Believing False Things

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Aposteriori unum's picture
Believing False Things

I value truth. I want my model of reality to match actual reality as closely as possible. I am convinced that the more my model of reality matches actual reality the better off I will be.

To define better off briefly: Pleasure is generally preferable to pain. Life is generally preferable to death. Good health is generally preferable to illness. Wealth is generally preferable to poverty. Et cetera.

I am sceptical because I know that if I simply accept propositions without analysis my risk of accepting and believing things that are not true increases. Conversely, if I don't readily accept propositions but instead attempt to verify them and falsify them against empirical observation and experiencial evidence I decrease my risk of believing believing things that are false.

The fewer false things I believe the better off I will be. I can think of many examples where believing true things can be beneficial to my overall well-being, but I cannot think of any instances where believing false things can be beneficial to my overall well-being.

A proposition that I cannot verify through empirical evidence et cetera, I do not accept by default. I do not make the claim that said proposition is false, because if it cannot be verified then that means it cannot be falsified. If it cannot be falsified then I cannot be rationally justified in believing that it is positively not true. That is where "I don't know" becomes the answer.

(Aside : I thought about the benefits of HADD, hyperactive agency detection device and how it could be beneficial to believe that there is a predator in the bushes when there is not... However, believing that isn't beneficial to well-being because there was no danger to begin with. And without the HADD believing that there isn't a predator when there actually is one increases the danger and is definitely not beneficial to well-being.)

The questions I have are as follows:
Do you value truth?
Can you think of a scenario in which believing false things can be beneficial for your overall well-being?
Why would you believe something for which there is no way to determine whether or not it is true?

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ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
1. Even people under the

1. Even people under the curse of mental disorders value truth, but truth as their brain understands it. I feel as though its psychologically impossible to honestly believe something you know is false. Even when you are grieving for a dead relative, the first stage of denial (false belief) is subsequently following other stages that lead you back to acceptance (the truth).

2. In terms of evolution, I've heard many examples in which believing something false is beneficial. You mentioned HADD for example. But take the false belief that porcupines can shoot their spines at you. That false belief is in part, based on truth, since coming in contact with a porcupine can leave you wounded. Hyperextending the truth into a falsehood, in this case, makes you stay far enough away from the animal, that there is less risk of being hurt.

However, notice that in this situation, the person doesn't know its a false belief. I think that is the important factor. No one believes a lie, if they know its a lie.

Joe Rogan had a podcast similar to this topic:

Aposteriori unum's picture
Yes. You are correct that no

Yes. You are correct that no-one believes a lie if they know it's a lie. And you can't believe something you know is false. But you can believe false things not knowing they're false.

Next. The porcupine is a great example. However, if you think that they can shoot their spines and you keep your distance, true, no harm will come to you, but also there is no benefit beyond knowing the truth that they cannot shoot their spines. Because if they cannot and you stay away was there any danger to begin with? No. You didn't know they couldn't but it didn't help you any more than believing the truth about porcupines and their spines.

Anwe Bacaudae's picture
can what a stupid person

can what a stupid person thinks they think actually constitute an opinion?

you give too much credit to the behavior of lesser primates.

Aposteriori unum's picture
I'm not sure what you mean.

I'm not sure what you mean. Would you mind explaining?

Anwe Bacaudae's picture
if some moron comes up to you

if some moron comes up to you and says he believe would be stupider to just "believe him".

this is a problem with the word "believe". its kind of a stupid empty word that implies some internal place where this exists, but it is not consistant with how our brains work. most of our brains directly work like other animals who do not speak or have words let alone beliefs, and our human language centers are ASSOCIATIVE...we mimic and pick up..we do not create...not really. we can merge ideas that we have encountered, sometimes completely obscuring the root material, but we do not really "think" anything...its just your brain and valves and electro chemical shocks making brain matter quiver.

this is why mental illness is so's not that some intermediary lens gets blurry...there simply is nothing on the inside...your memories all all syntheized each time other brain organs are triggered via sensory associative feedback loops.

this is why memories change and fade out...each time you are wholley fabricating a new experience. you are "remembering" the last time you "remembered." not pulling a file out of some store room.

likewise, belief is just the 1-2 1-2 of the brain as well...memory and belief are almost identical, in terms of how the brain works...both are associative stimulation generators based on the complex "damage" or neuroplasticity patterns brought on by earlier encounters.

people who "believe" anything are simply experiencing their brain conjure memories, same as you or i, but the source took an alternate pathway than the typical sensory method. their mouth may say " I BELIEVE IN GOD" but really they are just going through a series of feedback loops which are synthesizing experiences identical to memory recreation.

Sky Pilot's picture


Two plus two can equal five if you redefine the word five to mean four and apply that definition in all of your calculations. It's like saying that a character named "Jesus" existed 2,000 years ago. He didn't exist by that name because the word "Jesus" didn't exist until 1630 A.D. A word is simply a word and it means whatever people agree that it means, which can be anything.

Chica__2009's picture
Do you value truth? Yes

Do you value truth? Yes
Can you think of a scenario in which believing false things can be beneficial for your overall well-being? In the top of my head, Santa. Lol. Although I never had that kind of childhood.
Why would you believe something for which there is no way to determine whether or not it is true?
I don't think I would.

Aposteriori unum's picture
How does believing in Santa

How does believing in Santa clause benefit your well being?

Chica__2009's picture
because having a motivation

because having a motivation to be and do good is essentially beneficial to well being.

Aposteriori unum's picture
So believing that doing good

So believing that doing good is beneficial to ones well being. Yeah. I'd say you're right, but how is the existence of santa clause necessary for that belief? Does belief that santa clause exists inform your decisions such that the consequences of your actions are consistent with that belief?

I think you're close...

Chica__2009's picture
Believing in Santa Claus isn

Believing in Santa Claus isn't necessary for the belief that doing good is beneficial to one's well being. I don't see where we don't meet eye to eye on this. Also, why do atheists always say "you're close"? lol. it's so annoying.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Do you think driving a meter

Do you think driving a meter away from cliff is safer than one centimeter away?

Aposteriori unum's picture
Yeah. Why?

Yeah. Why?

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
It goes back to my porcupine

It goes back to my porcupine example. Staying a meter away, because you're afraid it will shoot quills at you (lie) is safer than not believing the lie, and staying one centimeter away. It benefits your well being to believe the lie.

Sheldon's picture
"Do you think driving a meter

"Do you think driving a meter away from cliff is safer than one centimeter away?"

Not necessarily, I'd need more information, what if there are mines a meter in from the edge?

Don't you just love pointless analogous non-sequiturs.

Aposteriori unum's picture
You're really close too...

You're really close too... Because believing that something is dangerous and you should stay away... If it is in fact dangerous... Is a true belief. Degrees don't matter in that. I'll give you another example... Believing that touching an electric fence will hurt you is a belief. Believing that it will electrocute you or believing that it will disintegrate you are different, but the effect is the same. You will stay away from it either way. That's true. But the how is not the important part. How it will kill you doesn't matter. Cause it will, and if you believe it and stay way as a result your action is informed by a true belief: that it will kill you. A false belief would be like, Oh, it will heal me. It doesn't have to be that extreme, but it's an easier example to make. But like I said, I think you are coming close... You realize that it's not an easy question and I see that you have thought about it.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Well but its still not a true

Well but its still not a true belief. Porcupines don't shoot their quills. Its a myth, a false statement.

Aposteriori unum's picture
But being shot by a quill is

But being shot by a quill is not a real danger. Of you mean that incidentally there is a different real danger then I guess you're right. If believing that walking under ladders gives you bad luck also happens to prevent you from the chance of hitting your head you could say that fits too. Believing that water is blessed and when drunk will protect you from demons doesn't actually protect you from demons, but it just so happens to keep you hydrated. That's good, but it's a coincidence.

I guess the best example I've come up with is a placebo. It doesn't actually help you but believing that it does could, sometimes actually help you. But it's still on the fence.

Pitar's picture
"Life is generally preferable

"Life is generally preferable to death." Is there a known qualitative tangible we might accept this by? Surely in the nothingness of death there is no consciousness to make such a determination. Can it be said, then, that life in all of it's good/bad offerings is better than death? Furthermore, can it be said that the defining of reality is life itself, versus the non-reality of death where no consciousness exists to define death as a reality? One cannot define the nature of death, in other words, without having actually been there and returned from it with an accuracy of description that would deny the throes of mankind's propensity towards subjectivity to hold it in contempt until proven objective. But, the entire notion of returning from the dead to give life the high-5 is a lunacy of the imagination that atheists dismiss.

So, life itself is reality. In that reality we have mankind's vacillation to place fact on one court, fantasy on the other and then lob his will between them as he does. That is man's reality.

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