CH1 L28: Beliefs – part IV (Counterexamples)

  1. To pick up where we left off, beliefs are meanings with high emotional amplitude or frequency [1] which assure us about the certainty of something. When it comes to beliefs we might mostly think of the spiritual or metaphysical ones, but they cover wider ranges of experiences. For instance, we also believe that 2+2=4.
  2. Then we studied generalization which is essential in forming a belief. We saw that highly emotional experiences can imprint a belief at once, or we can create a belief about something unimportant after 1 occurrence [2]. Premature generalizations generate wrong beliefs which are dangerous to our well-being or survival. Subsequently, we talked about taboos which mostly are examples of pernicious beliefs [3]. As a case, we studied the story of a poor man who had eaten a taboo animal, became depressed, expected his death and he actually died. [4]
  3. If you can’t sympathize with the primitive person, because he’s too distant, I’d say the girls who avoid eating to become a model [5], share the same pathology. You can also see that some people still have the ritual of human sacrifice in different corners of the world [6]. So, it’s necessary to find a remedy for malicious beliefs.
  4. Theoretically speaking, a belief bears no doubt; thus they form a dichotomy. We discussed that doubt was a stressor and we’d be more than pleased to eliminate it [7]. However, doubt is the only tool to criticize beliefs. When we doubt the truth of something, we start to think about it.
  5. If we analogize a wrong belief to a tumor, doubt would be the surgical knife. The analogy warns us about the nature of doubt. We should know when and how to use it, or it could cause more damages. For instance, you can’t easily make someone doubt their belief if the bond is highly emotional. Because removing the belief leaves a scary void which could make the person panic; consequently showing irrational reactions. We could see them hemorrhaging. [8]
  6. Let’s think about a less dramatic situation. In the 26th post, we’re about to generalize that all apples were delicious [9]. How can we doubt it? It’s simple. The first counterexample (a rotten apple) would induce uncertainty. 
  7. That’s the foundation of science and, in my opinion, thinking. We hold a belief until the first counterexample falsifies it. Karl Popper [10] introduced the concept of falsifiability [11] to the theory of knowledge. If a scientific statement passes more exhaustive experiment, being able to justify then predict their outcome, its degree of falsifiability is higher; therefore, it’s a stronger statement.
  8. A belief or major premise [12] has the following format: All x → y [13]. In many cases, we can’t check every x to corroborate its truth especially if they happen in the future. The best approach to find the truth is to find a counterexample.
  9. Let’s use our tool and dissect a statement. Paulo Coelho [14] in “The Alchemist” [15] stated that “Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.”
  10. Apart from the first part which is an obvious statement, thus a malarkey, the second part can be easily refuted. “Everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time”. A counterexample: coin flipping. According to Mr. Coelho’s statement, if you flipped a coin twice and you got two heads, then the third outcome will be surely heads as well. Is it true? [16].
  11. We haven’t completely answered the question we asked in the 26th post: “How many similar experiences do we need to generalize?” [17]. I’d say that we have the tendency to generalize after two similar experiences. That’s why “Rule of three” [18] was invented: The twist or counterexample happens at the third event. You can find this rule in many stories such as “The Three Little Pigs” [19]. After reading that the first two pigs built the flabby houses which were easily destroyed by the wolf, so they were eaten up, our brain is ready to generalize but the third pig contradicts the generalization (he is protected by a well-built house) and that’s why we find it the twist in the story.
  12. If we experience that many beliefs have been falsified by doubt, we can generalize that every belief can be questioned. Thus we create a new belief which has incorporated doubt. The advantage of this mindset is we think about beliefs as tools which can be always modified and it goes well with the ever-changing nature of life.
  13. I’d like to propose a new model for beliefs. If you think that beliefs are as rigid as concrete, doubt will shatter them. That’s why early humankind was afraid of doubting and they attacked those who questioned their beliefs. Besides, religions tried to vaccinate their beliefs by saying that doubting a sin. They also assimilated counterexamples in a procrustean way [20]. However, if you see them as mouldable as metals, then doubt will cast them to form new beliefs all the time which can help us survive and improve our well-being.

Exercise 28:

  1. Think about someone whose partner or spouse cheated on. What would happen to their beliefs?


[1] You can refer to the 25th post where we started the discussion about beliefs. Link

[2] Link to the post about generalization.

[3] Link to the post about taboos

[4] Again refer to the post about taboos. Link

[5] You can find some many articles which point out that the intensive diet can cause anorexia. Link

[6] We’re gonna discuss human sacrifice later as another example of wrong assimilation and generalization. However, you can find some information about the human sacrifice in the following link.

[6] We’re gonna discuss human sacrifice later as another example of wrong assimilation and generalization. However, you can find some information about the human sacrifice in the following link.

[7] We discussed in the 26th post [Link] that having doubt looks like sleeping with one eye open, so it’s an exhausting practice to doubt all the time. Besides, it creates indecisiveness.

[8] That’s why the religious people start to fight experiences contradicting their beliefs. As we discussed fear triggers anger [Link] for the fight or flight reaction and if you can’t avoid the questions, you’re gonna attack to destroy them.

[9] Again link to the 26th post.

[10] Link to the wiki page about Karl Popper.

[11] Link to the wiki page about falsifiability

[12] We discussed the major premise in an example in the 25th post. Link

[13] We will discuss this statement in logic and algebra.

[14] Link to the wiki page about Paulo Coelho.

[15] Link to the wiki page about The Alchemist

[16] The alchemist is an absolute Plagiarism. Rumi has told the same story in Masnavi that a guy from Baghdad dreamed that there’s a treasure in Egypt; then after travelling to Egypt he realized that the treasure was in Baghdad. Then Coelho added some spiritual stuff like the statement above-mentioned which are totally hokums.

[17] Again link to the 26th post.

[18] Link to Rule of three in writing.

[19] Link to “The three little pigs”

[20] We discussed the procrustean attitude in the 24th post. Link


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