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   Author  Topic: Weyken  (Read 3295 times)

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« on: 2005-09-03 15:18:15 »
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Words are important. Every time somebody says something along the lines of, "I believe the sun will rise tomorrow", that somebody appears to provide "supporting evidence" for those who say "I believe in pixies" (or who believe in other wholly imaginary things - like "gods") and expect to be taken seriously. There are, of course, qualitative differences between these classes of statement - Newton's laws underlie the first (no matter how erroneous the concept of "sunrise" may be), while the others are unsupportable in any rational sense. Yet, this distinction is in no way apparent when examining the statements in the absence of knowledge about the process of formulating them. Both classes of statement speak only of belief, and the fact that the value of the conclusions and the methods of deriving these conclusions are completely different, is occluded by this word. For example, when the physicist "believes that general relativity remains a competent model" and the biologist "believes that the process of evolution is best explained by Darwin’s theory", the layman cannot distinguish these "beliefs” or, more accurately, the process that lead to these statements from, e.g. the "distinguished scientist” (probably, but not necessarily propounding out-of-field), or "world leader" (as if this were a qualification) who "believes in God", "believes in Creationism", or worse yet, believes in "Intelligent Design*".

This overloaded usage appears a primary cause of the general confusion and equivocation of ideas and values based on reason (e.g. evolution), with those developed through religious, political, social or other strongly held convictions (e.g. creationism). This confusion may not be entirely accidental. Certainly, those who tend to issue statements of the latter class are unlikely to follow the argument that a distinction is necessary, if they understood it, would and quite likely disagree with it, and might strenuously disapprove of an attempt to distinguish between ''rationally supported'' and ''irrational belief". Nevertheless, not entirely irrational people do sometimes think such thoughts and attempt such arguments. For example, this topic was previously discussed on the Church of Virus’ mail list, and "belif" was proposed as a word to describe so called ''rational beliefs'' ([WikiHelpWanted] A link to the discussions with Eric (1998?) would be helpful here). This had the dubious advantage of being an homonym. Dubious because, for people attempting to clarify a confusion of concepts, a homonym perpetuating and disguising the distinction - at least in verbal communication - and possibly taken as mere erroneous usage in written form, appears less than clear at best - and distinctly disingenuous at worst (almost as bad as "Intelligent Design"). At any rate, despite the merits of the suggestion, the concept never seems to have taken off in any major way - even on the Church of Virus. Yet, the challenge appears to be extant, and the need for a more narrowly defined word readily apparent once we grant that this is, at least potentially, a problem. Any observation of people will show that our conversations and discourse are punctuated by our beliefs, both in fact and in usage. Unfortunately, which class of ''belief'' is almost invariably left ambiguous.

Nevertheless, if we are to discuss issues rationally, whether of philosophy and religion or of science and current affairs - or indeed of anything else, unequivocating our usage of ''belief'' is important so as to allow others the ability to assess the value of our assertions based on the process involved in reaching our conclusions. Clearly it is up to those of us who find ''buried equivocations'' distasteful to find a palatable solution for our own use, and to be careful to use it only in appropriate contexts; those who disagree that this would be helpful are unlikely to offer their willing cooperation in the process.

Perhaps ''Weyken'' might be a suitable alternative to ''belief''. ''Weyken'' is a composite word based on ''Old English 'weye' to weigh or measure and Middle English's 'kennen” influenced by the Old Norse 'kenna', 'to know' as well as Old Enlish's 'cennan', 'to declare perception; understanding' and meaning, ''Data internalized as supportable knowledge with a sustainable provisional [truth value|truthvalue] ascribed to it through the medium of reasoning based on evidence (for example - and ideally, through the scientific method)''.

''Weyken'' will hopefully have a more general appeal than 'belif' - which did little to differentiate itself from its murkier origins except to assert the ''belif'' that a ''rational belif'' was superior to an "irrational belief''. An argument that even ''belif's'' most ardent supporter's apparently have not found sufficiently persuasive to cause them to adopt it in general usage.

''Weyken'' can and should be viewed as a direct replacement for the words "believe", "belief" and "belief system" only when used in circumstances where the ''belief'' asserted to is a consequence of the application of reason, preferably formal and defensible (as in the scientific method), indubitably only when the proposer is prepared to explain and defend the rationality of the processes used, and most particularly when the reasoning results from rational evaluation of all available evidence for the [truth value|truthvalue] of the proposition in question. In other words, ''weyken'' provides a new word to separate the overloaded concepts of "accepting as true in consequence of evaluation" and "accepting as true in the absence of evidence, or in the face of the evidence" carried by "belief." The hope is that the embedded etymological cues will suffice to remind proponents of the careful use of words to use the term effectively. The anticipation is that with appropriate usage, this word ought to replace belief for ''the process of concluding as a consequence of evaluation of evidence'' in fairly short order, being so very much more specific and appropriate - even if the users of  ''belief'' cling to the more general usage. Such legacy use, and it arises, will only serve to invalidate the equivocation and highlight the ambiguity fundamental to the confusion required to camouflage the unsupportable.


Refer the wiki of the Church of Virus at http://www.churchofvirus.org/wiki/weyken for a formal definition of "weyken".

* The latter is of course worse, because it involves the deliberate use of a dishonest, pseudoscientific label to disguise an unsupported and unsupportable belief in a continuous act of creation by the proponent’s favorite god. Genetic shift means that if “Intelligent Design” purports to explain observed evolution, then it cannot refer to a single “act of creation,” but must rather be a continuous or near continuous act, performed by an invisible being, using unobservable and inexplicable processes, invokeable at will by students performing well understood experiments in genetics and even perhaps, when developing “irreducibly complex” circuits or programs using evolutionary design tools.
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With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
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