Poll: When I say that I believe something, I mean that…
… I’ve got enough evidence suggesting a notion but I am unsure of its certainty.
… I am sure about the certainty of a notion regardless of what evidence may suggest.
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Believing versus believing
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27-04-2014, 01:25 AM
RE: Believing versus believing
DLJ nailed it. As David Hume would have pointed out, knowledge, insomuch as the definition "provable beyond any conceivable doubt from a logical and sound mind" does not truly exist. There is probably a more clear definition I could have used, but I think you can ascertain my intended meaning. Anyhow...I believe if I throw an object up it will fall down. Is that 'knowledge'? Is it not true that it is possible that the next time I throw the object it ill not float off, or just get stuck in the air? Perhaps the theory of gravity is wrong. Maybe invisible and undetectable creatures have been responsible for controlling the speed and direction of all objects in the past, and no they decided to go on break. It's highly unlikely, but it's possible. Other possibilities would include that your life is just a dream and no objects, nor the universe and the laws of physics as you know them really exist. You cannot 'know' with absolute certainty anything. The simplest answer is usually the correct one, and being pragmatic is (arguably) usually the best practice you simply cannot have absolute certainty. I believe my life is 'real' (whatever that is). I believe that gravity exists. I know that is what I believe that I know. Big Grin

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27-04-2014, 01:44 AM
RE: Believing versus believing
(25-04-2014 04:48 PM)living thing Wrote:  ...
I'm not a Brit, although I have lived and worked in England for a few happy years. But I don't even consider myself to be of "my" nationality; I don't believe in nationalities. Brit, Peruvian, Japanese, Kenyan, Bengali... in my mind, those are words used for the self-description of people who don't seem to understand that we are all human beings. Maybe centuries ago, when different cultures developed in relative isolation, the terms may have had some meaningful value, but not today. Today, they are a burden for our mutual understanding, as well as an excuse to bleed people with taxes and send them to die for their leaders.
...

I know this is somewhat Offtopic but, although I agree with your sentiment, your "I don't believe in nationalities" comment connected in my mind with some thoughts I'd posted here which indicates that where you are born is a useful behavioural indicator.

By 'useful' I'm using it in the sense that as pattern-seeking mammals, we use categories / stereotypes etc. to speed up the decision making processes (regardless as to how bigoted those decisions may be).

The poet in me cannot resist drawing a parallel (pun intended) that latitude = attitude.

Have a good one.

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27-04-2014, 04:19 PM
RE: Believing versus believing
(26-04-2014 07:57 PM)Dom Wrote:  We are kind of talking past each other here…
We are, aren’t we? Let’s now try to understand each other.

I understand that you prefer not to call the evidence on which you may base some of your decisions “enough” because often, like in the case of those two dark clouds in a blue sky, it is almost negligible. Some times, some of us seem to base our decisions on nothing at all.

But is that truly the case? I’d say no, we never base our decisions on nothing at all.

Our brains are processors of virtual information; i.e., information that is conveyed by patterns of change over time. The underlying mechanism for those changes is a flow of electrically charged ions across the membranes of our nerve cells. Typically, sodium rushes in, potassium rushes out, and this produces a localised temporary variation in the electrochemical potential at both sides of the membrane, which can be propagated sideways thanks to the action of voltage-sensitive proteins. It is this moving variation of electrochemical potential what is often known as a nervous impulse, although the process is discontinuous. Between adjacent cells, signals are encoded into small molecules often called neurotransmitters.

Your behaviour is very much encompassed by the way your muscles move, although you have many non-locomotive behaviours through the function of many different glands. But the signals that your muscles and glands receive in order to operate do not just appear out of nowhere; they are always part of a complex cascade of events triggered initially from your interactions with things in your surroundings (receiving the light they emit or reflect, or the odorous molecules that may diffuse off them; bumping into those things, eating them, etc.)

Most of the processes happening in your nervous system are automatic, meaning that the signals involved do not go through the part of your frontal lobes where your consciousness occurs; they happen without the need for you to be aware of them. Many of your decisions are not taken by your frontal lobes but by your amygdalae, a sub-organ in your brain (and which you share with all other vertebrates) that learns how to react to stimuli through a feedback mechanism of pleasure and pain; behaviours that result in pleasure are likely to be repeated, and behaviours that result in pain or disgust are likely to be avoided. But you don’t need to think about those stimuli, your amygdalae connect afferent nerves (carrying input sensory information) with efferent nerves (carrying output responses) without involving your frontal lobes. Your amygdalae provide the set of your emotional reactions.

So when you say that you make decisions based on nothing at all, I don’t take it as a truth because change does not just appear out of nowhere; I think it is more likely that those decisions are taken through sections of your brain that do not involve your consciousness; you’re simply not aware of the information on which your brain is indeed basing your decisions. In the case of your example, the most important fact that you seem to be overlooking (since you keep focusing on the flimsiness of the two-cloud evidence) is that you hate getting wet; your amygdalae are clearly influencing your behaviour. And it cannot be easily argued against one’s feelings; likes and dislikes are powerful behavioural motivators, although that does not mean that they are based on nothing.

However, if there is a neural ability that sets you apart from most other vertebrates, that lies not on your amygdalae, but on your frontal lobes. Your frontal lobes don’t just learn how it is most beneficial to react in response to different stimuli, they learn what those stimuli mean; what they imply and how they are related to one another. Your ability to consider abstract notions as truths or falsehoods, among others, is enabled by the arrangement of cells in your frontal lobes.

Those abstract notions arrive to your brain in the form of discrete facts, each conveyed by the activation of a specific neural pathway through a signal with specific time-varying features. Those signals are combined with other signals conveying other discrete facts, into abstract notions of varying complexity. Sometimes, the presence of one single discrete fact, within the lot that arrive to your brain several times every second, will suffice to cause your frontal lobes and/or amygdalae to react in some specific way. Other times, more discrete facts need to be received before the brain produces an output; that depends entirely on the brain performing the analysis, its past history of recorded experiences and the current set of circumstances around it. Since the number of facts necessary to produce an output is variable, when a combination of them produces an output, I call that enough, because it is sufficient to produce an output. And I’m not saying that the notion of “enough evidence” is an objective one, not at all. I am simply saying that no more facts are required in your brain order to produce an output.

I will not ask you to believe what I am saying because what I am saying might all be mistaken. However, do you at least understand what I am saying?

Thanks again, Dom. Have a good time.
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27-04-2014, 04:25 PM
RE: Believing versus believing
Hello again Stevil.

(27-04-2014 12:05 AM)Stevil Wrote:  It's in the eye of the beholder.
If you don't think that there is any other plausible explanation then you consider something to be a fact e.g. lots of people consider evolution to be fact. They don't believe in evolution but instead they consider evolution to be fact.

However if you think there are alternatives but you choose to disbelieve them then you have belief in your chosen option. e.g. Creationists realise that evolution is a plausible option however they choose to disbelieve thus they believe all creatures were created fully formed, instantaneously. They don't consider this to be fact but instead they consider it to be their belief.
I’m not sure about the subject in the last sentence; I think it is you who does not consider the idea of instantaneous creation to be a fact, and it is you who considers it some other people’s belief. However, if the behaviour of those people is in any way meaningful, they often act as if they took their notions for facts.

I am not sure that all people who hold beliefs know the plausibility of scientific notions but they choose to disbelieve them in favour of their beliefs. Sometimes, they seem to genuinely believe the truth of their beliefs, and they seem to genuinely not understand the plausibility of scientific notions. Then again, I don’t take the plausibility of scientific notions for granted; if I don’t understand how a scientific notion is plausible, I don’t consider it a truth just because somebody else claims it is true. So I don’t recommend using the label of science as the sole factor in order to judge plausibility.

(27-04-2014 12:05 AM)Stevil Wrote:  Faith is a result of personal recognition of lack of knowledge rather than a lack of understanding. If a person misunderstands something then they may think that they have a full understanding. They build according to their understanding but consider their understanding complete so they think the building is sound.

IF the building collapses, they don't say that their faith failed them, it was their understanding that was faulty. They didn't think they were invoking faith, but when you are invoking faith you generally know it. You know that there is a gap, but you optimistically consider that things will turn out well.
Ok, so someone can have a mistaken understanding if they think they know when they actually don’t. But what that means is that they are considering a set of notions to be true, not based on evidence but on some abstract notions that don’t reflect the structure and/or behaviour of the real universe. So this form of “understanding” is what I call belief; a set of notions taken to be true by someone.

We had a chat about knowledge in a different thread (“Gathering perspectives: knowledge”) and I would like you to add your view there, if you don’t mind, explaining what you understand by “knowing” and “understanding”. I would like to know your view because I seem to use both verbs quite interchangeably, although maybe "understand" seems slightly more related with complexity. But we can chat about that in the other thread, if you'd like.

Thanks Stevil, you have an interesting view. Have fun!
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27-04-2014, 04:27 PM
RE: Believing versus believing
(27-04-2014 01:25 AM)Dark Light Wrote:  You cannot 'know' with absolute certainty anything.
I agree with pretty much all you’ve said, except for the part where gravity exists. I think I understand what you are saying, but in my view gravity does not exist. It happens, it occurs, but it does not exist. Gravity is the abstract description of a behaviour, but not an object located anywhere.

Thanks Dark Light for your valuable contribution. Have a good time!
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27-04-2014, 04:31 PM
RE: Believing versus believing
(27-04-2014 01:44 AM)DLJ Wrote:  
Have a good one.
I hopefully will, thank you. I wish one twice as good for you. Or maybe two equally good ones, I don’t know Big Grin

I understand how generalisations can be useful. In the country where I happen to live and where I was born, there is a high percentage of people who show no respect for strangers, or for non-strangers who they don’t like, and that is a useful piece of information. Once, when I lived abroad, a friend of mine who worked on insurance claims said that most of the issues she handled were about people traveling to the country where I was circumstantially born. Country of thieves, it is tempting to say. But it would be an unfair comment, because not everyone in the country where I live is a social parasite; I know many people here who I’d want around me in any country.

But we’re not talking about over-generalisation here, we’re talking about artificially enforced human segregation; people have passports that are legally-binding documents. The planet is split into different teams which often collide against other teams simply because their captains want to feel more powerful than the captains of other teams. And if the sport were just doing something silly with a ball, or similar, I wouldn’t give a crap. But the sport is often exchanging explosive devices; people who weren’t even playing can lose their limbs, their loved ones and their lives.

Generalisations can be useful. Nationalism is an instrument for parasitism. Or maybe not, how would I know?

Thanks DLJ, an interesting point.
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27-04-2014, 05:18 PM
RE: Believing versus believing
(27-04-2014 04:19 PM)living thing Wrote:  
(26-04-2014 07:57 PM)Dom Wrote:  We are kind of talking past each other here…
We are, aren’t we? Let’s now try to understand each other.

I understand that you prefer not to call the evidence on which you may base some of your decisions “enough” because often, like in the case of those two dark clouds in a blue sky, it is almost negligible. Some times, some of us seem to base our decisions on nothing at all.

But is that truly the case? I’d say no, we never base our decisions on nothing at all.

Our brains are processors of virtual information; i.e., information that is conveyed by patterns of change over time. The underlying mechanism for those changes is a flow of electrically charged ions across the membranes of our nerve cells. Typically, sodium rushes in, potassium rushes out, and this produces a localised temporary variation in the electrochemical potential at both sides of the membrane, which can be propagated sideways thanks to the action of voltage-sensitive proteins. It is this moving variation of electrochemical potential what is often known as a nervous impulse, although the process is discontinuous. Between adjacent cells, signals are encoded into small molecules often called neurotransmitters.

Your behaviour is very much encompassed by the way your muscles move, although you have many non-locomotive behaviours through the function of many different glands. But the signals that your muscles and glands receive in order to operate do not just appear out of nowhere; they are always part of a complex cascade of events triggered initially from your interactions with things in your surroundings (receiving the light they emit or reflect, or the odorous molecules that may diffuse off them; bumping into those things, eating them, etc.)

Most of the processes happening in your nervous system are automatic, meaning that the signals involved do not go through the part of your frontal lobes where your consciousness occurs; they happen without the need for you to be aware of them. Many of your decisions are not taken by your frontal lobes but by your amygdalae, a sub-organ in your brain (and which you share with all other vertebrates) that learns how to react to stimuli through a feedback mechanism of pleasure and pain; behaviours that result in pleasure are likely to be repeated, and behaviours that result in pain or disgust are likely to be avoided. But you don’t need to think about those stimuli, your amygdalae connect afferent nerves (carrying input sensory information) with efferent nerves (carrying output responses) without involving your frontal lobes. Your amygdalae provide the set of your emotional reactions.

So when you say that you make decisions based on nothing at all, I don’t take it as a truth because change does not just appear out of nowhere; I think it is more likely that those decisions are taken through sections of your brain that do not involve your consciousness; you’re simply not aware of the information on which your brain is indeed basing your decisions. In the case of your example, the most important fact that you seem to be overlooking (since you keep focusing on the flimsiness of the two-cloud evidence) is that you hate getting wet; your amygdalae are clearly influencing your behaviour. And it cannot be easily argued against one’s feelings; likes and dislikes are powerful behavioural motivators, although that does not mean that they are based on nothing.

However, if there is a neural ability that sets you apart from most other vertebrates, that lies not on your amygdalae, but on your frontal lobes. Your frontal lobes don’t just learn how it is most beneficial to react in response to different stimuli, they learn what those stimuli mean; what they imply and how they are related to one another. Your ability to consider abstract notions as truths or falsehoods, among others, is enabled by the arrangement of cells in your frontal lobes.

Those abstract notions arrive to your brain in the form of discrete facts, each conveyed by the activation of a specific neural pathway through a signal with specific time-varying features. Those signals are combined with other signals conveying other discrete facts, into abstract notions of varying complexity. Sometimes, the presence of one single discrete fact, within the lot that arrive to your brain several times every second, will suffice to cause your frontal lobes and/or amygdalae to react in some specific way. Other times, more discrete facts need to be received before the brain produces an output; that depends entirely on the brain performing the analysis, its past history of recorded experiences and the current set of circumstances around it. Since the number of facts necessary to produce an output is variable, when a combination of them produces an output, I call that enough, because it is sufficient to produce an output. And I’m not saying that the notion of “enough evidence” is an objective one, not at all. I am simply saying that no more facts are required in your brain order to produce an output.

I will not ask you to believe what I am saying because what I am saying might all be mistaken. However, do you at least understand what I am saying?

Thanks again, Dom. Have a good time.

Ok, but that takes us into a whole other realm. Because now we are not talking about conscious thought anymore, and now we would also have to take hormonal and chemical influences into account, which cause emotional responses rather than conscious thought.

With that line of arguing, everything is enough to base a decision on, as we don't even consciously know what all our brain is processing to arrive at our decision.

By the way, I agree with what you wrote.

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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28-04-2014, 01:36 AM
RE: Believing versus believing
(27-04-2014 05:18 PM)Dom Wrote:  Ok, but that takes us into a whole other realm. Because now we are not talking about conscious thought anymore, and now we would also have to take hormonal and chemical influences into account, which cause emotional responses rather than conscious thought.
Conscious thought is also driven by chemical influences. Electrochemical potential restoration involves the chemical transformation of ATP into other molecules and neurotransmitters are pretty much very short range hormones.

(27-04-2014 05:18 PM)Dom Wrote:  With that line of arguing, everything is enough to base a decision on, as we don't even consciously know what all our brain is processing to arrive at our decision.
No, it isn't. The idea of there being a creator of the universe is not enough for me to decide to go to church.

The notion "my left ankle is itching" is a relatively complex notion built by combining simpler facts within the network that carries information to our decision centres. But there is a different subset of notions that are already complex by the time they arrive to our sensory organs. This information is conveyed by arrangements of matter (ink on paper, carved stone, etc.) or patterns of change (spoken words) that are meaningful by convention. When someone claims that there is a god and I hear it, all the evidence I've got is that there is someone talking, but the meanings encoded in the words aren't evidence for anything; at least not in my mind.

Evidence comes from reality, not from the abstract universe of ideas.

(27-04-2014 05:18 PM)Dom Wrote:  By the way, I agree with what you wrote.
I am happy that you do, although I'm not sure exactly what you are referring to; I hope it is what I wrote about nationalism.

Anyway, Dom. I'm glad that we finally seem to be understanding each other. It is a pleasure to exchange perspectives with you.

Have fun!
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28-04-2014, 01:41 AM
RE: Believing versus believing
(27-04-2014 04:25 PM)living thing Wrote:  Hello again Stevil.

(27-04-2014 12:05 AM)Stevil Wrote:  It's in the eye of the beholder.
They don't consider this to be fact but instead they consider it to be their belief.
I’m not sure about the subject in the last sentence; I think it is you who does not consider the idea of instantaneous creation to be a fact, and it is you who considers it some other people’s belief. However, if the behaviour of those people is in any way meaningful, they often act as if they took their notions for facts.
It's about the viewpoint of the person. If they consider there aren't any plausible alternatives to their stance then they don't hold a belief, instead they consider that they have factual knowledge.
If a person considers evolution to be unplausible either because they consider it to be disproven or unsupported then they can discount it as a plausible alternative.
If they then consider their own option to be proven then it would be a fact in their eyes rather than a belief. They would be incorrect if they were to say "I believe in creationism" they would be more correct to say "Creationism is fact"
However, if they consider that creationism isn't proven and that there are plausible alternatives e.g. evolution then they can say "I believe in creationism".
Making the claim of "I believe..." betrays a person's own viewpoint. It discloses that they recognise that their own position isn't one of fact, it discloses that they recognise that there are plausible alternatives that they are choosing to ignore.
(27-04-2014 04:25 PM)living thing Wrote:  So I don’t recommend using the label of science as the sole factor in order to judge plausibility.
I agree with you. But with regards to belief it is relative to the believer. Whatever they use as their criteria it's their choice.
However, if they use the term "I believe" it does reveal that they recognise that there are (in their own view) plausible alternatives that they are turning a blind eye to. Whether those alternatives are based on science or not is beside the point.
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28-04-2014, 03:32 AM
RE: Believing versus believing
(28-04-2014 01:41 AM)Stevil Wrote:  It's about the viewpoint of the person. If they consider there aren't any plausible alternatives to their stance then they don't hold a belief, instead they consider that they have factual knowledge.
If a person considers evolution to be unplausible either because they consider it to be disproven or unsupported then they can discount it as a plausible alternative.
If they then consider their own option to be proven then it would be a fact in their eyes rather than a belief. They would be incorrect if they were to say "I believe in creationism" they would be more correct to say "Creationism is fact"
Do you really think so? If I consider it true that there is an intelligent designer out there, and I view everything around me as proof of that intelligent designer's work, I'd be more correct in saying that "intelligent design is a fact" than "I believe in intelligent design"?

Well, I don't see it that way. In my view, facts are facts when they reflect the structure and/or behaviour of reality, not simply when someone considers them facts. I'd be more correct in saying that I believe in intelligent design, meaning that I consider it true, than declaring it a fact. The way I see it, when people consider they have factual knowledge (i.e., when they consider the notions in their minds to be objective truths) then they hold beliefs.

Incidentally, I think the idea of an intelligent designer out there is a load of bollocks.

(28-04-2014 01:41 AM)Stevil Wrote:  However, if they consider that creationism isn't proven and that there are plausible alternatives e.g. evolution then they can say "I believe in creationism".
Making the claim of "I believe..." betrays a person's own viewpoint. It discloses that they recognise that their own position isn't one of fact, it discloses that they recognise that there are plausible alternatives that they are choosing to ignore.
Does it always? If a fundamentalist christian smiles as he or she declares the belief that I will burn in an everlasting hell, are they disclosing their recognition that there might be other alternatives? I don't know, but they often seem genuinely convinced that there are no other alternatives. Have you ever argued with a religious person about his or her religion?

The point in this thread is that, sometimes, people use the verb "believe" implying suspicion without certainty. In such cases, I can see how your remarks are applicable. However, other times, the same verb is used to denote perceived certainty, and the word "perceived" there means that it is a subjective certainty, not an objective one, even if the person making the claims considers them objective truths. Often, when people claim to believe, they are not leaving room for additional plausible options. Last time I checked the poll results, everyone here had voted for the first option, but I wonder what results a similar poll taken in a forum called TheBelievingTheist, or something like that, would have yielded. Although I don't think I'll perform the experiment because theistic online forums generally make my eyes want to bleed.

(28-04-2014 01:41 AM)Stevil Wrote:  (...) with regards to belief it is relative to the believer. Whatever they use as their criteria it's their choice.
However, if they use the term "I believe" it does reveal that they recognise that there are (in their own view) plausible alternatives that they are turning a blind eye to. Whether those alternatives are based on science or not is beside the point.
I still think that you are considering only the first option; I guess that you only use the verb to declare uncertainty. But when I hear or read other people claim to believe, I don't get the impression that they are recognising plausible alternatives.

Do you see the distinction I am trying to make?

Thanks for coming back, Stevil. Have a good time.
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