This is going to be meta. But I want to outline how present me currently thinks about thinking, belief formation and the value of changing your mind based on evidence.
Let’s start with the fundamentals
Science is not about finding evidence to support a claim. It is not a body of knowledge.
Science is a methodology to seek truth. Veritas.
- Start with a question.
- Explore possible stories that could answer said question : coming up with a hypothesis. Which is essentially an idea, it requires intense creativity.
- In fact you come up with multiple hypotheses. Multiple stories that may explain whatever one wants to explain.
- Then you go out and gather evidence that seeks to disprove the hypothesis (falsifiability)
- And you shift your confidences around based on the weight of the evidence (Bayesian thinking)
- Crucial step : you never truly discard any hypothesis, its just the probability of it being true is severely diminished if there is no supporting evidence
- Constantly reassess.
This is all too theoretical. Let’s look at an example of how it can be applied. I remember ever since my early teens was deeply concerned about religion, I was a pretty militant atheist. I’ve changed my view on this, I’m neither a theist, agnostic or atheist. More of what David Eagleman calls a ‘Possibilian’ 😎.
Applied to Religion
There are multiple religious stories. The Judea-Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, Greek, Roman, African tree spirits etc. They seek to answer the question of ‘creation’. In fact physics is essentially a creation story as well.
The problem is these stories don’t really value evidence, apart from the story created by modern physics. They are non-falsifiable, you can’t disprove the existence of God. Therefore they fall out of the domain of evidence, and into the domain of belief.
The most harmful aspect is this. It requires dogmatic certainty. How can you be 100% certain that this story is true.
This is the crux : please don’t hold onto anything dogmatically. You have to reassess the evidence, and then shift your views.
As a human you are already prone to countless biases documented in psychology. The way you think is so flawed. As Feynman said “you are the easiest person to fool”. It’s very easy to lie to oneself.
“We know too little to commit to strict atheism, and too little to commit to any religious ideology”. So… say “I don’t know” or the more accurately : the best evidence disproves a lot of the claims made in many religious stories.
All the Big Questions…
What happens after we die. Is there a God. What is love (baby don’t hurt me).
Start from a point of I don’t know, rather than any conditioned stories that society has consciously or unconsciously implanted. Empty your cup.
Explore the question, disprove certain claims.
Then come to a best guess, and realise that for most of these questions, we don’t know.
(Actually for a lot of the big questions, I don’t think there is an answer. But the question, and the process of searching for the truth is valuable)
That’s all I want. I think a little intellectual humility goes a long way. And future Abhishek, if you ever ‘believe’ in anything 100%, something has gone wrong.