I think that most of us accept and use the "peer review" aspect incorporating knowledge into our world views. Sure, I'm not an astrophysicist, but like many, I've taken an astronomy class or two and the labs have taught me to measure and judge on a variety of astronomical topics. Given this "proven it to myself" portion of the knowledge base, it's easier for me to read and absorb the rest of astronomy knowing that it's been reviewed by experts and passed on to textbooks and such.
All that's fine, but really we accept that although a current idea or theory is "known" or perhaps validated, we understand that further investigation may change or disprove the already validated theory. We accept that our understanding of complex topics is limited and that our explanations are really only guess's that fit the current observations. When better observations come along we retire the older known facts. We don't do this with disgust or anger because we were "duped", but rather understand that that particular model did fit the observations of the time. Issac Newton wasn't wrong about gravity, he just didn't have the full picture that Einstein did. For the day, geocentric models did fit the observations, albeit with the demand that Earth be central. It lead to an overly complex explanation of the workings of the solar system, but it did fit the observations and "demands" of the time.
I don't think that we can be faulted for using a belief system for seeking expertise from say a medical doctor. I may not be a expert, but I do know enough to seek out a medical doctor that uses peer reviewed medicine and has graduated from a facility that practices accepted medical accreditation. This isn't the same as seeking out faith healer or a shaman. That requires a belief.
It is a problem that those who are faith based often don't understand the difference and accuse or assume belief on everyone.
Great summation Greg.
We don't do this with disgust or anger because we were "duped", but rather understand that that particular model did fit the observations of the time. Issac Newton wasn't wrong about gravity, he just didn't have the full picture that Einstein did. For the day, geocentric models did fit the observations, albeit with the demand that Earth be central.
Absolutely. You can really understand why people thought the earth was flat and that the sun moved while the earth stood still. Without technology, it certainly looks that way.
This isn't the same as seeking out faith healer or a shaman. That requires a belief.
Correction: blind faith and willful ignorance!
I gotta hand it to ya, when you're right, you're damn right. Too many times I've used those exact words "willful ignorance". I've often ranted about the "proud ignorance" of many belief based fundamentalists too.
It's a big problem that you point out, how do we "know" the vast encyclopedic amount of facts without it appearing to be a "belief"? But I think the real challenge for us Rationalists (or label it as you will) isn't the "how do we justify our own world view as rational given the immense complexity", but rather "How can we better explain our position as factual to those that don't use a rational base?" To the growing poorly educated masses belief and knowledge can appear to be the same, especially if we're vague in our pronouncements. Just look at the confounding mess that I.D. creationists have made. While we probably understand that most of their arguments are simply "moving the goal posts", less sophisticated readers don't see the rhetorical slight of hand that's going on or don't recognize the logical fallacies. That, I suppose is another issue for another day. But it probably is most important that we understand how our knowledge is fact based and can logically discuss it's foundations without resorting to the same, poorly constructed arguments that theists and new age irrationals use.
I've often ranted about the "proud ignorance" of many belief based fundamentalists too.
Only the truly ignorant would be proud of being truly ignorant, and they often are.
"How can we better explain our position as factual to those that don't use a rational base?"
You really can't. People want to be right and to feel right, and whether or not they actually are right is irrelevant to most people. To quote something I recently read: Most people are willing to sacrifice the truth for personal happiness.
belief and knowledge can appear to be the same
Well said. Quite true.
But most of our knowledge (that we aquire from others) must be accepted in good faith. I'm not a physicist, but I accept what they tell me in good faith. But what they say is also testable and subject to oversight. "God told me so" isn't.
I don't know if Plato said anything about this, but I would add that perhaps the most important reason of all to know that you know something is to be able to predict the results of specific conditions that would otherwise not be accurately predictable. Einstein's prediction of the planet Mercury's orbital precession is an example of evidence for his General Theory of Relativity.
Perhaps the most under-appreciated strength of science is how its discoveries become common knowledge taken for granted, without people realizing the effort and clear thinking that made the acquisition of such knowledge possible.
Meanwhile, the small percentage of scriptural prophesies that can be vaguely interpreted as having come true attain the status of miracle and wonder. I would say this is is a good definition of willful ignorance.