About Belief LO19955

Richard Karash (Richard@Karash.com)
Sat, 21 Nov 1998 12:42:53 -0500 (EST)

Replying to LO19943 --

On Fri, 20 Nov 1998, Malcolm Burson wrote:

> On 15 Nov 98, at 10:45, Richard Karash wrote:
> > The second thread I propose coming out of the recent exchange is about belief.
> Rick, I'm surprised that this posting hasn't been much taken up, and I
> wouldn't like to see it disappear. Thus, ......

I think this is a difficult subject, but one that deserves some reflection
in a learning organization.

> > 3. Some beliefs are more valid than others. That is, some beliefs will be
> > more widely effective for more people than others. Therefore, I want to be
> > conscious of making my own judgments of what beliefs are more valid.
> I'm not sure that I concur with your definition above, based in
> "effectiveness" for greater numbers of adherents. My Concise Oxford
> Dictionary defines valid as
> strong, defensible, well-grounded (derived from Latin
> "validus" = strong)

I was using the term as it is used in management sciences... A model or
theory is valid when it is successful in application in the world. That
is, when it shows power in explaining observations and when it shows
predictive power. Note that validity is not black and white, models can be
more valid and less valis; no model or theory is universally "true".

When I said, "effective for more people.." I think that confused the
issue. I didn't mean "believed by more people"; I meant, "works more

In the management sciences, we distinguish a concept called "face
validity" which means "makes good sense" or something pretty close to
"well grounded in it's internal logic". Face validity helps us believe in
a model or theory but can be misleading. Face validity usually occurs when
the theory proposes a generative mechanism that sounds reasonable.

Some examples:
- Einstein's theory of realtivity... Strong face validity because of it's
beautiful internal logic. Widely believed and taught for many years before
modern science provided the confirming data.
- Germ theory of disease... Good evidence and face validity. With the
invention of the microscope, ordinary people could actually *see* the
bacteria. Produced a revolution in health, relatively quickly.
- Smoking is addictive and causes Lung Cancer... Widely disbelieved in
the western world for decades despite very strong evidence.
- Astrology... Believed in by a modest proportion of the population for
centuries despite a complete absence of objectively gathered confirming
evidence. And, at least for me, without any face validity.

> Thus, it would seem that a belief meeting this criterion could quite
> appropriately be held by only a single person without risking
> "invalidity." It could be strong, defensible and well-grounded in the
> experience, mental models, etc. of the adherent even if no one else
> thought it worthwhile.

Yes, history is filled with theories that were widely rejected and later
shown to be valid.

> So....is the validity of a belief dependent on the number of those who
> share it? Which may be another way of asking, "when we talk about
> beliefs, to what extent are they dependent on validation from outside the
> consciousness of the believer?"

I say these are two very different things...
- How valid is the belief?
- How widely is it believed?

Now, in an earlier point, I alluded to Peirce and said, "when a belief is
held, it is held because it works in some way for the believer." Then, why
wouldn't concensus be a good indication of validity?

The answer is that my view of "valid' requires a serious examination of
whether the belief works in the world, and this examinaton is hardly
universal. That is, beliefs are held if they work internally, even if
there is little or no examination of whether they work in the world.

Now, I realize that I am stepping out on thin ice here... That my
education is missing in philosophy where these questions have been turned
over for generations. Can someone help me here?

I'll restate my point #3, including both the descriptive and normative

3. Some beliefs are more valid than others. That is, some beliefs upon
serious examination work better, explain more, and provide more dependable
predictions than others. "Serious examination" is not universally
practiced. Therefore, I want to make my own judgments of what beliefs I
think are more valid.

-- Rick

      Richard Karash ("Rick")    |  <http://world.std.com/~rkarash>
  Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer  |     email: Richard@Karash.com
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