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Thread: To believe or not to believe..

  1. #1 To believe or not to believe.. 
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    In my opinion, humans believe anything based on the following things:

    1.) Whether or not it supports or contradicts things that they know to be true.

    2.) Whether or not the people around them believe it.

    3.) Whether or not they benefit from believing it.


    #1 Is obvious and needs little explanation, it's the reasoning behind science among hundreds of decisions made by people every day.

    #2 Is seemingly due to the need in society to make decisions whether or not to believe and therefore support or adhere to something that you know little or nothing about. This behaviour can clearly be seen day to day, from which political parties to support, to whether or not it is safe to keep a mobile phone next to your testicals. This is a beneficial adaption in humans that has become necessary for our survival, it is impossible to make all our decisions based on whether or not they conflict with what we know to be true as it would take many life times of study to know all the necessary factors.

    It is important not to excuse yourself from #2 if you feel that you do know everything there is to know about a subject, it's irrelevant as it is instinctual. #1 may overpower the influences from #2 but those influences will always be there regardless.


    #3 Is a more subtle and hard to pinpoint contribution. Again instinctual, a lot of it is based solely on the direct benefits that the belief promises or suggests, but it partly varies from person to person based on the quantity of time and effort they have gone to towards defending their belief. We all know that people like to be right, it's in our nature to prove to society that we are the best. This plays a large part in sexual selection and therefore will subconsciously if not consciously play a large part in the typical behaviour of the opposite sex.
    The fear of challenging or questioning the principles that the belief dictates also plays a large role here. In the case of some religions this could be due to the apparent ever watching and all knowing presence of god, and the necessity of a clean and faithful mind, to avoid eternal punishment in hell.


    I would expect that the strength of every person's beliefs in anything, religious, scientific, political or mundane would consist of different ratios of #1, #2, and #3. But it doesn't explain how religion came about in the first place.

    To understand that we need to look at another trait of human behaviour; to analyze our environment, question, hypothesise and speculate as to the reasons why things occur because that is key towards making tools and surviving in such a dangerous environment with nothing other than a brain more adept than our competitors along with dextrous hands and speech.

    This is why from the dawn of human evolution, we have tried to answer questions such as "if I created this tool, who created me?" with stories of gods and religions. Because it is beneficial to hypothesise.

    Those in power would then realise that they could control and manipulate the masses well if they harnessed the instinct to believe in a creator and imposed further conformities on this belief and enforced it further through implementation in every possible way of #2 and #3 on every newborn child to enter that society.

    I believe religion to be a political tool (often exercised in the form of war) based on exploiting human instinct and it has evolved in many different societies separately from scratch. It would be a safe bet, if we put 500 self sufficient newborn babies on a desert island somewhere, they would eventually come up with a new religion of their own and given the time, and political influence they would believe it just as adamantly as religious extremists do today.

    I want to encourage discussion on this post and I accept that there are several missing elements to #1 #2 &#3 and it would be a great insight into religious tendencies if we could understand these better.


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  3. #2 Re: To believe or not to believe.. 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monkey.Man
    In my opinion, humans believe anything based on the following things:

    1.) Whether or not it supports or contradicts things that they know to be true.
    #1 Is obvious and needs little explanation, it's the reasoning behind science among hundreds of decisions made by people every day.
    "1" is not obvious at all, because there's almost nothing a scientist, if he truly is one, "knows" to be true. The best he can do is compare to leading hypothesis and observations.


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    Could you replace religion with atheism in the initial post?
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    Quote Originally Posted by esbo
    Could you replace religion with atheism in the initial post?
    No. Nor will this type of trolling get much more leeway. This is a subforum for the scientific study of religion. If you wish to discuss the philosophical position of atheism, you may start a thread in the philosophy subforum.
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    almost nothing a scientist, if he truly is one, "knows" to be true.
    Utterly wrong.

    Scientists know facts to be true. If the facts strongly support an Hypothesis, it's a solid Theory.

    There's a load of difference between 'knowing' bigfeet and ghosts, etc. exist, and knowing gravity exists. (Which christians, at least, would tell you it doesn't.)
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    (Which christians, at least, would tell you it doesn't.)

    Since when have all Christians denied that gravity doesnt exist?
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by C_Sensei
    almost nothing a scientist, if he truly is one, "knows" to be true.
    Utterly wrong.

    Scientists know facts to be true. If the facts strongly support an Hypothesis, it's a solid Theory.
    No wrong in the least. Even theories are not immutable and immune from reexamination if the scientist comes across contrary observation. It's important to make the distinction because people tend to confuse the immutability of religious "knowing," from scientific "knowing" which is ALWAYS subject to change and revision in the face of a better hypothesis. Your own example of gravity has gone through considerable revisions over the past one hundred years.
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    Please lets not spend so much time arguing over particulars such as the definition of scientifically "knowing" something. We can all be more constructive if we focus our energies on other aspects of the debate.

    Lynx is right in the sense that you can not ever be 100% certain that something is the case. However C_Sensei is right that if we can be 99.999% sure that something is the case science would get nowhere if it didn't have the ability to assume it's therefore true and get on with comparing other theories towards that presumed "knowledge".

    What's important is that the tendency to do the above plays a large part in our decision of whether or not to believe something.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monkey.Man
    What's important is that the tendency to do the above plays a large part in our decision of whether or not to believe something.
    Language is important. For example there's a big difference between believing something and thinking something is true. Making such distinctions or being careful about which nuanced definition one intends are important.

    Now the open post starts with the idea of whether people believe or not. I think you're using the broader definition here, which would include the entire range of agreement, whether that a sort of faith based certainty, something a thinking person might deduce if he had the time and energy to look at all the information available, or just subtle agreement because you trust another with that same opinion (Opra?)
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    Language is important. For example there's a big difference between believing something and thinking something is true. Making such distinctions or being careful about which nuanced definition one intends are important.
    Well now this is becoming interesting and relevant, what do you believe these big differences between believing something to be true, and thinking something is true to be?

    I have argued that they are just subtle, loosely defined representations of the strength of a particular belief in the broadest possible sense based on the influences and ratios as I described of #1 #2 and #3.

    I have known many religious people question their faith and become atheists, I myself have been one. As I know many academics who have been determined to stick to their guns over a particular unimportant scientific argument, failing to be open to the possibility that it was indeed false or that they had overlooked a crucial element.

    It has occurred to me that another factor needs to be brought into #3: Fear. The fear of challenging or questioning the principles that the belief dictates. In the case of some religions this could be due to the apparent ever watching and all knowing presence of god, and the necessity of a clean and faithful mind, to avoid eternal punishment in hell.

    I will amend the initial post accordingly.
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    Christians have to deny that gravity exists:

    1) Jesus walked on water
    2) Jesus ascended into 'heaven'


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    C_Sensei is right that if we can be 99.999% sure that something is the case science would get nowhere if it didn't have the ability to assume it's therefore true and get on with comparing other theories towards that presumed "knowledge"
    This .001% of uncertainty is what the religious will seize upon in an instant. They attach far too much weight and significance to it and claim it makes scientists unsure.
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    "Christians have to deny that gravity exists:

    1) Jesus walked on water
    2) Jesus ascended into 'heaven'"

    This does not answer the question Csensei. How do a miracle and attribute of divine nature drawn from an account that is open to various interpretations prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that all Christians deny the existence of gravity?
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  14. #13  
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    I would agree with KomradRed, Christians do not have to deny that gravity exists. The need only assert that it can be defied by individuals who cannot be tested and in ways that cannot be tested from time to time.

    Their claims are not-falsifiable and, thus, irrational and without merit, but gravity can exist quite well in such a compartmentalized perspective.
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    or they could believe such instances are symbolic rather than literal.
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    Well, Komrad, you're ignoring the revisionist part of your history - the christian world DID believe in those actions as being literal up until science proved much of the bible WRONG.

    Every christian I have argued with had so far claimed gravity as being disproven by those two items; I sure didn't invent them! I guess there is a slightly more intelligent class of christian on these science forums.
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    i don't know what christians you people have been talking to but i have talked to many and not ONE of them made the assertion gravity does not exist. if they did then they should believe that anybody could walk on water. what makes walking on water a "miracle" is the fact of gravity's existence.

    if the christians you are talking to say "oh yeah, well christ walked on water so i KNOW there's no gravity" then they are either severely uneducated or idiots. please refer to them as such instead of referring to them as christians in general, making blanket statements about millions of people with diverse denominations etc. it's insulting to the ones who actually are intelligent. (btw i'm pretty sure christ's walking on water is much more a matter of buoyancy than gravity but then, i'm no physicist)

    back to the issue of belief:

    you assert it is based on either evidence, consensus or beneficence or a combination of these. but what about the assertion of knowledge? many religious people use words like "truth" and "know". on what is real knowledge based? how different are the criteria for knowledge and the criteria for belief? is a belief based on evidence alone actually a belief or can it then be called knowledge? what about beneficence? is it possible to hold a belief that is NOT beneficial to the believer?
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    Heh - you're not a very good christian yourself then! Don't you know that for an honest christian, it's "the will of god" and not actually 'gravity'? It's the modern age revisionist hypocrites who claim 'god' created gravity - since 'the will of god' is transparently ludicrous.

    Your christ walking on water and ascending into heaven are modernly called 'disproofs' of gravity. Go look it up before you spout ignorance about what you 'think' christians would say. I've had at least three separate occasions of them make the claim to me as an attempt to derail science.
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    1) who said i was a christian?

    2) i don't "think" christians believe in gravity, i know it. why? because they themselves tell me.

    3) you have had three separate encounters with idiots. if you tried to talk to a scholar instead of christianity's inbred redneck cousins you would know that, too.

    it's easy to win arguments with the ignorant. i am not "spouting ignorance" because i am actually going out there and doing responsible research. i don't harass your average schmo of a christian with questions they are obviously not equipped to answer. and i don't take seriously the assertions of fools who simply do not know any better. i am talking to people who are church leaders and who have degrees. educated christians. i don't agree with them but if i can claim any rights to winning an argument in theology i like to pick on people my own size instead of the intellectually feeble.
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