This I Believe

Todd - Woodstock, Illinois
Entered on January 15, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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What I believe is my choice. As with knowledge, my beliefs may change when new information comes to light. However, I cannot choose what is known; that is a matter of objective reality, of collective observations compared to each other. Perhaps I might provide proof that something exists, within a margin of error. But in spite of what I observe, I could still choose to believe contrary to the evidence. Ultimately, my believing is a decision, for which only I am responsible.

When observing very tiny particles, the act of observation in and of itself affects what I see. While such uncertainty appears paradoxical, it is the very nature of quantum reality. Similarly, the principle of belief as compared with that of knowledge seems to pose an enigma. But both knowledge and belief can be ambiguous. Respectively, I may know only percentages of certainty while also being agnostic in faith. So I have levels of confidence that something is true by way of research, but what would account for my agnosticism? Could I cite the overwhelming numbers of people who believe, then say that makes it true? No. For one example, dominant belief once maintained that the Earth was flat and at the center of the universe.

The structure of the universe did not collapse in response to the observations of Galileo, Copernicus and the meticulous Brahe. However, the previous base of knowledge then crumbled, though prior beliefs were maintained for some time only because they were chosen. Even now, there is a Flat-Earth Society. Obviously then, belief can be affirmed by desire in spite of overwhelming, contrary evidence. While the Society insists that observations are illusory, it is their choice of interpreting the data. That is, instead of using evidence to formulate a theory to explain facts, their assumption dictates the form of the proof.

Belief can be absolute and may not rely on observations of fact. Knowledge is dynamic, depending on investigations of reality and can be independent of faith. While the two concepts are similar, both cause for confidence in “truth,” only belief may be chosen. This is because faith is not reliant on empirical, numerical data while knowledge is the result of such detailed studies. Without waxing etiological or arguing a priori provisoes as to the role of the observer, choice is clearly more in the domain of faith than it is of knowledge, that is, of hard, mathematical evidence.

For purposes of an application, choice has a bearing on knowledge, also known as science. Moreover, the concept of knowledge is as useful as that of belief when I choose to apply either or both. For example, I may choose to believe that I can write an intelligible essay regarding science and faith. But if I do not have sufficient knowledge of language or the topic, my belief is for naught. Conversely, if I do not have faith that I can write it, I won’t, and any knowledge I that have comes to nothing as well. Therefore both conceptual frameworks work together rather than being at odds, as espoused by extreme schools of thought.