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What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?

To start off each year, a question is asked of the Edge membership. This year’s question is: “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?” Here are some favorite responses of mine followed by a couple of my own beliefs.

Rupert Sheldrake is Darwin’s man and believes that all natural processes, even physical laws, have evolved through natural selection:

I believe, but cannot prove, that memory is inherent in nature. Most of the so-called laws of nature are more like habits.

The idea that something like the value of Avogadro’s number is just a habit that the universe adopted after much practice is quite appealing.

Kevin Kelly thinks the DNA within in our body is slightly different in each cell:

I believe, but cannot prove, that the DNA in your body (and all bodies) varies from part to part. I make this prediction based on what we know about biology, which is that natures abhors uniformity. No where else in nature do we see identity maintained to such exactness. No where else is there such fixity.

Ray Kurzweil is trying to live forever and probably hopes to see the whole of the universe at greater than light speed:

We will find ways to circumvent the speed of light as a limit on the communication of information.

Kurzweil would probably disagree with Todd Feinberg’s belief:

I believe the human race will never decide that an advanced computer possesses consciousness. Only in science fiction will a person be charged with murder if they unplug a PC. I believe this because I hold, but cannot yet prove, that in order for an entity to be consciousness and possess a mind, it has to be a living being.

Jonathan Haidt on religion:

I believe, but cannot prove, that religious experience and practice is generated and structured largely by a few emotions that evolved for other reasons, particularly awe, moral elevation, disgust, and attachment-related emotions.

Seth Lloyd on science:

I believe in science. Unlike mathematical theorems, scientific results can’t be proved. They can only be tested again and again, until only a fool would not believe them.

I cannot prove that electrons exist, but I believe fervently in their existence. And if you don’t believe in them, I have a high voltage cattle prod I’m willing to apply as an argument on their behalf. Electrons speak for themselves.

And George Dyson thinks their may be a connection between the language a raven speaks and the language spoken by the indigenous human population:

Interspecies coevolution of languages on the Northwest Coast.

During the years I spent kayaking along the coast of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, I observed that the local raven populations spoke in distinct dialects, corresponding surprisingly closely to the geographic divisions between the indigenous human language groups. Ravens from Kwakiutl, Tsimshian, Haida, or Tlingit territory sounded different, especially in their characteristic “tok” and “tlik.”

Here’s what I believe:

  • Human beings are not the only instance of intelligent life in the universe. When I think of how big the universe is, it seems impossible to me that humans are the only ones here to observe it. Also, it’s damn arrogant.
  • The things we call “the soul” and “consciousness” can be explained scientifically and then could probably be duplicated given the proper technology (i.e. a machine could have a soul). I guess you could say I come down firmly on the Kurzweil side of the Kurzweil/Feinberg continuum.
  • Technology will outstrip humanity’s ability to control it. I have no idea what form this will actually take. Bill Joy believes technology might endanger humanity to the point of extinction (many prominent thinkers — Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Freeman Dyson, John Seely Brown among them — disagree to various degrees). I don’t know if I’d go as far as Joy, but what makes me believe in this is 1) advances in technology consolidate more and more power in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals and, 2) culture moves slower than technology. That is, the potential for danger is rising faster than our ability to respond to it, and that could cause problems.

What do you believe?

Reader comments

John BJan 05, 2005 at 7:43PM

I believe I'll have another drink... ::hic::

(Sorry, I couldn't resist. I'll try harder next time.)

John BJan 05, 2005 at 7:45PM

Okay, seriously, now...

I believe there is an ebb and flow in the universe, call it karma, call it 'the Force', whatever, and that were we able to remove ourselves from the process, it could be scientifically proven. But since it is impossible to remove oneself from the universe in order to get a detached point of view, it will never be proven.

Oh, and I also believe there is no personified god in the judeo-christian sense.

DarlingNikiJan 05, 2005 at 7:54PM

I believe that this has been one of your smarter posts, Jason. That is what I believe.

Jeff HJan 05, 2005 at 7:59PM

I believe Daniel Goleman is correct. Jared Diamond's is also pretty interesting, and not just because he's paving the way for the words "geographer" and "overexposed" being used comfortably in the same sentence

TessJan 05, 2005 at 7:59PM

I'm only sixteen, so I guess I still have a while to formulate beliefs. It's funny, I was writing about this on my blog a little while ago. But anyway, here goes:

I believe anything could happen.

Both of my feet are on the ground. I understand science, evolution, logic. But if tomorrow someone told me that everything I knew was false, and here's the truth...I wouldn't believe it blindly, I wouldn't join a cult, but...I would look at it with an open mind. Who's to say the general opinion is the right one? Who knows anything, after all? Think of Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Maybe we're all looking at shadows upon the wall.

I believe both in God and in science.

Incidentally, have you read Sam's "I believe" speech in American Gods? You can see it at

--Tess (

TessJan 05, 2005 at 8:03PM

Hi again. I was just thinking, if you believe machines can have souls, you should listen to the Flaming Lips song "One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21."


Dara BenisJan 05, 2005 at 8:11PM

I believe that everything I have experienced is simply an illusion / an unconscious dream, and that one day I (I?) will wake up to something completely different.

BenJan 05, 2005 at 8:16PM

- Socially and environmentally responsible capitalism is a more profitable capitalism.

- Technological advancement is often a zero sum proposition (in some global summation of all benefits and drawbacks - tangible and intangible), but not always. Carefully considered, refined, and well implemented technology is what moves us forward.

Jonathan BarrettJan 05, 2005 at 8:20PM

I believe, but cannot prove, that a soul is nothing more (and nothing less) than a locus of a common state of being that permeates our existence, much as land rises from the water and can be considered "separate", but is nonetheless part of a larger, active whole.

RyanJan 05, 2005 at 8:22PM

I believe but cannot prove that the when the body dies so does any concept of "I".

I believe but cannot prove that our civilization will end because of a misuse and over-reliance on technology (similar to Jason's third bullet point).

I believe but cannot prove that excessive television watching lowers one's IQ and stunts and perhaps even reverses growth.

Finally, I believe but cannot prove that much of what humanity is trying to accomplish has a lot to do with an unconscious desire to recreate the womb.

grigoryJan 05, 2005 at 8:24PM

Leonard Susskind writes: "I'm absolutely certain the laws of large numbers—probability theory—will work and protect me. All of science is based on it. But, I can't prove it and I don't really know why it works."

Susskind might want to consult Simon Saunders then, where he comments on relative frequency (frequentist) and subjective (Bayesian) interpretations of probability and their QM relationship; perhaps bringing, at long last, warring sides together?

Zurek, by the way, also thinks he has a handle on probability, while Chaitin thinks "random truths" lie at the heart of mathematics, whereas 't Hooft may beg to differ. Negative probability on the other hand...

MargaretJan 05, 2005 at 8:27PM

I believe, but cannot prove, that all language is governed by a Universal Grammar, or set of rules that is flexible enough to explain all possible diversity in human language, but strict enough to still be a set of rules.

Or, to borrow from my high school English teacher, Mrs. Glasscock, UG is "like a skirt. Long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting." That, I think, is the definitive word on theoretical minimalism.

Mike D.Jan 05, 2005 at 8:32PM

"1) Advances in technology consolidate more and more power in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals and, 2) culture moves slower than technology. That is, the potential for danger is rising faster than our ability to respond to it, and that could cause problems."

Totally agreed. Never was this more apparent than on 9/11. 9/11 was the single greatest act of leverage in the history of the world. 20 to 30 people dramatically altered the lives of almost everyone on the planet in an instant's time. The ability for so few to affect so many so quickly will only increase, and that's going to be the single biggest problem for the world to deal with over the next decade or so. You can put a Nagasaki-sized bomb in a briefcase these days, and you can put a vial of something equally deady in a shirtpocket. And let's not even discuss football stadiums.

I worry. But then again, I watch a lot of 24.

lauriekJan 05, 2005 at 8:38PM

I believe that the human brain is incapable of understanding more than an iota of reality, and that our species will become extinct before we can develop a higher order of intelligence. While I do not believe in a god, I also cannot count out the possibility due to the fact that our minds could never grasp the nature of its existence.

I also believe that the United States will never adopt the
metric system.

JoshJan 05, 2005 at 8:48PM

Hmm, I guess I disagree with you, Jason.... I believe that what we call consciousness will never be satisfactorily or meaningfully explained by neurobiology or any other science, and will never be duplicated by artificial means. Perhaps some day a computer will have something that resembles what we call consciousness or the soul--but it will not be human consciousness or a human soul, and will only be as human and alive as we want it imagine it.

KaiJan 05, 2005 at 8:49PM

I believe, but cannot prove:

1. That things which we have traditionally considered "supernatural", spiritual, and related to things such as consciousness and ideas like the soul, can eventually be "explained" in what we see as a scientific sense. But that these explainations do not discount the possibility at all that some or all of these things may still extend into realms beyond what we tend to think of now, when we theorize that they can and will be explained.

2. That what we even call consciousness, perception, and the idea of "I" is an imperfect grasp of a hall of mirrors.

3. That I (and everyone else - I ain't special) am now more than what is conventionally percieved as the sum of my parts. Just what that greater part of me is, depends entirely on what framework and language you wish to approach it from. But it is there.

4. That humanity will at some point pass a crucial stage in the continual reinvention of itself. And should it make it past this point, it may actually enter what could be seen as adulthood. I believe part of this reinvention will involve humankind moving beyond its own current and tradtional perception of what is human, and its own identity.

5. Most of all, I believe in surprises.

rick abbottJan 05, 2005 at 8:50PM

you hit the nail on the head in the section where you wrote what you believe, jason. i think of most of that as fact.

JoshJan 05, 2005 at 8:50PM

... Kind of like Eliza, but better.

Shannon PaceJan 05, 2005 at 8:56PM

here's what i believe:

i believe in god the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

i also believe in jesus christ, the son of the living god.

i also believe in the holy spirit, as the third part of the trinity.

having said this, i also believe in science and that the two (science & religion or faith) should not be at odds, but that one can prove the other.

cheers and happy new year from here in australia.

snoosnooJan 05, 2005 at 9:06PM

I believe I exist.

I believe I am God.

I believe you are also God.

I do not believe you exist.

990000.comJan 05, 2005 at 9:17PM

I believe the truth is that roses are not really red, and that human skin are actually shades of grey, and that color did not really exist until God went back and wrote an extension for the application we call the world, just so we could see things nicer, paint pretty pictures, and amuse ourselves.

LalitreeJan 05, 2005 at 9:25PM

Seems like Kevin Kelley's would be fairly easy to test, and in one sense what he's talking about is already well-studied--plenty of factors at play within a cell affect the expression of its genetic material (RNA silencing, DNA coiling, epigenetic factors, protein mods) and the actual genetic material itself (recombination, mutation, splicing). Maintaining identity within an organism doesn't seem that outrageous to me though, given the mechanisms cells have maintain order of their DNA.

I just sorta don't think nature abhors uniformity as much as he seems to believe. I guess I believe but cannot prove that nature is capable of all the things that we think it isn't, and all the things that we attribute to God, etc. or simply can't wrap our heads around.

annetteJan 05, 2005 at 9:28PM

I believe but cannot prove that there is an afterlife where we will answer for our actions in this life.

Ray MidgeJan 05, 2005 at 9:35PM

I believe my sister INTENTIONALLY hit me with that dart that time in our grandparent's basement.

penarJan 05, 2005 at 9:49PM

"Human beings are not the only instance of intelligent life in the universe. When I think of how big the universe is, it seems impossible to me that humans are the only ones here to observe it. Also, it's damn arrogant."

I don't think you have to believe this. It's proven in many ways that we are, at the end of the day, fairly unintelligent...

winterJan 05, 2005 at 9:55PM

I believe that the answer to the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" will never be answerable.

João Paulo PaglioneJan 05, 2005 at 10:04PM

I think this question is far too complex for my mind after a long and stressful day. But I shall return, yes I shall...

(hope the wormhole into your comments are still open tomorrow morning!)

Tony HaileJan 05, 2005 at 10:14PM

I believe that, come the end of the world, it will turn out that Richard Dawkins is actually god, and he'll be even more pissed off about it than the rest of us.

Jonathan DobresJan 05, 2005 at 10:16PM

I believe, but cannot prove, that dowsing works. Dowsing is the art of locating objects, usually underground sources of water for well digging, through the use of rods made from wood or metal. I cannot prove that dowsing works because it tends to fail under scientific testing conditions. I believe in it because there are many, many people who can say, "That well over there was found by dowser. We still draw water from it."

I believe, but cannot prove, that everything is always more than the sum of its parts.

I believe, but cannot prove, that OJ is the real killer. :)

R J KeefeJan 05, 2005 at 10:21PM

I believe that we don't begin to know enough about the vast universe that we've only recently discovered to form any coherent beliefs. We ought rather to regard our own creation and that of everything else with humble and reverential respect, on the understanding that our connection to higher planes of existence (i.e., ultimately, God) works strictly one way, and not in our direction.

pacifistJan 05, 2005 at 10:26PM

I believe that the governments of the world owe me a couple of trillion dollars, though, of course, i can't prove it.

NicoleJan 05, 2005 at 10:48PM

I believe but cannot prove that the existence of God and evolution are not mutually exclusive.

I believe but cannot prove that some number of dinosaurs (and only some species) still inhabit the earth.

I believe but cannot prove that the eventual demise of US wealth (and power) will be a result of our society's want to distribute wealth equally.

crackfairyJan 05, 2005 at 10:49PM

What I cannot believe is that someone actually has the last name "Glasscock" and that nobody mentioned it until me.

Mike D.Jan 05, 2005 at 11:00PM

Crackfairy: Ha! You'd also be interested to know that my next door neighbor's last name is Quackenbush (and she's quite hot actually).

Also, there are people who could easily change the spelling of their last name from "Cocks" to "Cox" but don't. Now THAT is crazy.

Crash DavisJan 05, 2005 at 11:01PM

I believe in the soul, the [edited], the [edited], the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.

Mike D.Jan 05, 2005 at 11:16PM

Oh... and while I'm here, I might as well actually answer the question Jason posed:

I believe, but cannot prove, that no man in the history of the world has ever found the single most compatible woman for him, but that that woman does exist. Furthermore, should a man find anyone whose qualities even approach this woman's, that man should consider himself extraordinarily lucky and act accordingly.

PurpleCarJan 05, 2005 at 11:40PM

I believe, but cannot prove:

that being alone in a room is different than two people in the room, and then different with 3 or more people;

that energy never gets created nor destroyed, energy simply transforms;

that we use our brains in ways we don't recognize, sometimes calling this use/ability a "sixth sense;"

that language is culture, and "standard english" is not only a myth, but an impossibility (and no fun anyway).

jkottkeJan 05, 2005 at 11:40PM

I believe that, come the end of the world, it will turn out that Richard Dawkins is actually god, and he'll be even more pissed off about it than the rest of us.

That would be great fun to observe.

I believe but cannot prove that some number of dinosaurs (and only some species) still inhabit the earth.

Ooh, that's a good one. Any guesses as to where they might be and which species?

Jason RossittoJan 05, 2005 at 11:47PM

I believe, but cannot prove, that cold fusion works. It makes perfect sense to me that the scientific community has treated the topic as taboo just because some bad science embarrased a lot of people.

I also love the idea put forward earlier that the "Laws of Nature" are just habits. How simple and elegant would it be if the universe were this way because of billions of years of searching or trying to be just right. Or if it gradually came into focus, as if there is only one way to be which is inevitable, and the various pieces fell into place like electrons in their shells because thats where they must be.
This seems to make a little more sense in the "why are we here" area. Sure the conditions to facilitate life, or even to facilitate a universe where stars can exist, or planets, are wildly improbable. But what if probability is a product of human perception. What if there is only one inevitable way that universes can be. Once again, it is arrogant to think we are so special.

That said, I believe but cannot prove that most people vastly underestimate just how special people are.

Jason WallJan 06, 2005 at 12:00AM

I believe that there is a God. I believe that not only did Jesus Christ exist historically, but He was the incarnate son of God, and that He died and was raised from the dead three days later.

I believe the world isn't going to become a drastically better place. I think entropy will continue to cause the earth to slowly fall apart. Natural disasters will get worse. There will never be world peace.

I wish I something more optimistic. :)

spsJan 06, 2005 at 12:24AM

I believe that I like Dawkins' statement the most, out of the few I've read. Not so much b/c of it's anti-spiritual/anti-g/God(s) stance, but more because of the admission implied in the statement that science is DEscriptive rather than PREscriptive. That seems like an insignificant difference and a bland observation. But considering the language of science, with it's Laws of this and that, the constant insistence on underlying systems of design, and of course the other side of the situation, the argument that this design implicitly demands a creator being, this distinction is no longer trivial. Indeed, it is actually fundamental. Design might be a recent phenomena in the universe because it is a direct consequence of our consciousness. Descriptive science can change and combine and shift paradigms and still be true and useful. Prescriptive science fights just as hard to be the power broker of truth as religion.

me_my_selfJan 06, 2005 at 1:28AM

I believe testing a new web application in the first january week sucks real hard...

good night.

RobertJan 06, 2005 at 2:11AM

I believe that the Western man, in a unique and distinct way, wants both progress and contentment, due largely to Judeo-Christian undertones - which have contributed to some of the greatest tragedies in history. I also believe the story of Christ (from his day until now) is too weird to overlook. I believe that the Judeo-Christian narrative (and by this I mean the canonical texts in particular), be it myth or history, represents a supreme truth that will outlast us all. I can't prove it though, and if I could, I wouldn't. I believe in the mystery.

Great entry Kottke.

jackJan 06, 2005 at 3:01AM

I believe but cannot prove that within 100 to 150 years, we will have an all-but-inexhaustible energy source so cheap as to be practically free, replacing all other artificial energy sources, from nukes to biodiesel. I believe that governments will clamp down hard on their populations in an ultimately futile effort to control the social and economic implications.

I believe that a Vernor Vinge-style "singularity" will never occur.

I believe that communication will someday be handled by devices that, once properly addressed, can connect directly to one another (no network needed) over arbitrarily long distances, and that the communication will be faster than light.

I believe that people are intrinsically good, and that most undesirable conflicts would be avoided if we were better at seeing things through the other guy's eyes.

r. vacapintaJan 06, 2005 at 3:15AM

Oh fun! Here's some of mine:

I believe but cannot prove that

-Time and its passage is fundamentally a deep human illusion manufactured by our own perceptions (much like color) but much deeper and more ingrained. We do not "move" through Time. We exist everywhere, all at once but our minds are too small to fully understand what this means and no aliens or Gods could possibly explain it to us. It would be futile, in the same way that it would be futile to explain Cosmology to an ant.

-Machines will never reach sentience. The reason is that we are not machines but something fundamentally more complex. Machines and algorithms are the best mental tools we have for understanding how the external Universe functions. But its a crude analogy, overused because at the moment its the best one we have. Later, when we learn more, the analogy will seem so laughable and dated, a folly belonging to its time.

- All of our laws our planets, our stars our seas are all aspects of one larger, just barely asymmetric thing. One slight misalignment. Something perfectly symmetrical cannot exist. Symmetry is the remnants, the vestiges of Nothingness. Find something you think is symmetrical. Eventually you will find that hairline crack which confirms its existence. This is true of any physical law.

-There are things which are true and complete but which we cannot prove to be true. They simply are true and cannot be deduced by building up from simpler axioms, or computed by any algorithm. In fact, they are axioms - they just feel no need to be humanly comprehensible. There are infinitely many of these.

- One other human illusion is to believe we are one consistent whole. In fact, we developed as the union of many different creatures. Our minds and our bodies are run by committee. The acting President is deluded into thinking they're in charge. I subscribe to the Jaynes theory of consciousness. Schizophrenics are the normal ones among us. The rest of us are a new society of mutant freaks.
Just like how a well-run authoritarian state will overrun any anarchist collective in its path, so us single-minded, monomanical ones beat out or killed our wilder, more natural brethren. This just happened within the past few thousand years.


- When I first learned that we had sent men to the moon, I asked myself "Why was that possible?" I can certainly imagine a universe like this one in which we had no technological way of getting off the Earth. It didnt seem like a historical necessity, For Life to develop by the rules of evolution, one rule was not that we should be able to find a way to leave the planet. And not lots of ways but a narrow range of options. This has been true of many technological innovations - as if a door was left just barely open. Thinking about this I could only come to one conclusion:

Someone, something has done this before. We are traveling forward in a path carved by somebody else. At the end of the path, we will discover one of two things:

1) Finally, we will realize why the path was inevitable.
2) We will reach an actual "end" to the path. And it will now be our turn to "extend" it. I'm not sure exactly what that means but I feel sure we will know what it means by then.

Philip AshlockJan 06, 2005 at 4:31AM

I believe but cannot prove that I am extremely fascinated by the fact that I just started reading Darwin among the Machines by George Dyson two days ago and now I see a congruent topic being discussed on a website I frequent daily. It's even complete with a quote from the man himself. Furthermore, I purchased the book without realizing that the author attended Fairhaven college at Western Washington University - where I currently attend.

I believe that most people are very disconnected from themselves and from their existence, it's meaning, and purpose. I don't think anyone should ever be satisfied with understanding themselves and the universe in which they inhabit. Without questioning these things, I would never be satisfied, I'm much more satisfied questioning even if I'm not always finding answers.

I think it's always important to look at the big picture when questioning or exploring anything about the nature of the universe - when laws of physics don't make sense maybe it's because the forces that dictate these laws are themselves evolving. I also like to ponder how we are altering our evolution by growing symbiotically with machines. Did plants domesticate animals? Will humans domesticate machines?

ColbyJan 06, 2005 at 6:06AM

I believe that our DNA carries shadow memories from all mix of previous DNA. At some point in time, we must be able to access this and gain wisdom. We might also be able to truly understand how we are universally connected.

By the way, nice topic for dialogue.

Kip IngramJan 06, 2005 at 8:39AM

I won't venture to guess whether or not science will "explain" the soul/consciousness thing (depends on how much one requires of an "explanation"), but I do believe that consciousness is tied up with quantum state collapse. Obviously our brains either house consciousness or at least provide an "interface" to consciousness, so I see no reason why we couldn't in principle build a device that served that same function. It would have to be based on quantum principles, though.

RandallJan 06, 2005 at 9:23AM

You're mixing the wrong drinks. A belief does not have to be proven. Belief is on a different level of consciousness than logic.

A fact and logic is something that can be proven, and so it needs to be proven.

"True" (and for that "False") is a logical statement. "Proof" is part of the logic.

When you're asking to prove a belief, you put the belief to the test of "True or Not", thus it needs to be proven. If you ask "What do you believe is true?", you then need to prove it if you want it to be true.

Belief is on a deeper and higher level of consciousness than logic.

DavidJan 06, 2005 at 9:23AM

I believe but cannot prove:

There are already many machines and human constructions that operate like a human mind and possess consciousness. If you grant that the human mind is a collection of sensors and relays processing inputs from within and without the body, then the www matches up very well. Cells within the body are little independent entities that contribute to the consciousness of the whole, similar to millions of little bloggers on the web. People rely on tons of data input to be fully functional, just like the web.

The internet has a soul.

And I agree with the prior post that time is an illusion, but I don't have the time to prove that.

NychusJan 06, 2005 at 9:49AM

I believe one day Christ will return... and then "belief" will cease to exist. Instead: "recognition."

Something similar to Randall's comment, I think.

barnesJan 06, 2005 at 10:04AM

I believe, but cannot prove, that some machines are already sentient. The reason we can't identify them as such, however, is because we misunderstand what it is to be sentient.

David Y.Jan 06, 2005 at 10:16AM

I believe that there is a God who created us and, for lack of a better way to put it, desires to know us. And I believe that is why we have always had such an innate desire to seek out a higher being.

David ElyJan 06, 2005 at 10:20AM

I took a class on a lot of this stuff in college. One of the ideas built out of works by W.V.O. Quine is the "web of belief." Think of everything you believe as a huge web. Some beliefs are very close to the center, while others are further out. The ones that are further out are the ones you might be willing to change your mind about given proper evidence. The further out, the more easily you would change your mind.

I like to think of these sorts of questions in terms of: "what would it take to get me to stop believing x?" You might just need to show me a map to convince me I live 10 miles form work instead of 12, but what about your core beliefs? What evidence would you need to change your mind about them?

JaredJan 06, 2005 at 10:43AM

I believe, but cannot prove, that science is an expression of God, and that humanity's desire to discover is His gift to us, and an invitation to explore His nature.

However, I also believe, but cannot prove, that science will be unable to prove or disprove the existence of God.

I believe, but cannot prove, that my son is the cutest kid. Ever.

MikeJan 06, 2005 at 10:57AM

I believe that Nietzsche was not a nihilist.

CarLBanksJan 06, 2005 at 11:10AM

I believe a loving God created the heavens and the earth.

I believe that he loved the world so much that he gave his only son on the cross to die for our sins so we may be saved from the bondage of sin.

You may not agree with me but Jason asked what I believed.

Eric BostromJan 06, 2005 at 11:17AM

I believe in a thing called love!

I believe in light speed and faster than light speed. I believe in quantum reasoning. I believe that the characters in the movie "Open Water" met a different fate before I proposed what their fate would be. Schroedinger's (scuba) cat in a (ocean) box.

AdamJan 06, 2005 at 11:28AM

Philip K Dick on reality: "reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away". Interesting, perhaps, regarding beliefs about god. Does god truly 'go away' when you disbelieve in him? How would you tell?

In any case I think the more interesting unprovable things are the day-to-day ones, not religion. For example, you will never really be able to prove 100% that someone loves you, even if you can be extremely sure about it under some circumstances.

Er. Well, interesting topic anyway.

essJan 06, 2005 at 11:29AM

I believe that Mr. Kottke's final bullet point is spot on - and yet at the same time I believe that we can't be luddites. (Another case where my moral and political policies are not pragmatic.)

I'm hopeful that culture will catch-up quickly enough to save us all, but can't say that I believe this will happen. There's the argument that mankind has always lived on the brink of disaster - people making this argument are correct when they point out that humans have managed to muddle on, which is all well and good except for the part where these disasters happen and zillions of lives and whole cultures are destroyed. Pompeii, WWI, thousands of unknown natural disasters and plagues...

I believe that nature vs. nature arguments (such as posed by Judith Rich Harris) are disingenuous because what you are and what you do are probably not the same thing. I know these are not the same thing in, for instance, dogs. Jack Russell Terriers are full of Terrierness and this Terrirerness is clearly not the same thing as giant fuzzy mountaindogness. Nonetheless, I can get a Jack Russell Terrier and New Foundland to live a basic domestic dog lifestyle - nurture exploiting certain aspects of their nature.

I believe that language is a natural thing, like arm motion, and when you need a new word or phrase there's a natural/organic/right choice and the danger that some idiot with no ear at all will coin the wrong word, say it on the TV, and make life that much harder for the rest of us.

When it comes to human nature, I believe two things: 1) all people are pretty much the same and 2) you can never tell what somebody might do.

Also believe that people should click on through and read the full list of answers and that Denis Dutton doesn't look anything like the guy I've been reading for years should and that Marc Hauser has wisely started using a new mug shot.

ypJan 06, 2005 at 11:35AM

...that Schrodinger's cat is both dead and alive. So, I suppose I believe in paradoxes and uncertainty.

I also believe in the power of the visual; cameras are magic machines.

KristaJan 06, 2005 at 12:31PM

I believe that despite all the different forms of organized religion we have today, we are all worshipping the same entity/deity that has been subject to different interpretations due to geographical distance and language barriers.

ChadJan 06, 2005 at 12:58PM

Nychus said:I believe one day Christ will return... and then "belief" will cease to exist. Instead: "recognition."

I believe that even Christ himself won't be taken seriously if he should ever return.

mlle. crankypantsJan 06, 2005 at 1:37PM

i believe that one day lists like this will include more than 15 women out of 120 participants, even though it seems like a preposterous pipe dream at the moment.

MikeJan 06, 2005 at 1:45PM

I believe that a rational person is not free to believe whatever they like. It is not permissible to discard the theory of evolution, because it happened, whether you choose to believe it or not.

I'd echo Randall's statement. Don't mix the subjective with the objective. Any emperical claim must be proven with the burden of proof on the claimant. Untestable claims (i.e. God, aliens) are just ideas. Without proof, they're ideas. They shouldn't be discarded for that reason, but at the same time, they can't be given any more weight than the theory of the Easter Bunny.

BrentJan 06, 2005 at 2:01PM

Once you die, you are either reborn to finish out your "life" on earth, a second, third or multiple chance if you will, or sent to hell. Heaven awaits for those who are finished, but are not deserving of hell. Both places are not as bad or great as we would like to believe. Your rebirth is based on your previous lifes works and deeds.

Jared WhiteJan 06, 2005 at 2:13PM

I believe, but cannot prove, that the "Theory of Evolution" within the next fifty years will largely be discarded by the scientific establishment and to a great extent ignored by the mass populace because it will be absolutely crushed by the weight of the evidence against it. The only people left scrambling will be atheists. Various alternative, but somewhat related hypothesis will be presented, but the basic tenets of Intelligent Design will have taken such a foothold by that point that it will be hard to stem its growth.

ZacJan 06, 2005 at 2:19PM

I believe we wear more blinkers, have more blind spots and use more crutches than we realize. Frank Herbert: What senses do we lack that we cannot see another world around us?. A. Lots, Frank. Lots. We have such little brains, local brains, limited brains. As a result, I believe we would not recognize non-human intelligences if we met them, at least for a long time (and we might have met them already -- don't write the orcas off just yet). I also believe that there are things that are fundamentally incomprehensible to us and that it will become necessary to enhance/extend/rewrite our minds somehow.

I believe the universe is not friendly (nor caring nor aware). I believe that the universe is too huge for us fully to understand; the proper reaction is awe in the face of the infinite. I believe that the proper response after that is to be stimulated rather than daunted. I believe the cleverest thing our species has done so far is invent/discover science. I believe it will take us far and we will still use it when we have extended/rewritten our brains beyond their current limits.

I believe we fool ourselves into thinking we have a continuous experience of existence when really we are blank or mindless for quite worrying amounts of time. I believe this is true of everyone, though I have observed that the force is particularly strong in one or two of my acquaintances.

I believe there isn't a god. I believe there isn't a persuasive argument of this for believers. Nevertheless, I'm right. Actually I am. No, I am.

I believe we have no purpose. I believe our species is neither special nor interesting, except to ourselves. I believe that is the only measure that is, can be, and should be important.

I believe that banoffee pie is the best kind of pie. I believe that I could be persuaded that our purpose is to consume banoffee pie. I believe that the orcas feel the same way about penguins.

JeffJan 06, 2005 at 2:44PM

I believe in God and that Jesus Christ was his son - but can't prove it (while also believing in science).

I believe that United States government does some pretty f'ed up stuff that I don't know about - but I can't prove it.

I also believe that Jason Kottke's website would be a lot better if he opened up his posts to comments like this more often :).

Kip IngramJan 06, 2005 at 3:01PM

I have to take issue with Mike; I don't think that all "unproven" ideas are equivalent in terms of their plausibility. For example, the idea that alien civilizations exist is much more plausible than the idea that the Easter Bunny exists. To cite those ideas as equivalent is really silly and in my opinion is an underhanded argument technique (try to win an argument by equating a position you disagree with with one that *everyone* will disagree with).

Actually, the idea that alien civilizations exist isn't untestable; SETI endeavors to prove their existence by detecting their EM signals. No proof yet, and maybe none ever, but on the other hand we could wake up tomorrow morning and ...

MikeJan 06, 2005 at 3:42PM

Agreed. The claim that aliens exist is wholly testable. Shouldn't have been lumped in with "god".

What makes you think that aliens are much more plausible than the Easter Bunny? There is nary a scintilla of evidence for either one. The idea of an alien race SEEMS more plausible, I agree, but is it? Based on observation?

And I'd also agree, not all unproved claims are equal in their implausibility. Some ideas/claims are definitely better than others. However, until they are corroborated and "proven", they remain, for practical purposes, ideas.

Kip IngramJan 06, 2005 at 4:03PM

Yup, I agree that extraterrestrial intelligence and the Easter Bunny are equally unproven, as opposed to equally implausible.

stewardJan 06, 2005 at 6:13PM

1. Regarding a theory of consciousness that is uses computer technology to verify and demonstrate it's points, see the work of Gerald Edelman. His latest book is Wider that the Sky. Neural Darwinism is his "engine" of consciousness or as he says, "Neurons that fire together wire together".

2. Those who think that humans would be threatened by conscious machines demonstrate the continued arrogance regarding the importance of humans in the universe. We aren't that important. The devices won't care. Besides, this planet isn't computer friendly (too wet for one). Space would be more hospitable.

DonnieJan 06, 2005 at 7:35PM

All conspiracy theories aside, I believe but cannot prove that the (American) Government doesn't always tell the public the truth--even on the big issues.

I also believe, but cannot prove, that the human brain, in it's current state, does not have the ability to entirely comprehend the reality of the Universe and our own "physical" existence. Furthermore, I believe it is highly probable that this shortfall could be responsible for the genesis of religion.

J C MooreJan 06, 2005 at 8:59PM

I believe but can not prove that before the most recent big bang there were other expansions (like now) followed by contractions (like later) followed by big bangs. What was around before that yoyo started I don't know, but something does; let's be religious and call it god, but let's be scientists too and realize that god doesn't care about churches or abortion or same sex marriage; just don't screw with his yoyo..

AlexaJan 06, 2005 at 9:42PM

I believe that there are other civilizations in the universe. I can't believe that Earth is all alone.

NicoleJan 06, 2005 at 10:22PM

Any guesses as to where they might be and which species?

I think possibly some species of sauropods or smaller species like the dryosaurus (or unknown species). I believe that they could live in remote, undocumented areas of the Congo jungle or in remote sea or water dwellings. There is so much we don't know about the planet we live on -- it seems entirely plausible to me that there could be unknown species of dinosaurs lurking in our midst.

David GalbraithJan 06, 2005 at 10:56PM

I believe that people who say 'I believe in God' etc. have clearly nothing original to say in answer to the question.

Er... and there are dinosaurs, every species of bird, and the things with lots of teeth called crocodiles.

Shannon PaceJan 06, 2005 at 11:39PM

in response to mr. david galbraith:

mr. kottke did not ask for originality. he asked for, and i quote:

"What do you believe?" - unquote.

considering your post, mr. galbraith, originality doesn't seem to be a strong point of yours either. talking about other people's posts regarding god or dinosaurs doesn't seem original at all.

i believe that everyone has a right to believe what they like and also has a right (where appropriate) to post what they believe if given the opportunity.

BoogaJan 07, 2005 at 4:33AM

"What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?"

I believe everybody is immortal. Right before one physically dies the mind switch to an infinity loop of endless thoughts. Comparable with a long dream you think you had but it all happens in a glimpse of a second.

I found this idea in the book "hard boiled wonderland or the end of the world" from Haruki Murakami.

FarhanJan 07, 2005 at 5:12AM

I believe but cannot prove that Adam, JC, Moses, Mohamed, Noah, Abraham, Budda, Ram, Gandhi, Elvis, John Lennon, would not approve of the way we treat eachother and the world we live in.

matthewJan 07, 2005 at 8:45AM

i believe (not certain about proving) that the best use of my home pc is to read blogs and play backyard sports.

mister DuduJan 07, 2005 at 8:57AM

I think that the hypodemical demo structure can cause severe crap, I therfore request that everyone wear safety helmets in case a plane comes and goes chicka chicka wawa. That is the sign that there is going to be a war between Mars and Earth. It's all of Earth's soldiers and armies against Mars's rocks and mountains. And the craters. Damn, how could I forget the craters. They are a tough opponent, just waiting there and doing nothing, it just gives me a chill down me spine when you think about what those rocks are probably planning to do to the people of Earth. While all this is going on, Mercury's just saying I'm hot, and Venus get's jealous. But Venus likes the Earth because some of Earth's scientists say that Venus is hotter than Mercury and that Venus is also the hottest planet in da whole universe! Jupiter is just smoking hurricanes the size of Earth, Saturn's like, 'check out my hoola hoops', and Neptunes like.................. whateva. Anyway just to get to the point now.

Always buy double cream Al Marai milk. Of the finest quality and will guarantee your bataa's health. This was Andu Palookistan. Thank you and good night.

sinclairJan 07, 2005 at 9:01AM

I believe John Perkins.

RagerJan 07, 2005 at 1:46PM

I believe we really can't truly know anything at all, certainly not beyond our own selves. What does that make me (besides a cynic, skeptic and extreme agnostic)?

electricincaJan 07, 2005 at 2:50PM

I believe that I'm experiencing a major case of deja vu after reading these comments. Jason did you post something similar a while back?

I believe that file-sharing isn't killing the music industry.

I believe that it would benefit the Western world economically in the long term to write off the Third World Debt as it hindering their economic growth and preventing them from becoming markets that we can sell stuff to.

I believe that the expiry of the copyright in the UK of Elvis Presley's That's All Right is a good thing and will spawn creative remixes that will invigorate the music industry in a similar way to the effect Elvis had on the industry in the 1950s.

I believe that time travelling backwards in time is possible. Perhaps that is why I have deja vu.

RichardJan 07, 2005 at 4:16PM

I am also Darwin's man, but I believe Sheldrake is bonkers.

TophJan 07, 2005 at 5:48PM

Anyone can land any job h/she wants.

riccardoJan 07, 2005 at 6:52PM

Me too had a deja-vu.

This one is from Pier Paolo Pasolini, he wrote it in 1974 on an italian national newspaper.
I think it's one of the most touching political j'accuse I've ever read.
Well, maybe you'd have to be a bit into italian so called "years of bullets" history to be touched by it.

Anyway, to me that's the epitome of the insuppressible force of free and lucid thinking against the sidetrackings of media, politicians, spokesmen, judges, policemen and so on.
I think this can apply to so many events in the last fifty years...

r. vacapintaJan 07, 2005 at 8:51PM

I believe we really can't truly know anything at all, certainly not beyond our own selves. What does that make me (besides a cynic, skeptic and extreme agnostic)?

A solipsist?

Burke SampsonJan 07, 2005 at 9:37PM

I believe, but cannot prove, that the collective psyche of New England was positively affected by the 2004 Red Sox.

dan lundmarkJan 07, 2005 at 11:13PM

I believe, but cannot prove, that humanity is basically religious, and the preferred religion of this era consists of things like 'science', 'technology', 'progress', 'development', and 'equality'.

I encounter people regularly who have no reason why they believe in any one of these things, nor have a critical process for accepting them as 'truth' or of 'benefit to humanity'. (two more things I believe in...)

People believe what they believe, usually with blind faith.

Joe DaddarioJan 07, 2005 at 11:51PM

A little late but never outdated...

I believe but cannot prove, that 1+1 has 3 different solutions.

David KornahrensJan 08, 2005 at 1:51AM

I believe that chicken tastes good even though evolution makes us believe that it sometimes get's tough. Actually, chicken is tender, atleast KFC's are.

Justin JonkerJan 08, 2005 at 4:13AM

I believe that, in agreement with earlier posts, time is something of an illusion, that we are somehow granted knowledge of future happenings before they "happen" creating really boggling deja-vus, which, in agreement with earlier mention of there being a perfectly right word to identify something, is the perfect word to describe that occurence.

In other words this "fourth dimension" is traverseable to a degree, perhaps not physically on a large, atomic scale, but perhaps our sub-string scale souls or consciences can travel through time to collect information about the next set of problems it will have to encounter, because unlike the physical body of the college engineering student it inhabits, it does not procratinate and actually works ahead to keep up with ethical demand. For some reason it always seems like the scenes you recall in a deja vu have really been lived through before, maybe that before is just after, you just think it's before.

I also believe I learned to ride a bike in a dream, but I can't prove it, never the less, it's a great "interesting fact" for professors who want something to remember your mug by.

Jon HusbandJan 08, 2005 at 4:46AM

I believe but cannot prove that time is one long subjective moment, from the instant we (each individual bundle of protoplasm) are conceived until the instant that our biological functioning on this plane stops. Hours are just a convenient way to make that subjective moment metronomic for us, which helps us navigate through the systems that humans have created inmore recent years. I often wonder about how humans related to time before the sun dial was invented ... it was just a way to make divisions in the regular cycles of each lighted period, to be followed by the next. Was there a metronomic mechanism before the sun dial ? Has anyone here ever read a nifty little book on the perceptions of time by Allan Lightman titled Einstein's Dreams ?

I haven't got a clue what happens when we die .. we may well find ourselves reincarnated and actually remember all we witnessed during our previous episode, but in another dimension, or it may be just like turning out the lights .. that's it, that's all. Or anywhere along a continuum, and those may not be the poles. However, I believe but cannot prove that "the lights just go out" and we then slowly become compost .. the compost part seems provable, but I don't know how one would prove that any and all sentient awareness disappears.

Seamus SpauldingJan 08, 2005 at 5:34PM

I believe but cannot prove that blue is blue.

jonJan 08, 2005 at 11:50PM

given that each day brings more questions than answers, I believe that I will die before I find out the answers to most of the questions that I have...

mikeJan 09, 2005 at 11:50AM

very informative post

Steve Tracey Sr., Dublin IrelandJan 09, 2005 at 3:04PM

I know but I cannot prove Samuel Becket's dictum that.." We are all born mad some remain so" .
However I do know and can prove that George Bernard Shaw's description of ballroom dancing as "A perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire" to be manifestly true.

KatherineJan 10, 2005 at 6:56AM

I believe and cannot prove that we are not alone. Not aliens, but spirits walking amongst us. I believe that we constantly interact with those spirits, but some of us don't know it. I believe that people have lived on this plane before, in other lives, and are living again. That we are here to learn a spiritual lesson, and the more times we live physically, the more we learn, and that takes us one step closer to true knowledge. This is not learnt in one life, but can take many tries. I believe that there is some time in between leaving this plane and coming back, and we come back when we are needed again, to teach to others what we have learnt in the spirit plane. So we learn, so must we teach, and it goes both ways. That is what I believe.

MarcJan 10, 2005 at 2:01PM

I believe Bush has weakened our country beyond measure.
I believe it could take a generation - or longer - to recover.
I believe in an America that can be so much wiser than it currently is.

jfrankJan 11, 2005 at 7:30AM

I believe, but cannot prove, that all of the meaningful decision making in the world (from world economics to art trends, to world politics, etcetera) which are often seen as complex processes, are actually influenced by just a small social circle, the one in which the person or group in charge of making that decision are involved.

Or better yet, that most of the perceived complex social, economic or political processes, are actually "decision making" of a small group of influent people, over lunch, on Sundays :)

Brian GilhamJan 11, 2005 at 12:23PM

I believe that my place on this Earth is to work to understand those around me.

JohnJan 11, 2005 at 3:24PM

Jason Kottke said: When I think of how big the universe is, it seems impossible to me that humans are the only ones here to observe it.

So, would it not also seem impossible to you that it all came together randomly without an intelligent Creator?

I believe that the universe was Created.

I believe that our Creator has, throughout the course of human history, spoke in various ways to various peoples, to give us insight into His nature as well as our own, and that this communication has been faithfully recorded in a book we commonly call the Bible.

Yu-ShanJan 11, 2005 at 3:33PM

I believe, but cannot prove, that yesterday does not exist.

U2FanJan 11, 2005 at 4:19PM

Don't believe the devil
I don't believe his book
But the truth is not the same
Without the lies he made up.
Don't believe in excess
Success is to give
Don't believe in riches
But you should see where I live.
I, I believe in love.

Don't believe in forced entry
Don't believe in rape
But every time she passes by
Wild thoughts escape.
Don't believe in Death Row
Skid row or the gangs.
Don't believe in the Uzi
It just went off in my hands.
I, I believe in love.

Don't believe in cocaine
Got a speedball in my head
I could cut and crack you open
Did you hear what I said?
Don't believe them when they tell me
There ain't no cure.
The rich stay healthy
The sick stay poor.
I, I believe in love.

Don't believe in Goldman
His type like a curse
Instant karma's gonna get him
If I don't get him first.
Don't believe that Rock 'n' Roll
Can really change the world
As it spins in revolution
Yeah, it spirals and turns.
I, I believe in love.

Don't believe in the sixties
The golden age of pop
You glorify the past
When the future dries up.
Heard a singer on the radio
Late last night
Says he's gonna kick the darkness
Till it bleeds daylight.
I, I believe in love.

Feel like I'm fallin'
I'm spinnin' on a wheel
It always stops beside a name
A presence I can feel.
I believe in love.

"God Part II" by U2

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.