Humans possess many kinds of knowledge; knowledge that was arrived at logically, knowledge based on perceptions, and religious knowledge are all some examples. This combination of knowledge gives us an advantage and separates us from the rest of the species on Earth, so it can be said to be of great value to mankind. However of all the knowledge that we have individually, some are more valuable than others. I believe the knowledge that we value the most is the knowledge for which we can provide the strongest justifications.
The definition of knowledge itself is justified true beliefs ; therefore the more justifications we have for a true belief, the more proof we have for the knowledge to be valid. With strong justifications, we are also less likely to question the truth behind certain knowledge, and would be more compelled to believe it. Arriving at valid knowledge through logic is an example that offers strong justifications. For example, if all of A is B, and all of B is C, then we can logically deduce that all of A must be C.
There would be no way to question this conclusion because its justifications allow no room for doubt, so we can positively accept that all A must be C. This knowledge holds its value in that its justifications are so concrete that it would be impossible for us to question it, and the fact that we can now accept it as knowledge with little doubt offers a comforting effect. Once we establish certain claims as knowledge and it has strong justifications, it becomes more reliable for us to believe than knowledge with weak justifications, since it is more difficult to question strong justifications.
When we have multiple facts based on strong justifications combine together, the old facts can act as justifications to arrive at new true beliefs, and these new true beliefs would then become new knowledge with strong justifications. This building effect could continue, and it is much like Darwin's crane-making cranes, only the results this time are more and more knowledge based on strong justifications, and the new knowledge each time would provide some benefit for humans. Math is very good example of where this process happens.
Axioms, the lowest building blocks and propositions considered to be self evident, are the initial true beliefs that are unquestionable, such as a right angle triangle containing a ninety degree angle. Multiple axioms together can provide as strong justifications for new knowledge, such the knowledge that so long as an angle is kept constant in a right angle triangle, the ratio of the sides constituting that side will always be equal. And the new knowledge can again be used as justification for another claim.
This build up process often yields very useful tools in math and real life, trigonometry would arise out of the example used here with triangles. Strongly justified knowledge has a lot of its applications in math and nature, and so far in the essay, the value of having strong justifications for knowledge has been mainly associated with getting knowledge that is unquestionable and reliable. But what exactly would define valuable? The word value itself is a very subjective term. In religion, the justifications can generally be said to be weak.
The main existing justifications are based on hermeneutics from interpreting scriptures. Scriptures are a weak source of justification for a number of reasons. First of all they are quite ambiguous, especially as to whether they are to be interpreted literally or metaphorically. This has caused problems in the past, and a very famous case involved the famous Galileo Galilei. Galileo had strong empirical justifications that the solar system was heliocentric, or Sun centered, while the widely accepted knowledge at that time was that the solar system was geocentric, or earth centered.
The geocentric idea spawned from verses in the Psalm that stated "the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved. "(Psalm 93:1) and "the sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. "(Ecclesiastes 1:5) Galileo argued that the Scriptures were speaking figuratively and not literally, which was the way it was interpreted by the Church. Despite his pleading, his work was not allowed to be published and he was placed in exile. However as we know today through modern proof, Galileo had in fact been right about the heliocentric solar system.
Another reason that Scriptures are weak justifications is due to their questionable source. They were written by other individuals long ago based on their own perceptions and thoughts, so they cannot be argued as strong justifications, the fact that scriptures differ dramatically between religions solidifies this fact. Religious knowledge can be said to be based on weak justifications. But does that make it not valuable? Most of the world would strongly argue against that. This brings back the subjectivity in the word "value".
Different people can have different knowledge they consider valuable, and religious knowledge is certainly one of them. While religion may not be able to provide strong justifications that define how nature works the way science does, religion does provide humans with morals and ideals that are valuable. Strong justifications so far seem to make certain knowledge more reliable than others. However there are also justifications for knowledge that may seem to be strong but can in fact be quite weak. Justifications based on perception are an example.
Normally, humans trust their senses to gather information about their environment and surroundings, and believe it to be true. A person's own perceptions are considered, from their own points of view, one of the strongest justifications for knowledge. If a flying carpet appeared in front of a man, despite violating the laws of science and logic, that man would either trust his own senses completely or seriously ponder the possibility of a real floating carpet in front of him, but he would not reject his own senses immediately as weaker justifications compared to that of science.
Yet there is one major flaw to even our own perceptions, and that is our perceptions can change over time. As a child we rely a lot more on our perceptions than as an adult, if the same man were to see the carpet as a child, he would be a lot more prone to believe it was in fact a floating carpet. When I was a younger child, I had what I considered to be very strong evidence that my daycare teacher was a witch. My perceptions from that time genuinely told me that she was a wicked woman and liked to beat the children who annoyed her. My memory also tells me she never went in the sunlight.
Upon seeing her again after all these years however, even though her appearance and attitude has not changed, my view of her has changed drastically. I realized that anyone placed in her situation would be frustrated, including myself, and the human memory is susceptible to many flaws as well. Only upon seeing her taking care of the other children again do I remember all the fun times my class has had in the past. These memories were subdued because of my strong belief that she was a wicked woman, and other imprecise memories may even have formed as a result of this.
Studies have actually been conducted by psychologists such as Bartlett and Loftus that showed memory reconstruction to contain inaccuracies. This shows that our own memories can in fact be based on weak justifications as well, even though we may trust it and feel that they are comprised of strong justifications. Contrasting the weak justifications of memory with the stronger justifications in math such as 2+2=4 makes the latter seem more reliable as knowledge. Yet again the case presents itself of whether that necessarily makes math more valuable because it holds stronger justifications.
The subjectivity behind what is "valuable" becomes evident again and individuals can have unique ways of defining what is valuable to them. A person's memory can be seen as more central to them as a human being, despite the fact that it may be partly inaccurate. Personally I hold knowledge with the strongest justifications as being the most valuable, because then I can be sure of its validity and depend upon it without worries. This kind of reliable knowledge is also what gave humanity its power to produce all the technologies of today, which are quite valuable to us.