests you, instead of declaring allegiance to a theory or doctrine in which you see something doubtful.

It is not right to set in stone your allegiance to an arbitrary set of doctrines when you have doubts. I felt the biblical story must be the truth, and that I would find answers for all the doubts. Something was wrong somewhere - my assumptions, the Bible, or the scientific theory, or all three. For example, the Church gave us "proofs" that the Bible was the Word of God. These supposed proofs were based on the idea that certain prophecies in the Book of Daniel 1 had been fulfilled. But part of my mind was never much convinced by these arguments, because the possibility existed that those passages had been written after the events took place.

If you can resolve a question like evolution vs. creation, thatís great. But in the case of origins, I donít believe these things are ultimately knowable. How can there ever be enough evidence to tell us everything that really happened? But all we have is evidence, and we can learn more. What you believe, or what science or religion believes, doesnít change what happened. The truth about the past is not affected by theories. You might be as right as anyone else, so why not hold on to your own ideas until you are convinced otherwise by new evidence? People can only give it their best guess. Instead of demonstrating evidence and reasons, people substitute dogma for thought. Yes, there are some ideas that are truer than other ideas, because they are better grounded in evidence, better reasoned, and not contradictory. But don't assume that's the case with established ideas.

Is there other intelligent life besides us?
OK, to put the wilder ďX-FilesĒ question ahead of the rest ... Science continues to find out more about animal intelligence 2, so human beings don't have the market cornered on intelligence. Beyond that, in the Bible, there are other intelligent beings called "angels". 3 But what are ghosts? What are UFOs? Are these things superstitions or something psychological? There are ancient and modern reports and many theories about these subjects.

Are psychic abilities real?
In the Bible, perhaps psychics are called ďprophetsĒ or "seers". 4 The ones not approved of are called "witches" 5 or "mediums". 6 On the other hand, maybe they were not psychics at all, but just doing their best to make sense of the world. To me, Bible prophecy and its interpretation is vague. But some of the research done on the subject of psychic abilities is very interesting, and I am convinced, for example, that people have precognitive dreams.

Is there life after death?
Personally, Iím not interested in worrying about the next life anymore. On the other hand, itís a valid question, and I hear that there is scientific research being done on the subject of "near death experiences".

Cryptozoology
Are there intelligent primates like us? Are there large legendary animals that Western science hasnít discovered yet? By the way, now scientists are turning up the kraken 7 in larger numbers. Cryptozoology 8 is an exciting area of research when you actually read the reports, and you realize how big this world really is.

What happened in ancient history?
Ideas about ancient history are very relevant to religion. Our Church taught an esoteric historical theory that some call "British-Israelism". Herbert W. Armstrong's most important prophetic doctrines were based on this theory, 9 but the evidence was never very convincing, and it has definitely been used by racist groups.

On the other hand, is there something genuine about the biblical story of the Flood 10 for example? Some of the most exciting theories and evidence are being presented about the idea of an advanced global civilization in the remote past, which was destroyed by a cataclysm. This is also a disturbing idea. See, for example, http://www.andrewcollins.com/ and http://www.grahamhancock.com/, which deal with this subject. There are also theories that humans have been around much longer than what science believes is possible. 11. Also, there is supposedly evidence that ancient European and Asian civilizations visited the Americas 12 regularly.

To me, these controversial mysteries are a lot of fun. The more interesting ones are better documented, they involve reports that follow consistent patterns, and they donít rely on belief. It's always true that people need to separate the valid material from material generated by liars, gurus, and cult leaders. The validity of reports depends on evidence and observation, and I think everyone who is interested should be able to come up with their own conclusions. I donít believe that these types of questions have complete answers, because all we have is the evidence of scientists and alternative researchers, and the experiences of average people.

If a subject matters to someone, they should go ahead and think for themselves and not leave it for biased institutions to decide what ideas are valid. These biases might sometimes contradict the personal experiences of people who know better.

Conclusion
I'm impressed by websites and other media sources that really practice free speech, who provide a forum for exploring the unknown, and radical ideas that people can evaluate for themselves.

The free flow and availability of information allows for free thought, which means allowing yourself to consider whatever you want to consider. My experience showed me that exposure to many different ideas was healthy. But there has to a free flow of ideas to start with. When I discovered how people used the Internet to spread ideas, it was the opposite of my own cult experience of being afraid of forbidden information that might spiritually damage me. In my experience, the free flow of ideas helps build free thought and a free mind, which allows for more accurate conclusions about the world, eventually leading to a sense of certainty and conviction about things that matter.

Regardless of your approach, you will end up having to take responsibility for your own mind anyway. If a person is impressionable, but has high ideals, and wants to understand the world, I think the better route is exposure to many different ideas rather than just absorbing one set of ideas. It seems like the ďeasyĒ way is to let others do your thinking for you, and to jump to the conclusion that one group is right about everything, but it ends up being the really hard way.

I believe that reality or truth exists objectively, and that we can put together some pieces of the puzzle, but we'll never get near the whole picture. We can discover by reason and evidence what ideas fit with nature, including our own nature.

It is very positive to reach conclusions, with your own mind and experience, when you are sure about something being right or wrong, untrue, or true, or unknowable. It is a much more positive experience than turning off your own thoughts and trying to believe someone elseís required thoughts.

I didnít enjoy constantly switching between faith and doubt and trying to rationalize contradictions. I also didn't enjoy hating my own nature and being afraid of a God who uses arbitrary justice.

If you let someone else do your thinking for you, you will not test his ideas. If you tested his ideas properly, you might discover which ideas were true, untrue, or unknowable. For example, I picked up a book once called James Brother Of Jesus, 13 because I wanted to learn more, and I thought my beliefs about the New Testament could withstand the test. At the same time, however, I was also reading Age of Reason 14 and The Jesus Puzzle. 15 The New Testament and the Bible - it made a difference that I was familiar with them already - did not stand up to the test. I'm sorry I have to leave the details for some other time.

I think the reasonable approach is to not tie myself to either materialistic denials or spiritual assumptions about the world. When a person can stop assuming such-and-such "authority" must be right about everything, they might be able to think more clearly about reality. Science and materialism have gone to one extreme, and you may not like that, but the other extreme is not your only choice. It is horribly burdensome to believe the groundless fears, unnatural restrictions and programmed self-hatred used by some organizations to keep people down. When your mind is clear of those things, it feels like freedom.




Notes

[1] Herbert W. Armstrong's booklet The Bible - Superstition or Authority? can be found online at http://home.sprynet.com/~pabco/bible.htm
Other literature by the late Herbert W. Armstrong, cult leader, can be found at http://home.sprynet.com/~pabco/index.htm
This material is only useful as a reference to what Armstrong taught, and the reader needs to exercise responsibility for his own mind. I'm reminded how disappointing his preaching is because of its lack of substance. In spite of all the textual shouting and fearful declarations, there is a lot of boring repetition - about the Beast and the two trees of Eden for example. I believe this repetition helps to switch off the mind of the reader so the messages about obedience get through. There are still churches that continue to recruit members with his teachings, and some of these groups are unhealthy.

[2] http://asia.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/europe/08/09/crow.betty/?related Cnn.com Aug 9, 2002, Oxford scientists study a crow that bent a straight wire into a hook to get food.

[3] BibleGateway.com Gen 19:1

[4] BibleGateway.com I Samuel 9:9

[5] BibleGateway.com Deuteronomy 18:10

[6] BibleGateway.com I Samuel 28:7

[7] http://news.independent.co.uk/world/environment/story.jsp?story=322280 Independent.co.uk, Aug 7, 2002, article by Richard Askwith on how specimens of giant squid are turning up, like one found in Tasmania that is 15 meters long. It's "only for the past century or so that science has even accepted that they exist at all"

[8] http://www.lorencoleman.com/ is an example of one website that covers the subject of cryptozoology.

[9] Herbert W. Armstrong The United States and Britain in Prophecy http://www.cgca.net/pabco/us_bri1.htm

[10] Flood Stories From Around The World is at http://www.bible2000.org/lostbooks/flood.htm, Home Page: Bible 2000

[11] Website for one of the authors of Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race is at http://www.mcremo.com/

[12] See website for magazine Ancient American: Archaeology of the Americas Before Columbus at http://www.ancientamerican.com/

[13] Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls

[14] Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, can be found at http://www.herbertwarmstrong.com/reason.htm

[15] The Jesus Puzzle website is at http://www.jesuspuzzle.com/

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