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June 5th, 2020
This episode is dedicated To Sam McRoberts who contributed to these thoughts in conversation. Sam is a bestselling author of Screw The Zoo and expert in SEO. You can connect with Sam on Twitter @Sams_Antics
Do facts require belief? Do we believe in facts because they are true, or are facts beyond the need for belief by virtue of the fact that they are undeniable, confirmed aspects of reality?
Is it possible for someone to admit something is a fact but also claim that they don’t believe in it? Or is this a contradiction?
The connection between fact and belief is not straight forward. The space between these two words and the way these concepts interact is contradictory and problematic.
The untested assumption ossifies into belief.
When the process of approximating towards a more accurate, more nuanced answer ceases, the assumption becomes stagnant in the mind. But if we still operate on that faulty assumption, that is, if our actions are still taken in accordance to an untested assumption, then does it remain an assumption? Or does that unproven premise harden in some way?
An assumption is defined, after all, as: a thing that is accepted as true without proof.
So what do we call an assumption that is taken very seriously? A listed synonym for the word assumption is belief.
And this is a fair definition of what a belief is: a thing accepted as true without proof. That thing of course, is a bit more cherished than any plain old assumptions. No one ever talks about their cherished assumptions. But cherished beliefs are the pride and joy of many pontificating people.
An untested assumption ossifies into belief when our emotional attachment to that assumption is strong enough to override any challenge of evidence to prove that assumption wrong.
This is a dangerous process, one that deliberately abandons verifiable truth due to feelings. Why this can become so dangerous is because reality does not operate within the preferences of our beliefs. The forces that be coldly play out, and if our feelings and by extension, our beliefs are at odds with the way things play out, we can be left in extremely disadvantageous positions. To ignore reality is to make an enemy of it, one that will not return boon nor benefit without the sacrifice of the beliefs which fuel such disregard.
To understand better reality, we are best served by a process that we fear the most: a process that treats our cherished beliefs with impartial, and even brutal challenge. It raises the question: why hold on to something at such a cost? Is it for the actual assumption, or does it have more to do with the feeling we associate with the belief? If the emotional resonance of the belief were suddenly removed, if one were suddenly able to examine the points of their beliefs without a single shred of positive feeling, nor negative feeling, would such beliefs still be convincing?
No one feels anything particularly negative nor positive about gravity, and yet reality plays a very convincing hand to ensure we all believe in gravity, despite our inability to thoroughly explain it.
Many of us expect this to operate in reverse. We expect beliefs that lack evidence to bend and shape reality. The disadvantageous position often arises when reality has taken a shape so different from the one imagined by our beliefs that the consequences are physically impossible to ignore. We do ourselves a great service by engaging in the painful process of examining our beliefs ruthlessly, fine-tuning them, or abandoning them for better assumptions, a process that slowly brings us closer to the way things really are.
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