Are you sure? Sure, I'm sure!
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Topic: Knowing and Being Right

How Can We Know Anything?

by Darrel Cline

During the Gulf War, I watched a television interview of one of the more aggressive and successful Arab pilots. During the course of the interview, the question of bravery and motivation came up. The pilot told the interviewer that according to Islam, if one died in the course of defending the faith, he was automatically guaranteed acceptance by Allah into the Islamic version of heaven. The man was convinced of the truthfulness of his religion, and of his acceptance by his god if he should die opposing the tyranny of the enemy. Being a Christian pastor, I ponder how surprised one of us is going to be when we die; for one of us will be accepted by the God who is, and one will be rejected. Islam teaches that Christianity is a religion of infidels, none of whom end up being accepted by Allah. Christianity was founded by Jesus, Who said "No man comes to the Father but by Me". The religions are mutually exclusive. Both could be wrong, but both cannot be right.

This raises a question that I want to spend a few articles pondering: How do we know that our perspective on things is right? In the last article I pointed out that one of the issues involved in this question is the issue of facts as opposed to feelings. An outgrowth of that issue is the corollary issue of the difference between being confident that we are right and actually being right. Most people go through life confident that their view of things is correct. Most people believe in their version of religion. Most people are able to squelch their questions about ultimate accuracy most of the time. And, according to Jesus, most people go to Hell when they die (Matthew 7:13-14). That's an awesome thought--that it is possible to go through life believing in a lie.

So, how do we know what is the truth? To answer, let me first note that for most practical purposes, knowing is simply being fully assured of one's accurate grasp of certain facts. Sometimes that assurance is built upon tangible, empirical data. For instance, if someone tells you that your car has a flat tire, and you go out and see that the tire is actually flat, you know that the tire is flat. But, your knowledge is actually the result of your confidence in the accuracy of your brain's interpretation of data that your eyes have fed it. By the same token, had you believed the person who told you that your tire was flat, you could have had the same level of confidence without the empirical data. In other words, if your friend was noted to be trustworthy and not given to teasing, you could have known your tire was flat without having to see it for yourself. So, sometimes our knowledge is built upon our confidence in our brain's interpretation of data that we have experienced with one of our five senses, and sometimes we know because we believe a trusted friend.

However, if you have ever been in a room of mirrors where distortion was built into the mirrors, you know how easily your eyes can be tricked into believing a lie. And, if you have ever been tricked into believing a lie by someone you trusted, you know how easy it is to be gullible. So, can we know anything? More in the next article.

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This is article #007.
If you wish, you may contact Darrel as darrelcline at this site.