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Belief and Action, the two parts to learning.

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posted on Mar, 21 2011 @ 05:02 PM
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I realize that this isn't exactly a 'new' idea or even one particularly needed. However, it's one dear to my heart and I've seen so much in the way of hostility to people like me who choose to follow this sort of path. This is a tragic turn of events for me, as I do not think that we are here to tear down each other so much as to find the good and build each other up.

So what am I going to be talking about then? Belief, of a spiritual or religious nature but it need not be restricted to such a thing.

Now some of you may have just let out a mental groan at the thought of me quoting page upon page of scripture and hammering at it until you either believe or go away. This is not my intention, and while my belief in scripture is a personal and strong thing, it's not how I will go about this.

I wanted to deal more in comparisons and metaphors, parables even. Now bear with me, I'm not here with a Messiah complex, I merely want to try and sow the seeds of understanding. I think we have much we can learn from each other, even when we disagree, so long as we do so with a eye of understanding and patience, not this constant tearing down and breaking that we seem to see so encroached in our societies, on which ever side of a issue you find yourself.

I want to you to imagine, if you will, that you are a man living in Iqaluit. For those of you who don't know, this is one of the more northerly cities in the world. Although, city may be a tad generous. Now you are a simple man, you've been content with your way of living for quite so time. You don't watch T.V. but instead spend most of your time with other pursuits and as such don't really know much about the greater world, and this suits you just fine.

Some people you know are getting in a knot about a visit from a climate scientist from New York who wants to come and see the north first hand. Now, this is a big deal, after all the city only has a bit under 7,000 people. News travels fast, and while you are viscerally aware that there are big cities, you don't know much about them, and you hear people saying that New York is quite big.

So the scientist comes, and looks around the arctic, takes his readings, and sticks around town for a day or two to talk to various leaders from around the area. You hear he's going to be holding a little impromptu question period at a local bar/cafe. You were going to head there anyway, so you decide to maybe ask a few questions about New York.

So at the cafe, questions come, they talk about climate and things, some have technical terms that you don't really understand. A few people ask the man about his own life. You finally ask about New York.
Your turn comes you ask 'What's New York like? How many people live there?

The man answers, and the description goes on for some time. He speaks of towering buildings covered in glass. A large metal lady holding a torch for many years. Boats the size of villages sailing on the ocean. And people by the millions.

Now at this point, you, or someone in a situation like this, has a few choices. You've never actually seen New York. You knew people lived in other cities, but to you, a city is a group of about 7,000 people, maybe a bit more maybe a bit less. Not millions. The very thought of that many people in such a small area makes your head spin. And all these other fanciful things! So it's all a little hard to take in.

Your choices are pretty much limited. you could choose to believe him at face value, even though through his description you will probably never be able to truly comprehend it until you go there yourself. Or you could believe he's just trying to pull your leg, and that such a place doesn't exist and never could and then go back to your life believing that either New York doesn't exist or that everyone from it are liars. Or you could just smile and nod, have a thought of 'well it could be true, but it probably isn't.' and then go back to your life.

Belief is much the same way. Some one tells you something, and you have basically those three choices, or variants thereof.

Lets suppose you chose to believe. So you believe the one man, but you don't know for sure. Such a thing, to your limited world view, is so completely foreign as to be incomprehensible. But what if you go to New York? See for your self? Believe that he is speaking the truth and then take actions to prove it. Trust him, but verify, as the case may be. This is the same as believing someone, and then coming to a knowledge of it yourself. You take action based on your belief to transform your belief into a knowledge.

What if you didn't believe and then decided to go to this place call New York just so you could see that he is lying? You had your belief still, but you still took action to prove your belief or disprove it. You were still willing to take action.

These two choices are the choices that lead people to the eventual evolution out of belief and into knowing. You have your belief, your theory, and you take the steps needed to confirm or deny it. It's much like the scientific method. You have a theory, and you do experiments to prove or disprove them.

Many people say that science and religion are inherently incompatible. This is untrue, as both use the same method when they are exercised well.

However, what if you came to your conclusion one way or the other, and then wanted proof but weren't willing to take action one way or the other? This is roughly akin to sitting in Iqaluit and waiting for New York city to come to you.

'I'll believe you if you show me.'

'I'll believe if you give me a sign.'

Sound familiar?

Signs don't create belief. Neither does proof offered by another. If you don't believe someone, why would you believe their proof? Unless you are willing to make a concession that you may be wrong or may be right, then no amount of proof in the world will change your belief into a knowledge.

When we talk of our motto 'Deny Ignorance' it does involve some effort on our part. We need to take the action of questioning our beliefs and coming to the proof of their truthfulness or untruth one way or another. We cannot simply sit around and wait for some sign from above to fly out of the heavens and nail us with sudden enlightenment.

The religious watch for signs because they believe them to come, they don't believe them to come because they watch for signs. Too often we reverse the order necessary for learning and growth.

That's my two bits.




posted on Mar, 21 2011 @ 05:38 PM
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reply to post by Vaykun
 



The religious watch for signs because they believe them to come, they don't believe them to come because they watch for signs.


Well said, Vaykun! You've put into words what I've thought but couldn't articulate.

I think I have a new byline (with your permission, of course)



posted on Mar, 21 2011 @ 05:40 PM
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reply to post by TNTarheel
 


Consider it given. I'm glad you took the time to read my post.



posted on Mar, 22 2011 @ 12:31 PM
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reply to post by Vaykun
 


I wholeheartedly disagree with pretty much everything you've said here.

First of all there are two distinct and VERY different meanings to the word "Believe". It can refer to the act of embracing religious faith, accepting something as a true description of parts of reality to which we have no access ("X is a sin." "God is an invisible giant who lives in the sky." "The cracker is REALLY the body of a dead Jewish carpenter."), or it can be a measure of confidence in one's assessment of the material world ("I'm pretty sure jumping off that cliff would result in injury." or "My car is missing and I'm all paid up on it, so I believe someone stole it."). These two mental processes are VERY different and have virtually nothing to do with each other.

When people start to conflate these two different uses of the word, they start running into logical incoherence in their thoughts about religion.

Take your New York example. When the scientist tells me about New York, I would be very skeptical if I had never heard of it before. Heck, I've never been there in real life. It might not exist. However, I've heard many people describe it as being a real physical place they have visited. I can go online and see what purport to be live webcasts of the city. I have seen hundreds of television shows, books, and movies that all describe it in a fairly consistent manner. There aren't any schisms where the Orthodox Newyorkians say "There's a huge green statue on Ellis Island." and the New Reformed Newyorkians say "No, there isn't and you're a heretic for denying Revealed Geography!". The idea is stupid on the face of it -- because anyone can just go there and _LOOK_. It's a _testable_ statement. There is a preponderance of evidence that leads me to "believe", in the second sense, that New York exists as a physical place in consensual reality and that my perceptions of it will likely be substantially similar to that of our hypothetical scientist.

This is not the case with "belief" in the first sense. When one has faith in the non-testable, one is accepting as axiomatic that which most of humanity will disagree with you about in a subject where no testing is possible.

I can say "The gostek distims the doshes!" and you can say "No, it doesn't!" and we'd have _exactly_ the same relationship as those who say "There is no god but Allah!" and those who say "No, there is no god but Jayus!". It's just as meaningless and silly.

Whenever a person finds themselves accepting as "TRUE" that which is untestable, they are choosing to embrace psychosis. Whenever a person accepts as "true" (ie. "this model usefully describes observed reality and is largely in accord with those observations") that which is testable, they are using a kind of shorthand. The best approach is to say "I'm 99.8% sure that the HIV virus causes AIDS.".

And always remember that you are almost certainly wrong about almost everything you know. That's just history.



posted on Mar, 22 2011 @ 01:43 PM
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reply to post by Stunspot
 


I will start by expressing my appreciation for sharing your opinion on this matter. In a mostly respectful manner.

Now see, I'm not sure you entirely got what I was trying to say, which could very well be because of a failing on my part as far as communication comes from, if that's the case then I'll try and remedy the situation.

See, let's take your counter point on New York for instance. You mentioned that it is a thing that can be verified, and because of that, you don't have a schism between New Yorkers over something like the Statue of Liberty because it can be empirically verified with a little action on your part, thus there's no room for disagreements on that matter. Hence, there isn't a group of New Yorkers living in The Bronxs who just doesn't believe in the Statue of Liberty.

Then you move on to say that the issue of belief in a religious thought or doctrine is a non-testable thing, thus cannot be likened to the same thing. If it's non-testable, it can't be proven, and has no likeness at all to scientific method.

You also mention the difference between believing something is TRUE 100% or merely 99.8%. With all due respect, but did you miss the point entirely? In my examples, you have the belief at first, but then you take action because of it. If you take the action to prove or disprove your belief then you must needs have the possibility of being wrong. If you do not try and test it, that's when the problems come about. That's where the blind faith comes in.

If I may go this route, God doesn't want blind faith. He wants us to test his teachers and his teachings. But how exactly can you test this? You can't exactly build a special camera and snap a photo of God's face. Physically speaking, it's non-testable. But the physical way is not the only way. You will of course disagree with this, but then I ask you, have you bothered testing that belief?

There are methods, what ever your belief, to test it's veracity. They are not always of the nature of reaching out and touching. Or seeing with your own eyes.

Take a seed for example. On the outside, you have no way of knowing if it's a good seed. If you were to open it up and see for yourself that the germ is intact, you'd destroy the seed and it wouldn't grow no matter how good it was. But if you plant the seed, water it, tend it, and generally do that which needs to be done, then you'll be able to see if its a good seed. You'll find this out by whether or not it grows after all you've done for it. But if you had opened it to physically see the make up, you'd have killed it.

Now you know it's not a 50-50 chance the seed is bogus, as you've been a gardener for most of your life, so you know that generally this plant type has healthy seeds. But there's always the margin for error. You still take the action every spring. You still test the belief. Eventually you get some bad seeds, but does that mean you rend you hair from your head in anguish that your faith was misplaced and overturn the whole garden in a fit of rage? Not usually. If you did that every time a seed failed to sprout, you'd be a terrible gardener. However you will discard the bad seed.

My point goes to the religious as well. Those of us who believe in something need to be willing to hold it to the fire. There are things, in anyone's life, that are worthless and good for nothing. When we find them, we cast them out, but we don't burn down the whole garden.

These things of spiritual nature are not non-testable. They are just not testable with scientific instruments. You have to use different instruments. Where a microscope will tell you of the existence of cells, something completely beyond your natural senses ability to detect, so to will will a spiritual or moral instrument help you to determine things that are beyond the physical senses abilities to detect.

I'd talk about those instruments, but when I first made the post I said to myself that I would not go down that road, not because they are hard to understand, but because not everyone has taken the time or effort to prove them.



posted on Mar, 22 2011 @ 03:53 PM
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Hi Vaykun.

Thanks for the interesting topic. I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the concept of 'belief' as well. It is a pleasure to read your opinions and you really have laid out your thoughts very well.

I agree with you that the notion of 'belief' does not only apply to spiritual or religious matters. I have found it to appear in everything you do in your life. You never really know anything completely, but you try it anyway and evaluate the outcome. With that in mind, I would like to comment on the following point:


Originally posted by Vaykun
What if you didn't believe and then decided to go to this place call New York just so you could see that he is lying? You had your belief still, but you still took action to prove your belief or disprove it. You were still willing to take action.


The problem with this is that if the person went to New York just to prove the scientist wrong, he would go there with doubt in his mind. Doubt is not belief. Maybe he would go to New York and focus on things which might discredit the man, rather than focus on what could prove him right.

He definitely wouldn't have had the same experience both ways.
Only with the full belief in the scientist would he be able to experience everything and maybe even learn more. With doubt and a motive to prove himself right, he would ignore new discoveries and maybe incorrectly deny what is actually true?



posted on Mar, 22 2011 @ 07:49 PM
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Originally posted by Vaykun
reply to post by Stunspot
 

Then you move on to say that the issue of belief in a religious thought or doctrine is a non-testable thing, thus cannot be likened to the same thing. If it's non-testable, it can't be proven, and has no likeness at all to scientific method.


No, not at all. I was talking about disproveablity. Not "proving truth" but "testing if it's false". There's a world of difference. 100% unassaible Proof of the Truth is simply impossible. But anytime you start talking about something that cannot, even in principle, be tested for falseness, you're talking poetry or nonsense.


Originally posted by Vaykun
You also mention the difference between believing something is TRUE 100% or merely 99.8%. With all due respect, but did you miss the point entirely? In my examples, you have the belief at first, but then you take action because of it. If you take the action to prove or disprove your belief then you must needs have the possibility of being wrong. If you do not try and test it, that's when the problems come about. That's where the blind faith comes in.


But that's not how it works, unfortunately. You can have a suspicion -- you can make a _bet_, but testing does not require a belief of about the outcome.


Originally posted by VaykunIf I may go this route, God doesn't want blind faith. He wants us to test his teachers and his teachings.* But how exactly can you test this? You can't exactly build a special camera and snap a photo of God's face. Physically speaking, it's non-testable. But the physical way is not the only way. You will of course disagree with this, but then I ask you, have you bothered testing that belief?

]There are methods, what ever your belief, to test it's veracity. They are not always of the nature of reaching out and touching. Or seeing with your own eyes.


No, this is, quite frankly, simply wrong. For example, the catholic doctrine of accident and essence. The belief is that the "essence" of the cracker is the flesh of a dead guy, even though the "accident" of its physical form is that of a cracker. There is no test -- not even in principle -- that can tell you anything about the cracker's essence. There no test you can perform that would show that "No, the essence is that of Bugs Bunny or Mitha or Perseus, not Jesus". But people have STRONG beliefs about it, write books about, have deep meaningful experiences in their heads about it, and will take exTREME actions if you were to, say, spit on the cracker or flush it down the toilet.


Originally posted by VaykunTake a seed for example. On the outside, you have no way of knowing if it's a good seed. If you were to open it up and see for yourself that the germ is intact, you'd destroy the seed and it wouldn't grow no matter how good it was. But if you plant the seed, water it, tend it, and generally do that which needs to be done, then you'll be able to see if its a good seed. You'll find this out by whether or not it grows after all you've done for it. But if you had opened it to physically see the make up, you'd have killed it.


That's a... really bad example. What you just described _is_ a test. And it has nothing to do with belief. It's poking it in the ground and _seeing what happens_. It doesn't matter if you believe it's a good seed or a bad one -- you are testing to see if that's the case. And _anyone_ who sees the flowering plant that results can say "Yup, that was a good seed, alrighty." Belief doesn't enter into it.


Originally posted by VaykunThese things of spiritual nature are not non-testable. They are just not testable with scientific instruments. You have to use different instruments. Where a microscope will tell you of the existence of cells, something completely beyond your natural senses ability to detect, so to will will a spiritual or moral instrument help you to determine things that are beyond the physical senses abilities to detect.

I'd talk about those instruments, but when I first made the post I said to myself that I would not go down that road, not because they are hard to understand, but because not everyone has taken the time or effort to prove them.


The problem is that those instruments you fail to describe are notoriously unreliable. When one person tells me that they have unassailable, experiential, subjective 'evidence' that their beliefs are correct, how do you reconcile that with the next guy who has just as strong a claim for the opposite?

The _definition_ of a testing instrument is intimately bound up in repeatability. And if Allah came down on a golden cloud and told me that the Koran is the final absolute truth... what proof do I have that he isn't lying?

*And are you SURE you're comfortable talking about "what God wants"? What's your source on that?
edit on 22-3-2011 by Stunspot because: typo



posted on Mar, 23 2011 @ 12:29 PM
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Originally posted by dyllels

Originally posted by Vaykun
What if you didn't believe and then decided to go to this place call New York just so you could see that he is lying? You had your belief still, but you still took action to prove your belief or disprove it. You were still willing to take action.


The problem with this is that if the person went to New York just to prove the scientist wrong, he would go there with doubt in his mind. Doubt is not belief. Maybe he would go to New York and focus on things which might discredit the man, rather than focus on what could prove him right.

He definitely wouldn't have had the same experience both ways.
Only with the full belief in the scientist would he be able to experience everything and maybe even learn more. With doubt and a motive to prove himself right, he would ignore new discoveries and maybe incorrectly deny what is actually true?


Frankly I'm a bit disappointed at myself for forgetting the power of intent in this whole process. Thank you for the reminder.



posted on Mar, 23 2011 @ 03:20 PM
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reply to post by Stunspot
 


I will reply to you sir, but I seem to be coming down with a illness at the moment and my mind is all in a jumble. When I feel a bit better, I'll continue



posted on Mar, 25 2011 @ 03:16 AM
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off-topic post removed to prevent thread-drift


 



posted on Apr, 19 2011 @ 05:17 PM
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Originally posted by Stunspot
The problem is that those instruments you fail to describe are notoriously unreliable. When one person tells me that they have unassailable, experiential, subjective 'evidence' that their beliefs are correct, how do you reconcile that with the next guy who has just as strong a claim for the opposite?

The _definition_ of a testing instrument is intimately bound up in repeatability. And if Allah came down on a golden cloud and told me that the Koran is the final absolute truth... what proof do I have that he isn't lying?

edit on 22-3-2011 by Stunspot because: typo


This, and also the comment of Dyllels pretty much hit my next point right on the head.

Intent and repeatability. You say that intent shouldn't really be part of the process of testing. In the physical sense and strictly scientific sense, I'd agree with you in part. You don't need to have a belief to go out and do the test or the experiments. As you mentioned,


Originally posted by Stunspot
But that's not how it works, unfortunately. You can have a suspicion -- you can make a _bet_, but testing does not require a belief of about the outcome.


True enough, but the intention or the belief in a outcome can be a important driving factor in getting you to test it. You have to at least be aware of a problem and want a answer before you'll take the steps to test it for yourself.

But intent or belief is not required in something like determining the geological forces that formed a particular valley. You can go out without any intent and see that it was caused by a retreating glacier, or by river erosion, or so on and so forth.

However, in the case of trying to find out what God wants, or if God exists at all, intent and belief are needed.

Lets say we have two people, who attempt to answer this question for themselves. One believes that God is real, but has started to struggle with that belief as of late; he doesn't know for sure, so there's stumbling and doubting cropping up. It's really starting to get to him. So in his life he decides to seek God more earnestly. He believes God's real, and so wants to know it for himself now.

Let's leave the discussion of how long that takes for another answer.

But lets say that over the course of this situation, he gets his answer and his faith is turned to knowledge and all sorts of other good and meaningfulness things happen in his life.

Let's look at the other guy. He's not religious. Never had been. It's all a load of junk. But a friend of his, or a family member, or someone he knows, has been getting on his case for a very long time. A well meaning, if ultimately overbearing and naive person. This person was under the belief that simply asking, with no thought of intention or belief, would guarantee you a answer. (much like I seemed to be leaning towards in the start of the thread, until Dyllels came in and reminded me of something I had already known but seemingly forgot) So this other guy, in a effort to appease his friend and to show him the folly of his way, finally decided to ask god if he's real.

Something along the lines of 'Hey if your real, come prove it to me.'

Nothing happens.

Satisfied, he goes to his friend and finally gets him to shut up. His friend, confused, drops the whole thing.

Now why did this not achieve results? He asked didn't he? He didn't just sit in office and listen to his friend while waiting (or rather not waiting at all) for a angle to show up and prove his friend right, he actually took a little effort to find out. He went to New York so to speak.

Well yes, he did ask, but he wasn't expecting to get an answer. He wasn't offering the benefit of the doubt. His method of asking was roughly akin to walking into a crowded room and saying to everyone 'I want everyone of you who isn't a figment of my imagination or a result of social psychosis to give me 50 dollars. That's right, everyone one of you who is actually real, give me 50 dollars. Don't be shy now.' I know I wouldn't give him any money. Does that mean I'm not real?



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