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We live in a strange world in which many people seem able to doubt almost everything (such as the validity of evolution or man landing on the moon or the official explanation for 9/11) and yet simultaneously are willing to believe almost anything (whether it be creationism or alien abduction or the murder of Princess Diana by MI5) with little or no regard for rationality or evidence. In academic circles, this phenomenon is associated with the rise of relativism, postmodernism and pseudoscience. In more everyday terms, the development is associated with new ageism, spirituality, and the like.

I believe in rationality, reason and science and therefore I am profoundly sceptical about many beliefs and ideas that others hold always sincerely and often passionately. I believe in the value of evidence and I am deeply sceptical of anything contrary to reason or lacking in evidence. I believe that belief should be proportioned to credible evidence and demonstrable causality especially where counter-intuitive notions are concerned. I believe in having an open mind - ready to contemplate new ideas backed by persuasive evidence - but not an empty one - ready to accept any novel suggestion however lacking in sense or evidence.

Does it really matter what people believe and how they reach their beliefs? Cannot we just accept that different people believe very different - often fundamentally opposite - things and that some people are more open to esoteric ideas and more willing to have faith or belief in unusual notions?

This essay sets out:


I would offer the following reasons for why truth does matter:

Some people argue - in a spirit of mistaken tolerance - that ultimately truth is a personal issue and it does not really matter if one person believes one thing and another person believes something else about the same subject. However, one person's 'truth' often has consequences for another person. For instance, in the UK one flawed piece of research which appeared to suggest a relationship between the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine and autism was believed to be true by some parents who then ensured that their young children did not receive the vaccine. Not only were the children concerned then at greater risk of disease but gradually so was the whole child population.


Acceptance of the truth would seem to be self-evidently a sensible thing, so why do so many people so often deny the truth? There are many reasons including the following:


So, how do we know what is the truth? The following considerations are paramount:


The world is awash with non-truths. How does one detect such non-truths. We need to apply the following tests:


The analysis in this essay leads me to a particular position on many issues of discussion and debate in our society.

While I have deep respect for people with religious views, especially when this leads to ethical and moral behaviour, I am profoundly sceptical of all metaphysical and paranormal concepts and ideas such as God, the Devil, angels, ghosts, spirits, Heaven, Hell, grace, sin, miracles and the efficacy of prayer. Equally I am unconvinced of the existence of physical notions for which there is little or no evidence such as UFOs, aliens, alien architecture and alien abductions. I reject very strongly the theories of young earth creationism and intelligent design.

I am opposed intellectually to all non-rational modes of thought and therefore I am profoundly sceptical of the validity of aura, shakra, reiki, clairvoyance, telepathy, psychokinesis, astrology, cosmic ordering, crystals, feng shui, labyrinths, dowsing, horoscopes, prophecies, numerology, faith healing, alternative medicine, homeopathy, miracle cures, and conspiracy theories. I reject very strongly the idea of Holocaust denial.

In short: there is no evidence for any of these things, so I do not believe in them.


I would summarize my position on truth as follows:

  1. In a strict sense, all truth is provisional and stands open to challenge on the basis of a new interpretation of the available evidence or the provision of new evidence. The key point here is that it is evidence - old or new - that is at the heart of the determination.
  2. In the meanwhile, the most truthful statements explain and are consistent with all the currently available evidence.
  3. On the basis of consistency and utility, the most truthful statements are likely to be consistent with the current paradigm until persuasive evidence challenges that paradigm.
  4. The most useful truths are those that do simply explain past phenomena but enable consistently accurate statements about the future.



Last modified on 28 June 2011

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