Suppose you believe in objective reality and "universal truth" -- What's the best way to find the "right" answer to any given question, given:

When I say seek universal truth, what I mean is to better understand the world we live in and how it works -- the reality we observe... Throughout our lives we have had a single person's perspective on the world we live in, and we've seen through the lenses of other people who see the world slightly or very differently than us... My belief is that there is an objective reality out there that each of us is observing, and that if we strive to understand it, describe it, and know how it works, that we're doing our best to understand the world we were born into and how to live best within it.

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    The question in the headline asks how four sets of ideas can be compatible with each other. The question in the text asks how to find the right answer to a question, given a belief in objective reality. These two issues are not the same. I recommend editing either or both. Good questions, though. Nov 23, 2017 at 2:37

2 Answers 2


I believe I have a good answer to this question, and would love to get feedback on my answer as well as see other people's answers. Here is my answer:

The following is my sketch of a proof of why 1) theoretical philosophy/spirituality/religion and 2) science are not only compatible, but how both are actually necessary if you seek to understand universal truth.

When I say seek universal truth, what I mean is to better understand the world we live in and how it works -- the reality we observe... Throughout our lives we have had a single person's perspective on the world we live in, and we've seen through the lenses of other people who see the world slightly or very differently than us... My belief is that there is an objective reality out there that each of us is observing, and that if we strive to understand it, describe it, and know how it works, that we're doing our best to understand the world we were born into and how to live best within it.

All the great religions have lessons on how to understand universal truth, they also have major contradictions with themselves and each other. Most of them say if you don't believe in their flavor of religion then you will be eternally damned, but by choosing any one religion all the others damn you. To me none of those answers sounds very good to me, because I'm just betting on the fact that I happened to have chosen the right religion. Instead I trust in myself to listen to the wisdom from all religions, spiritualities, and laypeople, and decide for myself what I believe to be the wisest way to live life based on the great moral and physical lessons learned from religion science and spirituality alike.

First, some definitions: Science - Science is defined as a knowledge base of assumptions and logical rules of inference along with experiments that validate these assumptions and rules of inference. The assumptions are so basic we assume them to be true (for example, mass energy either exists or does not exist at a point in time in 3-dimensional space). The rules of inference are provable ways to get from A to B consistently Experiments are conducted using the scientific method and validate/refute hypothesis made from assumptions and rules of inference to consistently expand knowledge and validate that predictions of scientific theories are accurate. Theoretical Philosophy - This is philosophy that uses reason and rational thought to make conjectures about things that are not provable / verifiable through Science. Spirituality / Religion - This is the belief in a knowledge base which is inconsistent but complete -- Eg it tries to answer all questions, but does not have consistency in its answers… Meaning there can be contradictions found from the knowledge base. It has an answer to all questions, but sometimes can be wrong. Accepted science - This is scientific hypotheses that have been validated through experimentation and commonly accepted as scientific fact. For example, that the world is not flat.

Gödel’s incompleteness theorem states that any knowledge base is either incomplete and consistent or complete and inconsistent. I’ll paste a little more detail from another paper to support this claim:

Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem Overview Godel’s theorem proves that logic can’t be both consistent and accurate for all truths While many are familiar with the theorem, I will provide a brief overview for those that are not. I will not re-prove the theorem here((, but will leave it to readers to convince themselves – I encourage them to do so as when I first read the theorem I didn’t believe it, until I read the proof several times and thought through it carefully.))

Gödel’s incompleteness theorem refers to any logical system ((you can think of it as the most powerful supercomputer in the world that understands the world as perfectly as is possible… which Godel proved is imperfectly)), which I term here a “black box” which proves things true or false. The “Perfect” black box can tell you exactly what is true or false, see appendix item 1.

However Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem proves that the “perfect” black box doesn’t exist: instead if you are using a black box to prove things true and false, then you will be in one of two situations: Everything you prove true is true, however there are some things that are true that your black box will say are false (consistent but incomplete – See appendix item 2) You can prove true everything that is actually true, however there are some things that you prove true that are actually false (complete but inaccurate – See appendix item 3)

Said another way, no black box can be both complete and accurate. Gödel’s incompleteness theorem proves that any black box will either be consistent but incomplete, or complete but inaccurate.

((While this has many broad implications, I will dig into just one for the purpose of this paper))

Note that the black box I will be referring to is the scientific method – Formal logic leveraging postulates and rules of inference to prove things about the world that are true or false. ((may need to add detail about the fact that the postulates and rules of inference proving things true assumes that the laws of physics remain relatively consistent or constant throughout time so we can actually learn something about them.))

Where does science fit in?

Science is consistent, by nature… Therefore science is also incomplete… There are things that are true that science can’t prove true. Scientific knowledge is limited today, but even taking into account all that science can ever learn, there are things that science will never be able to prove true, that are in fact true. This shows that science, while it can explain MANY things and explain them consistently and usefully, is limited in what it can prove… this leaves a gap for how you answer the questions that science not only can’t answer now, but that science can never answer. Such questions are things like “What’s the meaning of life?” and “What is moral?”

That said, accepted science’s scope is limited now and can grow much vaster. The discipline of making up theories about how science can grow can be termed a part of scientific discovery itself, or we can also call it Scientific Philosophy, in that its philosophy that aims to expand the knowledge base of current scientific knowledge with theories that are either provable or disprovable.

It may be worth noting that the difference between something science could eventually be able to prove true and something it can’t, in general, is that something science can prove to be true is something that is provable through experimentation. That is, one can theorize a result of an experiment, perform the experiment, and see if the results are consistent with the theory. There is no experiment one can come up with to prove a universal “meaning of life” and therefore this question is one for theoretical philosophy, spirituality, or religion.

Where do theoretical philosophy, spirituality, and religion fit in?

Theoretical philosophy, spirituality, and religion are inconsistent… Even the most stalwart zealots of these disciplines will admit that beliefs can be inconsistent depending on how people interpret them. They’ll say there’s a right and wrong way and theirs is right and others are wrong but that itself admits it’s inconsistent (since they have interpreted their belief system differently than other people who share their belief system). While these disciplines are inconsistent, they can be complete (they can prove true everything that is true) in that it tries to explain everything, including things science can’t yet prove, and never will be able to prove.

The right path forward

Therefore the safest path (and the one closest to universal truth) is to use accepted whenever you believe that science is consistent (accepted science at a minimum), and use theoretical philosophy, spirituality, and/or religion when science doesn’t have an explanation for the question you’re asking.

Science and theoretical philosophy/spirituality/religion are NOT at odds or uncomplimentary… In fact, leveraging both belief systems is the only provable way to ALWAYS be right… Though you have to keep in mind that even if you use both science and religion you will be right a much higher percentage of the time, but there’s no way to prove that you will always be right. And SO… we should recognize that the chances are good that we’re wrong about some things and therefore should be willing to accept that we may be wrong, whatever our beliefs are. A healthy skepticism for all beliefs, including one’s own, is the best way to grow and develop your knowledge of the world. Do so leveraging science when it has clear answers, and theoretical philosophy, spirituality, and religion when science doesn’t have clear answers.

  • This is a good explanation, but there is perhaps a simpler framework that can be used (Occam's Razor) to get the same result; Science and theory deal with the objective (fact), whereas theology and philosophy deal with the subjective (faith). If we can test it, then it's the domain of science. If we can't then theology or philosophy holds jurisdiction, so to speak
    – Tim B II
    Nov 17, 2017 at 2:37
  • Tim that's a very good summary of what I wrote above. For those that don't want proof that that's the right way to do things, I encourage them to just read your comment to get the skinny. And I agree what I've written is quite consistent with Occam's razor, but a lot of people criticize occam's razor as not being a solid proof, just a method of choosing between multiple alternative explanations... I tried to write a logical proof of why my thought process is the optimal one to use. Thanks for taking the time to read it Tim! Nov 18, 2017 at 1:09

Science, religion, speculative philosophy and spirituality can easily be reconciled. I see no problem at all. You just have to take the best of each and ignore the rest.

If you take good science (ignore the philosophical/religious speculations of scientists) and good philosophy (ignore philosophers who don't understand it) and good religion (ignore the dogmatic and speculative religions) and good spirituality (ignore the lunatic fringe) then they fit together perfectly neatly and in harmony.

Where they do not fit together is when people ignore the facts and depend on guesswork. Then the trouble starts.

Explaining how they fit together is a big job and maybe too much for an answer here. In a better world our education system would deal with this while we are school. You are optimistic about the way they can be integrated but (I would say) unnecessarily pessimistic about our ability to work out and understand that they do. The problem is Russell's 'Western' philosophy which leaves us free to hold almost any philosophical view, most of which are inconsistent with religion and spirituality and even common sense. But I won't start ranting.

Francis Bradley points out that the two views most obstructive to an understanding of the world are Materialism and commonplace Christianity. These he calls 'dogmatic superstitions'. The reconciliation you seek would require that we abandon both. It would be when we arrive at the correct view that all the different areas of knowledge fall into place, and not before.

  • I did my best to explain how they fit together above, and when to use each paradigm (when is it the right paradigm to ask this particular question). My answer is a little wrong because I prove that that's the right way to approach the situation, but I'd appreciate your opinion on what I've written if you're open to taking the time to read it. Nov 18, 2017 at 1:07
  • @Garrett Lang - Apologies, but I do not agree with your view and have various objections. Each to his own.
    – user20253
    Nov 18, 2017 at 12:24
  • Sure @peterj I agree to each his own, but part of the reason I'm here is to learn other's people's perspectives. Are you open to sharing what you disagree with re: my perspective? I'm particularly interested because when I read your answer I agree with 100% of it, and that's really what I meant to convey but in proof form, so any feedback you can provide where I may not have communicated clearly would be much appreciated. Nov 28, 2017 at 12:21
  • @Garrett Lang - It's tricky. Three initial niggles. You say "My belief is that there is an objective reality out there that each of us is observing...,". This is an assumption and not safe axiom. "....and that if we strive to understand it,...we're doing our best to understand the world we were born into and how to live best within it". Not if your assumption is false. I'd also add a proviso about what you say about Godel. But I'm niggling. I'd agree with your conclusion.
    – user20253
    Nov 29, 2017 at 12:33
  • Thanks Peter for explaining. I have a separate paper I wrote for constructivists, if you happened to be one and are interested in it let me know and I'll see if I can direct message it to you. I recognize some people don't believe there's an objective reality and we're observers of it... I don't like to spend a lot of time debating the subject because it's not super interesting to me, so I wrote a paper written to address those who disagree with the concept. That said, I'm glad we come to the same conclusion, that's actually the most important part. Keep learning my friend! Dec 1, 2017 at 19:54

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