Truth about the world around us can quite easily be defined as the best explanation we have for a situation, that when we apply all of the knowledge available to us, cannot be logically refuted. Since new discoveries are adding to that pool of knowledge on a continual basis, we must accept that today’s truth will only hold until a better explanation comes along, and yesterday’s truth should already be considered suspect.
Truth is therefore both objective and transient, and it is through having an open mind and questioning everything that individuals are free to not only better understand the world they live in, but to also add to the collective knowledge of humanity.
Many people will attempt to make the case that truth is something subjective; stating that what is true for one person is not necessarily true for another. What they are referring to here, however, is not truth but belief. Believing something to be true is, indeed, a subjective position, but it has little to do with what may actually be true. Belief in something, especially when that belief is supported by a peer group, may be comforting to a person but it requires that person, that human being, to abdicate thinking. Such behavior is risky because it may eventually atrophy that person’s ability to reason.
This brings us to a curious human dichotomy regarding the search for truth: while we have the innate drive to ask questions in order to seek out what is true, we also hold steadfastly onto what he have already accepted and seem unwilling to let it go, even in the face of overwhelming evidence otherwise. This is actually a good trait amongst scientists because it ensures that new truths must be well established by repetitive experiment and observation, a process known as scientific proof, before they gain acceptance. A newly discovered truth is not something that is readily accepted and it must win the argument before rational minds permit it to displace the old thinking. This process ensures that we don’t randomly flit from one ‘truth’ to another and only advance to the next truth when it has been sufficiently proven. Certainly, if you examine the fields of mathematics and physics you’ll recognize some truths that have been with us for centuries, but how many more have been replaced in that time? We have learned that the earth is neither flat nor is it the center of the universe, for example (although if you choose to believe such things that is entirely your choice).
Recognizing that truth necessarily goes through such an arduous process before being accepted by even the most rational minds, who have to override their internal resistance to something new, one can begin to understand why many of the old ‘truths’ not only still remain but are widely accepted in our societies. Within those societies the individual search for truth has been discouraged for millennia by authority figures who train its members from early childhood to repress that innate drive in favor of following the collective creed.
Truth about the world around us is, therefore, not subjective but highly objective, and the scientific method is a tool that provides us with the means to discovering it. In our world, truth is a transient axiom.