"A feeling of being sure that someone or something exists or that something is true."
This is the first thing that pops up if you were to type in the word "Belief" into Google. It's actually supplied by the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, and to read the words... the meaning seems almost straight forward. "A feeling of being sure that someone or something exists or that something is true", you could almost make the mistake of saying that as an Atheist you "believe" in scientific principles... But wait. Ths may be a double-edged sword in disguise!
In a debate, especially with a theist, using the proper wording to communicate your ideas is integral. And this may be one of the biggest tripping stones we have as english speaking atheists. To take a stance on any subject you will either have to believe it to be true or not. There's actually no single word alternative to the word that can adequatley explain that you believe something to be true. You could say, "I know it to be true", but this in an arguement, places a burden on you personally offer proof to the validity of such claims on the spot. I'm not sure about the rest of you, but when I debate scientific theories and principles of evolution, I usually do not have trillions of dollars of scientic equipment, evolutionary remains, and radiactive substances to prove on the spot and allow others to observe, the processes of genetic mutation in animals, and radiactive half-lives that prove carbon dating as viable. I also dont carry around the research of 200 years of research that was the product of atleast 3 times as many scientists.
As an alternative to "I believe", you could even try "I have faith". However, this is probabley equally as bad a choice. The truth is, that in an english speaking culture that has strong religious influences that had almost exclusive claim to be truth in the past, those religions have managed to hijack many of the words we commonly use to assert a truth. But this works both ways, as religion encroaches on such words, secular people naturally tend to give such words a strictly religious connotation. And it shows alot in debate that opposes long standing religious tradition. Belief has come to take on a very spiritual meaning, one where scientific proof is not recognized or necassary to assert a supposed "Truth". As an atheist even I recognize it that this take over of the word has happened. Most of my friends who were agnostic or atheist even in childhood, formed the opinion that a "Belief" was a factless and unprovable assertion made by the relgious. But heres where we have to differentiate ourselves. If we use the word "Belief" just once in a debate of science, a person could easily think "Look, atheists have beliefs that they can't prove too!" And to top this all off, I'm not sure there is much to be done about this transition of the word "Belief" from an assertion of truth to one of a persons religious ideas. It's kinda done, and to try to take it back would be a word war; one that would only lead to more confusion than success.
So here is my question for all of you to debate: "How do we/can we phrase scientific theories and ideas, without stating them as a belief, or something to be believed?"
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