Key Thought for this session:
“Faith is the evidence I cannot observe for the truth that I must act on.”
An example on the subject of how core assumptions impact what we believe to be true, is seen in science and mathematics. In proving theorems, mathematicians start with unproven core assumptions that they assume to be true. We call these “axioms” and “postulates.” All the rest of what we “PROVE” in mathematics rests on these unproven core assumptions. So, these axioms and postulates (or core assumptions) are based on evidence we instinctively believe but, by definition, have not proven. Scientists then use “rational” arguments, which use rules of logic that are also based on unproven core assumptions, to examine evidence and “logically” test solutions to problems. The reality is that regardless of how logical scientists are and how strong they believe their assumptions, if the initial assumptions are not true, then the conclusions reached by their scientific processes will not be true. Charles Darwin confirmed this by claiming in his book, On the Origin of Species, that in his theory of evolution, if his core assumption was ever determined to be wrong, then his entire theory of evolution would not be true. The bottom line in all of this is that even all of science rests on faith in its initial unproven core assumptions.
There are many things in your life you assume to be true because they are self-evident to you—even though they are never proven. A famous French atheist once confessed that he believed the man he knew as his biological father was in fact his true biological father, and that he was born where his parents told him he was. He never required DNA tests or any other proofs to substantiate these claims. Yet, when it came to knowledge in other areas of his life, like the existence of God, he demanded airtight proof. The reality is that we are like that too. Every one of us adopts core assumptions without requiring absolute proof. Often, we are not fully conscious of what makes us believe our core assumptions. We view core assumptions as “givens.” They feel normal to us. But it can be quite enlightening and useful for us to become more aware of what things we accept that have never actually been proven.
You will be amazed when you compare what you demand proof of, and what you don’t. Being aware of when we accept knowledge as true without evidence, and being aware of when we refuse knowledge because we do not have 100% proof—these insights play a significant role in helping us to recognize the actual truth. Either approach can leave us with core assumptions that mislead us or hold us back from living the abundant and virtuous life we hope for.
IBM, a world leader in information technology, advertises their data mining capabilities. Their artificially intelligent computer brain, which they named Watson, competes with humans in the ability to think. IBM had Watson analyze all the music of the Nobel-prize-winning song writer, Bob Dylan. By examining all of Dylan’s lyrics, Watson has come to the conclusion that Dylan has two themes that basically determine all of what he writes in his songs. These are that “time passes” and “love fails.” This is a good way to look at Dylan’s core assumptions. They are fundamental beliefs, or patterns of thought, that guide all of what he thinks, feels, and does. They establish the consistent message of his songs. They may be true or they may not be true, but were truth to Dylan as his core assumptions.
Experts in decision-making have found that we all are subject to what is called “bounded rationality,” regardless of how smart we are. There comes a point when we have to decide to act because we can NEVER get all of the eido knowledge. And, even if we could, our minds are limited and flawed, incapable of correctly exploring all of the possible decision paths to identify the best solution. At the point where we quit looking for more eido because we are simply out of time or information resources, and just take an action, ...we are using “bounded rationality,” This “bounded rationality” is heavily influenced by our core assumptions—because it’s the only resource we have left.
We all are always doing this. Even executives in the business world, who tend to have access to more information than others do, call this “gut level decision-making,” which is the courage to act on intuition and instinct. Our core assumptions are those things we trust enough to act on because we accept them without question, even though we have not proven them. Deciding and acting on decisions ultimately requires us to have FAITH which is defined to be the CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE we have about something, that we did not get from scientific measurements. So, decision-making experts recognize that core assumptions are quite critical to how we make decisions in our life.
This reminds me of a story I once heard. This story provides an interesting example of what we have been discussing. Why don’t you take a moment and read it, ponder a bit and then I’ll ask you a question about what you think the story teller wants us to know.
“Once there was a wealthy man who went away for a long time. Before he left, he entrusted part of his wealth with three different investment brokers. Without instruction but according to their ability, he gave $20 million to one broker, $10 million to the second, and $2 million to the third broker.
“Without wasting any time, the first broker invested his $20 million in variety of stocks and bonds that he thought would be lucrative investments. Likewise, the second broker put his $10 million in a selection of what he thought were good real estate investments. But the third broker saw things differently. He ‘knew’ the boss to be quite a harsh judge of failure. He feared what might happen if his investments failed, so he simply put all the money in a checking account for safe keeping, and did not invest it.
“When the boss returned, and saw that the first and second brokers had invested what they had been given and each produced impressive returns, he was pleased. He promised them even greater job responsibilities, as well as increased status in his company. His response to the third broker was not so positive. The boss accused the third broker of being irresponsible and lazy. He fired that third broker and spread word around town that hiring this guy would be a mistake.”