What Is Truth?

Cochise

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Is there any such thing as objective truth? Discuss.

I don't think there is. You can't even prove to me the universe will exist after I die. Or that y'all exist now and are not figments of my imagination - although I will accept it as a working hypothesis.

And everyone lies. No offence. Has anyone ever said to a new mother 'my god, that baby is so plug ugly it would scare a bulldog?" And we do it all the time, about things much more important than that. Everyone does.

'The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth'. Don't make me laugh. The best anyone can do is give their own perspective.

This arises from an item on a Radio 4 program I was listening to about a decade ago which made exactly these points. And which has been churning around in my mind ever since.
 

Mythopoeika

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It depends on what you want 'truth' about.
If it's something that can be argued with actual, established facts to hand, then a truth can be identified and proven.
The problems begin when those facts are completely ignored by people who don't like the truth. Facts are lower on the pecking order than their feelings.
 

Cochise

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It depends on what you want 'truth' about.
If it's something that can be argued with actual, established facts to hand, then a truth can be identified and proven.
The problems begin when those facts are completely ignored by people who don't like the truth. Facts are lower on the pecking order than their feelings.
Layers of proof maybe? Ignoring temporarily the philosophical criticisms of truths like does anything exist outside my head, truths like much of chemistry and some of physics that can be verified by repeatable experiment are the nearest things to objective proof we have.
One might also question 'facts'. Although I agree there are some , noting the caveat in my second sentence, and I agree with your third and fourth sentences.

This is sounding terribly pedantic, but I'm being very careful.
 
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PeteByrdie

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Is there any such thing as objective truth? Discuss.

I don't think there is. You can't even prove to me the universe will exist after I die. Or that y'all exist now and are not figments of my imagination - although I will accept it as a working hypothesis.
This touches on cartesian philosophy. The thing is, we can't prove we're not figments of your imagination, but if we are, or whether we're not, is still objectively true regardless of whether it can be proven to you. Yes, I believe in objective truth. I concede only that we can never know with certainly what that truth is.
 
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charliebrown

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At one time people knew as true that the sun revolved around the earth and the earth was flat.

One could fall off the side of the earth was absolutely true.

Maybe one could say truths are accepted social ideas like a woman might be worth 2 camels in certain societies.

Penis length determines if you are a good man.

Virgins had to be sacrificed to make it rain.

But maybe the real truth is reality.

You can not have truth without reality.

Reality is truth.
 

Victory

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I think there is a truth, but it is yet to be widely revealed.

The truth is the explanation of how the universe was created, why it was created, who created it, and why it is allowed to continue operating even when so much suffering happens.
 

Amergin

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Is there any such thing as objective truth? Discuss.

I don't think there is. You can't even prove to me the universe will exist after I die. Or that y'all exist now and are not figments of my imagination - although I will accept it as a working hypothesis.

And everyone lies. No offence. Has anyone ever said to a new mother 'my god, that baby is so plug ugly it would scare a bulldog?" And we do it all the time, about things much more important than that. Everyone does.

'The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth'. Don't make me laugh. The best anyone can do is give their own perspective.

This arises from an item on a Radio 4 program I was listening to about a decade ago which made exactly these points. And which has been churning around in my mind ever since.
Well I can prove with a very brutal demonstration that the universe will continue to exist after you die. I just can’t prove it to you. And after so doing, my future liberty may be somewhat curtailed.
 

Yithian

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Truth as a universal and independent overarching form or concept that particular things 'down here' may or may not partake of is a difficult idea.

Take the following statements:

- There are more than 100 members logged into Forteana.
- There are more than 101 members logged into Forteana.
- There are more than 102 members logged into Forteana.

Assume there are 103 members currently logged into Forteana. All three of those statements are 'true', but are they equally true? And are we really looking at three individual 'truths' or the same single 'truth' that stems from the actual number of currently logged-in members? If the latter, can we scale up to the size of the universe and say that our true statements/beliefs are all the same truth—the one that matches the totality of situations that pertain? For me, to say 'I love cats', '3 x 3 = 9' and 'The pan is hot' is to say three true things that are true in (at least) three different ways. It feels as if we are going to have to venture into theology and metaphysics to deny that, but plenty will.

Truth as a predicate that may be appended to or thought to inhere in statements or beliefs concerning states of affairs in the world certainly exists in different ways for different categories of thought/utterance. To simplify a few complex ideas:

1) Statements of self-evident truth that may be demonstrated a priori via an examination of the terms and concepts involved without reference to the physical world or particular states of affairs that obtain in it: mathematics (2+2 =4), syllogistic logic (Socrates is a man...), statements of logical necessity (the Laws of Thought etc.). This is truth.

2) Performatives: thoughts/statements that become true by virtue of being thought/uttered: I am thinking (he thought), I pronounce you man and wife (declared the priest). This is truth.

3) Thoughts/statements about the world that every honest and rational person would assent to if they a) understood and agreed with the meanings of the words and concepts through which those thoughts/statements were expressed and were correctly informed about the existing state of affairs in the world: London is farther north than Capetown or Elephants cannot fly unaided.. We look at the world and honestly seek to verify whether the ideas we have are reflected back at us: we are looking for a correspondence akin to that of a map to the territory it depicts. The map presents a blue-shaded lake around the bend and a lake there is indeed: this is truth; I believe that snow is white, and the requisite wavelength hits my eyes in early December: this is, too.

The majority of supposed diagreements over truth and falsity are nothing of the kind: they are disagreements over definitions and ignorance/misunderstanding of how a speaker/writer is using a word, term or concept—what he is trying to express. There's truth here, to be sure, but you have a lot of sifting to do to reliably reach it.

A crucial caveat is that many people—I'd cautiously say a growing number—are not interested in understanding terms and concepts or verifying states of affairs in the world; the discourse they engage in is political and functional—it seeks to justify and persuade with spurious argument. Truth is a bonus, but only because it makes the claims more likely to be accepted, not because it is in any way virtuous to prefer truth over falsehood. 'True' for such people is what they believe—they rarely get to the next step, and if they do, they selectively choose and ignore whatever facts are required to appear correct. Some do this subconsciously, others consciously. It has been claimed that all this is all indicative of a 'post-truth' era; being a traditionalist, I prefer to speak of 'lying' and 'the gullible'.

4) Statements and thoughts that are found not to conflict with other statements and thoughts known to be true: those which cohere with existing nexuses of truth that have been verified by various means (including the methods above): 'Pterodactyls are extinct' 'matches' the truth landscape that has been sketched by countless other thoughts and statements about pterodactyls: none has been verifiably sighted in modern times; all specimens of pterodactyl remains hitherto discovered have been extremely old etc. One must obviously exercise care here (especially Forteans), but reflect that on an exhaustive list of all true statements/thoughts about pterodactlys' existence none of those statements would contradict another (prop. 276: pterodactlys lived exclusively on Earth, prop. 277: pterodactlys lived on Venus and Earth — this would not occur). This is a decent approximation of how we assign truth and falsity to our ideas.

No time to sum up, but I often feel like those who accept a slide into relativism ("It's true for him") aren't really trying that hard.
 

Cochise

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Thanks for that, Yith - thought provoking.

I wasn't really wanting to drift off into relativism. I was more thinking of the concept that pretty any truth should really be preceded by a number of caveats, starting with 'If there really is a physical universe .... "

After all, mathematical theorems are full of assumptions or predicates such as infinity and parallelism. And I know from my work with computers that none of them are absolutely accurate, though some are very very accurate, if you see what I mean.

Some of the assumptions - even quite major ones - which would have been taken as given do as @charliebrown pointed out, change in the face of new evidence.

So, I'm not arguing there is no such thing as truth, but that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Not arguing that a truth, adequately proven, can then be ignored by someone else who simply chooses not to believe it. Trouble is, people use 'truth' for things that are as yet unproven, or can never be adequately proven.
 

Endlessly Amazed

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@Yithian wrote most of the main points, with the always-important social context which @charliebrown demonstrated.

I am between one year and 10,000 years old. This is accurate, but not precise enough to be useful.
I am 25 years old. This is precise enough to be useful, but unfortunately for me it is not accurate. It is a lie.

I accept that an external reality exists which is not dependent on my existence, awareness, or continuing consciousness, as @Amergin wrote. My personal awareness and interpretation of that reality is quite limited. However, I, as has most people, have experienced incontrovertible "truths:" someone I knew was alive, and now is dead, I have seen or touched the dead body, etc.

What is an absolute truth? Define.
 

Sid

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@Yithian wrote most of the main points, with the always-important social context which @charliebrown demonstrated.

I am between one year and 10,000 years old. This is accurate, but not precise enough to be useful.
I am 25 years old. This is precise enough to be useful, but unfortunately for me it is not accurate. It is a lie.

I accept that an external reality exists which is not dependent on my existence, awareness, or continuing consciousness, as @Amergin wrote. My personal awareness and interpretation of that reality is quite limited. However, I, as has most people, have experienced incontrovertible "truths:" someone I knew was alive, and now is dead, I have seen or touched the dead body, etc.

What is an absolute truth? Define.
In other words, the minute you wrote it, it was inaccurate, but it was accurate some time before you wrote it ~ but it never really existed? Or, it only really existed once it eventually reached this place?:headbang:
 

Coal

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I struggled to find a place to put this...but this might be it.

I believed the hype and did mindfulness meditation for dumb reasons-- now I'm trying to reverse the damage​

https://hollyelmore.substack.com/p/...asons-now-im-trying-to-reverse-the-damage?s=r

I overdid it with mindfulness and meditation. I probably never needed to practice them in the first place. Like yoga, I was drawn to meditation because I was already good at it— I quickly saw the benefits because for me they were easy to reach. I was really flexible, so I quickly got into serious yoga practice. I was very observant, introspective, disciplined, and my senses were very sensitive, so I quickly “made progress” in mindfulness and meditation. I probably started at a level of mindfulness (or at least those aspects of mindfulness) which is a desirable endpoint for others. I dislocated my knee doing yoga, because I am excessively flexible, and because I was excessively sensitive and trained myself to be vigilant, I kind of broke my mind with mindfulness.

This is worth a read thorugh. Usual caveat 'if it's true' etc.

But...the writer describes, to my interpretation, how she 'broke' her normal perception of the world, by removing context and filters from perception and focussing on what was 'really' there.

"The biggest harm of reducing the tendency to pre-filter input through concepts is the processing time that it takes to bind all the shapes or sounds or ideas I’m hearing into something my brain can use. Mindfulness training puts the emphasis on direct sensory experiences— that’s what you’re really experiencing, not the "thing," really the concept of the thing, that you think is in front of you-- and so my processor is all gunked up cataloging a bunch of parts and shapes and surfaces before just seeing a table that I could use. I take in excessive extraneous detail and don't prioritize incoming information as quickly as a result of mindfulness practice."


"Harm: loss of 3D vision

This is related to loss of concepts. I can pop in and out of 2D and 3D vision at will, it’s just that 2D is the default, and 3D always feels more real. Whenever I pop into it, I feel suddenly aware that I have a back and that there are sounds behind me as well. I suspect that it’s like tapping into the immersive UI model setting of the mind."

"Harm: exacerbated neurological vision processing issues

Speaking of visual snow, mindfulness made mine way, way worse by encouraging me to notice it."

If this is a true account it's really quite something, as it suggests that it is possible to disable some of the heuristics we use to navigate the world and identify objects from context. While there are those who think that's a good idea, it probably really isn't.
 

Endlessly Amazed

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I struggled to find a place to put this...but this might be it.

I believed the hype and did mindfulness meditation for dumb reasons-- now I'm trying to reverse the damage​

https://hollyelmore.substack.com/p/...asons-now-im-trying-to-reverse-the-damage?s=r



This is worth a read thorugh. Usual caveat 'if it's true' etc.

But...the writer describes, to my interpretation, how she 'broke' her normal perception of the world, by removing context and filters from perception and focussing on what was 'really' there.

"The biggest harm of reducing the tendency to pre-filter input through concepts is the processing time that it takes to bind all the shapes or sounds or ideas I’m hearing into something my brain can use. Mindfulness training puts the emphasis on direct sensory experiences— that’s what you’re really experiencing, not the "thing," really the concept of the thing, that you think is in front of you-- and so my processor is all gunked up cataloging a bunch of parts and shapes and surfaces before just seeing a table that I could use. I take in excessive extraneous detail and don't prioritize incoming information as quickly as a result of mindfulness practice."




If this is a true account it's really quite something, as it suggests that it is possible to disable some of the heuristics we use to navigate the world and identify objects from context. While there are those who think that's a good idea, it probably really isn't.

What a great essay. Thanks for presenting it to us. The author shows self-awareness in describing her meditation goals.

Unless I missed something in the essay, it seems that the author did not train in meditation under the direct supervision of a teacher in a specific discipline or tradition. She also apparently did this without the support of a dedicated community (sangha). Both would have been beneficial in teaching and reminding her of the usefulness of sometimes being grounded in conventional reality. Also, she discussed "common Buddhist doctrine" without making clear or perhaps not understanding that Buddhism has many different varieties and that each variety has its own goals and practices.

She wrote as if she studied by herself, from external sources (books or videos?). However, to increase a skill requires practice and informed feedback from an external source or at least from an analysis of the gap between goal and current state.

I agree with her that it is possible to train one's mind to achieve unhealthy patterns, even when having the best possible intentions and when practicing a socially acceptable activity such as mediation.

If one is going to spend a lot of time or most time meditating, one needs external sources of money and an organization dedicated to supporting one. Like Krishnamurti. Or the Dali lama. Or Sai Baba. Or like.....

"Truth is a pathless land." Krishnamurti
"WTF." Endlessly Amazed
 

Ronnie Jersey

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Truth is a very slippery thing.
Ten people can witness the same car accident, yet will tell ten different versions of that accident.
Twelve jurors on a murder trial will see 'the truth' of the details in completely different ways.
Truth is perception.
 

kesavaross

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So, I'm not arguing there is no such thing as truth, but that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Not arguing that a truth, adequately proven, can then be ignored by someone else who simply chooses not to believe it. Trouble is, people use 'truth' for things that are as yet unproven, or can never be adequately proven.
An absolute truth is something that is true under any circumstances. Surely by stating there is no absolute truth means that statement is true under any circumstances, which means that statement is an absolute truth?

I hope I've explained that adequately.
 

Yithian

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An absolute truth is something that is true under any circumstances. Surely by stating there is no absolute truth means that statement is true under any circumstances, which means that statement is an absolute truth?

I hope I've explained that adequately.

'Adequately'

68747470733a2f2f73332e616d617a6f6e6177732e636f6d2f776174747061642d6d656469612d736572766963652f...gif
 

eburacum

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3) Thoughts/statements about the world that every honest and rational person would assent to if they a) understood and agreed with the meanings of the words and concepts through which those thoughts/statements were expressed and were correctly informed about the existing state of affairs in the world: London is farther north than Capetown or Elephants cannot fly unaided.. We look at the world and honestly seek to verify whether the ideas we have are reflected back at us: we are looking for a correspondence akin to that of a map to the territory it depicts. The map presents a blue-shaded lake around the bend and a lake there is indeed: this is truth; I believe that snow is white, and the requisite wavelength hits my eyes in early December: this is, too.

The majority of supposed diagreements over truth and falsity are nothing of the kind: they are disagreements over definitions and ignorance/misunderstanding of how a speaker/writer is using a word, term or concept—what he is trying to express. There's truth here, to be sure, but you have a lot of sifting to do to reliably reach it.
Yes, Definitions are important.
London is north of Capetown. This is true in the co-ordinate system of Earth, but not in the co-ordinate system of other objects, such as Venus or Uranus.
Elephants cannot fly unaided. This is true on Earth, but in the gravity of certain other objects in the Solar System (such as 486958 Arrokoth), an elephant could probably make a very good attempt at locomotion, quite possibly using its ears as wings. Gravity on that object is so low that it is almost negative in some places.
Snow is white. Hm, it certainly appears white, but under the microscope the individual crystals are transparent, like the hairs on a polar bear.

To find the truth involves digging down into the details, a path which can be infinitely extended in many cases.
 

Yithian

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Yes, Definitions are important.
London is north of Capetown. This is true in the co-ordinate system of Earth, but not in the co-ordinate system of other objects, such as Venus or Uranus.
Elephants cannot fly unaided. This is true on Earth, but in the gravity of certain other objects in the Solar System (such as 486958 Arrokoth), an elephant could probably make a very good attempt at locomotion, quite possibly using its ears as wings. Gravity on that object is so low that it is almost negative in some places.
Snow is white. Hm, it certainly appears white, but under the microscope the individual crystals are transparent, like the hairs on a polar bear.

To find the truth involves digging down into the details, a path which can be infinitely extended in many cases.

You highlight another cause of constant disagreement: context of utterance.

Many statements are true within their implicit of explicit context of utterance.

Which is how it can be perfectly acceptable for a botanist to tell us a tomato is a fruit and a chef to tell us it's a vegetable.

Within scientific discourse the former is true; within the culinary tradition the latter is.

As Plato has it: 'that which is may be so called in many ways'.

Much disagreement stems from attempts to foist the claims of one context into another.
 

Mikefule

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Layers of proof maybe? Ignoring temporarily the philosophical criticisms of truths like does anything exist outside my head, truths like much of chemistry and some of physics that can be verified by repeatable experiment are the nearest things to objective proof we have.
[My italics.]

"Ignoring temporarily..." something that is fundamental to the argument? But I agree with you. Solipsism is a blind alley. In the end, we are obliged to behave as if the world around us is real.

Proof is rare in life. Evidence is more common. Evidence suggests that something may be the case. Proof establishes that it actually is the case.

This touches on cartesian philosophy. The thing is, we can't prove we're not figments of your imagination...
The delicious irony of two people engaging in debate about whether the other exists! If either of you believed that the other did not exist, you would not have engaged.

Point is — as you are both hinting — we can't prove that the world outside our imagination exists objectively, but it feels real.

We would have no way of differentiating between a real proof that it exists, and an imaginary proof that it exists!

Descartes cheated, and this is now widely acknowledged. Cogito ergo sum: I think, therefore I am, or — more clearly — the very fact that I think proves that I exist.

However, this does not prove that "I" exist in any particular form: For all I know, I could be a disembodied consciousness, a lizard, or a tree. Other philosophers have pared Descartes' conclusion down to merely "Thinking happens."

However, Descartes goes on from his famous cogito to make the "with one bound he was free" assumption that a perfect God would not deceive him, and as the definition of God includes that he is perfect, this "proves" that everything else that Descartes perceives is real.

So that's all right then. (A touch of the "begging the question" that St Anshelm also employed.)

I think there is a truth, but it is yet to be widely revealed.

The truth is the explanation of how the universe was created, why it was created, who created it, and why it is allowed to continue operating even when so much suffering happens.
@Victory , while I absolutely respect your right to believe, nevertheless, your points are based on your own preconceptions. Someone with different beliefs might have written, " I think there is a truth, but it is yet to be widely discovered. The truth is the explanation of how the universe came to exist, and what caused it to come into existence."

Speculating about why suffering is "allowed" presupposes that there is someone or something that could prevent or forbid it, but chooses not to.

Truth is a very slippery thing.
Ten people can witness the same car accident, yet will tell ten different versions of that accident.
...
The first step of any philosophical inquiry is to determine the question, and define terms.

Like many words in English, and no doubt in other languages, "truth" or "true" have various meanings. It is usually more interesting to discuss the actual concepts and ideas rather than the words, which are often imprecise labels for those concepts and ideas.

I think @Cochise 's opening post was about "truth" in the sense of whether anything at all is objectively true: whether it objectively exists.

@Ronnie Jersey you have added to this the further element of honesty or dishonesty which is a differerent but equally (more?) important aspect of what we often mean by truth.

If one witness says the car was doing about 30 mph, and another witness says it was doing about 50 mph, they may both be telling "the truth"in the sense that they are not trying to mislead. However, the "truth" in the objective sense may be that it was doing 40 mph and both witnesses were honestly mistaken.


Even in the objective sense of truth, there is still a subjective element. For example Is the philosopher's table a solid object?
  1. Yes, at the human level, it is. That's why the philosopher is able to put her coffee cup on it.
  2. However, at the molecular level, the table is a structure that has more gaps than actual matter
  3. At the subatomic level, the table is no more than a collection of charges, waves, and probabilities.
  4. At the galactic level, the table could be said to barely exist at all: the argument that allows humans to go through life seeing a table instead of the molecules might allow an unimaginably vast intergalactic intelligence to perceive only star systems, and ignore anything smaller than a planet.
So I would suggest that a reasonable starting definition of "truth" is "that which is not contradicted by strong evidence, and which is said without intention to mislead."

From here, Socrates would find an example that caused me to withdraw or refine this definition. This process would be repeated several times until he and I eventually concluded that there could be no conclusion. This is a situation known as aporia — although even the word "aporia" has other definitions.
 
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kesavaross

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I think there is a truth, but it is yet to be widely revealed.

The truth is the explanation of how the universe was created, why it was created, who created it, and why it is allowed to continue operating even when so much suffering happens.
Maybe that knowledge is already available and it's just simply a case of you yet haven't come across it.
 

EnolaGaia

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This new ScienceAlert article bodes ill for the notion of "truth" ...
Facts Are No Longer Convincing. Research Suggests You Should Say This Instead

Facts are the cornerstones of reality. At least, they used to be.

In today's ultra-polarized environment, however – marked by deep political divisions, heightened social tensions, and a deluge of misinformation and fake news – facts are rather less certain in people's minds than they once were. ...

Because of this strange ambiguity in how we now perceive 'facts', using them to support your moral or political argument about something is no longer a surefire strategy, researchers say, despite what our own intuition and logic might suggest.

Instead, if you really want to stand a chance of changing somebody's mind on a serious topic, there's something else you should be telling them: Your own personal experiences. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencealert.com/facts-...research-suggests-you-should-say-this-instead

PUBLISHED RESEARCH REPORT: https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2008389118
 

Coal

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When truth is indistinguishable from parody.
To see the techniques above brought to an endpoint, try ‘How to Have Impossible Conversations’, Boghossian and Lindsay (2019), although like many similar books, it suggests that "we the authors have managed this technique and all you have to do is master it as well."

If we could all do that...

While it's possible to change the mind of someone who's self-identity is built on some collection of self asserted 'facts', most people don't have the time to indulge in the sort of discussions suggested by the article above or this book - most people have busy busy working lives and 'investing' the hours required to changing someone's mind is a luxury.

It's just easier to jump ahead to "No" or "Even so, you have no right to force me to do/say/believe what you want." (although in real life, this latter is generally shortened somewhat).
 

Aether Blue

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"The truth is that you have a headache."

For those not familiar with the quote, it is from Bulgakov's _The Master and Margarita_.

The book attributes those words to its version of Jesus in response to Pilate's famous question.
 
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Victory

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Maybe that knowledge is already available and it's just simply a case of you yet haven't come across it.
A "summary" of this information {of how and why the universe was created] can be found in most faiths.
Different versions of course.

But the details?

That is a study that for a human would take many lifetimes to even get a small percentage of the truth, if one was studying by conventional means.
 

Sid

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A "summary" of this information {of how and why the universe was created] can be found in most faiths.
Different versions of course.

But the details?

That is a study that for a human would take many lifetimes to even get a small percentage of the truth, if one was studying by conventional means.
Though for an Orangutan ~ ten minutes, then again. . . maybe fifteen minutes or-so, if banana's are within easy reach.:)
 
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