Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Truth: Post 3


What is Truth and how much does it matter?


When I was an inexperienced resident physician learning the ropes of eye surgery I encountered a patient I will never forget. She was under the age of fifty and quite healthy—other than the ticking time-bomb in her head. Directly behind her eye socket a major blood vessel that courses to the brain had sprung a small leak. The fear was that it might rupture completely and cause instant death. The hope was that it would spontaneously close without intervention, because the surgery to fix it could result in a major stroke or even death. The neurosurgeons wanted me to tell them if the leak was getting better or worse by monitoring changes in her eye. They were depending on me to find evidence for what was really going on. If I thought things were improving, they weren’t going to operate. If I said things were getting worse, they would decide to risk the surgery. They wanted me to discover the truth about what was going on. For this patient, the truth really did matter. I’ll tell you the rest of her story in a bit.
What is Truth? Truth is what is. Truth is the answer to questions. Truth holds the ultimate authority. Truth commands reality. If we have Truth, we can find meaning. This is why we seek Truth so desperately. This is why we cherish it, why we protect it, why we share it, why we question it, why we defend it, why we worship it, why we may even lay down our lives for it.
That may all be true, you might say, but you can’t ever really know Truth. You can’t ever truly be completely certain you have Truth—the real Truth--so what does it matter?
I maintain Truth can be known. It may not be completely knowable all at once, but it is discoverable. Learnable. Discernable. We may not be able to know all Truth, but why should that detract from what we can know?
Let us return to my patient with the ticking bomb in her head. We knew she had a leaking blood vessel, but we did not know the whole truth about that vessel. How bad was the leak? Would it get better on its own? Or worse? The neurosurgeons wanted me to look for evidence in her eyes. They reasoned that if the leak was getting worse it would cause increased pressure in the blood vessels in her eyes. They were partially correct, but I saw a problem with this method for discovering the truth. I happened to know that it was possible for the leak to be getting worse while her eye symptoms might actually be improving. It all depended on which direction the leak was transmitting its pressure. Sure, we might find some evidence in her eyes, but not enough evidence on which to base this life or death decision on whether or not to operate. Her eyes might point us toward the truth, or they might mislead us. I explained this as clearly as I could to the neurosurgeons. I told them they should not base their decision on my exam findings. But they chose to disregard my opinion. They chose to hold off on any intervention unless I documented worsening eye findings. Her eyes did not change. Two days later the vessel ruptured and she died.
Truth matters.
There is a Truth about whether or not God exists. If God exists, there is a Truth about whether or not God loves us. These Truths matter. These Truths help us find meaning. We must discover these Truths.
Stay tuned as I continue to explore these questions.

2 comments:

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P. D. Bekendam said...

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