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Just a thought to pass by you all for your consideration and erudite responses:

I call myself evidentialist. Just what is that? Before I can explain that, we need to take a look at what belief is and what it represents.

Belief. What is it? Well, painting with a broad brush: A belief is an assumed truth. When we go beyond simply believing something to be true with some flexibility to that level of knowing something we believe to be true and it is set rigidly is quite a large leap. It requires something called faith and faith requires a shutting down of our critical faculties so that external information to the contrary does not interfere.

So, again with our big brush; everything is a belief—including what I just said. That works as a decent definition of belief for most. I’ll get around to the meaning of evidentialist later. Belief then works as a tool of convenience. People assume their cars will start in the morning. They assume they still have jobs. They assume there will be milk in the refrigerator for their morning cereal. Fortunately, for these beliefs, when things don’t agree with the assumption, they are easily changed. Cast out without a second thought. “Ah, the battery’s dead.” “Hmm, I’ve been fired.” “There’s no milk.” When these things happen, we discard the belief and set about solving the problem or accepting the new conditions and get on with our lives.

We use these flexible “beliefs”, these assumptions about life, as a convenience tool to avoid having to think about other possibilities—as a way to keep our feet planted on the ground without having to think about it. When these assumptions prove workable often enough, we will persevere in those beliefs until something goes awry. Then it’s time to rethink the situation.

When we cross that line between simple and flexible assumption into knowing something we believe is true all the time, that it is infallible, we have slipped the bonds of rational thought. You see, just because something has proven to be true for a while does not guarantee it will hold true in the next instant. People usually believe that what has happened so often in the past, will continue to happen similarly in the future. That this is patently false will provide considerable disappointment for many. On the positive side for this type of belief, these flexible beliefs can be changed or modified to account for a new set of circumstances. The rigid ones cannot.

Cultural differences affect beliefs, too. One of the major reasons peoples from different cultural backgrounds have different beliefs is their manner of viewing the world in which they live. Certainly you’ve heard the term Culture Shock. Though I don’t agree much with linguistic relativity, it does play a role in shaping a people’s world view as well. The words one uses and the manner in which they are arranged help form how one thinks and to some extent what one thinks. As a result, belief systems vary widely around the world.

Then there are beliefs which tend to exclude other beliefs. They reside among those rigid beliefs I mentioned before. Paramount among these is religious belief. They must reject the beliefs of other religions because they are not truly compatible. A Jew cannot accept the tenets of Christianity because he/she ceases the practice of Judaism. Though he/she remains Jewish by lineage, they are no longer Jews by religion/belief. This is not true for converts to Judaism for obvious reasons. It follows then that if a person has a particular belief, say Christianity, he/she must also build up an array of disbeliefs. They off handedly reject any other religion or set of tenets as false. This can and often does includes other sects of Christianity. There can be only one “true” religion. They can do this without understanding anything about the other belief system because it is obviously false. It doesn’t agree. This, by the way, applies to an overwhelming majority of religions.

So, what is the upshot here? Realize that people’s beliefs are nothing more than what they assume to be true. When those beliefs become rigid, as in religion, one may feel free to challenge their world view, but do it nicely. One of the questions I pose to believers of any stripe is, “Is it remotely possible that what you believe may be false?” If their answer is in the affirmative, there may be some grounds for continued conversation of a rational nature. If the answer is negative, then there is no room for communication and a different approach or disengagement is in order.

Oh, about the evidentialists. We are what you could call the supreme skeptics. We hold no beliefs, no assumed truths. As odd as it may sound, it is a much more rational way to live than holding beliefs or disbeliefs—or both. We don’t accept certain beliefs simply because they are not rational, not grounded in the Universe surrounding us. We require evidence before even considering belief, though we generally reject belief as a faulty operational method. The only beliefs that we knowingly accept are those mundane ‘car will start’ ideas that help us navigate the world without cognitive overload. Anything based in the supernatural is automatically rejected as there is no way to obtain objective evidence of something operating outside our physical reality. This includes all forms of superstitious beliefs, religions, extrasensory perception, all forms of paranormal gobbledygook, and just anything that does not lend itself to objective scrutiny and is patently not falsifiable.

So, there you have it. I am an evidentialist. How about you? How do you think this term might apply to your way of viewing the world around you.

evidentialist 8 Jan 26

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I like to keep the thinking of the compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance things that are going on with the neurons. So, I also love science and evidentialism.


Very interesting train of thought. I digested it and once again we come back to belief. Now in agreement with you, I do say one absolute true belief I have is that I am a living organism hosting a brain. I believe I will cease to exist as the being I presently am. Science uses the standard model of logic so there is never true belief in where we are as we continue to look further. we once realized the earth was no longer flat. But the thought that carries on within the brain is just that "thought"/ If you forget to eat and drink you will not have the fuel to feed the brain and its thought. Real belief of real facts.

EMC2 Level 8 Jan 26, 2018

@EMC2 -- Agreed.


One has taken my comment as just as if I were someone who made up a cutsy-pie name for myself because I thought it made me unique. For those who might think similarly, I assure you it is not the case. Evidentialism is a formal epistemological theory of truth/knowledge.

Conee, Earl and Richard Feldman. Evidentialism: Essays in Epistemology. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004.

This is, perhaps, the best single work available for exploring these issues in more detail, and it is by all accounts an excellent place to start. It includes their article, “Evidentialism,” which has come to be viewed as the definitive article on the theory. It also contains other previously published articles that not only examine particular aspects of the theory but also defend favored versions as well as new, previously unpublished articles on the topic.

This is an article delineating Evidentialism in a more thorough manner than my simplistic explanation above:



I have had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of atheists and probably thousands of freethinkers of all stripes, in and out of activism.

But I have had the least patience with people who invent a unique term for themselves (some as long as four words) and expect you to listen to and understand their personal homegrown philosophy.

We aren't that unique, and we don't need to work so hard to convince others that we are.

Not unique in the least, but a formal epistemological approach to truth/knowledge. @josh_karpf -- I just boiled it down a bit. Here's a little something in case you're interested and have the patience.



My hope is that you will switch to calling yourself a scientist, because your methodology matches. Evidence is the pivotal part of science and in the UK at least we use the "Ask for evidence" slogan intensively. You do not have to wear a white coat to be called a scientist or work ion a lab.
You are right about assumptions - a tool which lets you sleep at night but which really messes up your chance of getting a longterm conclusion. Long term conclusion could be a phrase that stands in for truth because there is never any guarantee that a conclusion will last. To give it just one word 'Truth' implies (or assumes) that there is only one truth about anything.

@Mcflewster -- Aha, you got it.


Common sense rules.


That's me but I haven't used that word and probably still wont, its too hard to say 🙂

@ripcurldane -- thanks for the belly laugh, my friend. Yes, it is.

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