Framework for Investigating the Truth

Articulate the question . Frame the hypotheses. Formulate and evaluate the arguments. Draw a conclusion.

Framework for Investigating the Truth
  • Articulate the question to be answered
  • Frame the competing hypotheses that address the question
  • Formulate the arguments for and against the hypotheses
  • Evaluate the arguments and draw a conclusion
Articulate the Question
  • Articulate the question to be answered clearly and precisely, preferably in writing.
  • Questions should be expressed rather than merely referred to
    • For example, “has there been a rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature since the mid-20th century, due primarily to greenhouse gases injected into the atmosphere by human activity” versus “the question of global warming.”
  • It’s better to express a question in open-ended form, other things being equal.
    • Closed-ended Questions
      • Is, Will, Was, Does, Did, Do, ……
    • Open-ended Questions
      • Why, How, What, When, Where……
  • The drawback of closed-ended questions is the risk of lumping different hypotheses together and conflating arguments.
  • Examples
    • Beginning of Human Life
      • Does human life begin at conception?
      • When does human life begin?
    • Existence of God
      • Does God exist?
      • What supernatural beings exist?
    • Afterlife
      • Is there an afterlife?
      • What happens to you when you die?
Frame Competing Hypotheses
  • A hypothesis is a proposition provisionally set forth to answer a particular question
  • Competing hypotheses are incompatible with each other, meaning at most one can be true.
Formulate the Arguments
  • An argument is a piece of reasoning, from premises to a conclusion.
    • A deductive argument is an argument from premises to a logically entailed consequence
    • A probability argument is an argument from evidence to a probable hypothesis.

View Arguments

Evaluate the Arguments and Draw a Conclusion
  • Drawing a conclusion means determining which of the competing hypothesis is most reasonable to believe based on the arguments, ideally establishing it beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Degrees of reasonableness and likelihood:

View Epistemic Probability

QHA Diagrams
Question, Hypotheses, and Arguments
News Media Bias

View Bias

Free Will

View Free Will

  • Fact-checkers rate claims true, false, misleading, and unsupported by evaluating the arguments pro and con.

View Fact-Checking

Alternative Ways of Knowing
  • The Claim
    • Some people know things other than by rational argument, e.g. through faith, intuition, divine revelation, or mystical experience.
  • The Problem
    • Knowing something through faith, intuition, divine revelation, or mystical experience requires that such ways of knowing are reliable sources of truth.  But establishing reliability requires a rational argument.
Why People Have Irrational Beliefs
  • People have irrational beliefs because:
    • they believe what they want to be true
    • they jump to conclusions, knowing only part of the story.

View Why People Have Irrational Beliefs

  • Believe first. Then think up arguments, i.e. rationalizations for your belief.
    • Rationalize means to bring into accord with reason or cause something to seem reasonable (Merriam-Webster)