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FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Why are certain things expressed as a matter of belief instead of a hunch?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (16553points) July 31st, 2010

Why are topics such as the existence of extra-terrestrial life, various monsters such as bigfoot and certain conspiracy theories spoken of as a matter of belief?

I can understand why someone could think ETs visited Earth, but why say “I believe” instead of “I think”? Are the terms equivalent in this context, or does the use of the word ‘believe’ indicate a stronger, less rational trust in the truth of the matter?

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25 Answers

DrasticDreamer's avatar

To my way of thinking, the terms in these kind of scenarios are pretty much equivalent. No matter how you look at it – especially in terms of extraterrestrial life – saying “I think they have” or “I believe they have” are the same thing. No one has proof, and no matter which word you use, you’re still expressing a feeling on the matter.

That’s generally why, whether one says “believe” or “think”, they tend to follow it up with, “but of course I can’t know for sure”. If they’re logical they do, anyway.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@DrasticDreamer That makes sense, thanks. I prefer to sit back and say “I don’t know” – like a good scientist, I try to avoid speculation.

Your_Majesty's avatar

When one say “I believe” that literally means that person justify something without any rational supportive data.
When one say “I think” that literally means that person justify something according to his/her rational supportive data.

“Think” need more neurological reason/process than “believe”,which only state something with ease.

zophu's avatar

We’re still working our language into being able to easily express varying levels of certainty. It’s not that passionate speculation is bad, or even that the defense of an unproven notion is bad. It’s just that most people have significant trouble dealing with uncertainty internally, let alone expressing it efficiently.

maybe. . .

Zyx's avatar

Ok, if you still want your language to make sense you need to define belief in this context as the assumptions you make in order to get a complete picture of the universe. You start life with a bunch of questions and most of the practical ones science can answer, but that still leaves you with questions. So you need to make assumptions about the things larger than this life in order to try to give your life meaning in a larger context. Some peoples lives cause them to believe there is a god. I personally believe I have to live forever in various worlds to become god, it’s a belief that is simultaniously glorious and comforting. (Not solipsism btw, because there would still be room for infinite other gods in the many worlds. Guess that means I also believe everything just exists because it exists and always has.)

Jabe73's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh So I should say “I think ufos exist” rather than “I believe ufos exist”. I never really thought of it that way. Is this being asked on the basis that “to believe” is based off of confidence rather than logic and “to think” is based off of logic rather than confidence? Like I said I never really paid attention to this.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Jabe73 I’m not trying to contrast confidence and logic so much as trying to find an appropriate expression for levels of confidence. The existence of UFOs is controversial at best, so not too many people would be prepared to say “I know UFOs exist,” yet many are prepared to express it as a belief rather than a tentative venture into the unknown. I’m not really sure what strength of confidence the word ‘believe’ is supposed to indicate in this context.

zophu's avatar

If I were to look at certainty, as more than just a linear scale between false and true, I would start by breaking down the mind’s methods of dealing with information.

Let’s say there are three basic ways the mind processes information (accept it as a hypothetical assumption . . . if that’s anything more than just a temporary assumption).

There’s logic, which is the most active processing of information.
There’s emotion, which is the more reactive processing of information.
And there’s intuition, which is the awareness of information.

Logic dictates knowledge, emotion dictates belief, and intuition dictates faith. It’s that feeling certain of a belief or being trusting of faith is unwise, it’s just when you try to communicate that certainty and trust to others without the use of logic that things get messy.

But then, that’s sort of what I’m doing now. Just letting you know of the mess before I throw it into your lap. I guess that counts for something.

Trillian's avatar

How stupid would Mulders poster look if it said “I want to think”? The two words are not synonomous at all.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@zophu Some interesting points there, thanks.
@Trillian Mulders?

zophu's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh From X-Files My parents loved that show.

Trillian's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Special Agent Mulder. X-files. He has a poster in his office. It’s a flying saucer and the caption says “I want to believe”.

Frenchfry's avatar

Well to me the word hunch is maybe , maybe not. The word belief is final. I believe this.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@zophu and @Trillian Sorry, that one went right over my head. Thanks for the clarification.

gypsywench's avatar

It’s human nature. A belief inspires passion. Some people are geared that way. How far do you really think the human race would have evolved if we took everything at face value? Doesn’t make “ET” more real, just real for some. We make up our own minds. So what?

zophu's avatar

An interesting thought I had.

Do I know I’m not about to have a stroke and die? Should I plan for it? No. I’m going to believe that I am not going to have a stroke in a few moments and die. I’m going to know that it is possible, but I also know that it is so unlikely I might as well believe it isn’t to preserve relevancy of perspective.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@zophu You can assess the probabilities associated with when you might have a stroke and come to a conclusion based on that. You do not know whether or not you will have a stroke tomorrow, but you can estimate that the probability is 1 in 10,000, think that you probably won’t, and therefore believe that you won’t.

The point of this question is more focussed towards unfounded beliefs though. For example, a friend of mine believes in ghosts although they do not believe in any other form of the supernatural. When I discuss it with them, they just say something has to survive death – death just cannot be the end. They don’t even try to support their belief, but yet it is a belief rather than an impression or a hunch (eg. “I think something might remain after death, but I really don’t know,” versus “I believe something survives death.”). Why the difference?

gypsywench's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh In the case of a belief in the afterlife , the difference is simply comfort. Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of an end to their existence. People are ego maniacs. A simple hunch or a ” I really don’t know ” maybe unsettling.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@gypsywench True. Do you think it would be unsettling for someone who believes in UFOs to admit that they don’t know for sure?

gypsywench's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Or corse, but for a completely different reason. It would be personal. To have someone renounce their beliefs is just admiting that they’re wrong. I’m sure it could be very unsettling. Even if they are wrong. As I said ” People are ego maniacs”.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@gypsywench It seems we are now talking about Cognitive Dissonance rather than the original issue. Whether or not someone regards a personal hypothesis as a belief or a hunch depends more on how they originally formed the idea than how they may react given grounds for reasonable doubt. So let me rephrase; do you think it may be unsettling for someone with no previous exposure to UFO theories to admit that they don’t know for sure?

gypsywench's avatar

rephrase? It’s a different question altogether. – I think it would be completely ridiculous for it to be unsettling. I’m sure it could be for someone. that’s too vague.
As for the original issue. I gave my two cents.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

People don’t believe things through,that’s why.giggles

zophu's avatar

I think this kind of problem is neurosis that can only be effectively helped by making better lives for people. In order to helpfully convince people to unhook their minds from irrational beliefs that they have grown dependent upon. You have have to do more than just prove them wrong—you have to give them a safe place to fall.

That’s not done on any large scale without culture shift. But, I think it’s fairly easy for the lonely misfits waiting for ET to take them home; you just have to give them the attention they need.

mattbrowne's avatar

A belief is a hunch you thought about a lot.

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