Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Everyone has beliefs

There are things that you and I believe to be true, and there are things we believe to be false. We may not believe the same things, and will often believe things that make it impossible for us both to be correct. There are times when at least one of us must be wrong, and possibly both of us. But we may still know we are correct.

Does it matter who is correct? If you or I have a belief that the other "knows" to be wrong, do we care? Sometimes. If a christian believes that I, as an atheist, will go to hell unless I accept Jesus Christ as my savior, and tries to convince me to see his beliefs are true, it's at least in part because the christian cares about me. When I as an atheist try to show why god beliefs are false, it is at least in part because I care about you and our society.

So for many of us, truth, is important. If we have the goal to work together to find the truth, how can we determine who among us is correct in our beliefs?

2 comments:

kfawell said...

Actually, why is truth important is a good question. So, why is truth important?

I would say that truth is not inherently important. I would say that it would depend on what one is trying accomplish and whether one cares or not about actually accomplishing what they want.

I think much of life works out without knowing much beyond trivial truths. By trivial truths I mean those that are learned by living and noticing things well enough to get along. For example, falling can hurt. Some things are edible and some of those things are good for me and others are not.

With most people, being wrong often does not have significant consequences.

So given that life these days pretty often does not require careful thinking, and making mistakes is often not a big deal, truth is not compelling to most.

I think this is significant in terms of evolution too. Determining truth is not as important as doing enough to pass on genes. Hence, truth is often an extravagance not worth considering.


As for me, in general, I don't care what others think or why they do. It would depend on what they are doing.

However, if the person is trying to affect others, especially when the others don't want to be affected, then that is a different matter. Also, usually people will claim they are acting in at least a non-stupid manner. To make such a claim, truth is almost always needed if that claim is be worth anything. Should that person care about justification, then truth might also me important.

The particular case of determining who is right or wrong is a less common case, I think. People often have to make decisions that directly affect only them.

As for determining who is correct, I suspect that most people are not concerned with that as they already believe they are correct. I suspect it would be first to find out if they are even really interested in determining that. If they really cared about that, I suspect it would not be hard to get them to eventually acknowledge that faith is not useful.

Mic said...

kfawell said...
I would say that truth is not inherently important.


I agree with most of what you are saying above, but I disagree that Truth is not important. I guess the question is: "Important for what?". For our purposes here, I want to talk about "importance" as it relates to our normal lives; Human wants, dreams, desires, etc., and not about some idea of an "intrinsic", "objective", or "cosmic" importance. Those philosophical arguments have there place, but it's outside of the things most of us care about day to day.

I suppose it can said, that if Truth is important to me or anyone else, it is simply an opinion. This is certainly True, but I think this opinion is shared pretty much universally. I think this can be shown that when societies endeavor to promote Truth, it generally improves the human condition. I don't really want to defend this statement here, but suffice to say, these arguments all boil down to opinion, or values. It is my opinion, that values grounded in Truth, are superior to values which are not.

All that said, I think it's important for us to understand two things. First, that opinions are not the same as faith; and second, whatever your opinion is about the importance of truth, has no bearing on what is in fact true or false.


I think much of life works out without knowing much beyond trivial truths. By trivial truths I mean those that are learned by living and noticing things well enough to get along.

I agree with that, and often things believed to be True, are so, because we have learned them from others in positions of authority (parents, teachers, elders, experts, etc.). This is because it is not feasible for each of us to test each thing for ourselves. We must follow general, effective "rules-of-thumb". This has the unfortunate drawback that these authorities can knowingly or unwittingly transmit false information to us.


With most people, being wrong often does not have significant consequences.

If we have beliefs that are false, there can be consequences. Some consequences may be insignificant, such as costing us small amounts of time or money. Other consequences may be detrimental, such as influencing one to cause themselves mental or physical harm. Still other consequences may not be detrimental to the people who have the beliefs, and in fact benefit them, but may cause other people harm. Possibly at the hands of the people with the false belief. Lastly, some consequences may be insignificant within certain conditions, but become significant when conditions change, and beliefs do not, such as with the presence of "weapons of mass destruction".


I think this is significant in terms of evolution too. Determining truth is not as important as doing enough to pass on genes. Hence, truth is often an extravagance not worth considering.



Yes. The rabbit need not "know" that the approaching sound is a fox. It is more effective to take evasive action just in case. But if the rabbit had the tools at it's disposal, as we do, to easily make the determination of Truth, it could go about it's business unencumbered by fear, unnecessary stress, and wasted time.


As for me, in general, I don't care what others think or why they do. It would depend on what they are doing.
However, if the person is trying to affect others, especially when the others don't want to be affected, then that is a different matter.


We all affect, and WANT to affect others. I do care what others think. This is because people act based on the way they think. It's a cop-out to say that it's only what people DO that's important. I have a problem with false beliefs that might justify killing me. If a person holds such beliefs, but doesn't kill me, I still have a problem with that. Beliefs are things that get passed from person to person. The more people there are that hold such a belief in my environment, the more likely it is that one of them will kill me. Maybe then and only then is a line crossed. That's fine when determining punishment, but I'd prefer to have such a belief eliminated BEFORE that line was crossed.


The particular case of determining who is right or wrong is a less common case, I think. People often have to make decisions that directly affect only them.

That may be true, but at the level of societies, decisions are made that affect us all.


As for determining who is correct, I suspect that most people are not concerned with that as they already believe they are correct.

Yes, this is true. My hypothetical example of determining who is correct, was not to pit any particular person against another, but to explore HOW to determine "correctness" objectively. If opposing views are held in a discussion where the parties wish to influence one another, each party concerns themselves with what it takes to show their position is the correct one. These methods are my subject matter.

Welcome

The purpose of this blog is to open up a dialog about reaching for truth in our beliefs. My view of faith, is that it is the thing that is used to justify a belief when there is insufficeint evidence. Faith is not a valid reason for any belief, and most people agree...until it comes to their religion, then faith is the only justification.

My purpose in saying this is not to be divisive. In fact quite the contrary. I'd like to understand why people feel that faith, rather than evidence and reason, can result in beliefs that are true. I don't see faith assisting in finding truth; rather our best chance at reaching truth is through reason and reasonableness.

These posts represent short thoughts for discussion.