Saturday, October 12, 2013

Belief and Knowledge

In the past two days, I talked about belief, knowledge and facts.

Now, I said that knowledge is a belief that has been proven.  But most people, like our friend Professor Garfield, think that "belief" is the exact opposite of "fact".  But knowledge and belief can't be polar opposites, because people believe facts.  The two must be related somehow.

Here's the problem that everyone runs up against.  How can you know if you know something?  At what point can you confidently say "this is a fact" or "this is a belief"?

For example, let's take the statement "the Great Wall of China exists".  What proof can I present, to show this is true?  Can I ever come up with proof that is so convincing that the world's greatest skeptic will accept it?

Proof
Skeptical Response
 
 
I saw it in Mulan.
That's just a movie.
I read it in a book.
The book is fictional.
My friend visited the Great Wall.
He's lying.
He took pictures.
Photoshopped.
I went there myself.
That was just a dream.
I saw the Great Wall personally.
You hallucinated.

If you play the "what counts as good enough proof" game, you can disprove pretty much anything, besides for "I am currently thinking".  Everything I see and experience could just be a vivid hallucination, brought on by an evil demon.  Or like the movie The Matrix, I could be living in a detailed computer simulation, without knowing it.

I tried to resolve the problem, by saying you can have false knowledge and true knowledge, in the same way that you can have false beliefs and true beliefs.  What do you readers say?  Am I just a charlatan?  Is there a satisfactory way to describe the relationship among truth, knowledge and belief?  Is there a standard of proof that is sufficient to remove all doubts from a situation?

Bonus mind-warcking question: How do you account for true knowledge of false things, like the statement "all unicorns have horns"?

7 comments:

GameOverTown said...

hahahahaha I had completely forgotten about that Professor Garfield video.

C said...

How can you know if you know something? At what point can you confidently say "this is a fact" or "this is a belief"?

I guess when you can take your skeptic along with you on a plane to China and show him the Great Wall, make him feel it, take pictures of it himself. Even if he couldn't afford it or wouldn't want to go, if he did go, he would be able to see and touch it for himself. Anyone and everyone in the world would. There would not be one single instance where a visitor went to the spot where the Great Wall is located and didn't see it standing right in front of them, unless they are blind or anything.

Or like the movie The Matrix, I could be living in a detailed computer simulation, without knowing it.

Well, there is a very serious theory that this is actually the case; that we're a computer simulation developed by an advanced people who themselves are simulations of another, higher race; and that we ourselves will be able to simulate an entire universe, which in turn will simulate ... you get it.

And even if we are, it doesn't matter, because the Wall would still exist in our frame of reference. It would be no more real than the sky, but to us, the sky is real.

I tried to resolve the problem, by saying you can have false knowledge and true knowledge, in the same way that you can have false beliefs and true beliefs.

I agree.

Some people think that "belief" is the exact opposite of "fact"

No, opinion is the opposite of fact. Belief is not opinion. You covered this already. Opinion cannot be either true or false.

Is there a satisfactory way to describe the relationship among truth, knowledge and belief? Is there a standard of proof that is sufficient to remove all doubts from a situation?

Truth may be absolute. The truth might be that God exists. The truth might be that the Great Wall exists.

I think you believe something based on the knowledge (proof) you have.

And the standard or proof is that something is verifiable, by anyone and everyone. Everyone must be able to see and touch the Great Wall. Everyone must be able to take two apples, and two apples, and make four apples.

God is not verifiable, but you said the aim of this series is to correct this, so yippee.

Bonus mind-wracking question: How do you account for true knowledge of false things, like the statement "all unicorns have horns"?

Hmm. Because we have created and agreed upon our definition as a being with one horn? What unicorns are you talking about, anyway? Eastern, Western? Classical, Gothic, modern? The unicorn varies among cultures, though, just like God. There is the western unicorn, who is either horselike or deerlike, with horse's tail or a lion's tail, with cloven or solid hooves, and is usually white. There is the Quilin, a more dragony-feliney incarnation. There is the Kirin, who is more deer-like. And then there are unicorns with red horns, tri-color horns, unicorns with tree-like horns, unicorns with scales, and unicorns with fur. Some with fangs. Et cetera. Same thing with dragons. Some are heavy-bodied, some are serpentine. Some have wings, others don't. Breathe fire, don't breathe fire. Good, naturey creatures, or angry beasts of destruction. 3 toes, 4 toes, 5 toes. 6 limbs or 4 limbs.

Hmmmm this sounds familiar.

Breanna;) said...

Most people don't believe in God because you can't touch or see him, but just because you can't touch or see him doesn't mean he isn't there.

When I got saved and he entered my heart, I could feel it, I knew right when he saved me, because of the feeling I got, it was unexplainable, I never had been so happy in my life, the whole time I prayed I could feel his presence, it changed me completely, I no longer felt like the same person.

So I believe he's real now, because of my own personal experience that I had.

Lets look at it this way we can't touch or see air, but we know it's there! How do we know?? Because we breathe it, we've felt it, we can feel it when we inhale and exhale!

What I'm saying is, is belief in something not only can be based on what you see or touch, but it can also be a feeling that you have or get that causes you to believe in something.

Now that's just the way I look at, you may think differently, but I thought I'd share it with you.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad, Michael, that you put this topic into such a way that shows that there really is truth and false. Like I have true beliefs, but there are some people around me who say that I have false beliefs. Like someone told me that God didn't write the Bible, because it has a lot of violence. To be honest, I think the only reason that some people say the Bible is not God-written is, because the Bible does not agree with their own personal agendas. The same with people, who say God does not exist, because then they would have to be true to God's Word and laws. The point is that there is truth and there is lies. Common sense will tells us what is wrong or right, if we also refer to God's laws. There are some people in this world that just feel they know everything and they tell other people that they are fools to believe in God or the Bible. I remember when I used to be an atheist, I wanted to shatter everyone's faith and belief, so they could lose their hope. I wanted them to be like me. And that is the deal with a lot of people out there. But they don't say it. Thanks, Michael. God Bless everybody.:)

C said...

Lets look at it this way we can't touch or see air, but we know it's there! How do we know?? Because we breathe it, we've felt it, we can feel it when we inhale and exhale!

But we can measure air. Air is tangible, air is matter, air is little atoms that we can chemically account for and manipulate.

Not everyone feels the effects of God the way you do, otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion. I'm a Christian, I believe in God, but I have never felt him the way others have.

The problem lies partially in Christians who think that if God exists, there must be proof of it. And similarly, Christians think that non-Christians think that if there's no proof of God, then he can't exist. I believe that these are flawed assumptions.

but it can also be a feeling that you have or get that causes you to believe in something.

But that is not proof, because it's not consistent for everybody. It's not verifiable. And when I say that, I don't mean that you're crazy. I believe you. I mean that your feeling doesn't manifest the same way in everyone, consistently. Thus it's not proof, and never can be.

To be honest, I think the only reason that some people say the Bible is not God-written is, because the Bible does not agree with their own personal agendas.

No, people say that because God did not physically sit down with a pen and write it. He may have inspired the Bible, he may have told prophets what to say, but in the end, it was men - mere mortal, flawed men who took their writing instrument and recorded written word.

Do you follow the Bible word for word? Every single commandment? I don't think you do.

I remember when I used to be an atheist, I wanted to shatter everyone's faith and belief, so they could lose their hope.

And here's the problem. Being an atheist does not mean one has to be rude or intolerant. If you or anyone thinks that not believing in God means you have to degrade others for it, the fault is your own. If you think Christians are the only people who can be good people and do good things and show love and respect for others, then you have a horribly shallow mindset.

And keep in mind that just because one is not a Christian doesn't mean one is an atheist.

Breanna;) said...

I believe there's good in everyone, I know a lot of people that are genuinely good people, that are neither Christian or atheist. I wasn't saying that my feeling is proof I can hold up to people and say: Hey God is real because I felt him. No what I meant was it's proof to myself that he's real, I believe because of my own experience. I just wanted to tell what and why I believe. I'm sorry if it sounded dumb or didn't make sense, I tried to explain it the best I could.

William D said...

Well, that's disturbing... -pokes at computer- I don't think it's creating an alternate universe simulation for me... :O