My paradigm

Because everyone is entitled to have my opinion.

Because everyone is entitled to have my opinion.

You have reached my paradigm, good for you!!! No I'm just kidding, the narcissistic title is just some sarcasm at my own expense. I guess I had that coming for making such a site.  ^_^

Anyway This site is suppose to give people an idea what my personal paradigm is all about. Ever since I reverted to Islam -January 2005- I've been asked hundreds of times: "why?". Often I give a different reply. All of those replies are accurate but at the same time incomplete. Even if I were to list every single event and thought in my head that in some way contributed, I still think that wouldn't do. The explanation is more then just a story, more then just the sum of it's parts. Personal experience does goes a long way, but that's not al of it. Therefore I have put up different pages discussing different views on various topics. Each topic in some way contributing to my conversion. this all in an attempt to convey the whole story. Look at it like a puzzle, where I'm giving you the different parts and allow you to put it together at your own pace.  A short  biography can be found by navigating to "My story". I've set up a small forum, guest book, and member page for people to debate the topics on this site, give feedback, and sign in. All the other pages are dedicated to explaining different philosophical, scientific and psychological views which in the end contributed to me converting to Islam.

So, What is a paradigm anyway?

But what is a paradigm you ask? A paradigm is the universe and everything in it as you see it. It is the sum of all your beliefs as

well as your interpretations of any facts and experience you come across. From your favourite colour and your reasons why you think Pepsi is better then Coca-Cola, to your views on religion science and philosophy, all of it is part of your paradigm. It's all your personal truth. Now, you might be thinking, "My personal truth? But isn't there only one real truth?". Yes, exactly, but people seem to disagree on what that unique universal truth actually is. That's what makes your paradigm your personal truth. In other words, speaking in terms of paradigms is a sort of neutral starting position where it is yet unclear which person -if any- is right. So the reason I picked this as a title is as if to say, this is what I believe, but I grant that I may be wrong and you may be right. So it's sort of an invitation for both me -the writer- as well as you -the reader- to find out which one of us is most probably right. That is also why I added a forum, so readers could challenge my views. That way the invitation is fair, and not one-sided.


The truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The hardest part about determining what is truthful and what isn't; is having to sniff out common misconceptions. A five year old can spot obvious fairy tales and tell you that unicorns don't really exist. That's not really a challenge. The tricky part is areas where our worldly knowledge is not progressed enough yet and where imagination can still run wild. But that begs the question: how do we distinguish these commonly accepted falsehoods from the actual truths? We frequently witness -as Mark Twain said- that: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”. To assume that everything which we hold to be true, actually is true, would be vain beyond our own comprehension.  Opinions do vary. Today’s myths were once certain while today’s certainties were once science fiction. We witness urban legends defying logic, in what is supposed to be an era of communication and knowledge. We desperately require some kind of verification for information in a search for universal truths.

When it comes to obvious truths such as: “Objects fall when left in mid air.” it is quite easy to test them and see for yourself. And although I’m quite confident there are a lot of philosophers out there who can show us that even this display of gravity isn’t a certainty, I think there’s no reason to assume that the statement is utterly wrong. If we then deduct a theory from the performed empirical tests; this theory gains the prestigious status of being scientific. But when we're dealing with less obvious truths out of the fields of sociology, religion, psychology, ethics, etc; we suddenly find their testability a bit more challenging. And even if such a given theory is testable, it is still easy to reach the wrong conclusions from the results of a test. Even in science the testability of theories becomes trickier as we dig deeper. Right now string theory is having a tough time trying to get accepted in scientific circles because it's purely mathematical and not based on empirical testing. In summery, to put it in Einstein's words: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

I canz be the xpertz, I can!

Since it’s quite impossible for a single person to have detailed insight regarding all facets of worldly knowledge, we are forced to rely on the expertise of other people. It appears sensible to present the results of a blood test to a doctor, rather then leaving the patient to study it by himself in search of a diagnosis. But even experts disagree among themselves. There are many things to consider when consulting experts, like conflicts of interests. As the old joke goes: "When Bill Gates claims he will not try to misuse the people’s trust in order to monopolize the market, I have my doubts. Even if he gives me his word, which apparently comes bundled with his excel and his PowerPoint."
Of course trust isn't the only issue here. People have a high tendency to be biased. Be it by their personal experience, by their beliefs, or something else. Somehow an underlying assumption sneaks in, and the whole theory build upon it is flawed. So even educated people can be misinformed or simply missing the point; even within their own area’s of expertise.

The longer you listen, the sweeter the pitch.

Another method to separate truth from fiction is Ockham’s razor; it states that explanations shouldn’t be complex beyond necessity. In other words: If there are two competing theories explaining a phenomenon and both theories are found equally accurate, the simplest explanation is most likely to be true. The problem here is that it’s not always easy to establish whether both theories are actually equally accurate. Furthermore it’s easy to be biased with personal preference when judging which explanation out of the two is “simplest”. To illustrate the difficulty in judging, I’ve given two opposing statements where people from both sides will be inclined to defend their view-point with Ockham’s razor.

Pro creation by anthropic theory: When considering the complex way the rules of physics manifest themselves in both physiology and cosmology it seems obvious that the slightest change in any factor of physics or any change in the nature of the universe would have made life impossible:
“If the rate of expansion one second after the 'Big Bang' had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million (0,000000000000001%), the universe would have recollapsed. The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous”. (Stephen Hawking, 'A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes', Page 128).
“If gravity (released by the Big Bang) had been stronger or weaker by even one part in ten thousand million million million million million million (0,00000000000000000000000000000000000001%) then life sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible.” (Brandon Carter, ‘New Physics’ Page 187).
It all started with a design of life; then the universe was custom made in order for such life to exist. Such a well balanced universe and complicated creatures cannot be the result of mere luck. This order suggests creation.

Contra creation by anthropic theory: This appreciation of the inherited characteristics of nature is a result of ignorance. People are being overwhelmed by information that is beyond their comprehension and their imagination; then they are looking for a simple explanation. But this "order" is subjective. In reality things are very disordered, but we just categorize them in an orderly manner since that is easier to grasp. If the laws of physics were different, we would have classified and ordered them differently. And life could very well have existed albeit in a completely different way from what it is now. Such hypothetical life would probably be even so different our limited minds aren't able to comprehend nor conceive it. It would have evolved differently from the way it has evolved now. This based on the fact that different laws of nature would favour different adaptations. Everything started as a result of the laws of the universe. That life has risen out of these natural inherited laws is the result of mere luck.

We can notice that the contra argument can can be defended with Ockham’s razor since an explanation without a design is simpler then an explanation with a design. But at the same time the pro argument can also be defended with Ockham’s razor because a purpose minded design seems much simpler then appointing the miraculous characteristics of the universe to nothing more then coincidence. The term luck is a cover up. You can find more about randomness here. Luck indicate that something happened against expectations. Most of the time we use it when we fail to include all factors that play a significant role in a process when predicting the outcome.  So when one says that life is the result of luck that’s just another way of saying: we fail to comprehend all the factors that play a decisive role in it. So the contra argument covered up this need for a causal chain of events going back all the way to big bang by claiming life was mere luck. Now if we assume that there actually is such a causal chain of events that explains the universe's current qualities as results of a chain reaction; that we can trace back all the way to big bang, then that still leaves the question, what was the first cause? What caused big bang, and more specificly, why was it in such a way to cause such a peculiar fine tuned universe. Some scientists might assume that this initial cause, is a result of intrinsic characteristics of matter itself. That is to say that some might believe everything is a mere result of the nature of energy/matter. However it defies logic to assume that something as basic and simplistic, can cause such complex variation and fine-tuning. Thus the opponents of the anthropic principle, are missing a huge actor in their story, a colossal piece of there puzzle. Should this piece be hypothesised about, it would immediately become clear that -according to Ockham’s razor- the contra argument is actually the more complex one; and hence less likely to be true!

However in all fairness; this difference in judgement is not due to a paradoxical nature of Ockham’s razor, nor due to an inherited paradox in the anthropic theory. It is much rather the result of the two different starting points of the respectively defending atheists and theists. An atheist is biased by his view that there is nothing beyond science. Therefore -to him- such a design seems like an unnecessary expansion of his perspective of the world. Whereas a theist is biased by his view that there is a Creator, which makes the notion of “coincidence” look like an uncalled expansion of his world-view. So in conclusion I think both parties have to agree that the use of Ockham’s razor when comparing viewpoints is rather tricky.

If it ain't broken, don't fix it.

Pragmatism is yet another method to sort out truth from falsehoods. Charles Pierce (1839-1914) suggested to examine the usability of a theory to validate its truthfulness. The most useful city map -the one that gets us where we need to be- will most likely be truthful. This is a very effective way of establishing something is true. After sending a rocket to the moon using nothing more then Newtonian physics, it seems absurd to still question its validity. It is useful, therefore it must be true. However, it is often forgotten in debate that this theory only works in one way. The theory fails to rule out something as untrue. One can’t assume something is false simply because it does not serve an immediate or observable purpose, or when something doesn't enables us to make a prediction of its applicability.

Due to a lack of testability and pragmatic use people are careful with string theory and other aspects of quantum science that are only proven within the mathematical field. At a certain point such theories become philosophical rather then scientific due to their untestable nature. As right as that might linguistically be; one mustn’t forget that although the simplified city map might be easiest one to read; and thus more useful to us. Nevertheless the detailed map will still bear the closest resemblance to the actual street grid. It makes little sense to get hung up on the lack of empirical testing. Newtonian physics might be sufficient to land a rocket on the moon. But when we start examining the world of the very small; we notice it doesn’t suffice. There we need a whole new theory -quantum physics- to describe what’s going on. But how can we use gravity to examine the world of the very large and quantum physics to describe the rules of the very small when both exist within the same universe! When we study black holes, where both the rules of the very large apply due to the great mass of these black holes (which are actually stars), as well as the rules of the very small because of the small volume in space these stars take up; which one do we choose? Using both give us nonsensical results. So although both are correct, at least one of the two is obviously inaccurate, or in the worst case scenario, both are wrong.


Now that makes sense...

Finally our most basic way of verifying truths -our own logic- on which all other methods rely upon one way or the other; is fallible. We cannot test the logic of anything without first making assumptions. A logical argument without a premise is like math without axioms. An axiom is a proposition that is not susceptible of proof or disproof; its truth is assumed to be self-evident. In mathematics it is a basic assumption about a system from which theorems can be deduced. For example, in geometry where the points and lines in the plane are a system. An axiom would be that given any two distinct points in the plane, there is a unique line through them. This seems self-evident to most people yet there is no known proof for this statement. It’s just an assumption on which our worldly mathematics are based. And there have been people who came up with alternative mathematics relying on different axioms which although very abstract were very logical and sometimes even useful!

We call the sum of all these assumptions we make, upon which we base our logical reasoning, a paradigm. As an illustration, to contradict those that might think math is universal and not an assumption: One might think that the statement “1+1=2” is universal. However a specie with only two fingers rather then ten; might count binary rather then decimal and claim that: “01+01=10”. Of course that is only a matter of symbols. “1” and “01” are symbols meant to represent a quantity. If you add one banana to another banana, you will still have two banana’s; regardless whether you define that quantity of banana's by the symbol “0010” or by “2”. But is the equation symbol we put in between accurate? Do we actually combine two banana’s to make a new single bigger banana, which is represented by the number two? Or do we just place the banana’s in each other’s vicinity, like the sum suggests: 1+1. Is there not a difference between “putting in the vicinity” and “adding it up”?

So you see, a paradigm isn’t a certainty. Not even in the way a theory is certain. A theory is an explanation of certain events, like Newton’s theory of gravity which describes the relation between different objects with mass. A paradigm is a set of assumptions; that aren’t even meant to be tested. Most of them are made on an unconscious level. They are a necessary evil used by individuals, scientists and even whole societies on a daily basis. It’s like a simplified map of reality, which allows you to find your way in the chaos of our daily life. The danger within these assumptions lies in the fact that they trigger opinions and theories. These will on their turn easily produce proof for the original assumption since those assumptions are already build into it. This will eventually build up an impenetrable network of tainted views. Such a paradigm is a home. It’s a safe haven whenever a thought comes along that looks threatening. It is a reliable friend by whom’s terms you like to discuss. It is a rope when the unknown feels like a black abyss. It’s a fantasy build to protect you from the chaotic world in your daily life. It is the simplified map which is easy to read but unrepresentative. And such assumptions are all around us. They have always been there, and looking at the assumptions of the past, if history is any guide, much that we take for granted today is simply not true.

My truth is bigger than yours.

But how can two views views that are based on two sets of experiences out of the same world become so antagonistic? Why is it so hard to find common ground between them? Well, because the essences of some things aren’t definable in simple words. From the moment you choose a personal description to explain an idea you loose its purity. Since two people can look at the same thing and see something different, referring to it by name isn’t enough. If you want to explain why you see it differently you have to add a context and personal experience to it. But then again, focusing on to much context will send you off topic. And even more importantly, since both parties have a different approach on the subject they will dismiss each others context for being irrelevant. So basically the description of the essence is unrepresentative due to the lack of context, whereas the description of the context is unrepresentative due to the lack of essence.

So how does one eventually define something as true or false? How do we choose our paradigm? Do we even have a choice in it? Which one is the right one? Well, in the end it’s a mater of belief. Which one seems most likely? Which one has the least inconsistency? What does your personal experience tell you? Everyone chooses by their own criteria. What is belief? When is it justified? Is believing equal to knowing? Is knowing equal to believing? Are agnosticism, secularism and atheism also paradigms? And if so, what advantage do they have above theisms? Ask yourself this simple question:

“By what authority are my assumptions better than my neighbor’s?"


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