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Absolutely: Theory of an Invariant

Eric Wilson - 2013

(Theory of an Invariant) A companion piece to “Special Theory of Relativity in Critical Thinking”
I felt – after my post explaining bias and relative truths – I must respond and expound just a bit. First, I extend my apologies for the previous title to the memory of Mr. Einstein. In reading his biography, you will learn that one of the things he took offense to most often was the use of relativity in reference to his theories outside of their context. The anti-relativist and many laymen of the time misunderstood or misrepresented the theory of relativity as the end of certainty and absolutes in nature. Einstein believed and hoped instead that relativity lead to a deeper description of absolutes or what he called “invariances.”
The debate over absolutes is a familiar one that has raged for ages. One of the most famous was offered by one of its biggest skeptics, Descartes. Descartes himself, in the meditations following the one in which he introduces the “evil genius”, acknowledges his own existence as a thinking being. After having subject everything he could to scrutiny and doubt, he asks himself if there is anything he can be certain of. His conclusion is – even if he might be deceived in all his thinking – he still is certain of this: “I think, then I am, then I exist.” From this foundation, Descartes proceeds to argue that we can once again come to know virtually all that he had initially subjected to doubt. Hence, he believes that from this modest beginning he can offer evidence and arguments that give us certain knowledge and – more profoundly – support an existence of God.
Now, we may disagree on the nature of truth at the spiritual level, but it is hard to deny absolute truths at the physical level.
The analogy I used in a prior post was the example of the freight train. As I step onto a set of railroad tracks, it is either true or untrue that there is a train approaching. I would have made a reasoned decision to step on the tracks based on this truth that I observed. If a speeding freight train is approaching and I still decide to step in front of it, I will be dead and stupid. It is not possible to be both dead and undead as a result of my actions. The train is either coming or not, and it is either safe or not to cross the tracks. The truth must exist at the exclusion of the other. Much like being stupid must exist at the exclusion of being a “jenius.”
An absolute truth (we may also refer to it as a universal truth) is an unalterable and permanent fact.
The existence of absolute truth logically and reasonably is nearly impossible to argue against. In arguing against an absolute truth, you will quickly find yourself in a paradox in that your very argument establishes that a truth exists. You cannot argue against absolute truth unless an absolute truth is the basis of your argument.
Suppose you were to contend that "there are no absolutes.” You are then in fact declaring there are absolutely no absolutes. That is an absolute statement. The statement is logically contradictory. If the statement is true, there is in fact an absolute being “there are absolutely no absolutes.”
If you instead say "truth is relative,” again this is an absolute statement implying truth is absolutely relative. Besides positing an absolute, suppose the statement was true and "truth is relative." Everything including that statement would be relative. If a statement is relative, it is not always true. If "truth is relative" is not always true, sometimes truth is not relative. This means there are absolutes, which means the above statement is false. When you follow the logic, there is always a paradox created in arguing against an absolute truth.
We all know there is absolute truth. It seems the more we argue against it, the more we prove its existence.
There are absolutes that define what is real and what is not. Thus, actions, ideas, opinions, and personal orientations can be deemed right or wrong based upon how they measure up against these absolute standards.
Absolute standards or “invariances” should and can only be determined by the one who is the ultimate authority or maker of that truth. This follows that the maker of all things has defined reality, thus becoming the standard for what we understand to be truth. For those who know that the "maker" was God (a sovereign, all-powerful Intelligent Being), absolute truth is derived from properly understanding who God is and what His "will" is. Those who reject the idea of a personal maker must believe that an impersonal one – chance – has determined reality. Hence, chance is the only truth in the universe.
We have nonetheless an absolute standard or invariant. It is from here that all inductive
reasoning begins. It draws inferences from a known in order to make generalizations. No matter how hard someone tries, all reasoning has as its foundation an invariant that acts as a bias.
Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, arrives at a relative conclusion based on generalizations of assumed facts.
Many people attempt to distinguish between two basic kinds of arguments: inductive and deductive. Induction is usually described as moving from the specific (invariant) to the general, while deduction begins with the general and ends with the specific.
While some look at the arguments as “either/or,” it is my contention that relative truth lies in the intersection of these two logics. Critical thinking is the use of reason – both inductive from an invariant and deductive from generalized assumption – to meet in the middle at that relative truth.
I say relative truth because going away from an absolute immediately dilutes the truth as soon as you add anything to it. On the other hand, beginning with a generalization based on observation, it is improbable to come to an absolute.
With this, it is impossible to arrive at an absolute truth. Likewise, though, accepting this truth is not a denial of an invariant or existence of an absolute truth. Critical thinking is not the search for the absolute truth but rather – in my opinion – the use of logic and faith to start all thinking from the invariant and (at the same time) from a generalization based on observation or assumption. Once again, it is my firm belief that critical thinking is best served with this practice of foundational logic, and relative truth is uncovered at the intersection of inductive and deductive reason.
Finally – in conclusion and further assertion – for the sake of a definition of critical thinking, we will end the same place we were in my previous post: Critical Thinking is the use of reason to attempt to determine relative truth.