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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Replies to This Discussion

Humor, man.
Not in this country.

Equivocation or using words in two or more different senses is a common logical fallacy.  In any argument, you need to define your terms.  Start with "theory" and "law," as in "evolution is just a theory" or "if there are natural laws, there must be a lawgiver."  Good luck.

 

Craig 

I think that faith is the wrong word for evolution - I think even if you don't know the evidence personally - it's still better to say that "I accept evolution as fact" is a better way to describe it.
Evolution IS a fact, or rather, a whole lot of facts.  We see evolution in action all the time in plants, domestic animals, and microbes.  We can't observe directly the evolution of our own species because we live so long; a generation takes roughly 40 years instead of the few days or hours of a generation of microbes or fruit flies.  So we catalogue the evidence in fossils, dna, and cellular structure.  The mechanism through which evolution works, random mutation and natural selection, is theoretical, but the theory is extraordinarily sound because it explains rationally all the evidence and ties it together, and because there is no competing scientific theory.  (Intelligent design is religion, not science."  I believe evolution, but I don't believe in it.  I trust scientific method, but I don't have faith in it.  I trust the educational system that produces scientists with doctorates and the peer review process that tests their hypotheses.  Less skillful thinkers sometimes argue through equivocation, and other less skillful thinkers fall for it.

It's a fact, but that's beside the point?  Right.  A lot of people accept scientific theories on trust--not faith--because we know something about how science works and how people get to be scientists.  I don't understand electricity very well, but I trust the lights will come on when I flip the switch.  I don't have a clue how computer chips work, but because there are many millions of functioning computers in the world, I can see that they do work.  I know the sun will rise tomorrow because I understand that the illusion of sunrise is the result of the earth spinning at over a thousand miles an hour.  Given the mass of the earth and the fact that Newton's laws of motion still apply, I think it will still be spinning tomorrow morning.  There is no faith involved.

 

How do we think ideas get into science text books?  We wouldn't even be having this discussion if it weren't for religious fanatics accepting on faith a book written by people ignorant of science three thousand years ago or thereabouts.  Deductive reasoning leads me to put my trusts in scientists and in scientific text books.  The same deductive reasoning leads me to doubt the "science" described by those who may be experts in reading said ancient book and inventing more and more fantasies around it.  They have no expertise in science, they do no peer-reviewed research, and they put forward no tenable alternative theory.  All they do is use faulty logic to attack the most important and all-encompassing theory in the history of science AND try to convince us that faith and reason are the same so their faith doesn't look quite so silly.  And they never learn.

 

Animal husbandry, by the way, is not natural selection; it is artificial selection because human beings--not the environment--decide which animals are allowed to reproduce.  Artificial selection is more efficient because there is intelligence behind it, not the blind forces of nature.

The reason it's a bad word is because of the theists.

 

You'll see, on The Atheist Experience, that they refuse to answer a question with a simple yes or no, if some theist calls in and asks if they believe some scientific fact or other.  They'll always rephrase it to put it in more rational terms, such as understanding and accepting the facts of the scientific theory.  They never say they believe something, because the theists will turn around and try to frame it as having faith, similar to their religious belief, 95% of the time.

 

That's one of the reasons I appreciate silly semantic debates, such as the one I had recently with Stephan Goodwin, over values.  They teach us to speak more precisely, examine alternate interpretations, and avoid traps, such as the belief one.

Interesting - so you are saying that they avoid answering the 'do you believe' question so as to avoid tricky situations where religious folk use that as justification for their own beliefs. I think the problem occurs when we ask why someone has a belief. I think that the reasons that are the basis of our beliefs are the crux of the issue here. Religious folk base their belief in faith - we based our belief in facts - and there's the difference - which makes all the difference. Facts and reason, vs faith and fairy stories.
They answer the question.  They just always rephrase it in more sound, more precise, more powerful language.  You can't get people to understand and accept what you're saying, when you use the same fuzzy language that they were brainwashed in.  Language is power.
That's why clarity of meaning and definition is needed if you're are going to use such 'fuzzy' words.
Or, better yet, don't use fuzzy words.
yes sure....

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