Alvaro Carbonero 11
How can the different ways of knowing help us to distinguish between
something that is true and something that is believed to be true?
The ways of knowing, being the way in which we acquire knowledge, can
help us distinguish between the reality and fiction in the various areas of
knowledge. In the following essay we will see the ways in which the ways of
knowing can help us distinguish between something that is true and
something that is believed to be true.
A priori, we need to state how we can be certain that something is true.
Commonly, we would directly say that the way in which we can verify the
truthiness of something is by scientific confirmation and empirical evidence.
But this is false. The reality is that the ways in which we certify a thing is
true are different and they will not mean the same to each person. The best
example for this is faith. According to the webpage Theoryofknowledge.net,
Faith is one way of knowing which involves accepting information without
any proof on it more than the one you need, in other words, not relying on
information to accept the veracity of something. In contrast to faith, we
have the reasoning. This way of knowing is the opposite of faith since it
needs real proofs to make a decision. With these concepts, we can state the
truthiness of something can follow various ways according to each way of
knowing the person is using.
The fact we have not proven something will not mean it is unreal. In the
scientific and mathematical field, there are probably dozens and dozens of
theories which cannot be proven due to the technology we have now or
because they have not been proven yet, or simply because they cannot be
proven. So then, not even by using empirical evidence we will be able to
prove the veracity of each. It does not matter which way of knowing we use,
the rule keeps applying: if it has not been proven, it does not necessarily
mean it is false. We have multiple examples, to mention some we can look
at the mathematical conjectures which are mathematical propositions which
cannot be proven or are still in process of being approved. Maybe the most
famous example is the Goldbach Conjecture. Goldbach, in 1742, said: at
least it seems that every number that is greater than 2 is the sum of three
primes. (Weisstein, 1999). By the time Goldbach stated this, 1 was
considered to be a prime number. Because we do not follow that rule
anymore, the Goldbach Conjecture was restated by Euler being: all positive
integers 4 can be expressed as the sum of two primes, changing its name
to the strong Goldbach Conjecture. By having basic knowledge of math, any
person could say that this statement is true, at least in numbers in which an
average person could calculate. Most mathematicians think the conjecture is
true, and by empirical evidence, reasoning, we could say it is true until
some unknown point. By imagination, intuition and faith we could say the
strong Goldbach Conjecture is a fact rather than a proposition but it has not
been proven by more than two centuries. The conjecture could only go false
in terms of managing numbers bigger than millions, billions, trillions, etc. It
is believed to be true, but it cannot be proven, at least it has not happened
yet. So then, by reasoning, we cannot verify the truthiness of the conjecture,
but by intuition and imagination, for example, we can verify it. Going back to
the thesis, the ways of knowing such as reason will take years and years,
maybe centuries, to differentiate between something believed to be true
from something which is actually true. Meanwhile, if we use other ways of
knowing, the process could get simpler to the point you only need some
minutes of reflection.
We can have another similar example related to the area of knowledge of
math. The example is the weak Goldbach Conjecture which states: every
sufficiently large odd number is the sum of three primes. (Weisstein, 1999).
In this example we can see a difference which is that it is no more a
conjecture. Since 2013, a recent date, the weak Goldbach Conjecture was
transformed from a conjecture to a theorem because it was proven by the
Peruvian mathematician Harald Andrs Helfgott putting an end to a mystery
which lasted for more than 200 years; which was not very mysterious really,
but needed to be proven by empirical evidence and reasoning. By this we
can state that what is believed to be true is not necessary true or false.
Depending on the preference of the person, the person can choose a way of
knowing to decide whether the fact is true or false.
When we believe something is true, to negate it, it is needed a big quantity
of counter arguments and explanation for convincing ourselves that what
we thought it is true, it is actually false. Same happens in our case. Until
now, we have discussed with examples how reason and areas of knowledge
related to it can help us distinguish something we think is true from
something which is true. But, how do we do this with ways of knowing which
are opposite, such as faith? As Dr. Plait said: The biggest problem is one of
confirmation bias: finding an answer you already believe. This quote gives
us the point that every human needs a confirmation to believe in something.
The biggest problem, as the quote says, is to find the confirmation.
Depending on each way of knowledge we can rather decide how to prove
our thinking. The exceptions to this statement are poor or invalid, because
in one way or another it can be related. To give a strong example, the
religion a person follows is the general way in which the person will reason
according to the moral rules the religion gives him. The reason why he or
she has to follow them does not need to be proven. This is called faith and
by faith a person can decide if something is true or wrong. By having as an
example the catholic religion, a follower can say God exist because he
believes He does. But if the person starts thinking, to philosophy, then he
will notice he needs proves of his existence. But, as we know, there is no
proven fact, following the example, of the existence of God. Here comes the
intuition and imagination. Using this two ways of knowing, a person can
decide without having empirical evidence that something is true by making
a mental image and connecting dots which can be fallacies but to the
person they are not. This is followed by language and emotion in more
complex ways, then by memory and sense perception when the religion gets
very indepth in the person. Finally, to the person, religion can reach
reasoning, although not to everyone. Summarizing, the religion can follow
each of the ways of knowing to make the person differentiate his belief from
believing it is true to actually thinking it is true. It will not necessarily follow
the same pattern with everyone having as an outcome other religions and
atheism.
We have complete and complicated ways of proven conjectures and other
mathematical and scientific facts which can lead to years and years of
investigating. In the practical fields of science, math and history, empirical
evidence is needed as a way of knowledge to prove the veracity of these
ones. In the arts and religion it goes different, almost the opposite. Finding
reliable information in the internet about theology which uses logic and/or
valid arguments may be difficult. In the long battle of atheism versus
religion we can find various numbers from each band which simply have
invalid arguments. But Marshall gives us in simple words how faith can
differentiate something believed to be true from something which is true. He
says: When I cross a bridge, I assume it will not fall down. If it does fall
down, my assumption will have proven to be in error. But the act of crossing
the bridge is an act of faith, in the sense I am using the word, as is the act of
praying to god. He claims this to be a form of reasoning, relating reasoning
to faith. Marshall states that each scientific theory, putting as an example
the Theory of Gravity, needs to be backed up by faith. Following the gravity
example, the scientist who wants to make a conjecture or theory following
as a base the gravity theorem, must have faith in the veracity of the gravity
theory for him to develop his own theory. If we reach the day in which the
gravity theory is disproven, many other branches will fall with it needing
faith as something necessary. Relating this to the thesis of this essay, even
in science and math, according to Marshall in his book The act of reasoning,
we need faith in the veracity of the knowledge we already have as a
Christian has faith in the existence of God. Faith may be the most complex
or difficult way in which a person can differentiate what he believes to be
true from what it is actually true, but it can hiec et ubique.
As a summary, the different ways of knowing can help us differentiate what
is believed to be true from what it is actually true. In this thesis, we have
two opposite sides having reasoning with empirical evidence in one side and
faith in the other side. With reasoning applied in the areas of knowledge
such as math, natural and human sciences, history, et al, we can discover a
various ways of proving things. Although, to prove such things we need
years and years of investigating reaching the point in which it can take more
than two centuries to prove a fact which certainly was true, for example, the
weak Goldbach Conjecture, proven in 2013. With reasoning we need
imagination, intuition, language, memory, et al in different ways. Going to
the other point, faith can help us prove things without having the empirical
evidence of it by having as an objective only believing in its veracity.
Although, it can also be used in all the areas of knowledge thanks to the
faith we need in the previous knowledge we have, as stated by Marshall. As
a summary, we need all the ways of knowing to prove things in a various
different ways going from years of investigation to just believing in its
reality.
Bibliography:

Theory of Knowledge. (2014). Ways of Knowing. Retrieve from Theory
of knowledge website http://www.theoryofknowledge.net/waysofknowing/
Weisstein, Eric. (1999). Goldbach Conjecture. Retrieve from
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/GoldbachConjecture.html
Henry, Adam. (2012). How to determine if a controversial statement
is scientifically true. Retrieved from: Life hacker website
http://lifehacker.com/5919830/howtodetermineifacontroversialstatementisscientificallytrue
Marshall, David. (2012). A Gnu Unicorn misses the point. (On Faith).
Retrieved from: Christ The Tao Blog
http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2012/10/agnuunicornmissespointonfaith.html