What Do You Believe And Why?

We all have "beliefs". These are the operating assumptions on which we make decisions whether they are minor ones or major life ones. They may be fixed in our mind or subject to change with increased knowledge and information. The important thing is that they tend to be what drive our lives at any point in time.

So, what do you believe and why do you believe it?

Actually, I am not looking for your answer. You don't owe it to me. You owe it to yourself!

We believe things for many different reasons. Some are based on study and understanding of the underlying subject matter leading to a position that is our best assessment of what is true at the current point of our knowledge. At the other end of the spectrum are those working assumptions that we pick up from those around us, from various media or just our own "best guess".

When the decision you are making is a minor one such as which movie to watch or where to go to dinner the accuracy of your beliefs driving the decision are not of great consequence. When the decision gets to how you will spend the next years of your life or how you are going to bring up your children, the beliefs you are grounding the decision on become vastly more important.

There are a couple of things we need to understand from the outset. First and most important is that nobody does or can know the absolute truth. The best we can do is to get as close as we can based on the information available to us. The other is that the real truth remains the truth regardless of what we choose to believe. If someone tells you that they KNOW the absolute truth, they are almost certainly wrong even if their belief is generally correct.

The best basis for belief is an evidence based approach. This is where we make our own observations, form our own hypotheses, test them against both the real world and the research and conslusions of others and continue to refine our belief until it is the best fit we can find with the world around us. While we can not run everything through the whole cycle, we should certainly try for those beliefs that have the major impacts on our life.

Probably the worst basis for belief short of picking something "out of thin air" is any form of hearsay. When someone tells you that they have the answer and punctuate it with "just trust me", you probably have some homework to do. This does not mean you should never listen to the views of others. There is always opportunity to learn when talking to others. Everybody have something to add to the overally body of knowledge. The problem arises when your sole basis of belief is what someone tells you to believe.

Not every belief requires major research, basic observation will do. I belive that a major rule of the road is the "right of weight". When in doubt I yield to heavier vehichles since I see no advantage in being "dead right". There are many variants of this type of belief where we are informed by basic observation.

Some beliefs are just hard to nail down. Do I believe that coffee is good/bad for me? I have no clue. Research is continually swinging one way or the other. It does seem evident that, when used in moderation, it does not significant harm so I will continue to consume it in moderation while "the jury is out".

Other beliefs have at least some evidence available but absolutes tend to be elusive. Is human activity driving "global climate change". So far the bulk of the scientific evidence supports that hypothesis but there is certainly some debate as to what activities and to what extent. What IS evident is that we are doing many things to damage our ecosystem and are probably over consuming natural resources to the detriment of future generations. Whether we do it to address climate change or just to improve our stewardship of the planet, there are things we need to be doing or not doing to improve things. We are unlikely to "destroy the planet" but we may well destroy ourselves. Much could be accomplished if we all do at least a little bit rather than waiting someone else to "solve it".

The bottom line is that the best approach to establishing decent working beliefs is to think, study, question then think some more. We need to continually challenge all our beliefs to be sure that we keep approaching a better "truth". There is nothing bad and a lot of good in a healthy skepticism. We have a world of folks out there telling us what we have to believe. The amount of "advice" grows as communication media expands. It can not all be true. In fact most probably is not. We are always being "sold". It may surprise you but we don't have to "buy".

So, what do YOU believe and why do you believe it? I hope you have a good, productive conversation with yourself.