I'm really curious about this idea that we should stop using words because others abuse or misuse our use of the term to mean something else that discredits our world view.

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Comment by Marc Draco 6 hours ago

No Mike, we don't... we can separate "belief" in the demonstrable (2+2=4) from belief in the supernatural; theists, on the other hand, cannot!


Hence my use of quotes around "believe".


English is a very powerful way to express yourself - it has the 2nd highest redundancy of all popular languages - but when a word like belief is hijacked in two different meanings, then one side has to stop using it to avoid confusion.

Mike K.Comment by Mike K. 6 hours ago
Of course we believe in evolution. It's just that beyond something being scientific theory, belief is almost meaningless.
Marc DracoComment by Marc Draco 6 hours ago
Something else to be mindful of here too. We don't "believe" in evolution. We understand it, follow it... etc. but NEVER believe in it. Belief is a word that should be reserved for the intangible - and in science that is limited to very few theoretical objects at the extremes of physics.

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Apology's for not posting all your posts :)


It's a tough one.  I agree - even though I have read a few books on the facts of evolution - I still don't feel comfortable saying that I know it is a fact - even though there are so many facts and so much evidence to support the theory of evolution.  In fact in all the years, we still have not had any evidence that disproves the theory of evolution.  Which in this day and age is quite staggering in itself - if indeed it becomes apparent that it isn't a fact.  I think though that we can be reasonably confident that it is a fact.



A free thinker would have no problem changing his or her mind in view of new evidence.
In some cases, apparently, this isn't true! Dallas Gaytheist found some reference to the Backfire Effect - where the more evidence we are shown that something is false, the mor we tend to believe it!

My point was that if you differentiate between belief and knowledge, then saying "I believe in evolution." becomes perfectly legitimate for those people who don't know the science. - Mike K

This is an excellent point, Mike, and one I had not considered: but believing in evolution just because daddy says it's true is no different to (or better than) believing in a god(s). This one, of course, comes to education from the cradle to the grave. We should not believe in evolution - we should be shown and taught it.


Shameful as it is, I had not even heard the term in a science class until I was 17!


I show my kids lots of poo - bird poo, gecko poo, cat poo, fish poo and show them how each is different. Birds and reptiles share a common digestive system "design" and therefore a common ancestor - which is one of the more obvious clues to infer that birds and reptiles are (distantly) related. 

We can say "I believe in evolution", there's nothing wrong with that. We believe it because of facts and theories based on scientific methods. We don't say that we believe in evolution because it came to us in a dream, it's wishful thinking, or we read it in an ancient book that has not been proven.

Someone on Pharyngula blog was just ranting about this very subject. He/she wished people would quit saying we don't "believe" in evolution, because we can and do. It's where that belief comes from that makes all the difference.

The misuse of the word "belief" is a big pet peeve of mine with atheists and theists alike.

A "belief" is simply, any statement (proposition) that you hold to be true.  "I believe that grass is green" or "I believe the Earth orbits the Sun" are valid statements. Knowledge is a subset of belief (Knowledge is commonly defined as a belief which is both justified and true).

We atheists have a tendency to (mis)use the term "belief" to refer almost exclusively to religious belief, or notions that one is unable to substantiate.

To further complicate things, the phrase "belief-in" has an entirely separate connotation.  As you state, it's incorrect to say "I believe in evolution", but saying "I believe evolution is true" is a valid expression.

Not being certain makes us so vulnerable to religious folk.  But when I was a kid, my mum gave me religious definites about life and universe facts - where my dad gave me theories that he said were our best guess yet, and I went with my dad - it made more sense that he wouldn't know for sure - that he was guessing based on scientific facts that we had.  I preferred his approach, it made more sense to me as a 8 year old.  For open minded people the truth goes down better than ignorant blind faith.  And the truth is that we just don't really know what's going on -but we can have our best guess according to what we know so far.  And that's OK.  We need to accept that we can't know anything for sure - but we can have a good guess based on the best science we have available.
Unfortunately, a lot of people are very emotionally immature and will accept the most ridiculous, emotionally-comforting, absolute truths, rather than an uncomfortable, rational uncertainty.

"What bothers me is this vague synonymousness with 'faith'.  You can have faith in a person, or believe something."

They're actually not that similar.  Putting faith in a person means having confidence in them. One could say, "I have faith that John will do the job", but I'm not sure how often it would be phrased that way - it sounds  a little archaic. One would probably say "I am confident that John will do the job" instead.

The phrase "believe in (a person or thing)" can be used the same way, but note it's a very different sense; Saying "I believe in John, he can do the job" is again an expression of confidence, and has nothing to do with whether the question of whether or not John exists!


"It would be technically true to say I have a faith in evolution"

I don't think this is correct related to what you're saying.  Faith is a type of belief - typically it is a belief that lacks substantial evidence.  Since there's tons of evidence for evolution, one can say "I believe that evolution is a valid theory", but it's a belief outside of the realm of faith.

Actually, lots of fanatic believers talk that way, throwing 'faith' into sentences where it really isn't appropriate.  They infuse every breath of their life with God and deliberately use every religious word they can get away with, in everyday conversation.


I missed Mike's statement about faith, which you commented on at the end there.  Yeah, faith is belief in something without confirming evidence or in the face of dis-confirming evidence.  It's a subset of belief, not a synonym.


Oh, and Mike, the word is synonymity, not synonymousness.  Your use of that word gave me a bit of a nervous tick, for a few seconds, after reading it.  Technically legal, but holy crap.  :-D

Heh heh heh.  Yeah, it's a real word, just a bit of a monstrosity.

One thinks of Jamie on Mythbusters saying, "It needs more stay-in-there-ed-ness."



*twitch twitch*


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