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Belief is a discontinuous function.

  1. Feb 11, 2005 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    It is interesting to consider the dramatic discontinuity in belief as a function of logic combined with faith. Believe in nothing without proof and life is simple. However, this requires that much of human experience is ignored, which as a human I find illogical, narrow, and limited. Science may have a very long way to go and unknowns will always remain. So what of claimed experiences can be believed? As is evident from the many religions of the world and their roles in guiding cultures and even political systems, it is clearly human nature to accept certain things on faith. On the other hand, even the most devout follower of any faith suffers from doubts. In a strangely paradoxical way, as much as we want to believe, we also want proof. This is a cruel dichotomy of human nature.

    What can be real in this universe and beyond? Does an omniscient, omnipotent, eternal, or nearly eternal being exist? If, based on four thousand years and more of history, one chooses to believe this as the case, then the limits for “real” are undefined. Would any limits apply? Most of humankind believes that a God could and does intervene in human affairs. For example, the average Christian or Muslim accepts that they might encounter an angel, or some other divine being. Most would not expect this as a normal part of human experience but they do believe that it’s possible.

    A person from any one of many mainstream religions accepts that the delivery person at the door is probably employed by UPS, but he could be an angel. Granted, it’s extremely unlikely that an angel would knock on the door but it could happen. Now, if you ask, could the UPS person really be an alien? Of course not! But there is a very slight chance that he could be an angel. It’s possible because logic allows for this given the beliefs that we accept. In fact, it’s even possible that the almighty himself could knock on the door. By many traditional beliefs it could happen. So why would an otherwise rational person accept such extreme possibilities? How do we get from UPS personnel to angels, or the almighty, or even type IV beings (Michio Kaku et al), for that matter? [Also, I can't help but notice, which is more logical, that an angel is knocking, or that ET is knocking?]

    How does one make the jump from consideration, to belief, and then to all of the ramifications of that belief? A little consideration reveals that beliefs are dramatically discontinuous. In a moment of acceptance, maybe a moment defined by a feeling, one word, or maybe by one sentence that pushes one over the edge into belief, we go from UPS personnel, to the possibility of angels, in a heartbeat. It is not evident right away but eventually all of the ramifications for any belief come spilling out. In a similar fashion, one look in a telescope unseated humankind as the center of the universe. One equation or two resulted in two generations [and more] of scientific debate about live-dead cats and parallel universes. A few more equations gave us time dilation, worm-holes, black-holes, and even serious discussion of closed time-like curves – time travel.

    Of course the great irony of modern physics is that it hopes to simplify things, but it appears that existence isn’t a simple thing. So in less than a page of text and equations we were propelled from the clockwork universe of Newton, and into the ultra-strange worlds of Quantum Theory, General Relativity, and now M Theory with its full range of potentials for added dimensions, parallel universes, and even the possibility for supreme beings that can leap from universe to universe. Are you certain about who’s knocking at the door? At least four thousand years of human experience and one hundred years of physics say that you can’t be sure.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2005
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  3. Feb 12, 2005 #2

    Chronos

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    Quantum reality puts the spook back into science. The classicists of the 19th century were slavishly commited to determinism. Even Einstein could not accept that God might be capricious, and enjoy shooting dice in her spare time. Quantum physics has freed us from the notion of being imprisoned in a wave front of causality. Reality should be taken with a grain of salt. While usual, it is not always as it appears to be. The possibility of glimpsing the world in ways that do not obey causality is not an abstract possibility, it is virtually guaranteed.
     
  4. Feb 13, 2005 #3
    Invoking the old 'Socratic Method' to question beliefs Ivan? EXCELLENT! :biggrin: We can all never get enough of that!

    Your peeve with that fickle thing called 'belief' finds an excellent home with me Ivan. Having spent a good portion of my sentence in 'Jesusland', I have had a whopping load of the rhetorical nonsense that disguises itself behind that word and the provocative superstition that it employs. Because of the environment I had been immersed in I was forced to take up etymology as a hobby in order to correct the discrepancies between the connotation and denotations of words employed by these evangelical yahoos. The word 'belief' has an interesting little history. Originally it was from the druidic word ge-lief where ge- is an associative prefix and -lief means to hold true. So as the word belief evolved it originally meant something like to hold true that which it was in association with(please excuse my ad hoc defining). So there we go, whenever we 'believe' something, we hold it to be true regardless of wether it is or not. It truly is used in many strange sophic ways here in 'Jesusland' and I find that to be absurd, idiotic, stupid, and in some ways dangerous. At best its' use can quite often be an irrational justification to try to clarify the ambiguity of the uncertainty in life and to purport something to be true when evidence is lacking. At worse it can be an insidious device to mislead people to do things that they would otherwise would not(I cite the Iraq invasion as a case in point). So whenever possible I agree that invoking the 'Socratic method' to scrutinize our beliefs is probably the best way to contend with this very irrational and exploitable component of being human. Otherwise we'll succumb to superstition and I hope we all know where that will take us! :yuck:

    As for the possibilities of ET, I am a more open to that than I am to angels, demons, or other beasts of mythology. ET seems to fit the modern paradigm more nicely. But I still don't know wether that shadow man I saw when I was a kid was delivering a UPS package, pizza, or what????? :confused:

    Hey Chronos, you got to watch out for those guys with the warrants! :rofl: BTW, what happened to that post, to inappropriate for the forum?
     
  5. Feb 13, 2005 #4

    Chronos

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    It was off topic.
     
  6. Feb 13, 2005 #5
    I found it to be humorous and relevent. Mostly humorous!

    Though I dont think Ivan took to it very well.
     
  7. Mar 11, 2005 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    Some of the craziest ideas that I have ever heard come from physics and not the ET crowd or religion. And that's the point really. Strangely enough, all three subjects lead us to similar possibilities. Also, just as the true believers are led to dramatic conclusions due to a simple leap of faith, a few simple equations can likewise change the world. It seems that radical change comes from simple ideas in any case.

    Note also that in spite of the initial recoil if asked, any good Christian or Muslim believes that an angel could be knocking on the door. Many don't want to admit it right away, interestingly enough. When they hear the words it bothers many of them. I don't believe that, they want so object, but they can't justify the objection. [btw, I'm a Christian].

    Here is one to consider: Could the bible be the story of Type III or Type IV beings in conflict? How would we know the difference? Note that the idea of these advanced "beings" is not the product of ET fanaticism or religion, this idea comes from highly respected scientists.
     
  8. Mar 11, 2005 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    Also...considering the alleged UFO-Bible connection, I have caused a few ET believers some real discomfort when I suggested that if he landed in their back yard, ET might get off the ship and hand them a Bible. They really don't like that idea! :biggrin:
     
  9. Mar 11, 2005 #8

    Chronos

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    Well put Ivan. I agree entirely. The conclusion is not nearly so important as the path you follow. Leaps of faith are the essence of discovery. I only insist upon connecting the dots and questioning every step of the way. The universe does not freely yield her secrets. For that, we should be grateful. I too am a Christian - and a Muslim. If you part the veil of myths superimposed by human agendas, they speak the same truths.
     
  10. Mar 11, 2005 #9

    Ivan Seeking

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    I agree but not entirely [edit: maybe I should say that I agree with the way that you put things but with provisions]. Consider that even physics is not to be "believed". We have models for the physical world but we can never know if we have captured the essence of what's real. Do you believe in our physical models or merely their ability to predict the correct results?

    I think most people need to believe in some things. Some people seem to be happy with not "believing" anything without proof [which I question in fact], but many others need to have some greater purpose for life and living. I'm not so sure that it is mentally healthy to always doubt everything. I have never seen this bring anyone happiness. I have seen quites a number of engineers and scientists who found themselves in an emotional crisis due a lack of beliefs; including myself and a number of friends over the years. For me the key was to realize that we will never have the proof needed for most deeply held beliefs. At some point we all make a leap of faith - to believe or not.

    Is it the position of science that it is best to believe nothing? Where is the proof? I see that many of us not only desire but need beliefs. There is a difference between the criteria for personal beliefs and those needed to justify a scientific proposition. Of course, this is not to say that one should believe just anything that comes along. And of course, therein lies the problem: What to believe?
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2005
  11. Mar 11, 2005 #10
    I think that humans tend to believe, because it is easier to believe than to observe, and withhold judgement and continue to allow for all possible explanations; while remaining joyous, or even calm. I think that belief is the "premature ejaculation" of conscious observation, that actually ends the engagement of consciousness; and obliviates awareness. It is like saying that the conclusion drawn in one moment is so specious, that there will be no other moment with a clearer understanding, or greater connection; that the believer is fully evolved, finished, perfect. I think that belief is a too convenient ending, to the process of understanding the manifestations of spirit; or the nature of the Universe.
     
  12. Mar 12, 2005 #11

    Chronos

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    A fine proposition, and one with which I disagree. Ivan might be tired of being targeted by a flood of illogical arguments, but I am not. Fire away. Shall we start with relativity is wrong, or some other philosophical nonsense?
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2005
  13. Mar 12, 2005 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    Chronos, I think you might be misunderstanding Dayle Record's meaning here. As I read it Dayle is saying that "belief" in anything impedes further learning; that in a sense it closes the mind to greater possibilities.

    To a point I agree however beliefs can change. Mine certainly have. Still, once I believe something I must be less receptive to other explanations or ideas I would think.
     
  14. Mar 12, 2005 #13

    selfAdjoint

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    What all of you have been calling "belief" sounds more like what I was taught in church to call "faith". Belief comes from empirical experience; perhaps Whitney Steiber really beieves what he experienced, but no-one can know that. But millions, apparently have faith that Streiber is telling the truth, and no-one can doubt that.

    I am not a systematic skeptic, but I do like that old motto of the royal Society; don't take ANYTHING just on somebody's word.
     
  15. Mar 12, 2005 #14
    Interesting that you bring up science as yet another paradigm that insites belief in its followers ive noticed this too, ive had quite a few conversations with die-hard scientists who believe that the universe is a random happy accident, that consciousness is simply a bi-product of evolution and at its heart an illusion of the mind, that life is about passing on dna and nothing more etc etc. Worryingly some pf these people seem to opperate under the illusion that science actually proves these beliefs, but thankfully not all.

    I dare say the majority of the people on this board hold the same very beliefs, which oddly goes sharply against the central idea in science of hard testable proof being a necessity of belief.
    I do see this contradiction at the heart of almost every scientist or follower of science i come across, which leads to be to think that people are either...
    A. predisposed to believe in something (even if that belief contradicts the central rules of their chosen paradgim),
    or B. that people dont take nearly enough time out to pick apart their own views and the real motives that lie behind them. And as a result simply fill their life with information that supports and seems to work well with their early formed/natural biases.
     
  16. Mar 12, 2005 #15
    Another thing ive noticed on this board, that may not be completely relevant but it just occured to me.. infact chronos has just drawn my attention to it...
    Its that the majoirty of people who hold a fascination for science seem chronically unable to look at subjects from other angles in comparison to other groups of people. In fact i see this at the core of probably over half the arguments/debates that take place in this section of the forum.
    Someone will come along with a philosophical slant on a given subject, and the majority
    (unable to switch modes of thinking to the new philosophical viewpoint) will get flustered when unable to do so and lash out with a bit of derision.
     
  17. Mar 12, 2005 #16
    Physicist Wins Spirituality Prize
    Thu Mar 10, 7:55 AM ET
    Top Stories - Los Angeles Times

    http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tm...310/ts_latimes/physicistwinsspiritualityprize

    "Charles Townes, the UC Berkeley professor who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in physics for his work in quantum electronics and then startled the scientific world by suggesting that religion and science were converging, was awarded the $1.5-million Templeton Prize on Wednesday for progress in spiritual knowledge."

    "The co-inventor of the laser, Townes, 89, said no greater question faced humankind than discovering the purpose and meaning of life — and why there was something rather than nothing in the cosmos."


    And consider this New Scientist article "Omega Man" by Marcus Chown>http://www.dc.uba.ar/people/profesores/becher/ns.html

    "He shattered mathematics with a single number. And that was just for starters,...."

    "Gregory Chaitin, a mathematics researcher...... has shown that mathematicians can't actually prove very much at all."....... has found that the core of mathematics is riddled with holes. Chaitin has shown that there are an infinite number of mathematical facts but, for the most part, they are unrelated to each other and impossible to tie together with unifying theorems.

    "Most of mathematics is true for no particular reason," Chaitin says. "Maths is true by accident."*

    "This is particularly bad news for physicists on a quest for a complete and concise description of the Universe. Maths is the language of physics, so Chaitin's discovery implies there can never be a reliable "theory of everything", neatly summarising all the basic features of reality in one set of equations."
    ============
    "The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth." — Niels Bohr.
    ------

    belief? usually depends on what dimension i'm in, Alice...

    "what's up is down,
    what's down is up,
    you'll find out
    when you reach the top"
    -Dylan
     
  18. Mar 12, 2005 #17

    Ivan Seeking

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    By one popular interpretation at least, faith is defined as belief without proof. This was my thinking at least. On the other hand, I think the difference in this sense is really between belief and knowledge. I can choose to believe my wife without empirical evidence but instead base my confidence on twenty years of marriage. But if I witness an event I know something as fact. I would never argue that my beliefs are all based in fact. Some are based on leaps of faith. I surely see no reason to make a leap of faith when it comes to ET abductions; unless it happens to Tsu.

    In factg I go one step further. I think all beliefs are based on leaps of faith. At the least we get into Descarte and the Matrix when it comes to absolute certainty.
     
  19. Mar 12, 2005 #18

    Chronos

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    I think most beliefs are gradually adopted - probably more like a hop of faith in most cases. A belief is logically and factually consistent with the life experience of the believer. On the other hand, I don't believe that most beliefs are absolute. The whole point of a belief system is to provide a basis to interpret and react to future events - hopefully leading to a favorable outcome. When you have repeated success following a given pattern, it is hard not to 'believe' in the underlying concept. Is honesty the best policy? Perhaps not in every conceivable case, but I do believe it works better than the alternatives most of the time.
     
  20. Mar 13, 2005 #19

    Ivan Seeking

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    That's interesting Chronos. And I love your hops of faith! :rofl: But I see your point. No doubt we evolve in this sense as we grow and gain more life experience.

    What about spontaneous religious conversions and other life changing spiritual experiences?

    Also, regarding the original post, it seems that there is usually unexpected fallout from any hop of faith. I noticed that this fallout is often implicit and may only be realized later after some reflection. So in this sense it seems that we can easily hop without looking. For example, if one accepts any particular religious belief he or she may spend a lifetime learning about the ramifications of that belief.
     
  21. Mar 13, 2005 #20
    If aliens land and start handing out bibles, we are all in some really deep trouble! Just ask the native americans about their experience with people handing out bibles! :surprised

    As for faith or belief, it seems to be a necessary given that none of us have infinite time or energy to thuroughly and systematically examine everything. I like to think of that as being one of the main constituants of the 'Fundamental Existential Dilemma'.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2005
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