Unshakable Belief (Re: Robertson's Science and Faith)

[From Rick Marken (2007.12.09.0940)]

Bill Powers (2007.12.09.0741 MST)--

>If beliefs can't change and grow, what good is striving for knowledge, for

personal betterment, for a better world? Why should a belief be
unchangeable, as though we always get everything right the first time (or
the last time) we try?

I think this gets to the heart of the issue. Some people seem to adopt
system concepts that include the principle that changing one's belief
is a sin. This principle is certainly part of most religious system
concepts (I've heard of religious people who pray for the strength to
maintain their belief -- faith -- in the face of counter- evidence)
but it is also part of other system concepts as well. It is an
explicit component of ideologies, like Communism, Nazism and so on. I
think this principle (of "keeping the faith") is also implicit in
ostensibly scientific system concepts. It is certainly a component of
the "conventional" approach to scientific research in the social
science. I think I see it also in economic beliefs about how the
economy works; evidence that it does not work the way it is believed
to work is dismissed, explained away or ignored as readily as is
evidence contradicting religious beliefs.

The problem I have with belief, therefore, is not so much a conflict
between science and religion but, rather, is one between system
concepts that, as a matter of principle, require unshakable belief --
continued belief despite the evidence -- and those that don't. I
think there is really no way to resolve this conflict other than by
keeping down the gain on the "push back" and hope that, eventually,
these "unshakable belief" principles (memes) will fade away . They
will have to fade away on their own because, by their very nature,
they will not be changed in the face of evidence. So even if the
results of acting on these beliefs are perceptions that was unwanted
by other control systems within the person holding these beliefs, the
beliefs will not be revised.

I would really not like to think that the only reason
some people have accepted PCT is that it changed nothing in, and
added nothing of value to, their most important ideas.

As far as I know, I am one of the few people who came to PCT, not
because it was consistent with what I already believed but, rather,
because it required that I make a significant change in a belief. I
had believed that the correct way to study living systems was using
conventional psychological research methodology. Proof that I held
this belief is sitting on my bookshelf: my text book on experimental
psychology, which was published in the same year (1981) as I published
my first research study on PCT, proving that the approach to research
described in my own text was wrong. PCT certainly changed and added
something of great value to what were my most important ideas. I feel
lucky (blessed? :wink: that my beliefs are not unshakable.





Richard S. Marken PhD