Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The truth about TRUTH

(Abstract of the talk given on October 20th, 2008 at Stanford Religious Center)


Truth has been one among the perennial quests of man. Sages have sought after it. Philosophers have debated it. Scientists seek to find it. All this is because truth matters. It affects our faith and actions.

But what is the essence of truth? How can truth be described? Is it merely a construct of the mind? Is it an experience that ought to be sought after?

Science and Truth

In today's world Science has been hailed as a 'bastion of truth' and all God talk has been relegated to the sphere of myths and superstition. In trying to understand how Science has attempted to discover truth about the 'physical world' around us people have come up with three theories:

- Verificationism - only that which is verifiable is true
- Falsificationism - only that (hypothesis) which is falsifiable is true
- Kuhnianism - truth is progressively discovered through 'paradigm shifts' involving people within a group

Even today many Scientists use one or more of the above methodologies either consciously or unconsciously to discover truth in their own fields of expertise. Each of the above methodologies possess inherent limitations in the extent to which they could be applied to all fields of knowledge and reality.

Science does not deal with the whole of reality. It only deals with the tangibles. It cannot address questions that deal with non-tangible aspects of life such as the purpose of life, life after death This is where Religions come into play.

Religion and Truth

Religions attempt to teach the truth about these signifcant questions of life such as
- who I am?
- where do I come from?
- where do I go?

For most of the eastern religions truth is an elusive, impersonal entity (eg. 'Brahman' in Hinduism) that can only be 'experienced'. Most of the western religions attempt to reduce truth to a set of propositions.

What is truth?

There exists a relationship between truth and the source of truth. We tend to believe truth that is communicated by those we can trust based on their character and capability in our day to day lives.

An astonishing claim about truth was made by Jesus Christ who said, 'I am ...the truth'. While making such an extra-ordinary claim about himself, he lived an impeccable life that attracted both followers and opponents. He performed extra-ordinary miracles demonstrating his divine attributes. In doing so he became the embodiment of truth itself, by displaying both the character and capability substantiating His claim for truth.

As the popular adage goes, 'Truth hurts'. When someone points out our faults, it can hurt us. In the same way, Jesus pointed out to the people the truth about themselves - that they fall short of meeting God's standard of perfection and are in danger of punishment despite their religious, moral and cultural heritage. His perfect life exagerated their anger that culminated in nailing him on the cross. However, he rose again on the third day to authenticate his life and message just as he had told them.

Anyone who desires to know the truth can do so now by seeking to have a relationship with Jesus Christ who is 'the truth'. Once we acknowledge that we are not perfect and attempt to connect with Him, we can begin to understand the truth about us, the world, the present and the future. What he said about life, death, you and me has the power to change us and help us become like Him. And life will never be the same again.

Do you want to know 'the TRUTH'?

About the Speaker: Jeyaprakash Samuel (Jp) completed his Ph.D. at IIT-Madras and University of Freiburg, Germany. Subsequent to a post-doctoral stint at Stanford University (Dept. of Chemical Engineering) he joined Lam Research in Fremont where he is now part of the 'New Product Development' research team.