— Round 1 —
Constructing reality is based off of absolute truths. An absolute truth is defined as unaltered, fixed, or invariable. If everything were relative, then it would be absolutely true that everything is relative, and that would be self-refuting. So saying that everything is relative can’t be true. Likewise, if everything were absolutely true, then we couldn’t have such things as personal preferences. The Idea that all personal truths are based off of relative truths creates false ideas that there are no absolutes. We create Ideas and norms for ourselves in the society we live in based off our social environment, interactions, and relationships. Those Ideas and norms create personal truths. The personal truths are formed ultimately from Absolutes.
Examples of absolutes: Humans breathe air and need oxygen to survive, the world revolves around the sun, the world is not flat but it is round, there is no round squares or square circles.
You are absolutely right that constructing reality if based off of "truth." The problem with truth is not that truth does not exist, but that access to truth is difficult given the human experience. All events that occur in life are subject to interpretation. Sure, we know gravity exists and we make amazing leaps in technology - but I am speaking more about epistemology and how individual's construct their respective truths.
Truth, in its essence, is not relative - but the interpretation of the observed truth is subject to several elements of the human experience including the following: current schemes, bias, prejudice, culture, rearing and a whole host of other factors. Two different people can experience the same event and as a result, hold two completely separate vantage points or perspectives on what occurred. Why does this occur? Because the "elements of the human condition" help in constructing the "truth" about that event. People can only know what they able and willing to know. People base their "personal truths" off of information they acquire about life events. Most people seek information that reinforces their current viewpoint and essentially ignore the rest as "un-true." How do we really know what is true? Even truth that is commonly accepted has changed over the course of time. The world was once flat, we know it is not, and Pluto used to be a planet. Scientists made the best possible judgement with the information they had at the time. My point is that truth changes when society is presented with information that proves the previously accepted truth as "false."
Again, absolute truth certainly exists outside the realm of the human experience but the truth as we know it today may change depending on information we find in the future. Neuroscience research indicates tremendous bias in the brain and a systematic filtering of "dis-believed" information; so, essentially the brain seeks out information that reinforces it's current belief system. The brain receives about 11 million bits of information per second but only processes about 50. The brain is built to be biased based on culture, rearing, current schema and beliefs, developed thought patterns, etc. My point is that the human experience has a tremendous impact on how a truth is constructed.
— Round 2 —
We both agree that the environment in which individuals grew up ultimately creates their ideals or personal truths. However everyone has access to Absolute truths as its all around them. The construction of personal truths ultimately comes from absolute truths. When we construct reality we put all of our beliefs, schemas, and culture together and develop an answer. This answer never changes absolute truths. An absolute truth is defined as unaltered, fixed, or invariable.
You are correct, people are bias and culture develops that bias however absolute truths are still absolute and not changing. Absolute truths are as easy as: you have to breathe air to live, the sun creates heat, or H2O is the makeup of water.
When speaking of truth being “in the eye of the beholder” we often discuss how people interpret the things around them. I agree when people experience events their ideas about those events can change. Those ideals about those events that were once set by the culture, rearing, current schema and beliefs have now changed. This is also how we adapt to our surroundings yet still doesn't change the fact that absolute truths are there and never changing. When people feel a breeze hit their arms they may interpret that to be hot or cold however it was just the wind. All I am saying is that absolute truths are everywhere and even though people perceive them differently that never changes the fact that they are absolute. What changes are people's ideals not absolute truths.
Albert Einstein is widely regarded as one of the greatest geniuses of modern times. He once said, "Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater." This quote illuminates the underpinnings of a greater issues, truth is elusive and becomes more complicated as one's knowledge base increases. Many highly intelligent and knowledgeable people come to grasp with a tough reality: the more knowledge one acquires, they find more questions than answers on many topics. Think about how many intellectual giants claims about truth are almost laughable today. In their space and time, the truth they conveyed about several subject matters seemed appropriate (Plato, Aristotle, Rene Descartes).
Again, my point is not that absolute truths do not exist, but access to most "absolute truths" is problematic due the human experience and how such truths are constructed and thereby understood. Sure, science has created great support for widely-believed truths that are pretty much "no-brainers." However, if understanding all absolute truths were as easy as you claim, the world would be far less complicated. Truth depends on facts and facts depends on what is believed. Facts are not handed to us on a golden platter. Facts must be tested, scientifically, and put through rigorous inquisition to be thoroughly understood and supported by research. I am sure you have heard the truth about history depends on who writes it?
The point of my op-ed is to point to a puzzling reality about the attitude of scientists, philosophers, professors and anyone else claiming to have all the answers; arrogance abounds even in the face of evidence to the contrary. I think it is important to point out the notion that belief systems are built from the neurology of the brain, which is influenced by genetics, environment, behavior, and education. The brain is hard-wired to be biased and is subject to both Type 1 and Type II errors when making decisions and judgements (a loaded topic we don't have time to explore here). My point with the article is that WE ALL must approach humanity, knowledge, and the human experience with some humility lest we fall victim to the same mistakes our predecessors have made about their assertions about the world around them. It is important to have an open mind and realize no one has all the answers and we should be humbled and grateful for the answers we think we do have at this point in time.