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What I Believe

Everyone has to believe something

Copyright 2015, 2017 by Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved.

Published 2015.02.10, Updated 2017.07.11


Everyone believes something. Being an atheist just means I don’t believe in a god. My underlying principle is to assume as little as possible.



1. I Believe That I Exist


This is fundamental. I assume I’m an actual, physical human being, interacting with an actual, physical universe. In other words, I am not a figment of someone else’s imagination, and the rest of the universe is not a figment of my imagination.

This is a direct rejection of metaphysical solipsism.

I have to take this much on faith; there is no way to prove I’m correct. However, no one can argue against this belief; if they do, they’re admitting to being a figment of my imagination.


2. I Believe What I Can Sense, Within Reason


Obviously senses can be fooled — optical illusions, for example — but I take that into account when I say that I believe what I can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste. I believe the air around me is getting colder when my body feels like it’s getting colder, though I again I take into account that this sense can be fooled by relative humidity and air movement.

Empirical evidence can override the illusions: thermometers, photographs, audio-visual recordings, etc. Coorborating testimony (what other people say they observe) also will affect what I believe about my senses — for example: if I thought the suspect running from the crime scene wore a red shirt, but all other witnesses claim blue, I will be less certain of what I remembered.


3. Knowing More Is Better Than Knowing Less


Even if the newly-gained knowledge is upsetting, it is better to know than to not know. It’s also important to constantly evaluate knowledge for accuracy and truthfulness.

Information — and its sources — should be judged carefully. Not all sources of information are equally reliable or valuable.

Not all information has the same value, but even “useless” information (pop culture trivia, for example) can help keep the mind active.


4. ‘I Don’t Know’ Is Better Than ‘I Assume’


When something cannot be known, or at least cannot be known presently, I would rather say “I don’t know” than make a baseless assumption. An educated guess is not the same thing as an assumption.

It’s also okay to trust the experts on most topics. It is unreasonable to expect to be an expert in every field, and there will always be subjects on which someone else knows more than you do. It’s okay to research varying opinions, but recognize when one opinion is the “consensus” among the experts. (For example, you can find an “expert” that says anthropogenic global warming is a hoax, but this is an exception against a broad consensus among scientists.)


5. I Believe In The Principles Of Science


Science is the natural outgrowth of 1-4 above. Science is from the Latin for “knowledge”. In its simplest form, science is the gathering and organization of knowledge, via observation, forming hypotheses, and performing experiments. Unlike religion, science demands evidence. Perhaps more than any other endeavor, science attempts to avoid bias — in fact, it actively searches out bias in order to remove it.

To some extent, all of us are scientists, and have been since we were born. Infants arrive in the world without assumption or bias, make observations, formulate hypotheses, perform experiments, observe the results, and formulate new hypotheses — until they can understand the world. Some of us kept doing that as we grew older; others of us arrived at a basic set of assumptions and then ceased thinking scientifically.

When given the choice between trusting an assertion based on assumptions or trusting an assertion based on scientific inquiry, I will always choose the latter. This is why, for example, I eventually accepted evolution as a fact.


6. Every Opinion (Belief, Stance, Theory, etc.) Should Be Challenged


Until an idea has been put to the test, I should not hold it dearly. This is part of the scientific mindset. The more important an idea is to me, and the longer I go without testing it, the harder it is to let go if proven incorrect. If I have an opinion on something, I want to know why I have it.





Next: A Few Influences On My Thinking

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This is the updated version of this page. To see the original version, click here. Known edits are listed below.



EDITS


• 2015.11.29: Removed “agnostic” from introductory box. Added link to My Specific Position page. Added link to Wikipedia page on metaphysical solipsism. Typed “the air around me is” in place of “it’s” in section #2. Reworded second paragraph of section #3; added third paragraph. Added second paragraph to section #4.

• 2016.01.25: Added final sentence to Science section, including link to my evolution page. Added some internal anchors (invisible to the casual reader).

• 2016.02.11: Added meta tags for SEO (background). Changed theme color (only visible in Chrome for Android). Added link to My Platform.

• EDIT: 2017.07.11: Adjusted italics in intro paragraph. Added last sentence to number two section. Corrected grammar errors in the final sentence of number five section.







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