Belief and Truth

By Matthew Petti | Perspectives

Apr 23
Truth and beliefs are always varying. When will they come together?

Belief and truth are often opposed. A belief, despite personal conviction, may not be true.  Personal truth is limited by both our acquired knowledge and ability to stay informed.

We often hold tight to erroneous beliefs brought on by the misinterpretation of facts we have already learned.  At times we may think about something, form our own opinion based on what we thought we knew, and readily accept it as true, when in fact it is not.

Here’s an example where belief and truth are opposed.  Is there more air resistance on a humid day or a dry day at the same temperature?  In other words, which day would provide a better chance for a baseball to carry further—a humid day or a dry day?


If you’re like most people you will insist the ball will travel more easily on the dry day with less humidity.  However, water vapor-filled air is lighter and offers less resistance than dry air. OK so most of us will not CONCEDE without an EXPLANATION. So let me explain.

The atomic number of a molecule is determined by the amount of protons it contains.  It is the protons that determine the mass of a molecule (neutrons also contribute to the mass of a molecule, but in this example neutrons are not present). Dry air consists of 21% oxygen gas (O2) and 78% nitrogen gas (N2).  Oxygen gas has an atomic number of 16 (two atoms of oxygen each with an atomic number of 8).  Nitrogen gas has an atomic number of 14 (two atoms of nitrogen each with an atomic number of 7).  Water vapor or H2O has an atomic number of 10 (two atoms of hydrogen each with an atomic number of 1 and one atom of oxygen with the atomic number of 8).

Avogadro’s law of gases states that any given space contains the exact same number of gas molecules at the same temperature and pressure.  Replacing oxygen or nitrogen gas molecules with water vapor molecules would reduce the weight by 6 or 4 respectively for every molecule of water vapor.  This means that the air has less density and resistance as the humidity increases.

This is one of scores of examples we could use to demonstrate the prevalence of errant presumptions.  How many times have we truly believed something only to find out we were wrong?  More important, relying on false presumptions causes us to cease further inquiry that could reveal the errors in our concepts, hence belief and truth will remain more often opposed than aligned.

What we CHOOSE to accept, question or ignore DEPENDS upon the information’s relevance to our current beliefs.  When we base our reasoning on false premises, we follow with conclusions that may be untrue despite the raw logic that supports it.  Ironically, the same scientific process responsible for discovery can cause individual stigmas when reasoning with untrue facts.

Perhaps its time to question some of our oldest presumptions. We will be quite surprised as to what we discover.