Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why Belief is Evil

What is the difference between knowledge, reasoning, and belief?

There are three forms of intellect, as I see it.  First, there is knowledge.  Knowledge is raw data, the sort of thing they teach in school - the arithmetic tables and dates and names of famous people.  "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" - that sort of shit.  Knowing a lot of stuff doesn't make you smart.  Or it least it doesn't make you any smarter than an encyclopedia or a memory stick.

Wisdom, or reasoning, is something that can be derived from knowledge, when combined with experience.   If you can apply reason to raw facts, then you can derive real truths about the world.  Wisdom or reasoning is rarely taught in school these days.  In fact, legislators are pushing for more "basic education" such as the "Three R's" (which means they cannot spell "Arithmetic" right off the bat).

Teaching knowledge-only education means emphasis on testing as a means of measuring education, and today's educators live in fear of the standardized test.   We want our students to be little robots who barf up memorized answers, without thought, analysis, reasoning, or wisdom.

And this is sad, as facts alone cannot teach you anything.  Reasoning and analysis can.  In both Engineering and Law Schools, I was told that we were being taught not facts and statistics, but "how to think like an Engineer" or "How to think like a Lawyer".   In other words, your reasoning skills were what was important, not your ability to memorize case citations.

Sadly, we live in an age of unreason - where logic and analysis is shunned in favor of something else.

What else?


Belief is what is being sold today, and the reason why our legislators are so keen on standardized testing and knowledge-based learning.  They do not want people to learn how to reason or how to analyze anything.  Because if they did, they would see through the smoke-screen of our daily lives and the lies routinely fed to us by the media.

What they want us to do, instead, is believe.   They want us to believe in God, or more specifically the God of certain prescribed religions (not those bad Gods of other religions).  They want us to believe in slogans and sayings.   They want us to give up reasoning and analysis in favor of sound bites and talking points.

What got me started on this was a recent post based on a piece of viewer mail.   A reader could not believe that a friend of his who was an Engineer was trying to sell him into an MLM marketing scheme.   How could reasonable people fall for such a scam?

Belief.  She believed that she could make money without work, and create wealth without labor.  So long as she was willing to believe, and not engage reasoning, she was destined to fail.   And it is an easy belief to sell these days.

Belief is what sells payday loans, title pawn loans, rent-to-own furniture, and all sorts of bad bargains to the poor.  So long as they do not reason and rely instead on belief they will fall for these sort of cons.

And again, this is why the powers-that-be want us to believe, but not reason.

Look around the world - all of it - and see where belief has gotten us.   Every major religion has promoted wars and intolerance, all in the name of belief.  Even Buddhists have gone on killing sprees in the name of religion.  No one is spared.  So long as people rely on belief instead of reason, we are doomed.

And it hardly ends with religion.  Nationalism, Socialism, Communism - just about any "ism" relies upon Belief as its foundation - and not reason.  Once you can sell someone on a "belief system" you can sell them just about anything - from Scientology to a used car.   It makes no difference, of course.  Money is usually the common denominator.

Reasoning seems to be a dying art these days.  Few people seem willing to engage in it, as it is "hard" to do, and the answers it provides are often disappointing.   When you reason, you realize there are no free ponies.  When you believe, well, anything is possible (although not very likely).

So people engage in belief instead, as belief gives us all sorts of fun answers, even if they are the wrong ones.  We believe that we will go to heaven, as that is comforting.  Reasoning provides a less attractive answer.

We want to believe that if our party is elected to office, everything will be wonderful.  Reasoning tells us that not much really changes for the better, no matter who is elected, and that the extreme views of either party, if allowed to predominate, are not the best solution.

Belief tells us that leasing a car is fun and cool.  Reasoning tells us it is a bad bargain.  Reasoning is no fun at all!  In fact, he is a real kill-joy and a downer at parties.

But if you want to get ahead in this world, it is reasoning that is your friend, not belief.   Belief will lie to you, again and again.  And most people will continue to "believe" even when burned by belief their whole lives.

At the same time, they reject reason as unsound, even when he is proven right, again and again.

The choice is yours.  Live in a fantasy world and be burned by harsh reality over and over again, or try reasoning, which might not sound like as much fun at first, but in the long run pays off big-time.

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