The problems with beliefs

by Jim Walker

Introduction

People have slaughtered each other in wars, inquisitions, and political actions for centuries and still kill each other over beliefs in religions, political ideologies, and philosophies. These belief-systems, when stated as propositions, may appear mystical, and genuine to the naive, but when confronted with a testable bases from reason and experiment, they fail miserably. I maintain that beliefs create more social problems than they solve and that beliefs, and especially those elevated to faith, produce the most destructive potential to the future of humankind.

Throughout history, humankind has paid reverence to beliefs and mystical thinking. Organized religion has played the most significant role in the support and propagation of beliefs and faith. This has resulted in an acceptance of beliefs in general. Regardless of how one may reject religion, religious support of supernatural events gives credence to other superstitions in general and the support of faith (belief without evidence), mysticism, and miracles. Most scientists, politicians, philosophers, and even atheists support the notion that some forms of belief provide a valuable means to establish "truth" as long as it contains the backing of data and facts. Belief has long become a socially acceptable form of thinking in science as well as religion. Indeed, once a proposition turns to belief, it automatically undermines opposition to itself. Dostoyevsky warned us that those who reject religion "will end by drenching the earth in blood." But this represents a belief in-itself. Our history has shown that the blood letting has occurred mostly as a result of religions or other belief-systems, not from the people who reject them.

However, does rational thinking require the adherence to beliefs at all? Does productive science, ethics, or a satisfied life require any attachment to a belief of any kind? Can we predict future events, act on data, theories, and facts without resorting to the ownership of belief? This paper attempts to show that, indeed, one need not own beliefs of any kind or express them in human language to establish scientific facts, predict future events, observe and enjoy nature, or live a productive, moral, and useful life.

Relative to the history of life, human languages have existed on the earth for only a few thousand years, a flash of an instant compared to the millions of years of evolution. (Estimates for the beginnings of language range from 40,000 to 200,000 years ago). It should come to no surprise that language takes time to develop into a useful means of communication. As in all information systems, errors can easily creep into the system, especially at the beginning of its development. It should not come to any wonder that our language and thought processes may contain errors, delusions and beliefs. It would behoove us to find and attempt to deal with these errors and become aware of their dangers.

The ability to predict the future successfully provides humans with the means to survive. No other animal species has a capacity to think, remember, imagine, and forecast to the degree of Homo sapiens. To replace our thoughts with intransigent beliefs belies the very nature of the very creative thinking process which keeps us alive.


Origins of belief

 

"The closest relative of the chimp is the human. Not orangs, but people. Us. Chimps and humans are nearer kin than are chimps and gorillas or any other kinds of apes not of the same species."
-Carl Sagan

Very little evidence has yet appeared about how belief arose in humans. As social animals, we probably have always held beliefs to some degree. Studies of our closest DNA relatives, the apes, have suggested that primate social animals require both followers and leaders. The followers must assume the codes of conduct of their leaders if they wish to live without social conflict. Since there always occurs more followers than leaders, the property of accepting the leaders without challenge and the introduction of language may have led human primates towards the expression of beliefs.

As one possibility, perhaps the human animal believes because of an inherent result from expressed genes (phenotypes). Interestingly, some animals have in their DNA a predisposition for imprinted programming. [1] One extreme example of maturation imprinting occurs with newborn greylag geese where they regard the first suitable animal that it sees as its parent and follows it around. In nature geese usually see their natural mother when born, but if humankind interrupts the natural process and a newborn goose first sees a human, then it comes to regard itself, in some sense, as a human, thus compromising its natural life as a goose. Some young animals have a kind of "eidetic" memory; they will believe whatever gets taught to them. Do humans exhibit a similar kind imprinting while young as do many other animals? Or do we learn how to believe from our parents, expressed from memetic inheritance? Most people accept, without question, the religion of their youth. The degree that humans have imprinted or learned belief memories, or the ability to control their beliefs, or reduce them remains open for further investigation. Learning about the mechanism of beliefs at this early stage may help us understand the consequences of impressionable teaching and may lead us to modify the strategy of early learning so as to avoid the debilitating effects of unexamined beliefs.

The earliest evidence of human culture (or more accurately, a lack of evidence), has revealed that during the early Neolithic period, human culture showed few signs of dangerous war-inflicting belief-systems. Their concerns seemed aimed towards nature and female fertility worship. Notably, the first known examples of art contain no images of armed might, cruelty and violence based power. No images of battles or slavery [2]. There existed at that time no fortifications built for defense, or offensive weapons designed for war. Violent belief-systems did not seem to come into existence until humans invented language and male dominated religions. According to Riane Eisler, "one of the best-kept historical secrets is that practically all the material and social technologies fundamental to civilization were developed before the imposition of a dominator society." With the introduction of war-god beliefs, killing other humans became honorable and acceptable and to this day, people continue to revel in it.

Many early societies believed in spirits and animism, the belief that animals and inanimate objects possess a spirit. Indeed, the Latin word, anima, means soul. The word "spirit" also derives from the Latin word for breath. No doubt ignorance about the nature of wind, breath and movement of animals led them to construct an "explanation" about things in their world. How could they possibly know the difference between beliefs, facts, and evidence?

With language came the contemplation and study of thoughtful systems. Socrates and Plato introduced beliefs of "forms" of things existing independently of their physical examples. The measurements in the world represented superficial representations of an underlying and absolute "reality." Aristotle carried the concept further but placed these forms to physical objects as "essences." He posited the existence of a soul and introduced the concept of an immovable mover (God) to justify matter which moves through the "heavens." These ghostly concepts live today, not only in religion, but in our language. Many times we express essence ideas without thinking about them because they exist in the very structure of common communication derived from ancient philosophers. Since no one can see or measure these essences, the only way to comprehend them comes in the form of belief. Sadly, people still accept these essences as "real" based on nothing but faith without ever investigating whether they exist or not.

Orthodox religionists hinged their "sacred" philosophies upon the shoulders of ancient philosophers. Plotinus reorganized Plato's work as the bases for Platonism which lasted for many centuries. Thomas Aquinas became the foremost disseminator of Aristotle's thought. Aristotelianism and its limited logic still holds the minds of many believers. Today people still believe in inanimate objects, spirits, gods, angels, ghosts, alien UFOs, without ever questioning the reliability of their sources. Belief and faith can overpower the mind of a person to such an extent that even in the teeth of contrary evidence, he will continue to believe in it for no other reason than others around him believe in it or that people have believed in it for centuries.

"Religion. n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to ignorance the nature of the Unknowable."
-A. Bierce


The meaning of belief

To establish a common ground for the general concept of belief, I hold to the common usage of the term from the American Heritage dictionary:

Belief: 1. The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in a person or thing; faith. 2. Mental acceptance or conviction in the truth or actuality of something. 3. Something believed or accepted as true; especially, a particular tenet, or a body of tenets, accepted by a group of persons.

Believe: 1 To accept as true or real. 2. To credit with veracity; have confidence in; trust.

In its simplest form, belief occurs as a mental act, a thinking process in the brain. To "believe" requires a conscious thought accepted as having some "truth" value. To communicate this thought requires spoken or written language. Not only does belief require thought but also a mental feeling of "truth" which according to neurological brain research, occurs from the limbic part of the brain (discussed in the mechanism of belief, later in this paper). Thus, belief occurs as a thought with a truth-value feeling attached.

In all cases, I refer to beliefs as occurring in an aware state of consciousness. Beliefs here do not refer to subconscious thoughts, or any mental activity occurring below the threshold of consciousness. Nor do beliefs apply to sleeping and dream states, or to unconscious habits, or instincts. When a person owns a belief, he or she consciously accepts their belief. The degree of feeling to which one accepts their own beliefs, as valid, can vary from mild acceptance to confident absoluteness. Thus it would prove meaningless to say that a person has beliefs without them knowing it or for them to deny their own beliefs. Obviously, a person who does not believe in something, does not believe in that something; a person who believes in something, does believe in that something. Belief requires conscious acceptance.

In the mildest form of belief, that of acceptance without absoluteness, I intend simply to provide a semantic replacement for the words "belief" and "believe." In the case of its extreme form, belief without evidence, and faith, I intend to eliminate its use entirely.

Note that in most instances, one can replace the word "believe" with the word "think". For example:

"I believe it will rain tonight."

can transpose into:

"I think it will rain tonight."

Most simple beliefs come from the expression of the experience of external events. From past experience, for example, people believe that dark clouds can produce rain, therefore, we attempt to predict the weather by forecasting from past events. Indeed, the intent of most beliefs aim at predicting the future in some form or another. However, to believe that an event will occur can produce disappointment if the prediction never happens. To make a prediction based on past events alone does not require believing in the future event, but rather, a good guess as to what may or may not happen. We can eliminate many of these simple beliefs by replacing the word "believe" with the word "think." The word "think" describes the mental process of predicting instead of relying on the abstraction of belief which reflects a hope which may not happen. And if we replaced aristotelian either-or beliefs with statistical thinking we would reflect probable events instead of believed events.

Belief represents a type of conscious mental thought, a subclass of many kinds of mental activity. Thinking may or may not include beliefs or faiths. Therefore, when I use the word "think" I mean it to represent thought absent of belief.

Many kinds of concepts occur without the need for belief. People can invent rules, maps, games, social laws, and models without requiring a belief or absolute trust in them. For example, a map may prove useful to get from point A to point B, but to believe that the map equals the territory would produce a falsehood. Humans invented the game of baseball, but it requires no need to believe in the game, or to attach some kind of "truth" to it. People can enjoy baseball, simply for the game itself. Technological societies invent "rules of the road" and construct traffic lights, signs and warnings. We do not take these rules as absolute but realize that they form a system of conduct that allow mass transit to exist. If any confidence results from the use of models and rules, it should come from experience of past events predicted by the models rather than from the thoughts themselves.

Examples of non-beliefs

Many people misunderstand what constitutes belief and what does not. For many, belief has so infiltrated their minds, that everything perceived or thought incorporates a belief for them, including all of their knowledge and experience. This hierarchical, top-down, approach, in effect, puts such a person entirely within a world of solipsistic reasoning. Why? Because all thoughts describe a belief, for them and since beliefs only occur within the mind, every belief refers to the self.

However, beliefs have no bilateral symmetry requirements; although one can believe in knowledge, one can know without beliefs; although one certainly accepts their own beliefs, not all things accepted require beliefs.

Consider that if one defined belief to incorporate all forms of thought, then the word belief would become tautological and meaningless, not to mention that knowledge and experience would fall as a subset of belief. Need I remind the reader that words differ not only in their spelling, but in their meanings? The following gives examples of non-beliefs:

Acceptance: Although belief requires some form of acceptance, not all things accepted require belief (beliefs have no bilateral symmetry requirements). Examples: I can accept the premise of a fictional story, but I do not for one moment believe in it. I can accept a scientific hypothesis without believing in it. Computers accept data and produce solutions, but computers have no consciousness, let alone beliefs. Many arguments can take the form of Devil's Advocate to oppose an argument with which the arguer may not necessarily disagree.

Action: Although many people believe in the actions they perform, one can act without beliefs (beliefs have no bilateral symmetry requirements). Actions can occur out of a desire, a submission to an authority, or by unplanned events or even by mechanical means completely absent of humans. Examples: I can act a part without believing in it. I can act from a set of rules, but I do not need to believe the rules. I might act from an order from the police or government. I may act out of a desire to achieve something. There occurs no action which requires belief.

Agreement: Although belief requires some form of agreement, not all agreements represent beliefs (beliefs have no bilateral symmetry requirements). However, for some people (myself included), agreement requires no belief at all. Examples: I might agree that Captain Kirk served aboard the Starship Enterprise, but I hold no beliefs in Star-Trek fiction. I may agree with the rules of baseball, but I do not need to believe in baseball in order to understand the game; I may not even like the game! I may agree with any premise, without believing in it.

Knowledge: Knowledge comes from awareness of the world, or understanding gained through experience. Although people may believe in what they know, knowledge has no requirement for belief (beliefs have no bilateral symmetry requirements). Examples: I may have knowledge of a story, poem or song, but I have no need to believe it. I know the rules of many games, but I do not believe in games. I know the mathematics of calculus, but I do not believe in calculus. I have knowledge of information, but I do not believe in information. I have direct knowledge of my existence through sensations, thought, and awareness, but I do not believe I exist: I know I exist.

Information: Although many people believe the information they receive, information received does not require belief in it (again, beliefs have no bilateral symmetry requirements). Examples: the information from books, stories, science, theories, fiction, religion, etc., all represent communicated ideas, but one does not need to believe in any communication in order to utilize it.


Differences between thinking with beliefs and thinking without beliefs

The two charts above represent a visual abstract concept of the differences between the paths of belief and the path to knowledge. Both paths represent a form of thinking or mental activity. Note that the chart on the left shows a convergence point at the bottom where simple beliefs and thoughts coexist. At this level, they appear virtually the same with the only difference amounting to its semantic designation ("believe" can substitute for "think" and vise versa). However as each path progresses, they diverge; the path of belief progresses towards intransigence and the path of knowledge leads to factual knowledge. Each progresses as a matter of degree and each forms an independent path. For example, beliefs requires no external evidence whatsoever (examples: belief in ghosts, gods, astrology, etc.) The path of knowledge requires no reliance on beliefs (examples: the observation that the earth orbits the sun and airplanes fly, etc. appears regardless of whether you believe in them or not.) However, the path towards knowledge requires external verification (observation and testing) whereas the path of belief does not. The path towards workable knowledge (facts) must agree with nature if we wish to utilize it. The path of belief requires no agreement with nature at all (although it might coincide with it).

Unfortunately, the usual practice of thinking involves the combination of beliefs with theory and factual knowledge (see the right chart). Most people tend to believe in what they think of as facts and knowledge, including perhaps the most rational people of all-- scientists and philosophers. A hypothesis or a theory may lead a scientist to strongly believe their theories, the verification of test results may lead them to have faith in the results, and an established fact may lead some scientists to dogmatically hold to its verification (even if later evidence contradicts it). Thus even a scientist can attach beliefs to theories, faith to verification and dogma to facts. Although scientists rarely approach intransigence (although some do) , they usually believe in their data and theories and most philosophers believe in their philosophies. However, consider that every scientific fact can stand on the evidence alone. Nature occurs without human beliefs and so does reliable evidence. There simply exists no apparent necessity for attaching beliefs to knowledge.

Consider the following: regardless of how strongly one has attached beliefs to scientific facts, no matter how religious the disposition of a scientist, there has never appeared a single workable theory or scientific fact that required the concept of a god or superstitious idea. Not a single workable mathematical equation contains a symbol for a "creator." There occurs not the slightest evidence for ghosts in our machines or in our bodies. Even the most ardent non-believers can live their lives in complete accord with nature and live as long as the most fanatical believer. In spite of the temporary mental comfort that belief might bring, (as do drugs) then what purpose can belief serve in the establishment of useful knowledge about the world?

"Have you ever noticed.... Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?" --George Carlin

I find it interesting to observe the state of belief in people. They most always see the problems of fanatical belief above them on the chart, but they never accept the disbelief of those below them. Believers always retain just the right amount of belief, it seems, and they unconsciously put themselves in a kind of self-centered, subjective dogma. I contend that most of us do not own beliefs of every kind and, indeed, we disbelieve more than we believe. Just as some believers have fewer beliefs than others, non-believers simply sit at the bottom of the scale. If you can, temporarily, put yourself outside of your own beliefs, you can question why you dismiss the beliefs of others, while perhaps understanding why non-believers dismiss yours.


Problems that derive from belief

Although one can argue that beliefs supported by scientific evidence represent a benign form of beliefs, they also act as barriers towards further understanding. Even the most productive scientists and philosophers through the ages have held beliefs which prevented them from seeing beyond their discoveries and inventions.

For example, Aristotle believed in a prime mover, a "god" that moves the sun and moon and objects through space. With a belief such as this, one cannot possibly understand the laws of gravitation or inertia. Issac Newton saw through that and established predictions of gravitational events and developed a workable gravitational theory. Amazingly, Newton began to think about relativity theory long before Albert Einstein. However, his belief in absolute time prevented him from formulating a workable theory. Einstein, however, saw through that and thought in terms of relative time and formulated his famous theory of General relativity. But even Einstein owned beliefs which barred him from understanding the consequences of quantum mechanics. He could not accept pure randomness in subatomic physics, thus he bore his famous belief: "God does not play dice." Regardless, physicists now realize that for quantum mechanics to work, nature not only plays with dice, but randomness serves as a requirement if one wishes to predict with any statistical accuracy. And on it goes.

Even though great scientists, like any human, can fall prey to beliefs, their discoveries live beyond the barriers of their naive beliefs. Not only did they establish new knowledge about the universe but they also established its limits and, with them, the elimination of absolutes (and if you think about it, only a believer could pretend to know about absolutes, something not even in principle testable for mortal humans). For example, Einstein found the limits to velocity and time (once believed as absolute), Heisenberg saw the limits to reality (uncertainty principle), and Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorem set a limit on our knowledge of the basic truths of mathematics. A belief in absolutes that directly contradict these scientific discoveries can only bar one from further understanding.

Although thinking without beliefs does not, by any means, guarantee that people will make scientific breakthroughs, it can, at the very least, remove unnecessary mental obstructions. Belief, even at its lowest form of influence can create problematic and unnecessary barriers.

As belief progresses towards faith and dogma, the problems escalate and become more obvious. We see this in religions and political ideologies, especially those that contain scripts (bibles, manifestos) which honor war, intolerance, slavery and superstitions. We see this in the religious inquisitions, "holy" wars, and slavery. During the period of the black plague, millions of humans died out of ignorance of the disease with beliefs that Satan caused it. Meanwhile their religious leaders discouraged experimental scientific investigation. In the 30s and 40s the world saw the fanatical idealism of communists (which has far more in common with religion than it does with atheism) as they destroyed millions of lives. We saw how Christianized Germany produced Nazism and the holocaust in order to defend against the Jews in order to fight for the Lord (Hitler's belief). To this day, one can observe religious and ethnic beliefs creating war and intolerance in Bosnia, Sri Lanka, Israel, Africa, Russia and in Muslim countries. The tragedy of 9/11 occurred purely out of religious belief while the defence against it came out of religious gut instinct from a religious man they call the President of the United States. Only religion produces the concept of moral war. Only a religious minded government would allow science to flounder while emphasizing faith-based programs.

Why does religious belief create such monstrous atrocities? Because religion expresses everything into terms of belief, faith, and absolutes, without need for reason or even understanding. Religion puts reality, morality, love, happiness and desire in a supernatural realm inaccessible to the mind of man. How can humans ever achieve peace when their religious scripts has their god condoning war and violence, while man must accept the superstitious belief that their unknowable god does this for mysterious reasons, forever beyond the comprehension of man? How can you understand the physics of the universe if you believe that an unfathomable supernatural agent created everything just a few thousand years ago? How can you live a full happy life if your religion denies the nature of sex, desire, and mind? How can you have workable government if you believe laws derive from an incomprehensible super-being? How can you have the future of the planet or your grand children if you believe that supernatural predestination will end the world?

Children get taught at a very young age to believe in abstract concepts such as Santa Claus, the toothfairy, and eventually, religious concepts. There simply exists no control or understanding of the dangers. Thus we prepare our society to not only accept beliefs, but to honor and fight for them. This commonly results in conflicts between free expression and censorship. For a believer, expression of ideas in-and-of-themselves represent beliefs. Thus violent television, movies and fictions present opportunities for the unaware to believe in them.

If, instead, we taught our children about beliefs and how they infect the mind and the dangers they can produce, society would have little need for censoring ideas. For without believers, there would live no one to believe them and the violence and fantasy portrayed by their fictions could only represent just that-- fictions.

"Don't believe anything. Regard things on a scale of probabilities.
The things that seem most absurd, put under 'Low Probability', and
the things that seem most plausible, you put under 'High
Probability'. Never believe anything. Once you believe anything, you
stop thinking about it."
--Robert A. Wilson


The mechanism of belief

Because thought and belief requires a mental process involving neural activity, this allows scientific investigation into its mechanism. Although the abstractions of belief sits at a hierarchical level above the neuron level, there obviously occurs a connection between neuron activity to mental thought and vise versa. Unfortunately we still have only minute knowledge about the working of the brain, let alone the complex process that produces thought. However, studies have shown that some forms of delusional thought involve problems with the neocortex. Indeed, one of the characteristics of schizophrenic delusion involves grandiose and religious thinking [3] Some have even suggested that schizophrenia involves beliefs and attitudes taught to them while young [4]

Also, in epilepsy, neurological storms can trigger feelings and thoughts divorced from external events. Although the neocortex and its sensory equipment gets its information from the external world, the limbic system takes its cues from within. The neuroscientist, Paul MacLean became fascinated with the "limbic storms" suffered by patients with temporal-lobe epilepsy. [5] MacLean reported:

"During seizures, they'd have this Eureka feeling all out of context-- feelings of revelation, that this is the truth, the absolute truth, and nothing but the truth."

"You know what bugs me most about the brain? It's that the limbic system, this primitive brain that can neither read nor write, provides us with the feeling of what is real, true, and important."

This provides an important clue as to the mechanism of belief because it suggests that what we think of as true or real, actually occurs as a feeling produced by the limbic brain. Belief in this sense then means a thought with a feeling attached where the feeling gives us a sense of conviction or truth. In normal people, a well reasoned thought can trigger a eureka-like feeling, thus the generation of a belief. This emotional tag attached to a thought may very well have served an important evolutionary role because it would allow Homo sapiens a way to prioritize thoughts that give a survival advantage. These eureka-like emotions also feel good and might very well enhance the memory of survival thoughts.

But in abnormal thinking, even an irrational thought can trigger the same eureka-like feeling. In other words, regardless of a reasoned thought or an irrational thought, both can trigger a limbic feeling of "truth"; or in other words, a belief. In its most extreme form, epiphany-like beliefs can result from the ingestion of hallucinogenic chemicals, fanatical religious rituals, or chemical imbalances in the brain (i.e., manic-depressive, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.) All of these mental disorders can lead to excessive beliefs and intense feeling, yet with only irrational thoughts attached to them.

The worst forms of schizophrenia almost always involve extreme forms of delusional beliefs. They hear voices, act on impulse, think they hear the voice of God, Satan, or act out whatever belief myth they grew up with. Interestingly, it appears that only thinking animals develop schizophrenia. We have no other animal model for this disease for holding false beliefs and the perception of unreal things. [6] Schizophrenia appears to exist only in humans.

According to V.S. Ramachandran, patients with temporal lobe epilepsy may experience a variety of symptoms that include an obsessive preoccupation with religion and the intensified and narrowed emotional responses that appear characteristic of mystical experience.

I present epileptic storms and schizophrenia here because they represent examples of mental disorder that can result in beliefs pegged to their extreme limit. I trust that most people will recognize that these mental diseases can result in dangerous forms of thinking . If the extreme beliefs held by schizophrenics represents a danger and an undesirable trait, then at what point below this do we consider beliefs desirable?

Many believers seem to think that all humans believe and that belief represents a requirement for human life. We can show the falsity of this assumption by simply eliminating thought entirely. Not everyone can do this, especially schizophrenics, but for those that wish to, there exists methods for doing so.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, some people can completely stop their thoughts. And when someone can stop their thought process, beliefs cease to exist, at least temporarily. Ancient meditation or modern biofeedback practices show how to reduce or stop the semantic noise within our heads. During this practice, concentrating on a single idea or word (mantra) can reduce the thought level to a minimum. The final aim at eliminating this single thought results in a state of no-thought. While in such a state, all thoughts, ideas, and beliefs cease. Brain scans reveal that, indeed, the neocortex brain waves associated with thought stop at this bottom-most limit of meditation.

I bring up meditation and delusion to show that there occurs some range of degree of intensity of belief between the two extremes.

DEGREES OF BELIEFS

The curve above represents a population beliefs from 0 (no beliefs, no thinking) to 1 (extreme beliefs, irrational thinking), charted with only two data points (x). The dotted line represents a guess since I have no data to plot actual probabilities (future investigators will have to gather this information). The degree of belief determines dispositions to hold an idea as absolute or true. Thus, insane forms of thinking (delusional, schizophrenia, etc.) would appear on the far right end of the graph. The extremists (far-right-political and religious-right, for example) might appear at around .8-.9. The opposite of extremism would fall toward the left end of the chart (meditators, day dreaming, etc.). From my personal observation, most people do not fall at either end of the spectrum; most fall somewhere well between the two limits. For the general population, I suspect the graph would appear as a Bell curve as shown above.

Although schizophrenia describes an obvious dysfunctional disease that causes harm to themselves and possibly to others, many schizophrenic properties can coexist in the "normal" human thinking process without causing notice to people observing them. Delusional thinking usually accompanies schizophrenia. But note that delusions represent false beliefs, virtually the same as the conditions for faith. Faith has become acceptable mainly because powerful social institutions support it.

Symptoms of mental disease, of course, do not appear identical for everyone. Some people may have only one episode of schizophrenia in their lifetime. Others may have recurring episodes but lead relatively normal lives in between. Others may have severe symptoms for a lifetime. Indeed, many who we consider sane commit the most atrocious criminal acts without a diagnoses of insanity. Even legal acts such as war, inquisitions, and pogroms can cause harm to its believers as well as to others. Yet we do not diagnose these acts of belief as a mental disease because the very engine of belief puts them in the context of acceptability. Most societies do not abhor war; instead, they honor it because their belief-systems support the notion of solving problems through mass killing called war. If, instead, we approached belief supported violence the way we attempt to solve mental diseases, perhaps we might produce solutions to some of our cultural problems.

A question arises out of these low-to-extreme forms of beliefs: If extreme beliefs represent a symptom or cause of mental disorder, then can a lack of belief produce a better, healthier, [or whatever desirable characteristic word you may want to use] way of socially interacting with people? At the low limit, that of meditation, one not only stops belief, but all forms of thought. This of course would result in a dangerous living condition if continued indefinitely , but only at the expense of the meditator. At worst the meditator might die for lack of food, but he or she could hardly harm anyone else. But what if one could learn how to think without beliefs? Might it not serve and advantage to make our thoughts more efficient?

Of course accidents will happen and tragedies will occur. Errors in our models of perception will no doubt always happen. But if we can reduce or eliminate the thoughts and feelings that constitute belief, would we not have fewer reasons to harm others through prejudice or violence? Without beliefs, our thoughts would follow the prevailing evidence instead of blocking them with unnecessary convictions.

Even if we cannot solve all mental diseases or prevent dangerous beliefs from forming, we might at least become aware of the mental processes that create beliefs and why they sometimes lead to intransigence. Although no one yet has a clear understanding of how schizophrenia originates, it appears that it may have some connection with genetics, brain damage, chemical imbalances or social upbringing. Fortunately treatments have become available for many mental diseases. For those who have mild cases of mental problems, education alone may redirect the neural path towards productive thinking. For others, drugs and therapy can help alleviate mental problems. Likewise, early education in critical thinking, identification of logical fallacies, and the mechanism of belief may alleviate many of our dangerous beliefs.


Disowning beliefs

From the meaning of beliefs as described above, a person who owns a belief must possess two things: a thought and the feeling of that thought as 'true." The first requires a functioning neocortex and the second requires a functioning limbic system (note, by functioning, this also includes abnormal as well as normal functioning). This evolutionary and biologically inherited function brings up a valid question:

If a functioning human brain produces thought along with a feeling of 'truth,' then all humans who have functioning brains must experience beliefs, no?

Yes! And although this seems to contradict the very concept of no-beliefs, we humans have something that other animals don't have: the power of retrospection and the ability to see our own abstractions (at least some humans have this ability). Indeed, I have the experience of belief as when reading a convincing novel or watching a movie or a play, but I know that novels and movies represent fictions. Although I buy, temporarily, the belief for the entertainment value, I do not own the belief. It would prove not only silly but dangerous to walk out of a theater (say The Exorcist) and still believe the story. The same goes with any belief experience whether it comes from rational scientific reasoning or to fictions or myths. I may feel (believe) that I have discovered a scientific truth, but I know that my belief comes as a property of brain function and I have the ability to disown the belief. I can say that it feels right, but I also know that feelings don't represent facts or knowledge any more than color exists as a property in matter. I also know that feelings-of-truth can mislead me, especially when future evidence contradicts the truth-valve of the belief and can lead to intransigence. I can acknowledge the feeling but I don't have to acknowledge the belief.

By putting yourself in a higher abstraction, you can 'see' the abstractions below you. In this sense you act at the arbitrator of your thoughts, picking out which produces the best results and dismissing those which don't work, all without owning any thought. Owning beliefs means that you blind yourself to seeing them as what they represent: abstractions. You must also defend the beliefs you own or else feel oppressed when someone attacks them, and this can lead to depression, argument, violence, or to any ultimate end. By disowning beliefs, you not only don't have to defend them, but you avoid the problems associated with them.

If you still don't understand how you can disown an inherited biological function, let me give you an analogue using an even older biological function: the sense of balance.

Every normal human has it, those little grains of calcium carbonate, the otoconia, in the inner ear that tickle the hairs of the maculae, that detect gravity and acceleration. Pilots of early aviation used to rely on this sense in what they called, "flying by the seat of the pants." But during stormy weather or night flying, pilots became disoriented and began to lose their lives. At first the survivors chalked it up to high winds (how dare they accuse these brave pilots of becoming disoriented). But the aviation scientists knew better. When they invented instrument flying, the old timers balked, but pilots grudgingly learned to rely on the instruments. They learned to distrust their own senses and replaced it with more reliable instruments. One might even ask the heretical question: Do humans really need a sense of balance to fly at all? Note that nowhere in that statement does it say that one should eliminate the sense of balance.

I simply ask a similar question about belief. Do humans need beliefs to survive? Nowhere in that statement do I claim that one should eliminate the feeling of beliefs, only that one can eliminate the ownership of them. We humans have an evolved brain that can contemplate our own abstractions and beliefs. We can disown beliefs and replace them. So in the analogy of the sense of balance, what mechanism serves as the flying instrument that replaces belief? Critical thinking coupled with empirical testing (science).


Inside our head vs Outside our head

Many people have a difficult time telling the difference between what happens inside their heads as opposed to what happens outside their heads. And I don't mean just schizophrenics or psychopaths, but also some sane people. Most of us have had confusions about "reality" at some times in our lives. Since all sensations and information comes to the brain filtered, we experience all our perceptions in our head. To establish the difference between outside verses inside events, we usually derive, through intuition, some sort of comparative test. Most of our sensations instinctively tell us what occurs outside. As infants, we quickly learn that the sounds we hear in our heads actually emanate from the outside. We learn to manipulate objects through touch, observe movement through sight, etc. As we grow, we begin to form abstract thought and we attach these abstractions to our perceptions. Observation, reasoning, and experimentation gives us the means to determine the difference between outside our heads and inside our heads.

Errors can creep into our thinking process. And from there it can invade our language system. This happens, virtually in any information system. If we do not correct these linguistic and logic errors, we may go for years propagating ancient errors without thinking about them. It seems obvious that this has already occurred to many cultures that have promoted dangerous belief sets. Although most will agree that dangerous beliefs present a threat and that we should do something about them, many beliefs that seem inconsequential receive no concern at all. These, seemingly, innocent beliefs act through our language system and can give us a false sense of "knowing."

To give an example, we usually think of color as "out there." We observe green foliage, blue skies, red apples, etc. Yet color, demonstrably, does not occur "out there," but rather, totally inside our heads. Matter contains no color. Color has no bases from the physics of light. Color, rather, describes a sensation. [10] However, matter does "reflect" or produce light (photons). Our eyes absorb this energy and our brains interpret this information by "tagging" a sensation of color to it. Many times we express this perception through an error of language that projects color as "out there." We use ancient "essence" words like "is" and "be" that put mystical properties to events which occur only in our heads. For example, "the grass IS green" seems to project the property of "greenness" to an external plant form. Regardless of how much chlorophyll a plant may contain, it contains no "green." The color green occurs in our brains as a "tag" to an indirect reflective property of light. Yet our "essence" words and ideas continually fool us into thinking that things exist outside our heads, without the slightest evidence to support it. To help eliminate these "essence" verbs, we can simply replace them with descriptive verbs. Instead of saying "The grass is green," I might say, "The grass appears green (to me)." The descriptive verb "appears" connects perception to the observer instead of placing it outside the body. Many sentences which use " to be " verbs produce false or misleading statements. [9]


From belief to faith

Many rational people, including most scientists, still insist on utilizing beliefs with the rationale that beliefs must accompany evidence to support them. Of course it proves more prudent to attach evidence to one's beliefs than to own beliefs without evidence, but why should anyone feel compelled to attach beliefs to evidence at all? Why not stand on the evidence without beliefs? Consider a measurement, for example the velocity of light. I can simply state the calculated or measured velocity as a numerical figure or I can say "I believe that the speed of light equals 299,790 KPS. But the velocity represents a measurement of an external event, not a belief. The belief of the velocity of light adds nothing to the information about the velocity of light. The belief only reflects an intransigent property of the believer and nothing at all about the measured property. Regardless of how mild the intransigence, the belief itself provides no scientific value at all. On the contrary, the belief within that individual may grow to such extent that it overshadows the evidential data and may cause the believer to hold on to his theory even if future evidence contradicts it. As a theory only, without belief, the possibility of future evidence may reveal new data that would modify and improve the theory.

I have met such believers before and when shown evidence of the differing velocity of light in crystals, their belief of an absolute value of light rose to the occasion to combat this new (to them) information. Note that when I say that belief appears unnecessary to evidence, I do not mean that ideas and thoughts should not accompany them. On the contrary, instead of beliefs, we can establish theories and models about the evidence, a predictive and productive way of understanding the consequences of the evidence. (I'll add more about this later.)

Although the reasons why people tend towards certain belief-systems remains unclear, Frank Sulloway, a research scholar, has proposed that family dynamics and birth order influences social survival strategies [8]. In general terms, firstborns tend to think conservatively and laterborns tend to think as liberals. In the extremes of both liberals and conservatives, the beliefs can take on a fantastical form of thinking. In its most dangerous form, belief can take its most intransigent property as faith, the reliance on hope and ignorance. Indeed, many psychopaths and schizophrenics provide extreme examples of faith as the beliefs inside their heads take over the evidence from outside their heads. Some researchers have noted the higher prevalence of schizophrenia in certain religions [11].


Hypotheses, theories and models

Many religious people who challenge scientists, attempt to make their scientific theories equivalent to faith. I suspect this gives the faithful comfort, as reducing theory to the level of faith puts both on an equal plane. However, useful theories do not rely on faith and do not even require belief. Scientific theories must agree with nature to some degree, faith does not. If a theory's prediction fails to produce results, then the theory itself cannot provide usefulness and the scientists must throw it out. A hypothesis represents nothing more than a good guess subject to further verification and usually precedes a theory. A workable theory, however, represents a good guess based on evidence and makes useful predictions.

"It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is-- if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. That is all there is to it."
-Richard Feynman

Newton's theory of gravity, for example, represents a useful set of guesses that make predictions about matter traveling through space. Newton's mechanics, however, does not give us absolute or exact predictions. It only allows predictions about matter within acceptable tolerances. Einstein's theory of gravity carries Newton's theories to ever more exact figures and we can make even better guesses. But note that the theories of gravity must rely on outside evidence, and the guess must agree with experiment. A theory, therefore, without supporting evidence has no meaning. The following provides some examples of theories:

The kinetic theory of matter depends on the measurable properties between the forces between particles of matter.

The theories of gravitation depend on the facts of the measurable results of matter in the field of gravity.

The theory of natural selection depends on the facts of evolution as confirmed by observation, evidence and experiment.

Note that understanding any scientific aspect about the physical world requires some form of theoretical thought.

Models differ from theories, in that they usually represent an abstract copy of the event or thing that we wish to understand. They may provide us with predictions, but they can never fully represent the subject in all its nature. A model represents an incomplete abstraction of a thing outside our heads. Maps, scale models, computer simulations, etc. all provide us with methods to predict the future of an event or thing. For an example of scientific modeling, look at the history of the investigation of atoms. As the evidence accumulated, the physicists made better and more accurate (although incomplete) models of the structure of matter.

A hypothesis may lead to experiment and both may lead to a theory. If the theory of the evidence provides accurate predictions every time, sometimes we call these "laws" or "knowledge." Note, however, that "knowledge" does not mean that it comes absolute. A fact or theory may change in the future and we may have to modify our knowledge to accommodate the changing evidence.

By utilizing hypotheses, theories and models, we can express thoughts about the world without resorting to beliefs and faith.


Logic, mathematics, and reason

Unfortunately, many people misuse the concept of logic and believe that it provides a method of arriving at "truth" about the world; that if they propose a logical argument it, somehow, has validity to external events. However, logic, by itself, says little about the world and does not guarantee "truth." Logic provides a language of self-consistent reasoning that pertains only to the construction of itself. A logical conclusion based on sound reasoning, in fact, might disagree with the external event we wish to understand. For example, in the following logical construction:

All judges are lawyers

No bishops are lawyers

Therefore: No bishops are judges

The above syllogism consists of valid logic. However, each of its propositions must agree with observation before its conclusion can provide any usefulness. Does every judge actually serve as a lawyer? Have no bishops ever served as lawyers? Reason and logic without evidential support cannot determine much about the world until the evidence supports the propositions.

All ghosts are spirits

No cartoons are spirits

Therefore: No cartoons are ghosts

The logic above appears sound, but what in the world does it mean and how does it relate to the world? In what context does it refer? What about Casper the ghost?

Interestingly, one of the signs of mental illness, especially schizophrenia, involves their irrational thinking and the errors they make in syllogistic reasoning [12].

Note also that many different "Logics" occur for many different fields. Traditional logic, for example, simply does not work in the world of quantum physics. The math, the reasoning, and the logic of the quantum world differs widely from the macro-world. Unfortunately, today most people rely on only one kind of logic, usually some from of aristotelian logic. We tend to think in terms of black/white, true/false, good/evil, guilty/not-guilty, up/down, inside/outside, etc. Although many things, indeed, follow this simple kind of logic, a plethora of things operate through a continuum. Although aristotelian logic may work great for digital circuits, or simple syllogisms, it fails miserably when trying to understand the human condition or things that work through calculus.

Mathematics represents a symbolic language of logic and provides us with a tool for reasoning. But mathematics and logic must accommodate the external events if it wishes to explain them. Of course people may have beliefs about one mathematical system over another, but any philosophical belief always fails in light of nature. Only the results of the accuracy of the predictions matter in the mathematical world; beliefs have no requirement in the outcome, regardless of how good it may make its believers feel. In fact, it has appeared commonplace in physics, especially quantum mechanics, where two entirely different mathematical approaches derived from different starting points turn out to give identical quantitative answers [13].

Although logic and mathematics may provide a useful tool for reason, scientists may encounter information about the world that matches no logic whatsoever. Unknowns and incomplete information occurs many times, but that does not necessarily prevent establishing useful results. Doctors knew that aspirin, for example, worked as a pain blocker, but for many years they had no workable explanation of how it worked. Even gravity, to this day, with all the mathematics predicting its effect on matter, has stumped physicists as to the nature of its mechanism. Many times the physicists do not even understand why their system works. They only know that it works. The prime requirement of making useful predictions must come from nature herself, from things outside our heads. All the beliefs, theories, logics and models, regardless of how well they got constructed, cannot do us any good unless they have some support from evidence. Many times events outside our heads provide us with life sustaining support without our thinking about them at all (such as breathing air)!

Instead of relying on one logical system, as most people do, we might instead incorporate a language that incorporates a system of logics and we might choose the system that best fits the object of investigation. Sadly our English language contains severe limitations and cannot possibly express many of the extraordinary discoveries of the new physics. Mathematics allows a language of continuum, multiple dimensions, and infinities and all without the need for introducing ghostly beliefs.


Preconceived beliefs

I once heard an amusing story about the artist, Picasso. I don't know if this actually happened but it makes a point about how people construct beliefs of reality from abstractions:

A stranger recognizing Picasso asked him why he didn't paint pictures of people "the way they really are." Picasso asked the man what he meant by "the way they really are," and the man pulled out of his wallet a snapshot of his wife as an example. Picasso responded: "Isn't she rather small and flat?

To believe that an abstract representation shows the actual thing leads to an unnecessary biased form of perception. Belief of any kind puts a kind of shield on the thinker and puts in its place a form of thought which in effect says: "This is real." Preconceived beliefs coupled with the lack of information can lead to false conclusions.

To take another example, I might say to a group of people, "I love fish." Everyone may hear me correctly, but because of their preconceived beliefs and a lack of context, some may interpret my meaning as a statement about dining and others may believe I have a love for aquarium fish. Virtually all expressions of thought contain some limitations and to add preconceived ideas without evidentiary support can produce false statements and beliefs.

Without resorting to belief, I can look at a photograph and see that it only resembles some aspect of a particular thing or person, and that it represents an indirect abstraction. Without belief, I can question a proposition before arriving at a conclusion.


Limitations of knowledge

"It used to be thought that physics describes the universe. Now we know that physics only describes what we can say about the universe."
-Niels Bohr
 
"It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong."
-Thomas Jefferson

Our thoughts and expressions through language represent abstractions about the world, metaphors and models about things and not the things themselves. Language and thought cannot describe the totality of a thing anymore than a painting or picture can. A picture does not equal its subject, and a map does not equal its territory. But our myths, maps, models, and abstract thoughts do provide a limited means to understand the world and to make predictions about external events. They provide a way to quantify and simplify our communication systems so that we can perform desirable and useful actions in the world. But if we allow unnecessary thoughts and beliefs to reside with our abstractions, we develop semantic noise which can lead to incorrect information.

As limited humans, we do not possess absolute knowledge. Our perceptions and information comes to us incomplete. When we look, touch and measure at an object, for example, we only observe part of its totality. Belief, on the other hand, can produce the illusion that we understand without limitations. Eliminating concepts of beliefs, at least puts us closer to the range of our perceptions. We inherit mortal limitations, we cannot know with absolute certainly about the external world; we cannot completely remove doubt about our conclusions. Many philosophers and scientists have come to this same observation [14]. Doubt leaves the door open for further investigation. Intransigent belief puts a mental barrier to further knowledge.


Bias (point of view)

Because our models and theories represent limited knowledge about the world, this forces us to examine the universe within boundaries. This produces a point of view. Bias represents a focus, direction, or preference towards a point of view without examining or ignoring existing evidence.One cannot avoid a point of view. Regardless of how one might try to prevent bias, there will most always occur something left out of the description. Similar to Heisenburg' Uncertainty Principle, as a focus becomes narrow, the more outside its focus gets left out. And vice versa, the more general a view becomes, the more the details get left out. If one tries to include the details with the general, a view can bog down with an overblown aggregation of information, turning a direction of thought into a cloud of complexity; and even still, the entire system would reside within a framework of limitations. Regardless of how one may reject beliefs, a point of view occurs if only because we represent a unique and limited spatial entity within the universe.

The negative aspect we usually associate with bias does not come from bias itself but rather the belief that comes with it. Belief produces a set of brackets around a point of view that says in effect "The answer lies here." Once you believe you have found the answer, your point of view becomes biased, (intransigent and prejudiced) and prevents you from looking at other possible alternatives. Again, beliefs act as a barrier to further understanding. If a person develops a faith in a point of view, then it becomes overwhelming to the point that nothing, even in the light of convincing evidence, will the faithful yield to better information. A biased belief can convince its believers that they hold the key to all understanding and "truth" without providing any evidence to support it.

A point of view, however, does not demand a predisposition to belief; it can simply represent a direction of thought. Ideas, by their very nature, represent limitations of thought. As long as a point of view produces a reasonable explanation, uses only pertinent information necessary to make predictions and leaves open the possibility of change in favor of better evidence, then it serves as a useful and productive tool. As we learn and understand our limitations, that a point of view represents an understood direction, we have the possibility to transcend it into an even more productive point of view.


Imagination, fantasy and wonder

As humans, we have the remarkable ability to make things up and to pretend. Imagination and fantasy provides us with one of the most pleasurable ways to experience thoughts and gives us one of the fundamental requirements for the ability to create. Our imagination provides us with the mental capacity to express models in our heads and to act out scenarios of love, conquest, gamesmanship and adventure. I can't imagine any new invention, art, or literature deriving without its author engaging in the pleasure of a fantasy. The feeling of wonder about things in the world and the mysteries of the universe fills us with imagination and speculation. Although Einstein put imagination above knowledge (something I don't necessarily agree with), it certainly serves a very useful function.

Fantasies and imaginations, of course require no belief in them. They provide us a way to model and hypothesis non-actual events that may eventually lead to knowledge of actual things or perhaps even a novel invention. Fantasy coupled with ideas about actual events can lead to great insights about future events. Many a science fiction story, for example, has inspired scientists to construct hypothesis that lead to verifiable experiment and the invention of useful machines. Even fantasy by itself provides an enjoyable way of expressing thoughts. But if an individual begins to believe in his own fantasy, or worse, has faith in it, then usually only disappointment or tragedies result.


Natural desire

"We always move on two feet-- the two poles of knowledge and desire."
-Elie Faure

Desire comes to us as a natural feeling. As biological animals, we cannot avoid desires. We desire food, shelter, freedom of expression, etc. As exploratory animals, we humans use our minds as a tool to help satisfy the desires within us. With reflection and thought, we learn the limits to our desires. Eating too much, for example, can lead to limited heath and the prevention of satisfying other desires. By understanding the consequences of desire, we can avoid the excesses and blockages of desire. To express and satisfy our desires (sex, feelings, hunger, etc.) provides a human need. And if we do not satisfy our natural needs, then severe consequences can result.

Sadly, many of our belief-systems put a stranglehold on our natural instinctive desires. If a belief-system teaches that "sex is evil," "only godly belief will help you," or suppresses expression and communication, we may turn depraved, depressed, or violent.

Believers many times express desire indirectly in terms of hope, a form of wishful thinking. Indeed faith hinges on the requirement of hope and ignorance. Hope without an adequate method of achieving our desires can lead to debilitating disappointment and sorrow. I can only imagine the number of tragedies that have occurred from failures due to excessive wishful thinking. Instead of relying on faith and hope, we might analyze our desires and use our knowledge and creative minds to find a way of satisfying them.


Everyone believes in something?

Many a believer, religious and atheist alike, will become astonished at any statement against belief, if for no other reason because they believe and the people around them have beliefs. They tend to form a belief-of-its-own that projects beliefs onto others. However, simply because most people own beliefs does not necessarily follow that all people require the concept of belief. To claim the knowledge that everyone on earth believes in something portends an astonishing proclamation. It would require an omniscient ability to see into the minds of every human on earth. Moreover, many people fail to understand that belief requires conscious acceptance. People who own beliefs (unless they lie) do not deny them. Quite the contrary, people who believe, admit their beliefs quite readily. Furthermore, few people stop to ask what we mean by beliefs or understand that one can replace belief with other forms of "thinking."


I don't believe the sun will rise tomorrow, but I predict it will

Disbelieving does not mean thinking something may not happen. The absence of belief does not prevent one from predicting the event. It may seem fatuous not to believe the sun will not appear the next day. However, as a limited human being, I maintain no absolute certainty that a sunrise will occur. At best. I can only make a prediction based on past experience. Since I have experienced daylight every day of my life, and know of no human who hasn't, I have little evidence that a sunrise will not occur tomorrow. Therefore I can make a prediction based on past experience that a sunrise will appear highly likely to occur the next day. Note that I do not require believing to do this, only observation, experience, and good guessing. Prediction based on experience, in this case, replaces belief. But note that my prediction may prove wrong, regardless of how remote the chances. We have evidence that supernovas exist in the universe that can destroy local solar systems. If, indeed, such an event occurred in our part of the galaxy, our sun could possibly get absorbed, along with the earth and all humans on it. So although there exists a very remote chance that the sun will not appear, I can at least predict with great (but imperfect) accuracy that I will see sunlight the next day.

By replacing belief with predictive thought, one can eliminate the need for belief, yet still maintain an outlook on life and make useful predictions.


Don't you believe you exist?

To the believer who poses this question, I can only respond with "I know I exist, but apparently you only believe you exist."

Questions about belief of our own existence aim to put a philosophical end to the discussion by proposing an impossible (to believers) proposition that no one could possibly deny. However, eliminating belief does not deny the evidence of existence. This appears so obvious and apparent that it only shows the power of belief to blind people from the world around them.

Any fair observer will note that no animal, including humans, require a need to believe in their existence. Humans, however, have the power of knowledge and the ability to express themselves. I know I exist because I get knowledge of my existence every second of my conscious life directly from my feelings, perceptions, or thoughts; no belief required. Belief only introduces an unnecessary proposition. I can simply say "I exist," instead of "I believe I exist." My knowledge of existence comes from experience, not belief. The elimination of beliefs, makes our statements more concise, accurate and meaningful.

However, when one only believes in their existence, they automatically reduce their entire life to an abstraction: a belief. In effect, they have put an unnecessary barrier between their minds and the world around them.


Owning no beliefs does not result in nihilism

To characterize no beliefs as nihilist only creates a straw man. Of course a nihilist might very well claim to abandon knowledge of existence but usually it comes in the form of a belief-- one who believes that nothing exists or one who believes that no one can know anything. Nothing I have written rejects the notion of existence or knowledge, whether it comes from metaphysical, political or ethical thought. Abandoning beliefs does not prevent one from reality, morality or sociality. On the contrary, I submit that eliminating ownership of beliefs tends to enhance the knowledge of things by the very act of eliminating the very obstruction which prevents us from knowing how things work in the universe. The elimination of beliefs as I describe it illustrates the very antithesis of nihilism. The problems that derive from beliefs prevent us from knowledge of existence, morality and workable political systems.

Ironically many believers who accuse others of nihilism follow a similar path of nihilism by denying reality in favor of superstitious beliefs. How in the world can one know about reality when one believes in a supernatural force which (according to religious philosophers) remains entirely separated from the world, and in principle, no one can know?

So if you think (or believe) that I submit to a form of nihilism, then you will have abandoned a main premise and put yourself at a personal disadvantage by ignoring or denying an idea (a valid and very workable idea in my opinion).


No, I don't believe my own words

And neither should you. But I do ask questions, and because you've read this far you, and even if you strongly disagree, you must ask yourself this: Which method works best: acting on beliefs or acting on knowledge? If you have difficulty answering this question, then perhaps your beliefs prevent you from acknowledging the obvious.

This text presents points of views based from my (and others) experiences, observations, and research about the thought process. I do not present them as beliefs but rather as an investigation into the mechanism of belief. If any of my statements prove false, then they will show simply that, and subject to further revision. Disowning beliefs does not guarantee "truth" or accuracy, only a method to help clear away superstitions and falsehoods.


Summary

Beliefs and faiths represent a type of mental activity that produces an unnecessary and dangerous false sense of trust and wrongful information (thinking coupled with the feeling of 'truth'). Faith rarely agrees with the world around us. History has shown that beliefs and faith, of the most intransigent kind, have served as the trigger for tragic violence and destruction and sustained the ignorance of people. Replacing beliefs with predictive thoughts based on experience and evidence provide a means to eliminate intransigence and dangerous superstitious thought.

Beliefs and faiths do not establish "truths" or facts. It does not matter how many people believe or for how many centuries they have believed it. It does not matter how reverent or important people think of them, if it does not agree with evidence, then it simply cannot have any validity to the outside world. All things we know about the world, we can express without referring to a belief. Even at its most benign level, beliefs can act as barriers to further understanding.

I present a very simple observation at the limits of ignorance and knowledge: If you don't know about something and you submit it to nothing but belief, it will likely prove false; if you know about something, then you don't need to believe it, because you know it. Between ignorance and knowledge you have the uncertainties about the world, and the best way to handle uncertainties involves thinking in terms of probabilities. So what use does belief have?

If you have awareness of abstracting, you can then begin to replace believing with thinking.

Instead of owning beliefs, we can utilize hypothesis, theory, and models to make predictions about things in the world. In its semantic form, we can replace "belief" words with "thinking" words which better describes the formation of our ideas. We can use our imaginations to create new hypothesis towards desired goals. The wonder of the universe gives us a powerful feeling of inquisitiveness. Certainly we will fail sometimes, but disowning beliefs allows us to correct our mistakes without submitting our ideas to years or centuries of traditional time consuming barriers. Theory coupled with imagination can yield inventive thoughts and points of views. By further understanding our language and eliminating unworkable essence words, we can communicate without resorting to preconceived ideas based on past beliefs. Our feeling of wonder about the universe provides us the fuel for exploration; how much more magnificent the results from useful thoughts than ones based on faith.

Source: http://www.nobeliefs.com



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