Today in my physics class, for non-physics students, my professor scrawled the familiar equation:
E = MC2
Then he asked the class what the equation represented. The selected, overly confident girl, name all the critical parts of Einstein’s historic equation and then espoused on how faster than light travel creates energy. The professor corrected her, cruelly saying that science fiction society did not meet until five. She looked shattered.
This got me thinking; how do we become assured the facts we know are true. We cannot just assume that they are true, Kay of Men in Black attested to when he informed Will Smith “Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet.” Just because some fact is common knowledge or explicitly communicated does not make it true, although if there are any aliens reading this I would love this quote to be proven true. ( I want to believe) It comes down to our personal reasonings to decide what is and what is not. Therefore, I believe those forces that inform with our reasonings and make themselves agreeable tend to shape our perceptions of reality.
This got me thinking, more so than before, what makes an argument convincing?
I personally believe the most convincing arguments are those which we can prove to ourselves without any outside pressure or assistance. Perhaps the laws of mathematics have become a lynch pin in modern society on this principle. Rather than feeling out soft subjective answers the cold calculus can be solved, checked, and evaluated by anyone around the world. A math equation is hard to argue with.
However, this means those with best numbers and manipulating equations can shape reality and build bridges of “truth” that anyone can believe in. This assurance, I believe, may have been essential to bad bankers and shady real estate salesman as they convince innocent people to take unnecessary and costly loans. Math shapes our perceptions of the world, for better and for worse.
Another sphere of undeniable convictions is the religious one. People’s whole lives can be dominated by religious perspectives, from evangelicals in the bible belt to whole countries throughout the Arab World. This is neither good nor bad; it just is. In each of these popular religions there are religious texts, the Bible and the Koran respectively. The books speak to anyone who is willing to receive them. I believe that by being able to talk to a person in a personal and inherently religious manner that many normal barriers can be transcended. By talking to the soul of a person many a zealous soul can be gathered for the faith.
On one end of the spectrum there are mathematically proven facts and equations. On the other end there are inner, unbeatable truths that rest deep inside ones soul. I believe that with the right zeal and ideals either of these routes can communicate any idea to an audience and convince them it is true. New equations will secure funds to send rockets to Mars. Religious blogs and passionate webcasts are already winning heart and minds across the world. Perhaps my errant classmate stumbled upon a book that was powerful enough to speak to her soul and change her perceptions. I know that I have run into more than a few.