Belief as Cop Out

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Physics Guy
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Re: Belief as Cop Out

Post by Physics Guy »

I like the idea of recognising a range of degrees of confidence. I think it's only smart to distinguish different degrees. To me "know" represents the highest confidence, and "believe" a confidence that is lower, but not enough lower to make any practical difference. One is about as prepared to act on a belief as one is upon knowledge, I think. Still I think it's worth distinguishing believing from knowing because it indicates a possibility that one might change one's mind in future. If I say I know something, in contrast, I'm declaring that I can't imagine anything changing my view.

I don't think I'm just making up those distinctions as my personal dialect. I think that's what people usually mean by belief versus knowledge in practical dealings in the real world. Juries believe witnesses or do not believe them. Jury members aren't supposed to decide that they know a witness is telling the truth. It's important to the whole system of trial by jury that juries don't have to be certain beyond all possible doubt but only beyond reasonable doubt. The practical consequences of the trial are usually just as severe if the jury believes as they would be if the jury somehow actually knew, but it's still important to recognise that juries are not, and are not supposed to be, infallible.

So I can't vote in favour of banning "belief" as a term or a concept. I think it makes a useful distinction about real situations that often come up in practice.

I agree, though, that people might use "I believe" simply as a declaration that they have closed their mind on a topic. Worse, people might even say, "I believe" smugly, either because they reckon that closing one's mind is admirable or because they're delighted to have this neat formula for avoiding difficult thoughts. That's a cop out, all right.
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Kishkumen
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Re: Belief as Cop Out

Post by Kishkumen »

Physics Guy wrote:
Mon Apr 05, 2021 3:20 pm
I like the idea of recognising a range of degrees of confidence. I think it's only smart to distinguish different degrees. To me "know" represents the highest confidence, and "believe" a confidence that is lower, but not enough lower to make any practical difference. One is about as prepared to act on a belief as one is upon knowledge, I think. Still I think it's worth distinguishing believing from knowing because it indicates a possibility that one might change one's mind in future. If I say I know something, in contrast, I'm declaring that I can't imagine anything changing my view.
That's a good description of how those terms are used in relation to each other.

So I can't vote in favour of banning "belief" as a term or a concept. I think it makes a useful distinction about real situations that often come up in practice.
Nor would I vote in favor of such a thing. I am not into banning at all. I am not into policing other people's language. What I am doing is grappling with my own feelings and thoughts on these topics. You might say that this exercise is solipsistic, but I hope that my struggle is a useful reference point for others in their thoughts on these topics. If I manage to use the words belief, believe, and know less than I otherwise might have, you will now have a good idea why, but this is not about me playing tyrant or even fantasizing about that.
I agree, though, that people might use "I believe" simply as a declaration that they have closed their mind on a topic. Worse, people might even say, "I believe" smugly, either because they reckon that closing one's mind is admirable or because they're delighted to have this neat formula for avoiding difficult thoughts. That's a cop out, all right.
Thank you for articulating that much more succinctly and effectively than I did.
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Gadianton
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Re: Belief as Cop Out

Post by Gadianton »

"Hon. For. Rev. Kishkumen" wrote:Obviously, they would separate out scientific knowledge from spiritual knowledge and prioritize the latter, no?
Brother H. from my home ward, one of the youth leaders, bore his testimony once in a way that I think represents Chapel Mormonism as a whole. He said the truths we find in scripture are truth, just like what they get in a science lab. Truth is truth. It's the formula we pushed as missionaries and found in Institute manuals. The Mormon Baconian analog of experiment on a seed and confirm it. When Brighan Young said the Saints claim all truths as the truths of Mormonism, he clearly meant all the truths aside from creative redefinitions of truth, such as the whopper my modern phil. teacher at BYU came up with about a Kierkegaardian testimony. You are correct that DCP argues frequently with Gemli over varieties of truth. Carpentry isn't science, per DCP, and okay, let's say he's right. Then that means you're confined to bearing a relativistic testimony. When I know the Church is true without a shadow of a doubt, I'm really saying something that has has no analogy in carpentry or science, nor does it have anything to do with either, or any implications for either. A secondary move could be to prioritize spiritual knowledge, as you say, and make it top of a hierarchy. The Kierkegaardian testimony is just that kind of higher (non) truth, if the "religious" mode of living is prioritized over others; but it isn't so in a way that Dennis Horne would care about nor any Mormon I've ever known offline. What "I know the Church is True" means has nothing to do with what anybody saying it thinks it means. This is the basic stuff of the New MI. And the problems mount with every book DCP reads presenting empirical evidence for NDE's, not to mention that 99% of Mopologetics are straightforward empirical efforts. And, even if we do allow the Mopologists to have a prioritized spritual realm, it's unstable. Great, they've escaped Gemli, but now what do they do about the other horn of that great raging bull that they provoke, Rod Meldrum? The Mopologists have published essays declaring that Heartlanders are not allowed to have spiritual confirmation of their geography models. So basically, sure, I guess we can say that the apologists have a highly regulated epistemology that ensures they are always right, depending on their adversary at the time. But it's not very meaningful.
Offensive, in my view, is to say I know something when in fact I really don't
I totally agree with that part.
I am saying that I prefer that they share what is their experience over telling me what they believe or claim to know.
okay, that does make sense. And yes, my friend's stories do flesh out why he is the person that he is, so you're right, it's better than just hearing stuff he skimmed from right-wing emails though I hear plenty of that; it's just that all the stories are servicing the ideology.

"If I have to say, "I believe," and leave it at that, it may be better just to say nothing."

That's interesting, because if I use no qualification, I probably mean it to be a more forceful opinion. But okay, there could be better terminology as you point out -- 'point of view' etc.
It really blows my mind that Joseph Smith started a church, and I have trouble not attributing it to the mass ignorance of humanity that he did so. First we start with his ignorance, and then we move on to the ignorance of the many people who followed him. And now we have millions of people who are ignorant who have for one reason or another ended up in this organization, paying their money to an edifice constructed on a foundation of gaping ignorance...
From here to the end you have so many good insights I'm having trouble keeping up. I will come back to some of it though. A rube-goldberg machine that does nothing! yeah, that's the new MI verision I'd say -- The rube-goldberg machine that does nothing, and that's exactly what makes it so fantastic. It's like one of those Greek myths, the guy thirsting and only having a sieve to drink with, but a more complicated version of that, fatalistic, but not immediately so. To tie up my longer initial remarks, the apologists only dabble in different theories of knowledge, they aren't committed like the new MI. They are as epistemically simple as Gemli, and all that stuff is just to throw sand in his face during a skirmish they plan to drag out, mostly by other means.
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Re: Belief as Cop Out

Post by Res Ipsa »

Increasingly, I think about things like this through a conceptual framework built on something like: our understanding of everything is the result of brains telling stories to themselves. I don't claim that it's true, but it's a useful framework for me.

From that perspective, I guess I'd translate "I believe" as "this is part of the story my brain is telling itself, even though I can't point you to any hard facts or evidence."
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” -- Voltaire
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Kishkumen
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Re: Belief as Cop Out

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Gadianton wrote:
Mon Apr 05, 2021 3:51 pm
Brother H. from my home ward, one of the youth leaders, bore his testimony once in a way that I think represents Chapel Mormonism as a whole. He said the truths we find in scripture are truth, just like what they get in a science lab. Truth is truth. It's the formula we pushed as missionaries and found in Institute manuals. The Mormon Baconian analog of experiment on a seed and confirm it. When Brighan Young said the Saints claim all truths as the truths of Mormonism, he clearly meant all the truths aside from creative redefinitions of truth, such as the whopper my modern phil. teacher at BYU came up with about a Kierkegaardian testimony. You are correct that DCP argues frequently with Gemli over varieties of truth. Carpentry isn't science, per DCP, and okay, let's say he's right. Then that means you're confined to bearing a relativistic testimony. When I know the Church is true without a shadow of a doubt, I'm really saying something that has has no analogy in carpentry or science, nor does it have anything to do with either, or any implications for either. A secondary move could be to prioritize spiritual knowledge, as you say, and make it top of a hierarchy. The Kierkegaardian testimony is just that kind of higher (non) truth, if the "religious" mode of living is prioritized over others; but it isn't so in a way that Dennis Horne would care about nor any Mormon I've ever known offline. What "I know the Church is True" means has nothing to do with what anybody saying it thinks it means. This is the basic stuff of the New MI. And the problems mount with every book DCP reads presenting empirical evidence for NDE's, not to mention that 99% of Mopologetics are straightforward empirical efforts. And, even if we do allow the Mopologists to have a prioritized spritual realm, it's unstable. Great, they've escaped Gemli, but now what do they do about the other horn of that great raging bull that they provoke, Rod Meldrum? The Mopologists have published essays declaring that Heartlanders are not allowed to have spiritual confirmation of their geography models. So basically, sure, I guess we can say that the apologists have a highly regulated epistemology that ensures they are always right, depending on their adversary at the time. But it's not very meaningful.
It's completely incoherent, in fact. Mopologetics has always been incoherent. No one ever did the intellectual work necessary to make the edifice. Christianity started out in the same way, and there were as many views as there were groups, until photo-orthodoxy started to get a handle on the situation and imperial power gave the church the might to crack down on "heretics." There is nothing more or less legitimate about Meldrumite type views compared with LGT and so forth, but the Mopologetic apparatus definitely has an advantage in its relationship with LDS Church authorities. The questions regarding Meldrumite views are not so much whether they work in the abstract but what their ramifications are. That is where I think it is worth the worrying. If it could be shown that Meldrumite views are more attractive to people who want to effectively exclude indigenous peoples by narrowing the applicability of the Book of Mormon to one region where very few indigenous people live, then I see that as a problem for a church that aspires to be a global organization.

Overall, what I would say about the above is that we have a huge problem of category errors, and most people are completely unaware of the problem. Truth simply is one thing to many, and it doesn't matter whether we are talking about soteriologies or geoscience, truth is truth. Of course this doesn't really work at all, and anyone who convinces others that it does may as well prepare for resignation letters at the same time. What makes the gemli thing so interesting to me is that the Church has effectively left the apologists unarmed to deal with this. Ancient philosophers and theologians had workable strategies for dealing with these problems, and Joseph Smith basically jettisoned them because he was completely ignorant of the matter. Now his ignorance has become others' gospel, and a large portion of the members are predictably becoming atheists as a result.

The move to atheism may continue to be a more popular option as compared to the past. After all, we live in a materialistic age, and so everything needs to demonstrate tangible results in order to fend for itself in the marketplace of ideas and methods. I remember a couple in my home ward that left the LDS Church when few members showed up to help them move out of the house they sold. Now, a Mopologist might say that they really didn't understand the Gospel, but maybe they understood to the extent that the Church equips them to understand it. Similarly, and I think I have mentioned this before, I remember overhearing leaders in a ward gushing about how many members in the unit had escaped from poverty and were now living in the suburbs. The bishop concluded with, "That's what the Gospel is all about." I could hardly contain my laughter.

I mean, that's what it's all about except all of those times it isn't, right? Seriously, if you peg your spiritual system on material benefits, you are in for disappointment.

It is odd to think that Smith talked about the difficulty abandoning the idea that the plates could bring material wealth. The lesson had to be re-learned later in Salem, Massachusetts. And those are just a couple of what could be endless instances in which Mormonism carries you back to trying to get a hold of those gold plates and then despairing when you can't find them, and then leaving. You've got to keep believing in the gold plates without wanting to hold them. If you hold them, they are not the plates; they only represent the plates. The real plates are with the angel, or in the cave in the hill.

Plutarch has a story in his essay on the face of the moon in which the god Cronus resides in a resplendent cave far west of Britain and is tended by daemonic spirits while he dreams and mumbles prophecies of fate from the mind of Zeus. I would say that this story is as real as the plates and the story that is behind the plates. Everyone tells a story of the place they got their unique version of the "truth" from, and it used to be the case that such a mythological framing story was just taken for granted. I am not saying that you had to have one, but no one would be surprised when you provided one. Plutarch was one of the great writers of the early second century CE. A Platonist. If he could tell these stories, surely Joseph Smith can.
For Cronus sleeps confined in a deep cave of rock that shines like gold--the sleep that Zeus has contrived as a bond for him--and birds flying in over the summit of the rock bring ambrosia to him, and all the island is suffused with fragrance scattered from the rock as from the fountain; and those spirits mentioned before tend and serve Cronus, having been his comrades what time he ruled as king over the gods and men. Many things they do foretell of themselves, for they are oracular; but the prophecies that are greatest and of the greatest matters they come down and report as dreams from Cronus, for all that Zeus premeditates Cronus sees in his dreams and the titanic affections and motions of his soul make him rigidly tense until sleep restores his repose once more and the royal and divine element is all by itself, pure and unalloyed.
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Gadianton
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Re: Belief as Cop Out

Post by Gadianton »

Rev wrote: Mopologetics has always been incoherent. No one ever did the intellectual work necessary to make the edifice.
It's hard to disagree with that, Reverend. I must warn you that you might get sent an email if you keep talking like this.
Now his ignorance has become others' gospel, and a large portion of the members are predictably becoming atheists as a result.

The move to atheism may continue to be a more popular option as compared to the past. After all, we live in a materialistic age, and so everything needs to demonstrate tangible results in order to fend for itself in the marketplace of ideas and methods.
Well, it kinda depends on what you mean by "tangible results". "Proof" for "positive claims" made by one who holds the "burden" leaps to the mind as the usual example of what we mean by "materialistic age" in context of Gemli. Accepting bears and antelope, but not accepting gnomes or angels is the most superficial kind of example. Far more important would be shifts in our moral and legal understanding, rooted in materialistic conceptions of what is good and bad for people. Humanism already pervades Mormonism, it's got that going for it, but it's with such a perverted load of fundamentalist baggage that in practice it doesn't seem to matter. If a person's choices cause no material harm to another, as a society, we increasingly feel as if we should support it. An advancing "secularism" is far more important than atheism. The term "nones" capture better our climate of non-belief than "atheists" does, anyway. I don't think the nones are the pinnacle of social progress, however.

I would describe myself as an atheist. Pour the religious people of the world through two filters: filter 1 catches all of those who more or less support equality for men and women, same-sex marriage, racial equality etc., and filter 2 catches all of those who more or less avoid alternative medicine, faith healing, water witching, telepathy with aliens etc.. From there, whatever is left of a person's religious views will most likely end up being a non-issue for me. In fact, when I meet people who agree that far with me, it becomes increasingly difficult to find serious disagreements on topics that fall within the domain of religion.
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Kishkumen
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Re: Belief as Cop Out

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Gadianton wrote:
Tue Apr 06, 2021 1:02 am
Well, it kinda depends on what you mean by "tangible results". "Proof" for "positive claims" made by one who holds the "burden" leaps to the mind as the usual example of what we mean by "materialistic age" in context of Gemli. Accepting bears and antelope, but not accepting gnomes or angels is the most superficial kind of example. Far more important would be shifts in our moral and legal understanding, rooted in materialistic conceptions of what is good and bad for people. Humanism already pervades Mormonism, it's got that going for it, but it's with such a perverted load of fundamentalist baggage that in practice it doesn't seem to matter. If a person's choices cause no material harm to another, as a society, we increasingly feel as if we should support it. An advancing "secularism" is far more important than atheism. The term "nones" capture better our climate of non-belief than "atheists" does, anyway. I don't think the nones are the pinnacle of social progress, however.

I would describe myself as an atheist. Pour the religious people of the world through two filters: filter 1 catches all of those who more or less support equality for men and women, same-sex marriage, racial equality etc., and filter 2 catches all of those who more or less avoid alternative medicine, faith healing, water witching, telepathy with aliens etc.. From there, whatever is left of a person's religious views will most likely end up being a non-issue for me. In fact, when I meet people who agree that far with me, it becomes increasingly difficult to find serious disagreements on topics that fall within the domain of religion.
Nones, of course, are often of the "spiritual not religious" variety. They may believe in fairies, elves, chakras, and what have you, but they don't want some old white dude telling them what to do (God as channeled by a human white-haired guy). In my mind, the framework here is still materialistic because the entire machine that mediates the experience is materialistic. From participating in a community, one moves into a revenue stream through a website marketplace or what have you. Buying the book. Paying for the seminar. In a sense it is the opposite of humanistic in that there is little that is human about it. Take away the impersonal cyber network and what do you have? Nothing.

This place is in its own way a fine example. I have no clue who "Doctor Scratch" is. Or Everybody Wang Chung. I get that there are people behind these entities, but their humanity is hardly available to me. Same with most other people here. The people I have talked to on the phone or met in person are real people to me. They are human beings to me in every sense, and, honestly, most of them hardly post here anymore. The humanity of others often becomes the target of our ire. Those who are safest are those who share as little of themselves as possible beyond a narrowly construed, heavily curated, performance of themselves. If you step back and watch what is going on, it almost looks like what is under attack is humanity.

I would be in favor of resisting this anti-humanity, whatever forms it may take.

Declarations of belief and unjustified claims of knowledge, to the extent that they are abused, are part of the problem.
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Themis
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Re: Belief as Cop Out

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Kishkumen wrote:
Sun Apr 04, 2021 1:58 pm
We can't "know," but if we are unwilling to signal our commitment to invest in the community by making these declarations, then we are not good prospects for belonging in the community. This is one reason why the more adamant, vocal, and fanatical members tend to find themselves at the core of a community. If assertions of these kinds are necessary to belong truly, then tripling down on them, or, more precisely, becoming a virtuoso in making such assertions, makes you a real pillar of the community.
I disagree. The people in history who have invested heavily in their community that resulted in positive change have not been those who just go along with what their community always demanded. Those who always made the declarations their community demanded tend to be the sheep, not the shepherds.
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Kishkumen
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Re: Belief as Cop Out

Post by Kishkumen »

Themis wrote:
Tue Apr 06, 2021 2:45 pm
I disagree. The people in history who have invested heavily in their community that resulted in positive change have not been those who just go along with what their community always demanded. Those who always made the declarations their community demanded tend to be the sheep, not the shepherds.
I think we are talking about different things.
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Gadianton
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Re: Belief as Cop Out

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It makes sense that 'nones' would cover the spiritual but not formally religious, but I didn't have those in mind when I used the term. I admit I find some of these people incredibly annoying. And now that you've brought it to my mind, yes, there are non-religious communities that tend to attract free-floating spiritual types, and I do think this a serious part of the new landscape. I brushed elbows with such a place after I'd been out of the Church for a while, where many considered themselves 'pagan", and it's a huge step up from Mormonism if for no other reason than it's more than just a money machine; but, not for me. Okay, I get that Mormonism is oppressive in terms of gender equality. Now that you are pagan, you can worship goddesses, and this is some of what I saw. But inventing a spiritual order to the universe that gives me access to whatever I felt I was denied in mainstream religion is also kind of lame.

I admit I don't really follow you on the Marxist angle. Some form of impersonal technology will always mediate, phone conversations also and somebody is profiting here. People role-playing and being what they aren't, fantasizing, hiding from others is something that's always been with us. In fact, funny enough, I wasn't thinking about this part of your post when I wrote the paragraph above this one, but that organization I rubbed elbows with is called the SCA, where basically it's a bunch of people who pretend they're living in medieval times and have sword fights and mock courts, there's a fake king and everybody defers to the guy -- for some reason it's fun pretending to be a peasant deferring to a fake king but would be pretty horrible if it were real. and it's not done satirically. And this is all very real and predated the Internet by a long shot.

While getting enough bread to people who are hungry should be our most worthy goal, people aren't fulfilled by bread. It's apparently, part of our humanity to want to be something above the drudgery of sustaining ourselves materially. Perhaps some of those "real" people who don't post here find other venues where ideas are exchanged in a more ordinary fashion?
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