i AM VERY SORRY ABOUT THAT LAST POST. IT WAS NOT WHAT I INTENDED TO SEND. I SUPPOSE OPERATOR ERROR CAUSED ITS BEING SENT PREMATURELY.  IN THE FORM IT WAS FIRST SENT, I FEAR THE IMPRESSION IT CREATED WAS ANYTHING BUT WHAT I INTENDED. I HOPE YOU WILL HAVE PATIENCE WITH ME AND READ THE POST I INTENDED.

 1.  What standards do we require before we say "Well that proves it."?

2. Why do we believe so many things for which there is slim proof?

3. Why do people seem so willing to try to persuade others regardless of how puny there proof might be?

2 things stimulated these questions.  First, the justifiably eminent psychologist, Jerome Bruner, argues that one of the defining proclivities of humans is the acquisition of beliefs. Here he is not speaking about religious beliefs in particular. Beliefs come in many hues.

The 2nd stimulus is the song "Mormons Just Believe" from the play, The Book of Mormon.  The structure of the song is a series of outlandish contentions, each followed by "But Mormons Just Believe." Why highlight Mormons?  As I listened, I did not find their beliefs to be extraordinary, in the sense that they were different in credibiity from the sub-beliefs underlying so many beliefs, religious and non-religious that we cling to.

Humans hold religious beliefs despite the fact that few humans have bothered to use even the search strategies they would compel themselves to use were they buying a home. Imagine how embarrassed we would be were our friends to realize that when we last hunted for a place to live, we looked at only one home. Yet, among all of the believers in religion I have encountered, few have any in-depth knowledge of more than 1 religion despite the fact that there have been dozens of religions seeking new believers throughout human history. So many of us rush to believe.  At minimum, should all of us not be required to read the provocative Varieties of Religious Experience by William James before we make a commitment to a particular religion. At least then we might have some claim to using due diligence before locking in to a particular set of religious views.

However, it would be a mistake to see religion, belonging off all by itself in a realm where humans excercise an unusual proclivity for belief with the most minimal standards for proof of the belief. It might be embarrassing, as it surely is for me, to reflect about the origins of the political beliefs we have chersihed at various times in our lives. Loyalty to capitalism as a system of institutions, assumptions, and motivations is rarely the fruit of a careful analysis of the extent to which the system produces some form of generalized social capabilities.

Socialism is imbibed without caution repeatedly by those of us who wrap ourselves in an embarrassing romantic fallacy, choosing our belief in socialism's efficacy based on assumptions about human nature that we would be hard pressed to prove using even the standards we would expect from a toothpaste that claimed it could take our teeth to hitherto unseen levels of whiteness in 30 seconds of brushing. We so want humans to be the people we wish they were. We dodge the proof problem by allusions to how wonderful people would be if only policy were what we propose.

What does it matter whether I am correct?

Let me propose a rule, or, if you prefer, a guideline: If you share my skepticism about what humans generally require before saying "I believe.", we should not try to persuade others of our belief to the extent that proof is flimsy. In brief, persuade away when your proof is thick and broad. However, when, as is more typical, it is thin and/or narrow, please be curious and ask questions.  Show respect for differences between proof and hope by selective listening.

1. Are the barriers between hunches and dependable beliefs murky?

2. Must humans rely on weak proof in selected areas of our experience to be able to function?

3. Can humans permit themselves to think about the extent of the proof they have before they try to spread their beliefs?

Posted
AuthorM Neil Browne