Various dictionary definitions signify that the word belief carries a different nuance or shade of meaning depending on the subject matter at hand. Within religion and even with relationship to various authorities in our lives the action of belief is described as a form of trust, reliance, faith, confidence or credence.
On one hand then, it is important to understand the relationship between said beliefs and said authorities that we actively trust with regard to religious claims, or even political, historical and scientific subject matter.
The collection of beliefs that we are said to hold also appear to be based out of varying experiences. With regard to areas of expertise a belief can be understood as a specialized value judgement or opinion that one makes in relation to their collective study and analysis of the material.
Varying biases and assumptions naturally will accompany the value judgements that people make so it is important to then submit one’s work to peer review and criticism as an exercise that can hopefully critique unhelpful biases as well as affirm other biases that in turn can be acknowledged as healthy assumptions to make. The process of peer review is in itself a value judgement or belief with regard to how to effectively deal with bias in areas of professional inquiry.
When understanding certain belief categories that are said to have little or no definitive proof it is important to understand what it is in relation to. For instance: Many people believe that intelligent extraterrestrial life likely exists in other pockets of the universe. A present scientific consensus acknowledges that there is currently no definitive proof to put this matter to rest as of yet, however, some scientists believe that it could be an inference to the best explanation. In a case such as this science has yet to close the gap at the end of a string of relating discoveries that do seem to indicate that lower forms of bacterial life do in fact reside beyond our own world.
Notice how I used the phrases, “likely,” and “could be,” with regard to certain tentative ideas and beliefs? This may actually be a good way to differentiate well established facts from what are otherwise thought to be good possibilities within the universe. In other words, our beliefs do not always need to be definitive in nature. Our beliefs can simply reflect the greatest extent of our ability to judge the matter in the present.
In light of these insights about the nature of belief is it possible to make a case for a lack of belief? Also, is there a difference between beliefs based out of little or no definitive proof and beliefs that appear to have no existing proof whatsoever?
Stay with me as I intend to explore these matters further in my future posts!