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Getting Real : Faith No More

What You Believe But Cannot Prove

from steam - Friday, November 03, 2006
accessed 974 times

There is a fascinating site:

Where a bunch of thinkers are asked to comment on some things they think but cannot prove. This is one of the interesting articles.

I found the below article well expressed because I find the arguments for athiesm far more compelling than anything else. But reading a guy like Richard Dawkins grates a little on me. Because of the disdain he holds for those who have "faith". While fundamentalism has a tremendously negative effect on the world, at the same time I know a lot of great people for whom their "faith" seems to have a positive impact on their lives, and those of others. As a general rule of thumb the more "lukewarm" that faith seems to be, the better (although on an intelectual level I find that more iritating, because they claim to believe something, but follow through on very few of the implications of their supposed belief). Anyway I like this guys article about the social advantages that can come from a certain level of irrational belief.

Psychiatrist, University of Michigan; Coauthor, Why We Get Sick

I can't prove it, but I am pretty sure that people gain a selective advantage from believing in things they can't prove. I am dead serious about this. People who are sometimes consumed by false beliefs do better than those who insist on evidence before they believe and act. People who are sometimes swept away by emotions do better in life than those who calculate every move. These advantages have, I believe, shaped mental capacities for intense emotion and passionate beliefs because they give a selective advantage in certain situations.

I am not advocating for irrationality or extreme emotionality. Many, perhaps even most problems of individuals and groups arise from actions based on passion. The Greek initiators and Enlightenment implementers recognized correctly that the world would be better off if reason displaced superstition and crude emotion. I have no interest in going back on that road and fundamentalism remains a severe threat to enlightened civilization. I am arguing, however, that if we want to understand these tendencies we need to quit dismissing them as defects and start considering how they came to exist.

I came to this belief from seeing psychiatric patients while studying game theory and evolutionary biology. Many patients are consumed by fears, sadness, and other emotions they find painful and senseless. Others are crippled by grandiose fantasies or bizarre beliefs. On the other side are those with obsessive compulsive personality. They do not have obsessive compulsive disorder; they do not wash and count all day. They have obsessive compulsive personality characterized by hyper-rationality. They are mystified by other people's emotional outbursts. They do their duty and expect others will too. They are often disappointed in this, giving rise to frequent resentment if not anger. They trade favors according to the rules, and they can't fathom genuine generosity or spiteful hatred.

People who lack passions suffer several disadvantages. When social life results in situations that can be mapped onto game theory, regular predictable behavior is a strategy inferior to allocating actions randomly among the options. The angry person who might seek spiteful revenge is a force to be reckoned with, while a sensible opponent can be easily dealt with. The passionate lover sweeps away a superior but all too practical offer of marriage.

It is harder to explain the disadvantages suffered by people who lack a capacity for faith, but consider the outcomes for those who wait for proof before acting, compared to the those who act on confident conviction. The great things in life are done by people who go ahead when it seems senseless to others. Usually they fail, but sometimes they succeed.

Like nearly every other trait, tendencies for passionate emotions and irrational convictions are most advantageous in some middle range. The optimum for modern life seems to me to be quite a ways towards the rational side of the median, but there are advantages and disadvantages at every point along the spectrum. Making human life better requires that we understand these capacities, and to do that we must seek their origins and functions. I cannot prove this is true, but I believe it is. This belief spurs my search for evidence which will either strengthen my conviction or, if I can discipline my mind sufficiently, convince me that it is false

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from Rain Child
Monday, November 13, 2006 - 00:31

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
Actually, it just occured to me that there is something I believe that I cannot prove.

I believe in cell memory. I believe that our experiences are not only recorded in our brains, but in our DNA. Not the whole experience of course, but something of it. Some essence. I have often had the feeling that I could remember or relate to life in another time and place, or there are other things, like pregnancy, which felt familiar and very old, as though I had done it before a long, long time ago. I do not believe it is reincarnation. I believe that some of the (especially physical and emotional feeligs) memories of my ancestors ahve been passed to me in my genes. That is why I think it does matter who your natural parents are, and that orphans have a right to know. Cell memory might also be helping us as a species with the way we think faster and further as time goes on. Or maybe not. As I said, I have no proof, just a feeling.
(reply to this comment)
From Ne Oublie
Monday, November 13, 2006, 02:35


Belief denotes in its very meaning something which one accepts in absence of proof. As such isn't this whole thread - starting with the title - rather redundant?(reply to this comment

From Rain Child
Monday, November 13, 2006, 02:46

Well I don't know...look at evolution, a lot of people believe it, a lot of people don't, a lot of people say you can prove it, a lot of people say you can't. Even if something is provable, you can still come up with a reason why you don't accept that proof, and believing is a choice.(reply to this comment
From Ne Oublie
Monday, November 13, 2006, 03:23

Exactly my point, RC! Evolution would not require belief if it were empirically provable.(reply to this comment
from Survival of the Fittest
Saturday, November 11, 2006 - 02:13

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
Whenever I get a package of plain M&Ms, I make it my duty to continue the strength and robustness of the candy as a species. To this end, I hold M&M duels.

Taking two candies between my thumb and forefinger, I apply pressure, squeezing them together until one of them cracks and splinters. That is the "loser," and I eat the inferior one immediately. The winner gets to go another round.

I have found that, in general, the brown and red M&Ms are tougher, and the newer blue ones are genetically inferior. I have hypothesized that the blue M&Ms as a race cannot survive long in the intense theater of competition that is the modern candy and snack-food world.

Occasionally I will get a mutation, a candy that is misshapen, or pointier, or flatter than the rest. Almost invariably this proves to be a weakness, but on very rare occasions it gives the candy extra strength. In this way, the species continues to adapt to its environment.

When I reach the end of the pack, I am left with one M&M, the strongest of the herd. Since it would make no sense to eat this one as well, I pack it neatly in an envelope and send it to M&M Mars, A Division of Mars, Inc., Hackettstown, NJ 17840-1503 U.S.A., along with a 3x5 card reading, "Please use this M&M for breeding purposes."

This week they wrote back to thank me, and sent me a coupon for a free 1/2 pound bag of plain M&Ms. I consider this "grant money." I have set aside the weekend for a grand tournament. From a field of hundreds, we will discover the True Champion.

There can be only one.

(reply to this comment)
from Steam, what are you? Hot Wet Air?
Saturday, November 11, 2006 - 01:07

WTF makes you think you can post an article like this and get away with it on this site? Watch yourself or you'll dissipate!!!!
(reply to this comment)
From steam
Saturday, November 11, 2006, 07:40

I would watch myself except it is to late and I already dissipated.(reply to this comment
from steam
Friday, November 10, 2006 - 07:46

Can someone post a crude or irritating provocative comment here so we can make this little post a little more lively. It hurts my poor self esteem when my brilliant work is ignored.
(reply to this comment)
From Rain Child
Friday, November 10, 2006, 15:32

Steam, I thought a lot of this post. I was impressed with it. I refrained from commenting because I'm trying to process it, and figure out my own thoughts on the subject. So although it got me thinking, I knew for my own sake I shouldn't have an opinion on this just yet. But I was relieved at the honesty of this and of those great minds, and I'm still going through my own process of figuring out where I stand on things which cannot be proved and I appreciate that by posting this, you are letting us know that it's okay to consider these things deeply. So, no, it was not ignored. I just have nothing brilliant to add.(reply to this comment
From steam
Friday, November 10, 2006, 16:00

Thanks. I was just joking around because I have over time noticed that posts that do not attempt a balanced look at things (i.e intense and emotional tend to get a lot of "action". On that note it was funny becuase last night South park happened to do a show all aout this topic. they had everyone "worshiping" Dawkins in the future for his focus on logic, but breaking into different logic factions and killing each other. They said his great lesson was that it is not enough to have thought everything through and be right you have to make sure to be a jerk about it. (reply to this comment
From Ne Oublie
Friday, November 10, 2006, 07:50

I think a better motivation for doing so is that the other topics are filling up and therefore taking longer to load...(reply to this comment
From steam
Friday, November 10, 2006, 14:28

(reply to this comment
from Mixed up
Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - 04:33

I was just speaking to my brother...we were watching a show about heavy metal vs. Christianity...but he's a Christian who likes heavy metal, and I'm a non-Christian who hates heavy-metal...Any thoughts?
(reply to this comment)
From Samuel
Wednesday, November 08, 2006, 07:02


Just because he's a Christian doesn't mean he likes good music!

lol, j/k. I'm sure heavy metal's fine, I just don't really care for it. Give me some Toby Keith, or LeAnn Rimes, or Shania Twain.

(reply to this comment

From Lord of the Leeches
Wednesday, November 08, 2006, 07:32

Fukc TK and leeeann rhames, give me Insane Clown Posse, Slayer, Atreyu, Nine Inch Nails, Glenn Danzig, Disturbed, Black Sabbath, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Staind, Helloween, Lacuna Coil, Lamb of God, Queens of the Stone Age, Kottonmouth Kings, Def Leppard, Slipknot, Rammstein, oh and so much more....

Country is for modern day white, homophobic, bible humping, environment fucking, bud guzzling, war loving christian fundamentalist, skanky trailer-trash brainless voters.... like Britney.(reply to this comment
From placebo
Wednesday, November 08, 2006, 09:11

Staind, Disturbed, Def Leppard, Rammstein????'re taking the mick aren't you?(reply to this comment
From Shaka
Wednesday, November 08, 2006, 11:48

Those bands fucking rock. Especially Rammstein and Disturbed. I've seen them both live and they are the shyyyyiitt!!! (reply to this comment
From Oddman
Wednesday, November 08, 2006, 11:03

I like Rammstein and some of Disturbed too. Shoot me. (reply to this comment
From Ne Oublie
Wednesday, November 08, 2006, 07:20

Yea, yea, we've already heard about your taste in music, Sam.(reply to this comment
from Removed
Monday, November 06, 2006 - 11:47

Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
[Removed at author's request]
(reply to this comment)

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