1. Jim Thomerson says

    That’s nice. The clear distinction between I believe . . ., and I believe in . . . is good. I was discussing with a colleague in Amsterdam, and I started a sentence with “I believe . . .” He cut me off and said, “I don’t want to know what you believe. I want to know what you think.” Since then I have tried to say “I think . . .” to be clear I am not saying “I believe in . . .”

  2. negentropyeater says

    Very nice essay.

    2 lines I’ll steel…

    1. “To believe in something takes faith, trust, effort, strength. I need none of these things to believe evolution. It just is.”

    2. “To believe in something also implies hope. Hope of happiness, reward, forgiveness, eternal life. There is no hope wrapped up in my belief… as if evolution is something I hope comes true.”

    And not a bad role she has;

    “My role as a female Homo sapiens is to return each summer to Kenya, dig up fossils, and piece together our evolutionary history.”

  3. Don says

    Nice. The distinction between ‘believe’ and ‘believe in’ had never struck me before. But checking out this site for a few minutes has given me a new and elegant concept to ponder. Thank you.

  4. AlanWCan says

    I can’t believe we still even have to discuss this, it’s so depressing. Like the whole torture ‘debate’
    What happened? Just classic right-wing distraction so people will be too busy with god, guns and gays to notice they’re robbing your treasury blind.
    I want my Enlightenment back.

  5. Sastra says

    The confusion between “believe” and “believe in” is at the heart of the common apologetic tactic known as “everything takes faith” (or “all beliefs are based on faith.”) It’s the universal fall-back position for a losing religious argument.

    If you cannot claim 100% certainty for a belief, then that means you believe it “on faith.” And they make no distinction between a pragmatic reliance which is open to disconfirmation, and the commitment to believe because you WANT to believe which nothing can shake.

    So, suddenly, evolution and creationism are equivalent faiths, because there’s no relativity to our understanding at all. Your “faith” that your car is in the garage even when you can’t see it is the same as their “faith” that Jesus performed miracles. The working assumption that other people have minds — or that the sun is very likely to rise tomorrow — is “no different” than their conviction that God exists. It’s all “faith.” It’s all about what you choose to believe.

    If they can reduce everything down to the same level of cluelessness, then the most unevidenced, counter-factual beliefs are just as good as all other beliefs. I find this ubiquitous equivocation really annoying. I’m glad Ms. Dunsworth took this on.

  6. Jack Chastain says

    Drat. It is listed as “most viewed” on the main NPR page – and it isn’t loading for me :-(

    Guess I have to wait until everyone else has heard it.


  7. susan says

    Well, finally. Very nice. The few times I have inadvertently listened to that NPR series I cringed. It struck me as overwhelmingly treacly, and I felt embarrassed for them. Just ugh. When I hear the music that signals “This I Believe,” I quickly turn off the radio. So what is this: one out of 432 or some such? Better than zero, I guess. I’ll still turn off the radio. I do that more and more with NPR. Just ugh.

  8. MTran says

    What Sastra said.

    Equivocal mis-use of terms by religionists is one of my pet peeves. I can’t help but conclude that the more educated theists are deliberately misdirecting their fellow believers and others. But whether these word games are deliberate or not, it has caused me to refuse to play the game.

    Whenever possible, I avoid using the words “believe”, “belief”, and “faith” in discussions about religion or the supernatural. Instead, I use phrases such as “reasonable expectation,” “rational conclusion,” “demonstrated reliability,” “convincing evidence,” “consistently predictable results,” “evidence based decision making,” “well supported confidence,” etc. Theists don’t like neutral phrasing because it takes away their leverage.

    There is no reason to adopt the language of the religionists. There are plenty of clear alternatives to their religiously distorted “winning” words.

  9. janet says

    Like other commenters, I’ve thought from the beginning that “This I believe,” even though it’s supposed to be about a wide variety of values, is already biased toward a certain frame of mind — belief. At one point I thought about trying to write an essay for them, but I realized that I couldn’t write the essay I wanted to write because “I believe in reason” is, if not exactly a contradiction in terms, not a very sensible statement. And most of the essays seem incredibly pat.

    Anyway, nice that this woman took the series on in a way that disrupts its core assumption. Good for her. And I did like the piece on atheism.

  10. dcwp says

    Susan –

    Yeah, I believe you are correct about NPR. Ever since they started this ridiculous “Speaking of Faith” series, I generally keep it off all weekend. Between that and Garrison Keilor yammering on I just can’t take it. More Car Talk and Wait Wait for me please…

  11. john from sinsinati says

    Some things I know, some things I don’t.
    It is only uncertainty, as to which is which, that forms the basis for Belief.
    I strive, therefore, to Believe as little as possible.

  12. Steve says

    I think the word “believe” and “evolution” should never be used in the same sentence. It just allows Christians to further categgorize evolution as a belief system, not a scientific theory. I don’t believe in Darwin, evolution, or the Big Bang. Short of a better theory, I think the facts fit. Facts, not truths or beliefs.

    I do see what she is saying, by the way. I just see it as compromising.

  13. says

    Here’s an obnoxious example of “believe in”/”faith” distorting the basis of scientific claims:

    Hillary Clinton: I believe in evolution, and I am shocked at some of the things that people in public life have been saying. I believe that our founders had faith in reason and they also had faith in God, and one of our gifts from God is the ability to reason.”

  14. JamesR says

    I believe? Belief is a transient exprssion of some romantic longing for things the way they used to be.

    Better Said is “I understand it to be this Way.”

  15. mothra says

    I was pleasantly surprised by ‘This I believe.’ Now, we need one that goes something like this:

    I believe in people. I believe that through the good works, endles toil, and with the application of reason, we have created a civilization for ourselves. Despite superstition, we have progressed from hunter gatherer primates to a society that has sent space craft to distant worlds. And, I beleive we can do more! We can, with persistance, patience and reason, control our superstitious tendencies and, over time, spread the enlightenment to those, unfortunatly many, locations and cultures still cowering in the moral, ‘spiritual’ and physical deprivations of the Dark Ages, shackled by myths and held in bondage by fear. This I believe.

    Speaking of Faith, when I can control the nausia and listen, is insipid and NEVER asks tough questions. In my area, however, there are 3 (!!!) NPR stations. Opposite SOF, there is from PRI: ‘Bob Edwards’ Weekend’ followed by ‘The Thomas Jefferson Hour.’ Sunday mornings can be ‘enlighening.’

  16. Scott says

    I have to disagree with the majority of posters. True, the sentiments expressed on TIB can be overly saccharin at times. But most appear to be honest attempts at describing what motivates peoples’ lives. Most (of the few I have been able to listen to) have little to do with theology, and far more to do with how one reacts to one’s fellow man. I find many of the stories inspiring. I may not agree all the perspectives, but I am heartened by the general tenor. The “beliefs” are a uniformly positive view of life. I haven’t heard anything like, “I believe in greed”, or “I believe in sticking it to the Man”. These are people I would want to count as friends, or at least as neighbors.

    As for the rest, hearing things I disagree with is exactly why I started listening to NPR in the first place all these years ago. I remember I used to turn off the radio when disagreeable stuff came on. Then I thought to myself, “That’s just sticking my head in the sand. I should listen, especially if I disagree with it, if only to better hone my own perspective on what it is I disagree with.” If NPR only broadcast things that *I* agree with, how boring the world would be! My beliefs should be challenged now and then.

    Except for opera. Yecch! What a waste of a Saturday morning! :-)

  17. marko says

    Ken Miller suggested that we should take back and liberate the “design” concept from any notion of deistic creation. Nick Gisburne contrasts in one of his YouTube videos “creation” with “formation”. I think (and believe) that we should raise consciousness about the usage of words like these, just like in this thread.

    I’m also glad that when Holly Dunsworth says that everything is connected (which is both trivial and profound in several respects), it doesn’t sound like new-agey drivel to me anymore.

    I especially liked her expression: “I Am Evolution”.

  18. dcwp says

    Scott –

    You make a strong case, but the reason I can’t listen to Speaking of Faith is not that I disagree with what is being said. I can’t listen because there is almost no substance to the show at all. If they brought on theologists to talk about problems of epistemology, nuances of their mythologies, community projects, etc then it might be tolerable. As it stands now, it’s self-satisfied babbling about just how good it feels to be X religion. It’s like a radio show shot in soft-focus with pastel colors and Farrah Fawcet hair if that makes any sense.

    There is plenty of programming on NPR that I don’t agree with. It’s the vapid self-satisfaction of SOF or for that matter Prairie Home Companion and The Splendid Table that bug me…

  19. janet says

    Most of the “This I Believe” essays boil down to one of three themes: I believe in being good; I believe in the goodness of others; I believe in making good things come out of bad events. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s not very interesting.

  20. Jon H says

    Jay Allison, the perpetrator of ‘This I believe’ and the StoryCorp project, needs to be kept away from NPR for a while.

    As it is, at least twice a week he subjects us to these tiresome, maudlin interludes.

    Enough already!