The most basic fact we can observe, is that we have the ability to observe: we exist. And we apparently are located inside our skulls or bodies. We observe the world (including our own internal state) via our senses - sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, and any others you might have. All these sensory organs send nerve impulses to the brain. We don't know how thinking happens, but these nerve impulses are at least part of the mechanism.
In some way, we form in our heads a model of the world around us. I can close my eyes and visualize the room around me. It's not just an afterimage on my retinas; I can "see" the rest of my house, the stairs, the hallway, the basement etc. In my mind I can wander my neighborhood and see everything; and I can remember vividly the house I grew up in, the miserable horror of a dorm I lived in at college, places in Mexico I've been in, etc.
When we can observe clearly, so that our understanding of the situation matches the situation, this is called truth.
Doctrine and Covenants 93:24) ...truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come...
The world out there, outside of us (and including us): it is what it is - there is exactly one objective reality. So any truth is always consistent with all other truth.
One person might know some of the truth, and another a somewhat different part; those parts that intersect should match. If not, it's because one or both are mistaken. The reality is always consistent; the truth just matches it.
"Truth, the sum of existence" -Oh, Say What is Truth, LDS Hymns, no. 272)
"It is what it is, baby!" -popular American saying
When the bird and the book disagree, always believe the bird. -Audobon
DC 88:40) truth embraces truth...
We want to know the truth. We need it. How could a ship's captain navigate along a channel unless he knows where the rocks and shoals are, and where his ship is? If he navigates by some fictional information, he's likely to wreck it. We all navigate thru life. We should love the truth. It allows us to get what we want.
John 8:32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled. -Richard Feynman
Proverbs 23:23) Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. -Thoreau
There are various ways we often extend and verify our five senses:
- using instruments to extend our observational capabilities, such as telescopes, microscopes, cameras, etc.
- examining evidence left as a result of actions, such as footprints, things moved or broken, written messages, etc.
- conferring with a trusted person about what they observed
- observing via several witnesses or channels, to get around defects in any one channel
- reasoning upon the information that comes in, to realize additional facts
Many of our problems come from poor reasoning. Thinking works better if we take time to do it. Set aside time every day to just be still, use no electronic devices, have no one talking, just think and feel.
Binoculars will reveal that Jupiter has 4 moons. A very good amateur telescope will show 5 or 6, and institutional telescopes and spacecraft have identified 67. Which number is the truth, and why? Would we conclude from this varying number that Jupiter does not exist? In signal theory, the matching data from several channels is the signal, the mismatching data is noise, but here, the critical element is the quality of the telescope; a better one sees more.
We were playing softball. Baseman got the throw, runner slid into the base, big thick cloud of dust. Nobody could see who got there first but the umpire called the runner out. Big argument ensued, runner insisting he knew his foot was on the bag first because he could feel it. When the dust cleared enough to see, there was the ball in the baseman's mitt, mitt on top of the bag, runner's foot on top of the mitt. Nothing the runner could do but grin sheepishly and take his place on the bench.
John 8:46) And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?
The ancient story of Susanna tells how one Daniel detected two liars by questioning them separately about details. They had arranged their stories to agree, but not down to such details.
If you use valid reasoning on accurate information, you cannot come to incorrect conclusions.
If you work with inaccurate or insufficient information, or use invalid reasoning, you can get incorrect (or, by accident, correct) conclusions.
We can observe the past via memory, recordings (including written history), or by reasoning. And we can know the future to some degree, by reasoning; and we can know it by controlling it to some degree - by our actions, and by using planning and commitment.
We almost always have to use our memory to utilize any observations. Since the situation can change after we've observed it, our memory is therefore knowledge of things in the past, whether very recent or more distant.
When we observe distant stars, their light has taken years, or even millions of years, to reach us.
Truth, part 2