1 of 4
1
Why indulge in belief at all?
Posted: 22 August 2006 10:11 AM   [ Ignore ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20

This question has bothered me for some time. I am very curious as to what this forum may make of it. Reading The End Of Faith only whetted my appetite for some better understanding.

I propose that belief is really not neccessary. Belief is not required to learn and practice science. Science, being based on repeatable evidence and logic, has no need for belief. By definition, belief is only required or indulged in the absence of knowledge. Certain knowledge, acquired with deliberate, repeatable methods, and pursued with scientific reasoning, completely evaporates any beliefs as to the nature of the world. Our understanding of electrical phenomena in the atmosphere obviates or beliefs that Thor is hurling lightning bolts.

It seems that it isn't necessary to use the word or the concept in discourse. One can easily substitute the word think for believe and safely avoid drawing conclusions as to the meaning of one's experiences. We are free to experience, percieve, think, cognize and conjecture as to the true nature of the world without the responsibility of drawing conclusions.
I am free to look at the horizon and experience that the world is flat but think and understand that it's not true nature based on the repeatable, verifyable information made available by the scientific method. The method, not requiring belief or mystic experience, provides us with another word we can substitute for belief and that is confidence in the information produced by the methodical experiences of others.

By rejecting the need to believe, we escape the need to not believe, in god, for example. I have always felt uncomfortable with the label of atheist, as I prefer to simply think that I am not a theist. As there is no evidence of god, why bother believing or not believing? I would vastly prefer the term naturalist, as the natural world is demonstrable where the the supernatural world is not. The supernatural, requires belief. Why bother dis-believing something that you have no experience of and for which there is no evidence.

I think that belief is just for fun as in…
I believe that Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider that provided him with special spider powers which he used to protect his Aunt May and fight crime in Gotham City…....I believe this is true because a I read it in an old book….. with pictures :wink:

What do we think? Am I just being semantic?
Thanks

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 August 2006 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  46
Joined  2006-07-12

I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s at all practical to live life without actually believing things.  You have to make decisions, and you don’t necessarily have enough evidence to KNOW what the right decision is.  Belief is necessary because uncertainty exists.  If we always knew everything we needed to know, belief wouldn’t be necessary, but unfortunately that’s not the case. 

As far as science goes, there have always been questions that science can’t answer.  Some things are simply out of the domain of science, such as questions of ethics.  Other things may be known in the future, but are simply not known now.  Even when there is evidence, that evidence can often support more than one hypothesis. 

Take evolution for example.  Most scientists will agree that evolution is a scientific fact, but there is still some debate as to exactly how it works.  Richard Dawkins supports the selfish gene theory, but others have suggested that perhaps selection happens at the species level.  The evidence CAN be interpreted to support either theory, the question is which explanation seems to explain the evidence better, and that’s largely a matter of opinion.

So, from a purely practical perspective, I don’t think it’s actually feasible to not believe anything.  Essentially what you’re talking about is philosophical skepticism, which is interesting, but radical skepticism is not at all feasible.  Less extreme varieties of skepticism are feasible, and indeed the scientific method is based upon skepticism, but I think there will always be a practical necessity to believe propositions that may not be 100% certain.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 August 2006 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20

MH

Thanks for the thoughtful response. You said that “belief is necessary because uncertainty exists”.

I ask, How does belief reconcile uncertainty?

By definition one must lack knowledge to even allow belief. Belief implies certainty without knowledge, something that’s not possible.

Belief is much different than conjecture, theory, hypothesis, model, construct etc. all of which are common to scientific reasoning and don’t require belief or invoke faith because they are means of inquiry and intentionally fail to draw conclusions.

Science, as you note, produces few laws but many theories, to a large extent the natural world is unknown. However just because the natural world is unknown, is no reason to create a supernatural world to believe in as a substitute for real knowledge. In science we are used to the idea that absolute knowledge is elusive, at best we describe the world according to tolerances. Often the only constant is change.

It seems that we feel that we must believe, even in science which simply does not require it. Moreover, accurate science, based on verifiable experiences with the natural world can be understood and practiced in spite of untoward and conflicting beliefs. This is best seen in the case of the director of the human genome project who seemed to develop a base case of jesus disease despite his scientific training. I find that I can still be a good scientist, despite my debilitating belief in Spider Man.

Anyway, in my own life, I seem to be able to think and conjecture and assume some things to be true without needing to believe in them. By the same token, I am comfortable with my deep ignorance as to the true nature of many things. Even in my wildest conjectures, I would not dream up gods and demons and such as the explanations for things I don’t understand or for which I lack explanatory knowledge.

If the supernatural were to be verifiable and demonstrable and bear up to scientific scrutiny, then it would become natural.

I think we could banish the word belief from the language and not lose anything.
Thanks again for your consideration….

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 August 2006 01:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3255
Joined  2004-12-24

I’m right there with you, eucaryote. In the context of an idea that’s been incorprated into your understanding of the world, I think the term “belief” just serves to muddle things up. I have no use for it in that sense—for me it’s just a functional synonym for “know.” I can only really believe something I know to be true, and I don’t think belief can even be genuine if it’s an act of will.

“Belief” as it’s usually applied in this context really just means “I don’t know but I’d like to think . . . ” and like “faith” it creates a false sense of certainty (less of an investment than faith, but I think it’s still a form of baseless ideological comfort—a mild salve that makes uncertainty a little less scary). Better, and more accurate/honest, to just say “I’d like to think” and accept that’s what’s going on rather than going with the pretense of a more accurate sense of things.

Byron

 Signature 

“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 August 2006 01:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  872
Joined  2006-02-16

I think you guys are on to something. If we can whittle our dictionary down so that in no longer includes anything that will get people to think about religion, maybe it will just go away! I can almost smell the fear!

Belief, faith,salvation, sin, righteousness, sabbath, Holy, I bet some of you guys can’t even say these words without a look of consternation coming over your face. Next thing you know, you’ll want to take the ten commandments out of the public arena and Christ out of Christmas…....oh that’s right you’ve already done that haven’t you. Is your lives any better?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 August 2006 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20

[quote author=“SkepticX”]I’m right there with you, eucaryote. In the context of an idea that’s been incorprated into your understanding of the world, I think the term “belief” just serves to muddle things up. I have no use for it in that sense—for me it’s just a functional synonym for “know.” I can only really believe something I know to be true, and I don’t think belief can even be genuine if it’s an act of will.

“Belief” as it’s usually applied in this context really just means “I don’t know but I’d like to think . . . ” and like “faith” it creates a false sense of certainty (less of an investment than faith, but I think it’s still a form of baseless ideological comfort—a mild salve that makes uncertainty a little less scary). Better, and more accurate/honest, to just say “I’d like to think” and accept that’s what’s going on rather than going with the pretense of a more accurate sense of things.

Byron

Hello SkepticX,

Yes, that’s the idea. I think that we get away from the basics and get caught up in extraneous, distracting arguments, such as the claim by theists that science is just something else in which to have faith.
As if faith, or belief in something is required to attain knowledge.

That of course is silly since the knowledge that comes from science stands alone, and simply does not require belief or faith. That knowledge can be tested, refined, and added to without any regard to the subjective beliefs, expectations, projections etc. of any observer.

More importantly, I think that by emphasizing belief and the need for belief in things that we cannot know only disenfrancises from our experience things that we can know. Takes us away from being here now.

It seems that much of religion is formed of repetitive prayers and motions designed to do this very thing, focus on the belief and remove the observer from the moment. I am thinking of catholics and their rosaries along with prayers and chants of all kinds.

I think that this is very much to be distinguished from the kind of meditation that Sam Harris is into; the purpose of which is to do just the opposite, suspend belief and be here now.

I find that I can readily substitute the word think, observe, see, hear, percieve etc for belief and avoid the responsibility of claiming that my thoughts or perceptions neccessarily represent knowledge. Just my take on it…something I am welcome to…have a natural right to….subject to change.
In this sense I don’t think that it is neccessary to even “prefer to think”, some thing or another, one just does….for whatever reason. By not using the catch all word belief…..one starts separating our ones thoughts and perceptions and identifying true beliefs…..those thoughts and biases that are without substance.

Along those lines, I truly do believe that Spider Man swings from buildings by means of webs that emanate from his wrists.

Thanks again, I really appreciate the feedback….

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 August 2006 06:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20

[quote author=“Humble Servant”]I think you guys are on to something. If we can whittle our dictionary down so that in no longer includes anything that will get people to think about religion, maybe it will just go away! I can almost smell the fear!

Belief, faith,salvation, sin, righteousness, sabbath, Holy, I bet some of you guys can’t even say these words without a look of consternation coming over your face. Next thing you know, you’ll want to take the ten commandments out of the public arena and Christ out of Christmas…....oh that’s right you’ve already done that haven’t you. Is your lives any better?

Hello Mr. Servant,

Yes, I think that it is only healthy to have a very clear idea of what one knows and what one believes. That is to say, it is healthy to be in touch with reality, wouldn’t you agree?

You see, I think that the fear you smell must be your own. Many beliefs, especially religious ones, seem born of fear of the unknown, fear of a lack of certainty. Some need to project an understanding beyond your knowledge of the world, born of fear and nurtured by culture.

Don’t worry, Spider Man is coming to save you….

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 August 2006 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  872
Joined  2006-02-16

eucaryote,
You are here because of your “concern” that religion and Christianity is going to destroy civilization. You posit that maybe we would be better off if we stopped using words that might make someone think of religion because you fear it. You don’t understand it. Fear had nothing to do with my Salvation. Jesus has already saved me. He will one day be on your case as well.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 August 2006 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  300
Joined  2005-07-05

HS, fear has everything to do with how you live your life.  You’re afraid that if you masturbate or think a sexy thought about a girl who is not your wife, God will punish you with eternal damnation.  so you need to be saved from the wrath of your creator.  Please don’t tell agnostics and atheists that we are afraid of God.  We aren’t.  We are afraid of people who would use their belief in a God to try to impose their will on the rest of us, which by observation and repetition, we know to be the case.  Our fear comes from evidence.  Yours, on the other hand, does not!

 Signature 

Can an omnipotent God create a rock that even he can’t lift?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 August 2006 04:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20

[quote author=“Humble Servant”]eucaryote,
You are here because of your “concern” that religion and Christianity is going to destroy civilization. You posit that maybe we would be better off if we stopped using words that might make someone think of religion because you fear it. You don’t understand it. Fear had nothing to do with my Salvation. Jesus has already saved me. He will one day be on your case as well.

Dear Mr. Servant,

I don’t really want to ban any words, perish the thought. I just think that the word belief is overused to the point where there is little distiction between beliefs and knowledge. Many otherwise thoughtful people fall into the trap of thinking that science is also something in which to believe not something to learn and know.

I also think that it is unhealthy to not clearly separate what one knows from what one believes. Mentally and emotionally unhealthy. Another way to say that is that people who spend so much time in fantasy that they mistake it for reality are unhinged and potentially capable of anything. History is replete with the carnage that these people cause. I think fearing these people is quite rational.  I am certainly not afraid of religion…..it’s definitely the people who practice it.

People who are into Spider Man just are not as scary as people who are into jesus.

(plus jesus doesn’t have a cool costume or any specail powers…....ok, jesus rose from the dead, big deal, these days all the cool super(natural) heros are all putting stem cells in storage for cloning, just in case Lex Luther gets the upper hand)

Your focus on fear is interesting. You fear not having a god and you fear the god you have. jesus puts you in a bad way eh?

I am here because I seek people of like mind to converse and compare notes with. I think that the more important question, Mr. Servant, would be, why are you here? Isn’t jesus going to diss you for hangin’ with the heathens? I’ll have you believing in Spider Man yet…..

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 August 2006 10:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  872
Joined  2006-02-16

eucaryote

I just think that the word belief is overused to the point where there is little distiction between beliefs and knowledge. Many otherwise thoughtful people fall into the trap of thinking that science is also something in which to believe not something to learn and know.

I also think that it is unhealthy to not clearly separate what one knows from what one believes.

Do you believe in Black Holes?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 August 2006 06:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20

Do you believe in Black Holes?

Somehow you are missing my point,  I have not really found it necessary to believe in anything, (except maybe Spider Man, though my faith has been shaken of late).

My understanding is that the evidence for the existance of what astronomers refer to as black holes consists of areas of space in which it can be seen that light rays are bent to be pulled in an area of apparently very high gravity. My understanding is that these observations form the basis for the theory. There may be other theories that describe the evidence.

Because the scientific method works the way it does, I have reasonable confidence to assume that the information available that describes the phenomenon is available, repeatable and verifiable.

Science does not require belief. Knowledge and belief cannot exist in the same space at the same time.

You didn’t answer my question….why do you frequent this forum?

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 August 2006 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3255
Joined  2004-12-24

[quote author=“eucaryote”] . . . I just think that the word belief is overused to the point where there is little distiction between beliefs and knowledge.


Or to the more philosophically rigorous of us, little distinction between belief and pretense, or belief and presumption.

Eh?

Byron

 Signature 

“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 August 2006 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20

[quote author=“SkepticX”][quote author=“eucaryote”] . . . I just think that the word belief is overused to the point where there is little distiction between beliefs and knowledge.


Or to the more philosophically rigorous of us, little distinction between belief and pretense, or belief and presumption.

Eh?

Byron

Thanks for the feedback Byron, I am not sure that I follow though. Could you expand on your thought?
I’m sure that my reasoning, such as it is, is less “rigorous” than it should be.
Perhaps we might say, between belief and theory….would that be satifactory?

Thanks again

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 August 2006 04:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  872
Joined  2006-02-16

Black Holes: A super powerfull object in the universe that cannot be physically seen but can be inferred that it does exist because of it’s effects on it’s surroundings.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 August 2006 06:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20

[quote author=“Humble Servant”]Black Holes: A super powerfull object in the universe that cannot be physically seen but can be inferred that it does exist because of it’s effects on it’s surroundings.

Not “super powerful” Servant, just very high gravity, enough to bend light which give us something to measure. That is some of the little specific information that can be inferred from the surroundings of a “black hole”.

One has to have specific evidence to make specifically relevant and measurable inferences. Logical and measureable inferences are not the same as belief.

Nice try, but no cigar….

So why do you spend time here hangin’ with the heathens, trying out weak arguments, refusing to answer my question…...your faith isn’t a little weak is it?

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 4
1
 
RSS 2.0     Atom Feed