Belief / disbelief

[From Dag Forssell (950501 1150)]

[Bill Powers (950429.1540 MDT)]

  Just suppose for a moment that you were innocent and ignorant,

    and heard these stories for the first time from a person you
    had no reason to disbelieve. Any one of them _could_ be true,
    as far as you know: that is the art of story-telling, to create
    a believable narrative. . . .

  When we approach the problem from this angle, the real problem

    would seem to be not hatred, but gullibility, an inability to
    judge what is and is not a likely story.


[Rick Marken (950429.2230)]

  My personal experience is that it is often difficult to

    disbelieve what I hear, especially when the story evokes a
    great deal of familiar detail. It is often an act of will for
    me to be skeptical. When I was a kid I just accepted many
    stories that were told to me; I still believe far too much of
    what I am told. I think this might be true of others too; I
    have noted a tendency for many people to believe something
    simply because it has been said (especially if it has been said
    well); and to believe it even more if it has also been written

Bill and Rick,

Thank you for two wonderful posts on the power of stories.

I have long thought that HPCT shows me that there is absolutely no
difference (in terms of how they are handled by our minds) between
scientific understanding Newton style and beliefs evangelist style.
Principles and systems concepts are developed in the individual
mind the same way for each. Any difference lies in the validity --
ability to replicate -- the experiences, real and imagined, which
give rise to principles and system concepts. From time to time,
Bill P. has posted on science. The strength of the modern physical
sciences is that each student can replicate the basic experiments
and so learn from and incorporate personal experience which is the
same as the experience of the next student. In religion, in much
of the life sciences, and in hate groups (which are religions,
thought perhaps without gods), the situation is different. Stories
-- "true" and "untrue" -- are the rule.

Either way, once principles and systems concepts are developed and
in place in the individual, they control further development and
determine which additional stories are accepted and which are

I speculate that some people develop principles and systems
concepts that suggest it is important to understand correctly.
Such people would be open to new and challenging information such
as PCT.

It appears clear that early stories (told by people important to a
(gullible) youngster and therefore readily accepted) can and do
exert a major influence on what the young person studies and
accepts later.

Historians exhort us to learn from past atrocities so we will avoid
them in the future. As PCTers we know that you can't tell what a
person is doing from watching what they are doing. You need to ask
what people want. People determine their wants from their
understanding, and their understanding (with precious few
exceptions) from stories. It appears clear that stories gave us
the Crusades and the Holocaust; stories give us Somalia, Rwanda,
Bosnia and now Oklahoma city; stories give us persecution and
discrimination all over. Stories also give us loving
relationships, mutual support and cooperation.

This subject of belief and disbelief is important. In an ideal
world, we would teach our toddlers in preschool to be skeptical of
stories and show them how to ask for evidence. Since we don't
think toddlers are capable of much reasoning and we want to shield
them from reality, we tell them fairy tales of all kinds. We call
it our cultural and religious heritage. Later, we are amazed that
the same minds have diminished capacity to separate reasonably
valid information from pure fantasy. What an abominable situation!

The world will be a better place when PCT is taught in preschool
and kindergarten. Our toddlers will understand with ease that they
control perceptions only and that it is all perception. They will
be alert to how fantasies are woven into stories and will grow up
to be skeptics who think clearly. It is nice to fantasize, isn't

Best, Dag