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Belief a Conscious Choice?

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  • #61
    Originally posted by Sparko View Post
    Huh? nobody ever said they simply chose to believe something with no evidence. Everyone will need reasons to believe something. But when you take all of the evidence together, you have to choose whether to believe the evidence or not. Sometimes this is just automatic and happens in an instant, which is what I believe Jed was saying. It just "clicks" - and sometimes you have to sit down and weigh the evidence and decide.


    I assume you believe in evolution. Did you just wake up one day and believe in it without any evidence? Or did you read and study the evidence for and against it and decide that the evidence for it was more compelling than the evidence against it, and then chose to believe in evolution?




    Choosing because you believe the evidence is a conscious choice. Other people look at the same evidence and may decide not to believe it. So the evidence doesn't force you to believe.
    That's not belief but consilient facts coming together to form a plausible explanation for the development of life. If religion is just consilient confirmation based on evidence, in what way is it belief?

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    • #62
      Originally posted by whag View Post
      That's not belief but consilient facts coming together to form a plausible explanation for the development of life. If religion is just consilient confirmation based on evidence, in what way is it belief?
      In the way that belief is trust in the evidence. Facts without interpretation are meaningless, and the same facts do not necessarily lead to the same interpretation. You may not LIKE that observation, and certainly I agree that some interpretations are more valid than others, but having a string of facts does not equal an explanation for them. We chose which explanations are valid, and defend them accordingly- a belief.

      On religion, there are many people who offered different interpretations of evidence I gave about the existence of God. Those alternate interpretations ranged from ignorant rants from teenagers to thoughtful, intelligent critiques. Some of them, I didn't have a *better* answer to(at the time), because the conclusion seemed ambiguous. Yet, I chose to believe, based on evidence that, while not 100% absolutely certain, was convincing enough. Once that choice was made, and in the absence of any convincing, contradictory evidence, I see no reason to choose otherwise.

      But I hear this argument often from non-believers who claim that facts are absolute and lead to one clear conclusion without argument, and I remain a skeptic on that issue. After all, I teach and love mathematical theory, but there *are* ambiguities in math- so what hope does the rest of the world have? Do you really believe that facts are sufficient or inherent in the universe without human interpretation? If so, who put them there(I know, it's a trick question...)?

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      • #63
        Perhaps someone new looking in who thinks they can consciously choose to believe things will be able to demonstrate their ability as requested in the OP.

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        • #64
          Originally posted by rstrats View Post
          Perhaps someone new looking in who thinks they can consciously choose to believe things will be able to demonstrate their ability as requested in the OP.
          What sort of demonstration are you expecting, and what sort of proof would you accept? I've already explained some pages back that I have the ability to change my beliefs. But unless you can offer a good reason why one ought to demonstrate this ability, doing so as some sort of freak show for your personal gratification seems bizarre. What would the person doing the changing of beliefs gain from the exercise? Just to prove to you that it can be done?

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          • #65
            Adrift,
            re: "What sort of demonstration are you expecting..."

            Simply what is requested in the OP.


            re: "...what sort of proof would you accept?"

            Your word that you now believe - are convinced - that leprechauns are real and exist. You say you are a Christian so I would assume that you wouldn't want to lie about your belief.

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            • #66
              Originally posted by rstrats View Post
              Adrift,
              re: "What sort of demonstration are you expecting..."

              Simply what is requested in the OP.
              I already granted the request in your OP. I offered you a couple demonstrations of actual change in belief in my personal life in post #44.

              re: "...what sort of proof would you accept?"

              Your word that you now believe - are convinced - that leprechauns are real and exist. You say you are a Christian so I would assume that you wouldn't want to lie about your belief.
              Why are you stuck on leprechauns? What benefit would it be to a person who has the ability to consciously change their beliefs (and I believe everyone has this ability, whether they realize it or not) to believe in leprechauns? People who recognize that they have the ability to consciously change their beliefs do so because they think it will benefit them in some way. I see no benefit in believing in leprechauns.

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              • #67
                Originally posted by Adrift View Post
                I'm always mystified when this conversation comes up, because its been my personal experience that changing one's beliefs is actually quite easy to do. There have been a number of times in my life where I've decided that I will believe or not believe something all things considered equal. So, for instance, when I was younger I used to do roofing with my father, and found that I had a fear of heights. My fear was founded on the premise that if I got too close to the ledge, I would fall off the roof and severely injure myself or die. But I knew from watching other roofers that generally speaking this was not the case, so every day I would roof with my father I would force myself to look over the edge until I conquered my fear. I chose to believe that I would not die rather than that I would.

                Here's another example, when I was a teen in the late 80s and early 90s my worldview was extremely confused, especially since I had recently disassociated myself from a cult. I felt I had so many questions that could not be answered, and I hovered between holding onto a belief in the divine, and rejecting it altogether. I was in this state of confusion and frustration for years. In my early 20s I found myself in a situation (in Basic Training) of complete despair and solitude, and then I remembered God, and his forgiveness and his love, and decided that from then on, despite whatever questions I was holding onto, I would make a purposeful choice to place my faith in him. I would stop hovering, and believe in him. And lo and behold, in my studies and walk in my faith, all of the questions I had were slowly yet surely answered, and I found that placing my faith in him was perfectly justified all along.

                I know countless people over the years who have chosen their beliefs. Sometimes consciously and sometimes not so consciously. Paul says in Romans that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and I believe that renewing can come about through prayer, meditation, study, and even talking positive things over yourself. I recently read a terrific book by psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwarz called, You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life. Its a fascinating read, and contains plenty of examples of people who were able to successfully change their beliefs for the better.
                Thanks for the book recommendation, or in my case reminder, as I meant to pick that up but forgot all about it with my hectic work schedule and all.
                Last edited by Scrawly; 05-14-2015, 06:59 PM.

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                • #68
                  Adrift,
                  re: "Why are you stuck on leprechauns?"

                  I merely suggested them because I thought that you probably didn't already have a belief in them.


                  re: ". I see no benefit in believing in leprechauns."

                  But can you, even though you see no a benifit to it? Or are you saying that a new belief can only be engendered when you see some benifit to having the belief? - i.e., that it can't be done simply as an exercise in demonstrating your ability?

                  Comment


                  • #69
                    Originally posted by rstrats View Post
                    Adrift,
                    re: "Why are you stuck on leprechauns?"

                    I merely suggested them because I thought that you probably didn't already have a belief in them.


                    re: ". I see no benefit in believing in leprechauns."

                    But can you, even though you see no a benifit to it? Or are you saying that a new belief can only be engendered when you see some benifit to having the belief? - i.e., that it can't be done simply as an exercise in demonstrating your ability?
                    People have already told you that changing beliefs is not just a random decision, but a decision based on evidence. You don't just say "Gee today I am going to believe in Leprechauns" and believe. But I am sure that you have chosen to believe things based on evidence presented to you. You looked at the evidence, decided it was trustworthy, and then chose to believe it. Your leprechaun test is just pure silliness. But I am willing to bet if you saw a little green man and followed him to a pot of gold, you would probably believe in them, huh?

                    Comment


                    • #70
                      Originally posted by rstrats View Post
                      Adrift,
                      re: "Why are you stuck on leprechauns?"

                      I merely suggested them because I thought that you probably didn't already have a belief in them.
                      But I already gave you examples of beliefs that I changed. What was wrong with them?


                      re: ". I see no benefit in believing in leprechauns."

                      But can you, even though you see no a benifit to it?
                      Accepting a belief in leprechauns would be delusional, and the reason why it's delusional is because, all things being equal, there's nothing to justify the belief, and there's no impetus in accepting the belief. Now, I've seen people hold delusional beliefs, so I know it's possible, but I hope that I'm not so gullible (though that too may be a delusion).

                      Or are you saying that a new belief can only be engendered when you see some benifit to having the belief? - i.e., that it can't be done simply as an exercise in demonstrating your ability?
                      Accepting beliefs as some sort of magic trick seems inherently harmful. Can it be done? I think so, but I'm not about to do it, especially not for some stranger on the internet. I choose my beliefs based on their overall positive benefits on my life. And I choose to choose beliefs that I feel can be justified in some way. Take belief in God for instance. You're probably familiar with Pascal's Wager. Often it's presented something like this: If God exists, then you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by believing in him. But if God doesn't exists then you've lost nothing. One of the things that a lot of people don't know about the wager, though, is that this assumes that the justification for belief relies on all things being equal. That is, it's only applicable to those who are stuck at a stage where they could justly believe or disbelieve in God either way. The wager is not for the person who finds the arguments for God overwhelmingly less compelling than not.

                      When I got over my fear of heights, I was justified in changing my beliefs because I knew that most people who worked on roofs did not die. The chances of me falling off the roof and dieing was relatively low, and so when I made the decision to stop being afraid, that justification on top of the benefit of doing work without fear, factored into my change of mind.

                      I imagine that if I knew the context of those who told you that belief is a conscious choice, that the ones who are saying that are thinking of belief much in the same way that I am. They're not thinking of a person who can start believing in leprechauns on the fly. They're thinking of free will decisions to step out in faith, and to accept beliefs that are justified and beneficial.

                      Again, I highly recommend you reading the book You Are Not Your Brain. It's filled with people who changed their beliefs, and changed them for the better. I think it'll really help you understand this whole subject in another way, and maybe show you that you too are able to change your beliefs.

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                      • #71
                        The very fact that rstats is on tweb debating his viewpoints shows that he believes that people can choose to change their beliefs. He is trying to get them to do that with every argument he makes on any subject on this site.

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                        • #72
                          Not all beliefs are by choice. Truth is not a choice. We may choose to believe a genuine truth, not yet knowing that it is a truth which once correctly understood cannot be denied. Truth is independent of our belief in it. Truth is the sole reason we believe anything, or at least should be. Yet, some of us, may yet believe things to be true which are not true. And not know it.
                          . . . the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; . . . -- Romans 1:16 KJV

                          . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 KJV

                          Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1 KJV

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                          • #73
                            Sparko,
                            re: "The very fact that rstats is on tweb debating his viewpoints shows that he believes that people can choose to change their beliefs."

                            With regard to your above referenced statement I would agree if the wording were changed to: "The very fact that rstrats is on tweb debating his viewpoints seems to show that he accepts the possibility that people's beliefs can/may change when presented with certain ideas about an issue."



                            re: "He is trying to get them to do that with every argument he makes on any subject on this site."


                            Isn't that pretty much what most folks are trying to do -either overtly or covertly - when "discussing" differing opinions?

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                            • #74
                              Originally posted by rstrats View Post
                              Sparko,
                              re: "The very fact that rstats is on tweb debating his viewpoints shows that he believes that people can choose to change their beliefs."

                              With regard to your above referenced statement I would agree if the wording were changed to: "The very fact that rstrats is on tweb debating his viewpoints seems to show that he accepts the possibility that people's beliefs can/may change when presented with certain ideas about an issue."



                              re: "He is trying to get them to do that with every argument he makes on any subject on this site."


                              Isn't that pretty much what most folks are trying to do -either overtly or covertly - when "discussing" differing opinions?
                              Yes, and it works. People change their minds and beliefs. And it is a conscious choice. It is not a random choice either, but based on evidence (the "discussion" in this example)

                              You don't just wake up and say "Today I think I will choose to belief rstats" for no reason. So your "test" of telling someone to just arbitrarily decide to believe in leprechauns is a strawman.

                              Comment


                              • #75
                                Sparko,
                                re: "...it is a conscious choice...based on evidence..."

                                If beliefs can be engendered by simply choosing to have them, then evidence is not necessary. But even if it were necessary, how would you know when you had it?



                                re: "...your 'test' of telling [asking] someone to just arbitrarily decide to believe in leprechauns is a strawman."

                                A strawman for what?

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