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Psychology | Logic, proof and belief


Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People often disagree about things. We disagree about politics, religion and money most often. We will also  disagree about status; we look up to and respect different people. We might disagree about art or music; we all have different tastes. We can even disagree about which foods we like.

The things we tend not to disagree about are those where there is a wide ranging consensus across society. There are certain things where we see the proof as undisputable. Things that relate to science and technology seem to have been proven. We have few disagreements about technology. We all agree that when we press the light switch the light comes on. Scientists try to create scientific laws that they can depend on and in the absence of a law they substitute a theory. There is certainty in scientific laws, they are based on logic. When I press a key on my computer, science dictates what happens and I can be quite sure of the result. I don’t have to wait and see what will happen, there is little doubt.

We can’t test out everything in that same way though. People once thought the earth was flat and it was difficult for them to believe otherwise. People now believe the earth is round because they are told it is, but more importantly it’s accepted by most people. There is a consensus. We tend to go along with whatever others believe, but this can lead to problems. Can we really be sure that it is the truth, just because everyone else appears to believe it?

In some communities the beliefs are different to those found in society as a whole. That community might be very religious and have specific religious believes. The community might value certain things differently from society as a whole.

Whole nations can share a belief, but that doesn’t mean the belief is right. If it defies logic and defies science, it is probably wrong. People in Germany in World War 2 were given leaflets portraying Jewish people as looking ugly and like animals. Was that logical? Was it the truth? That false belief based on prejudice and hatred led to millions being persecuted and put to death.

Ask a scientist if gold is valuable and he will tell you that it’s a good conductor of electricity and value it’s scientific properties. He won’t be concerned with it’s status or it’s use in jewellery making, but an economist with their unscientific beliefs might have a different view. 

Can you find a scientific reason for having people in the world that are so poor they are starving? Can you find a logical reason for some people having so much wealth that they can consume large quantities of precious earth resources with little thought? There are many other things that deny logic. Most of them relate to differences in status between people. Is it logical to have aristocrats and royalty? Is it logical when an art gallery buys a painting costing millions, when the same money would buy a medical scanner for a hospital? Is it logical for people to spend hours travelling to work each morning when they can do the same work in their own communities?

Lots of beliefs are illogical, they won’t pass scientific tests. They are convenient. People believe what is convenient, they believe what they want to believe. That gold Cartier watch is sort-after because people believe it makes them appear wealthy and sophisticated. It tells time just like a Sekonda.

Before you judge others, ask yourself whether to do so is logical or whether it is convenient. We have lots of emotions, envy, greed, jealousy and hate; these often motivate us to believe what we want to believe.

What do you think? Please use the comments box to share your thoughts…

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One response

  1. Pingback: More snow hits the UK | Mike10613's Blog

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