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Rational Thinking vs. A Priori Beliefs

Updated on May 15, 2011

Evidence and Belief Relationship

Decisions are made on two premises:

1. A priori belief supported by evidence

2. Evidence which generates a belief


Science is a field which studies the whole of reality. Its principle is to extract information from reality. The observation of green chloroplasts under a microscope leads to the conclusion that a plant is green because of it. The date of a fossil is supported by mathematical calculations of the half-life in radiometric dating. The evidence-belief ratio is thus the first premise which is where a belief is formed after all the evidence has been observed. This is taught is rational thinking where a person if openly adjusting his/her beliefs to fit the new evidence and is the premise behind history and science.

Belief to Evidence

Religion or equivalent (faith-based) is a field which is based on an priori belief supported by evidence. Polonius in Hamlet by Shakespeare was convinced that Hamlet's madness was due to his restricted love towards Ophelia and as such, he tried hard to find evidence to support his preconceived belief as when Hamlet makes lustful movements and words towards her, it only strengthened his preconceived belief. This relationship of belief to evidence is also seen in patriotism or pride as no matter how ruined, barbaric, or cruel a country may be to their citizens, they always support it by interpreting trivialities as kindness (To an extent as seen in Tzarist Russia under Nicolas and China under Mao). Religion is a large influence of this type of relationship. Children are brought up and taught to believe in a deity whether it be Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, Thor, Odin, or even Santa Claus and to question them would amount to treason and disobedience that leads to punishment. Children thus grow up with an a priori belief that a God exists and thus looks for the subtle evidence to back it up such as winning the lottery, recovering from a disease, getting a good grade on a test. To a religious person who has an a priori belief in God, everything is evidence.

This Belief-Evidence Relationship leads to Claims of Evidence for:

- Santa Claus

- UFO's

- God/Jesus's Resurection

- The Lochness Monster

- Ghosts

- The countless "End of the world" conspiracies

People come up with a belief they want to be true and search for evidence to justify it through one-sided interpretation rather than an honest consideration of both

Why Does it Matter which Relationship a Person Incorporates into his/her Beliefs?

A belief of the first premise is an open-minded an honest based not on conditioning and strong bias. It is making a reasonable judgement based on what is presented. The second premise is strongly based on conditioning and bias. It does not change from the time it appears in a person's mind. Everything appears to justify it even if it beyond far-fetched. A person who examines the evidence before creating a belief will always be closer towards the truth than someone who has a preset belief and tries to find evidence to support it.


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