Knowledge & Belief: Who do you believe?

Last updated on May 17th, 2018  

If you have not done so please read

Understanding Reality: What you know vs what you believe

before reading this article.

Knowledge is always better than belief. It is better because it is free of risk. The risk is ‘is it true’. Knowledge is always true.

Belief can be true or false and you will never know unless you convert the belief into knowledge.

Which is another way of saying knowledge is better than belief.

Belief is a statistical shortcut that lets us get things done more quickly.

How do you know who or what to believe?

A thousand charlatans are happy to give you a thousand reasons to believe them. But all their “reasons” are worthless.

Only knowledge can help you determine who to believe.

And … the more knowledge you have the better job you can do determining who to believe.

This is the massive benefit of knowledge. It is a huge multiplier of your effectiveness in determining who to believe.

With more knowledge you will do a better job of selecting who to believe which will amplify your understanding of what actions will bring about the results you desire.

So step one is to get as much knowledge as possible. And guess what? That is exactly what education originally was: “The Search for Knowledge”.

Sadly, education today is mostly about belief. Think back on your education. How much of it was creating knowledge of things you demonstrated for yourself to be true verses simply telling you what to believe?

So how does your knowledge help you determine who or what to believe?

Well sadly, how much knowledge do you have? We know you have at least a few bits of knowledge from parts one and two of this group of articles,  but do you have much more?

Think about what you really know rather than believe.

While you are pondering that, I have some good news. If you have read the previous two articles to this one you already **know** enough to figure out who or what to believe.

Isn’t it cool!

The knowledge of knowledge verses  beliefs and the falling rocks (discussed in the previous article) are enough to figure out who to believe.  (If you do not understand the previous sentence read the articles shown to the right or at the end of this article in the ‘related’ section)

Have you done an honest assessment of what you know verses what you believe?  Did you read parts one and two?

Have you internalized the concepts discussed so far?

If not please look at yourself in the mirror and try to be honest with yourself as to what you know verses what you believe.

Having little knowledge is nothing to be ashamed of. As you have made it this far you probably know more about yourself than just about everyone else knows of themselves, so you are far ahead of everyone else.

In other words, everyone else believes they know, but you know you believe.

And this is the difference that matters. Those who believe they know are lost.

Those who know they believe, like you, can grow in knowledge becoming among those who know they know.

And those who know they know can interact with the world in a way that their actions result in the outcomes they expect eliminating anxiety and frustration.

I want to digress for a moment and discuss those who will tell you what you want to hear.

This is unfortunately the majority of the people you will interact with.

People tell you what you want to hear for a myriad of reasons, none of which are of a benefit to you.

So who do you believe?

You believe those who tell you the truth.

Now some of you are jumping up and down yelling that I am using circular reasoning. But just hold on a moment.

How do you know who is telling you the truth?

Well, all you have is your knowledge, and quite pitiful we have to admit it may be.

So far as I know we have maybe 5 pieces of knowledge to work with.

So precious those bits of knowledge are. They are enough.

From those tiny bits of knowledge you have  imbibed (drank) from this discussion (and the previous two articles) I am going to turn you into a mathematician or more exactly a statistician.

Have no fear, becoming a mathematician is really easy. All the ones you have talked with in the past have been lying to you.

Now it is actually easier to be a logician than a mathematician and logic is all you really need, but I am going to describe both approaches which will allow you to determine who to believe.

The solution I present here is not going to become impossibly complex. It is going to become impossibly simple. Just stay with me for a little bit longer.

You are going to determine who to believe (if you choose to believe people at all) based on your own actual knowledge of what is true and what is false.

I will start with a really simple example.

Let us say that you and others look up at the sky. When asked John tells you the sky is red. When asked Jane tells you the sky is blue.

When you look the sky is blue. So you choose to believe Jane and  not to believe John.

Simple concepts can be very powerful when fully understood.

You do not need to believe what Jane told you about the sky because you already know by your own observation that the sky is blue.

But you do now know some new things.  You know that Jane told you the truth and that John did not.

From this point on you can listen to Jane and should ignore anything that John says. That is now and forever. You never listen to John again. After all he tells lies.

John told you something that you knew to be false from your own knowledge.

Now you can try to make excuses for John and I am sure John can come up with quite a few himself. But his and your excuses will not help you better understand and interact with the world.

Imagine for a moment that everything everyone told you always turned out to be true.

That is if they told you an action would result in a particular outcome and when you performed the action you always got the expected result, would this not be a wonderful world?

You have no doubt seen plenty of movies where one of the characters says something like “you dishonor me”, or “you dis’ed me”.

What they mean is “you are calling me liar”.

And this is the next key to the puzzle of understanding.

We must work together to create a world which values the truth.

Remember much earlier I talked about how belief was a short cut that allowed us to get things done faster.

Well it is a short cut only if belief leads to truth. If belief leads to lies it is the opposite of a short cut. It make things worse instead of better.

Lies mean your belief in your actions does not bring about the expected results. The wrong things happen. Things you did not intend happen. People die.

Instead of short cuts to good things we get bad things happening.

Think about being a farmer. If someone sells you bad seeds (lies to you) and your farm fails to produce the needed food, everyone who depends on your farm for food dies.

Things are not quite as dire today if a single farm fails, but if lots of farms fail people can starve. There are people starving right now in countries where the farms are failing.

So now we come to the question of logic or statistics to figure out who is telling the truth.

In the case of Jane and John you know who was telling the truth based on your knowledge. The real question is will they be telling the truth or lying in the future?

I could write several chapters on how various people in history came to answer this question, but I will leave that for another time.

Throughout the long history of the world, though the written history of the world is really pretty short, people have chosen logic and simplicity to determine who will be lying and who will be telling the truth in the future.

Do not worry,  I am not going to stick with anything so vague as logic and simplicity as a solution.

Those who came before us settled on a pretty simple set of rules:

1) Those who lie cannot be trusted

Yep, it is that simple, a set of one. One rule to rule them all. 😉

You should choose to trust (believe) those who have told no lies.

And by no lies I mean zero lies. One lie and the person is out. Forever.

This is why, in the past, being dishonored (called a liar) was such a terrible thing.

Once you had been found to be liar no one would believe you thereafter.

The people who wanted to build a successful society have though history chosen the “zero lies rule”. You could also think of it a “zero-tolerance” policy. “No lies”.

But what about people who make mistakes? Mistakes are not lies.

A person who makes a mistake immediately comes forward and declares their mistake and does what they can to remediate (make good on) what has happened because of their mistake. It is called responsibility.

If you are going to tell someone something that may cause them to act one way or another you had better be sure the action will lead to the desired result.

You are responsible for your mistakes (actions) and the outcome of your mistakes. If your mistakes lead to deaths, you killed them. Certainly not on purpose but none-the-less you killed them.

Having a tire blow out due to an unforeseen road hazard, crashing into another car, and killing the occupant, is an accident.

Losing control of a car due to an worn out tire, crashing into another car, and killing the occupant, is not an accident.

Speeding and losing control of a car is not an accident.

You are responsible for your actions ,even those you carry out by mistake.

Exactly why mistakes are to be held against you is a subject that will be addresses at another time.

But for now our focus remains on the zero lies policy.

So how do you apply the zero lies policy in the real world?

I find the area of our society that is the most full of lies today is that of the news media. (I used to think it was politicians)

People everywhere are choosing to believe opposite things. You would think it would be hard to hold opposing views based on facts. And, in fact, you will find most people will agree on most things when working with the same set of true facts.

The problem is knowledge and beliefs. People are believing in and acting upon things that are not true.

To apply the ‘zero lies’ rule to the news media you simply pick a newscaster and see if they tell you any lies. If they tell even one, you turn them off and never listen to them again.

Now the news media are perhaps the second best people on the planet at telling lies and they are also very good at being misleading. Newscasters are misleading when they present information in a way that causes you to draw the wrong conclusion.

Newscasters are also very good at splitting hairs and technicalities.

They will argue, even to themselves, that what they said is not  a lie for various technical reasons.

A favorite lie of the media is “I was told by an unnamed source the following …”

The following might be true, or it might be false, we have no idea. What is the point of providing you with unprovable information?  That is information that cannot be shown to be true or false.

The concepts of lying by omission and being misleading can get complex very quickly.

So again our forebears (ancestors) chose the zero lies rule which they expanded to mean no lying, no being misleading, and no making unprovable statements.

In the end it comes down to you.

You must choose what to believe and what not to believe. At least now you understand when you are choosing belief over knowledge. And you recognize that you are choosing to believe and who to believe.

Apply the “zero lies” rule along with zero misleading, zero hiding behind technicalities, and zero unprovable statements.

You want information that is provable and that can be used to make decisions that will result in actions with known outcomes.

Our forebears recognized how easily we can be mislead and how easily information can be distorted, so they chose the zero tolerance policy.

And the fact is that you and Jane want a world which you can understand. You both want to be able to understand what the outcome will be of your actions.

The easiest way you and Jane can achieve this is with the zero lies rule.

So what about forgiveness you ask?

So John lied once after years of telling the truth. Do we really turn him out into the wilderness to be eaten by wild animals?

Yes we do and I will tell you why.

Lairs, like those in the media, will twist and turn and tell any lie to accomplish their evil ends.  They also work hard to hide their lies.

If you provide them with an avenue they can exploit against you they will do so.

So it is not so much John and his one lie that is the problem, but that forgiving liars allows us to be exploited by the more purposeful liars. If a liar is to be forgiven 3 lies, the liars well all use 3 lies to exploit us.

And here is the key: If John really was a good upstanding member of society and a reader of this work, he knows, as well as you and Jane, how dangerous lying is to the success and well being of everyone. Lies are simply too destructive to society. John would not lie. If he does he has chosen to throw everyone overboard and save himself.

In other words, it is not just the lie that John told, but the damage it does to the trust system as a whole that John has caused.

At this point, the refrain is “well everyone lies”. That is exactly what John has lead us to. “Everyone Lies” and society degrades. Well being goes down the drain. Productivity is lost. We lock our doors. The rich rob the poor. The banks rob their depositors. Cats living with dogs. It all unravels.

So John knows all this and he does not want to be a wrecking ball so he does not lie. If he does lie he has chosen to be a wrecking ball.

There are the ignorant. Those who have not read these articles. What do we do with them?

We give them a copy or send them a link and make sure they understand it. The rules are simple: “no lies”.

Congratulations on getting through this three part series.  You and I have now established a firm basis on which we can expand our understanding.

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