Approximately approximate

That title makes no sense whatever.

But today’s random musing is on the word ‘approximate’.

Such an interesting word.

‘Approximate’, according to the Webster dictionary, means ‘nearly correct or exact’. It’s like the phrase ‘close but no cigar’. That was an extremely random insert but anyways going back to the topic.

Let’s look at examples of the word ‘approximate’ being used. Here’s one I heard today:

“It will start around 7.30 and finish at approximately midnight”

Such a vague word isn’t it?

‘Approximately’ could mean as far as an hour either side, which is quite a significant proportion of our waking day – although this would depend on how long people sleep, and this would approximately be 8 hours, give or take 4 on either side 🙂

But I do want to reveal another side to the story.

‘Approximation’ is something that can’t be ignored. Of course, there are the trivial approximations, like your weight is approximately 100kg or something. And there are the more earth shattering approximations.

When we start approximating truths, we began to infuse an element of non-truth into it. They become half-truths. And half truths are really just lies, but one so subtle that you will buy into the whole ‘truth’ without noticing the implicit assumptions, which really come with the whole package.

Take for instance, the subject of homosexuality (someone mentioned to me I should post something about this). Yes, I’m about to raise a few eyebrows here, but let me make it clear I’m not a homo-basher. I can love the person but hate the act.

Anyways, this post will not be a conclusive view on homosexuality – I don’t have quite the time to formulate that post. But I do want to touch on how approximation is slowly infiltrating this very vital truth of homosexuality as hated by God.

Here’s the progression:

“Homosexuality is wrong, because God said so”
“Homosexuality might be wrong, but how can a loving God condemn something like this? Perhaps He’s not so loving as He claims to be.”
“You can be born as a homosexual so you don’t have a choice about it. So it can’t be wrong. I’m sure God didn’t really mean it like that when He said homosexuality was wrong, after all how can you condemn people for things they aren’t responsible for”

That’s a very concise 3 stage progression of the opinions across the century – I could stretch it longer but I think it’s time for me to get my point across. Let us see where truth breaks down.

The first statement is true.

The second is where we let our faulty reasoning cloud the truth statement. Here there are two truth statements. God is a loving God. And homosexuality is wrong. But because we fail to reconcile these two truth statements, we approximate the truth of homosexuality, that it can’t be wrong; either that or God is not a loving God.

The third statement reiterates the same conflict, but adds a piece of evidence to give greater credibility to the stance of homosexuality.

And if you haven’t realised it, you’ve just been fooled by yet another approximation of truth. I don’t want to get bogged down into whether homosexuality is inherent from birth or whether it results from environmental causes because either way the approximation of truth is actually this:

“You don’t have a choice about it”

I’m convinced that at this point people are going to get confused about the phrase ‘approximation of truth’, because I was equally confused to be honest. But rephrased, it really just means a half truth. A deception. A lie so utterly convincing that it has to be true.

Anyways, going back to that phrase, note how the argument that follows it is that therefore it can’t be wrong. Whoa, big jump there.

Because the fact is that you have a choice about the way you choose to live your life. Even though you may not have a choice whether you’re born with homosexual tendencies (a view I very much doubt is true in the first place),

Anyone watches House? In the first episode of Season 2, when they were treating that guy on death row, and found out that he was born with a raging tendency due to abnormal spikes of adrenaline caused by a tumour, the black doctor (can’t remember his name) feels compelled to testify on behalf of the death row convict. But House sums up the point I’m trying to make very well.

“A person’s upbringing and their biology are completely different”
“Yeah. And he only overcame one of them…removing that tumour only puts a stop to those random shots of adrenalin, it doesn’t absolve him”

So what has this all got to do with earth shattering approximations? This ties back in to how we often determine right from wrong.

“We do what we think is right”

And that sums up how we often approximate truth according to what we feel it ought to be, rather than what it should be.

So next time, go for the whole Truth rather than the approximate truths.


2 responses to “Approximately approximate

  1. Most truths aren’t universal though, your “whole” truth may be viewed by someone else as only “partly” true because both of you can see the same thing from different perspectives.

    Even if by conincidence, both of you see something from the same perspective, it is often still an approximation that we recount. e.g. “I went to the shops at 1.35pm” is an approximation to “I went to the shops at 1.35.45 pm” etc.

    These all may seem trivial, but if you think about the butterfly effect, those miliseconds may cost you your life: say you were unknowingly in a lift that will be plummeting down twenty floors because of a mechanical problem. If you were about to get off the lift but you see the doors starting to close, you may automatically press the “door open” button hence allowing yourself to be in that dangerous lift for longer, and yeah, those ms when you saw the lift door closing could prove to be fatal.

    An extreme example maybe, but to recount whole truths is a bit extreme too.

    (I could give you another example about how saying that the object one holds is an “apple” – which it indeed is. But a more accurate description would involve dimensions, then molecules, atoms, and even more detailed breakdowns which we haven’t discovered about yet. Hence the word apple is just a aproximation. Heck, the whole language system is only an approximation too – but we dont have to live in the whole truth to get by. In the olden days it was enough to know which hour of the day it was by sundials. Nowadays we’re a bit more accurate in time measuring, but however accurate it is it’s still an approximation.


    I have an exam covering two years worth of knowledge tmr… stop writing such thought provoking posts else if I fail I blame YOU, stranger.

    Hahahah nah, please do keep writing. Your posts are very interesting and I’ll come visit after exams T.T

  2. Lol. I was wondering who you were initially.

    The fact is that I actually write up these posts on the spur of the moment. So not much depth of thought goes into it, unless I state otherwise.

    But I did say that some approximations are rather trivial.

    And yes, there is a universal Truth. And that is God. What happens is when you start to view things from the bottom-up, that’s when you get the differing perspectives. But when you adopt a top-down approach, that’s when things become a bit clearer.

    Although, I must say, thanks for the compliments and reply. 🙂

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