In considering my last blog post concerning truth I believe that I did not fully clarify a very important point. That being, that while I do think that two, mutually exclusive, truths cannot exist simultaneously, two different truths can. Let me see if I can unpack a bit of what I mean.
Suppose that John Doe says, “God clearly does not exist”. His friend Jane Doe says, “I disagree, God does indeed exist.” They cannot both be correct. Those views are mutually exclusive, that is, the veracity of one, by necessity, means the other is erroneous. Now, they could both be wrong, somehow, but there is no way that they could both be correct concurrently. This may also be said about the age of the universe. The universe cannot be both 10,000 years and 15 billion years old concurrently. This is an issue that I am looking at intently and trying to be honest in my perspective and will address in a later blog.
Now there may be some adventurous objections at this point such as the Multi Universe Hypothesis or something along those lines. I don’t want to get too much into that unless it is needed. I do want to say, however, that while mutual exclusivity negates concurrent existence, two different things can be true at the same time. As much as I would prefer it, everything is not black and white in this, our world. Many times, truth can be on both sides of an issue. I think we do truth and ourselves a disservice to claim that our view is the only possible one. I am not advocating to never believe in anything or to believe in everything. Instead I am saying that whatever you do believe, try to make every effort to do so with all humility. Please understand that I am speaking to myself when I say this rather than standing before you as a paragon of humility.
This can be especially obvious in politics, religion, art, and even music preference. Let me try to give an uncontentious and rather famous example of what I mean. Stop me if you have heard it: Some blind men were walking along and came upon and elephant that they were able to touch. One grabbed the tail and said “Oh, this elephant is long and flexible like a snake”, another grabbed the leg and said, “no this elephant is thick like a tree”. The third touched the side and said “you are both wrong, he is clearly thick and flat like a wall” and so on… None of them were able to get the complete picture. This is a perfect example of “both and” being true. They all were correct but so were their friends. I must point out something very important here. Please do not take this to mean that no truth can be known. This will quickly backfire on you if you do. The story is told from the point of view of an outside observer. How can you know that they do not see the whole elephant unless you are able to? The truth is that the elephant is…elephant shaped which is made up of many parts. The truth exists, but is made of many parts.
This concept of “both and” should not be a new concept for anyone. If you are a scientist then quantum mechanics demonstrates this beautifully. If a Christian, the kindness and severity of God is a very common theme. A teacher realizes that a classroom is both organic and industrial at the same time. The truth can be in the middle of many extremes, but the truth still exists. The breakdown comes when we arrogantly say “I know all of truth and it is summed up like this…”
I think that this happens all too readily in our society where we say, “only what I believe is true” and by doing this we negate viewing another perspective. Yes, I see the irony of this as I write about my own viewpoint in this blog. But, can you imagine what our society would look like if we had dialogue, and not diatribe; conviction, without contempt; respect, lacking repulsion? I would like to propose that we acknowledge that we have differences and acknowledge that we might not be right about everything and then have open discussions about truth. I would LOVE any feedback that you have to offer and lets hash this out together and not divided. Lets help each other pursue truth and learn from one other.