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Related Words, Beliefs, Background for Choice #4

                   Worldview Theme #1B: Skeptic                       Worldview Theme #2A: True Believer

for summary read these 5 entries in order: skepticism, two types skepticism, scientism, humility and science,  reason vs. faith  

for summary read these 5 entries in order: faith, faith v. trust, conversion, superstition, seekers v. believers

adopting healthy beliefs -- where the evidence for or against buying into a particular belief is not persuasive one way or the other, deciding whether to adopt the belief based on the extent to which it will promote your health and the health of the society you live in. Example: Consider whether to believe in the idea that human beings are all connected to each other in an unseen way. Whereas clearly in the three dimensional world perceived by our ordinary senses human beings are separate, unconnected entities, the possibility exists that humans could be linked in other ways: in higher spatial dimensions, in a spiritual realm, by each being connected to God, etc. Suppose after investigating pro and con evidence related to this belief you are still undecided as to its ultimate truth, but do become convinced that if in fact this were true, and everyone believed it, the world would be a better place -- or at least if you believe it your psychological health will be enhanced (you won’t feel so alone, so alienated, etc.) So you weave this belief and others into your worldview because they have psychological advantages and make you a healthier, more together person and, if others believed them, could make the world a better place -- not because you are unequivocally convinced that they are part of the ultimate, true description of Reality. Similarly you do not buy into other beliefs, not because you’re convinced they are untrue, because you see that they could potentially be unhealthy to you or to society. Example: a young boy decides not to believe that if he behaves badly he will burn in hell because burning in hell scares him and gives him nightmares.  He decides to behave (for other reasons) but not believe in hell and this choice seems healthy.

attitude--a characteristic evaluative orientation and / or response tendency toward something previously experienced or encountered.  The associated evaluation can be positive (like), negative (dislike), or neutral  (no opinion.)  Beyond this evaluation--which may or may not be directly communicated--observing the particular response allows more about the underlying attitude to be inferred. Attitudes form based on inputs from three domains: 1) cognitive (thoughts, beliefs), 2) affective (emotions, feelings), and 3) conative (volition, action tendency or disposition).

beliefs and the brain -- according to the computational theory of the mind, particular beliefs and desires have a physical presence as information stored in the brain given their representation as configurations of links between neurons

brainwashing–a forcible indoctrination to persuade someone to give up certain beliefs, attitudes and practices in favor of those espoused by whomever is behind the brainwashing

cognitive dissonance--refers to the inner tension or perceived incompatibility that one feels from holding conflicting beliefs or behaving in a way that compromises one's deeply held beliefs or values

computational theory of the mind–asserts that the mind arises from the activity of the brain: responding to input from sensors, inscribing information into memory, processing information, doing computation / running programs, sending signals initiating action, etc.  Encoding of information / data patterns and employing the logic needed for computation involve the brain’s one trillion or so neurons (each of which may be connected to up to 1000 other such cells).  The brain activates links (synapses) between neurons.  If each activation is equated with executing a digital instruction, the brain can execute about a ten million billion such instructions every second.  This theory connects the mental world of perceptions, beliefs, desires, thinking, feeling, intending to do something, etc. with the brain and thus provides a solution to the mind–body problem.  In emphasizing the role that natural selection played in the mind’s development, it provides insight into why the human mind is what it is and how it got that way

confirmation basis—the tendency to interpret new evidence so as to confirm existing beliefs and ignore that which might challenge them

conversion--refers to a relatively sudden and drastic change in attitude or beliefs, especially religious beliefs

credulity--readiness or willingness to believe, gullable where eagerness is extreme; see also credulous

credulous -- refers to a person who is ready to believe, often on slight or uncertain evidence. Thus incredulous refers to one who is not credulous -- that is someone who is skeptical.

critical thinking skills—generally refers to skills / ability to take facts and form  judgments.  More specifically it may refer to the skills / ability to do an analysis (breaking down into component parts) of a problem or situation based on facts, how they may be related, cause and effect, logical reasoning, forming and testing hypotheses, etc. And do this to rigorous standards: with enough competence, experience and  knowledge to tackle a problem or case, in an error-free manner , free of wishful thinking, with integrity not prejudice or bias, etc.. Depending on the problem or situation as much or more synthesizing (putting together) may be required. All of this is done to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion, solution, or judgment that fairly represents the situation, is plausible, and meets other tests—most critically it eventually stands up to others’ judgment /appeals, attempts to reproduce, etc. And in this way gains acceptance

cult–those who believe in the dogma and practice the rituals set forth by a charismatic founder or promulgator of something that is supposedly worth believing in

debunk--to challenge and expose as false; see also debunkers

debunkers -- scientific skeptics who actively challenge what they consider to be untrue and attempt to disprove it.

demur--to object or take exception

dialectic method—testing beliefs, searching for truth or the right way through discussion / dialogue.  Socrates used the approach, emphasizing expressing doubt / questioning.  Hegel emphasized a struggle of opposing forces / demands / viewpoints (idealistic vs.  practical) and sought to explain history in terms of synthesis / compromise between extreme positions.

doctrine--something that is accepted and taught; see also dogma /dogmatic belief

dogma / dogmatic belief  -- a belief that is firmly held based on the authority of others, but is actually incompatible with existing facts or based on faulty premises or reasoning . In his book Shadows in the Cave, G.D. Martin distinguishes between dogmatic ‘true believers’ and ‘real believers’. He writes, “According to dogma, the final truth is is therefore finite...Real Belief is being open to change and movement, and to the infinite possibilities of the universe...True believers are orthodox. Real believers are inquiring heretics. True believers feel awe at the grandeur of their own thoughts. Real believers feel awe at the immensity of the unknown... Dogma is credulous. [Real] Belief is skeptical, but forever open-minded.”

empiricism -- the belief that all knowledge comes from experience. As part of the foundation of science it stresses that scientific knowledge ultimately should be based on observation and experiment.

epistemology--the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge, its nature, where it comes from, the methods used to obtain it, and the limits faced by humans as they attempt to broaden knowledge.  

faith -- firm belief, complete confidence and trust in something for which there is no proof, often associated with religion and typically linked more to the one's  feelings / emotions  than one's rational / analytical side. Some give this concept a deeper meaning.  Christian  philosopher Paul Tillich connected it with "ultimate concern" as in what should be the ultimate concern to which one's life should be devoted.  In his book Stages of Faith, James Fowler views finding faith as ultimately finding "an overarching, integrating and grounding trust in a center of value and power sufficiently worthy to give our lives unity and meaning." 

faith vs. trustthe terms, often used in reference to believing in something or someone, are similar except that faith is typically used in a spiritual context, whereas trust is employed in relationships—especially interpersonal ones 

false balance / both sidesism—refers to journalist efforts—some perhaps a relic of the old USA Fairness Doctrine rescinded in 1987—to even- handedly present both sides of controversial issues, when in fact one of the sides has little or no real case that stands up to an evidence-based approach. To attain something like a balance of arguments—where none is possible they can weigh extreme minority views far too much and downplay consensus, or simply report false claims or misleading arguments that one side presents. Some feel this approach to journalism—along with out of control social media posts-- is a major cause of the epidemic of misinformation sweeping the USA in 2020.



humility and sciencetwentieth century scientific advances–in quantum mechanics and chaos theory–underscore that both a fundamental doubt exists in nature and that scientists' ability to use physical laws and make accurate predictions of events is inherently limited.  Not only do all scientific measurements have an uncertainty (or built-in error) based on the instrumentation used to make them, but quantum mechanics' uncertainty principle asserts that it is meaningless to attempt to, without error, pin down the exact values of various physical quantities (such as the position and speed of an object).  Chaos, in the words of John Briggs and F. David Peat, "as a metaphor has a built-in humility that previous scientific metaphors did is as much about what we can't know as it is about certainty and fact."  

iconoclast--one who attacks tradition, commonly accepted beliefs, customs, symbols    

judgment -- the process and / or result of forming an opinion or drawing a conclusion based on consideration of the available evidence or knowledge

justification of belief -- This involves 1) believing that according to some standard or by some criterion a statement is actually true, 2) having evidence or data to support the above conclusion, and 3) evaluating the certainty with which the belief is established. In this latter regard, if the evidence or data is complete and fully applicable or relevant to the standard or criterion, the belief can be accepted with certainty; if the evidence is only partially complete and / or not fully applicable or relevant, some doubt should accompany accepting the belief, if it is accepted at all. And, of course, the standard or criterion used should be subjected to similar scrutiny, or at least identified when promoting the belief.

nihilism -- an extremely skeptical orientation that denies traditional values and beliefs have any validity and feels that existence is senseless and useless

pseudoscience -- something that seemingly has a scientific basis, but, upon closer investigation, does not. Examples of pseudoscience include beliefs in 1) horoscopes, astrology and that human personalities are shaped by stars in the zodiac, etc. 2) magical powers of crystals, 3) an ancient technically advanced civilization of Atlantis, and 4) extra-terrestrial beings in flying saucers are visiting Earth. Each of these -- and many other similar beliefs -- have been investigated using scientific methods and thoroughly debunked as lacking in truth, in useful application or both. Many pseudoscientific beliefs persist because 1) people uncritically believe in them without doing their own analysis of the merits; 2) many promoting such beliefs profit from doing so.

quantum quackery--scientific skeptics have used this term in dismissing New Age enthusiasts ongoing attempts to connect the microscopic subatomic realm of quantum physics with human consciousness and thought. Caltech Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell Mann's term was "quantum flapdoodle"--an apparent reference to what he saw as the futile hand waving and doodling of New Agers (including a few reputable scientists who he felt should know better!) in their attempts to make connections where no evidence or possible mechanisms exist for making them.  Critics less gifted in finding clever words have simply charged promoters of what they consider to be pseudoscientific nonsense as urging others to believe in magic.

rationalism -- a philosophical orientation that links finding ultimate truth to employing reasoning

reason vs. faith—essentially the distinction here is between belief supported by facts and concepts, ultimately linked to observation and experience, which fit together in a coherent way as part of a useful, logical framework, and belief for which there is no such basis, but instead only one’s unshaken feeling of confidence, trust, and willingness to believe.  When one’s knowledge and experience is limited, belief can be extended based on trusting the authority of someone else, rather than doing one’s own investigation into the rational basis for belief.  Sometimes, there is no way to rationally or scientifically decide and anyone holding such belief holds it through faith.  In this way faith can be connected with belonging.  Some see faith as a valid basis for knowledge, others say it provides no such basis.  Some see reason as threatening faith--meaning as one increasingly relies on it, one’s reliance on faith diminishes.  

reproducible results–results obtained by careful adherence to, and documentation of, experimental or other procedures so others can repeat the work and verify them.  Obtaining such results is a goal of scientific investigation.

scientism--an ideology that asserts that 1) the methods of the natural sciences should be used in all areas of investigation including philosophy, humanities, and the social sciences, and 2) only these methods can fruitfully be used in the quest for knowledge. Those who believe this can be very arrogant!  

sectarian--beholden to a particular sect (e.g. religion, political party, faction, etc) and thus typically narrow and limited in character or scope, often bigoted.

seekers vs. believers--In his book The Seekers, Daniel Boorstin makes the distinction as follows. "...we are all Seekers.  We all want to know why.  Man is the asking animal. And while the finding, the belief that we have found the Answer, can separate us and make us forget our humanity, it is the seeking that continues to bring us together..."    

skepticism--classically it is the doctrine that having true knowledge in some areas is impossible, and that in other areas  knowledge is always accompanied by some degree of uncertainty and doubt.  A modern definition, from Michael Shermer, has it as "the fine art and technical science of understanding why rejecting everyone else's reality and substituting your own almost always results in a failed belief system."     

skepticism, two types of -- it can be useful to divide skepticism into scientific skepticism and religious skepticism, the former addressing science or rational based claims, the latter concerned with faith based claims.

superstition -- a position or belief, often with roots in cultural or religious tradition, held despite what could be characterized (by someone not holding the belief) as lack of supporting justification or evidence

testability -- refers to the idea that for a statement or hypothesis to be considered scientifically acceptable it must be testable -- that is, conceivably it could be shown to be false. Here are two similar statements: 1) the entire universe is permeated with an undetectable pure substance: the quintessence;  2) all space is permeated by a substance that is at absolute rest (meaning all motion is relative to it): the ether.  The first is not a scientific statement because it is not testable. (The second statement was most notably tested in the famous Michelson-Morley Experiment of 1887).

useful fiction–even if you mostly don’t belief in something, if believing has psychological advantages then for you this belief can be a useful fiction.  It's related to the practice of adopting healthy beliefs

value judgment -- comparing either something concrete (person, object, etc) or something abstract (quality, principle, etc) to some idealized standard. A value judgment is what bridges the gap between “what is” and “what ought to be”. Closely related is the act of valuing, which can be thought of as choosing (from alternatives) and taking appropriate action to acquire something (concrete or abstract) or hold onto it.

values -- abstract qualities, principles, beliefs, or aspects of behavior that a person or a whole society holds in high regard after making value judgments.

values articulation -- clarifying values and both 1) affirming them in terms meaningful to others, and 2) exploring the implications of practicing and applying them -- and being able to do both of these in relation to different cultural traditions or within the framework of various diverse belief systems / worldviews.

values clarification, steps in the process of valuing -- 1) privately prizing and cherishing; 2) publicly affirming beliefs and choosing one’s behavior (when appropriate); 3) choosing from alternatives;4) choosing after consideration of consequences; 5) acting on one’s beliefs; 6) acting with a patter, consistency and repetition

wishful thinking–involves interpreting events / actions of others, decision-making and forming beliefs based on what one desires to be true (rather than what is true) or what is the pleasing to imagine (rather than facing the perhaps grim?) reality behind a situation.   A related orientation–involving deluding oneself and similarly lacking in rational analysis / real world grounding–is "wishing makes it so."  This simplistic, fairy tale, magical, childhood fantasy way of dealing with problems is to be contrasted with the planning / hard work / repeated trials before success that adults solving real problems more typically are faced with.                    



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