Where do beliefs come from? #2 of 5

Plain and simple, beliefs come from experience.

Some like to make it complicated.  They want to distinguish between beliefs that are based on reason and facts, and those that are not.  Is that important, if all beliefs come from experience?  Are one person’s experiences more legitimate, or worthy than another’s?

Scientific beliefs are of a certain kind.  They are based on experiences designed to replace things we “just believe” with fact- and reason-based beliefs about the natural world.  Should all beliefs be valued for the degree to which they are like scientific ones?  That was the topic of the CSPAN Book TV program entitled, “War of the Worldviews: Science Vs. Spirituality.”


Do scientific beliefs play a more significant role in our lives than religious, political, or educational ones?  Or is it the other way around?

All of us “just believe” certain things about religion, politics, and education; and these often play a more powerful role in our lives than reason- or fact-based beliefs; even though, from a scientific worldview, fact- and reason-based beliefs are more highly valued.

That is why, for example, educators debate the effectiveness of different teaching methods, using research findings to make their arguments.  That is also why cable news channels use fact checking to point out when a person on the other side said something that is provably false.   Both sides believe audiences are persuaded to their side, when they prove someone on the other side said something that is false.

In the meantime, teachers just teach the way they believe they should — research findings be damned.  They “just believe” many things about how they should teach.  And politicians say things that are provably false because those statements reflect what they “just believe.”

Although cable news channels fact-check to “prove” someone’s beliefs on the other side are false, by now they should know that:

(1)  People watching their channel share their beliefs.  If they didn’t, they would be watching the other channel.

(2)  Independents don’t join their side because a person on the other side said something untrue.  Hearing about a falsehood on one side only reminds them that politicians and pundits on both sides say untrue things all the time.

(3)  Conversely, independents don’t watch a channel because of its truthfulness.  They watch as long as the channel’s beliefs coincide with their experience.  As soon as they don’t, they change channels.

The experiential basis for beliefs is beautifully illustrated in this Jeffrey Brown PBS Newshour interview with four Iraq veterans.  Each shared his/her beliefs about the war.  Clearly, their beliefs emerged from their different experiences before, during and after serving in Iraq.  Plain and simple, their beliefs came from their experiences.


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