I want to specify my question to theism (it should apply to all ideas) as an example. Some people believe in theism. The sole reason why they believe is because someone else believes it too and everyone goes along with it. If someone tells me that I can't be 100% certain that there is no god I'm very perplexed. Of course I can't be 100% certain but there is a lot I can't be certain about for example conspiracy theories or unicorns.

We all accept that unicorns are imaginary and that conspiracy theories are made up. And if you try to use these / bring them up in a conversation it is not taken seriously, with good reason. Thanks to critical thinking we know that this is so unlikely to be true that we don't think about it. But the same thing can't be said about theism.

If enough people believed in a conspiracy theory and then started to say "how can you be 100% sure it didn't happen this way" this would lead to a big problem.

A solution would be to only consider/value ideas that can be proven or are likely.

Do we have to value/consider ideas just because they can't be disproven?

Is there any literature on this subject? What do you think about this?

  • 1
    -1, this does not come close to making sense. "The sole reason why they believe is because someone else believes it too and everyone goes along with it." -- have you tried asking believers why they believe? This is not true, and you don't provide argumentation. Many believers if not most have the feeling there's something they cannot grasp, but something very real. A consequence of that is that you cannot apply something that holds for conspiracy theories to religions.
    – user2953
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 15:35
  • @Keelan but you would agree that people only believe because of someone else who 'thought' them. they grew up with it. One guy was the first one to tell these stories. You perfectly address the problem im talking about. Its not ok to say anything against religion because it is something holy and untouchable but when it started it was pretty much comparable to a conspiracy theory. Both see stuff without evidence and people who believe it dont think critically enough.
    – yamm
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 8:01
  • cont... with the integration of theism into our society we are forced to respect it even though it was made up by a human to answer question in a unscientific way... by making the answer up. I dont feel like valuing the believe that we were created by a super being just because other people believe it....
    – yamm
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 8:03
  • Re. "you would agree that people only believe because of someone else who 'thought' them ... One guy was the first one to tell these stories". A believer would tell you it's not that someone started telling stories, but that there was a divine revelation or the like. This is significantly different, and with the claims you make in this question you're jumping to conclusions.
    – user2953
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 8:14
  • 1
    I don't know. I do know that you're jumping to conclusions. That's the only thing I'm pointing out to you.
    – user2953
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 8:25

3 Answers 3


One does not have to do anything but considering what is possible vs what is probable seems fitting here. A meteor could crash on my head in 5 minutes but I am not going to speak my last wishes and prepare my last meal at this time. In other words, it seems proper to weigh the probability in determining the value placed on a possibility.


I think the answer would be yes. If it was a physical possibility, then it becomes a valid possibility. You then start to get into probability. I agree, the probability that unicorns exist, is outstandingly low. However, it cannot be said with 100% truth that they do not exist.

A note about conspiracies and conspiracy theory's: Conspiracies are quite real, and non imaginary. A conspiracy led to the assassination of president Lincoln. A conspiracy led to the attacks on september eleventh... Conspiracy Theory's are quite often over exaggerations of doubt, rumors, and hearsay. That being said, many of them end up being total crap. While others are completely justified.

The problem you refer to, i believe is "the tyranny of the masses" wiki article about it Where basically enough people, believe or impose, one school of thought or ideology, to the point where it becomes law or "right" or "fact." And you're right. It would be a big issue.

Now the "solution" to this issue... I am not certain. However i think that at least within the contextual framework of theism, it would at the very least, be considered rude or disrespectful. To disregard someones "possibility". Regardless to how improbable we may feel it to be. It opens a very big "can of worms" however. Because then you open the doors to people justifying polygamy and other much worse things. By saying something along the lines of "hey man, thats what my god tells me to do."

So yeah, tough subject to tackle.

I see what you are saying though, with something like theism, we have only faith. So then i ask you, what constitutes proof? or likelihood for that matter. Does the fact that X number of people "believe" in Y faith, affect the likelihood of it being factual? We get back to the tyranny of the masses... however, even though the process can be distorted or warped towards validating a falsehood. It is also the foundation of our scientific knowledge and understanding of everything... "If enough people can run the same test and get the same results... then its fact"

I am not sure if this really answers your question, as much as gives you something to ponder. ::shrugs::


The degree of confidence you have in a belief should be proportional to the likelihood that that belief is true.

If it is 99.99% likely that unicorns do not exist, then I should be 99.99% sure that unicorns do not exist, even though it cannot be proven with 100% degree certainty that they do not exist.

So, perhaps one cannot prove that God doesn't exist. But if it is extremely likely that God doesn't exist, then we are warranted in believing that God probably doesn't exist. The fact that we cannot prove that God doesn't exist simply means that we shouldn't be committed to the view that it is impossible for God to exist. We may still justifiably claim that the existence of God is very unlikely.

  • As written, it's basically a raw claim. I would think that most of us function on a slightly more elaborate basis that also looks at the potential cost of error (here we needn't go so far as something like Pascal's wager) but merely consider that I choose not to walk down streets where I estimate a 5% chance of being shot by a stray bullet. (Not because it is likely I will be shot but because the cost of being shot must be weight against the probability of the event -- meaning that 5% even weighs more heavily than say saving a minute on my way home).
    – virmaior
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 5:38
  • Agreed. Expected utility should always play a role in deciding how to act and what to believe. My point is not that one ought to believe that p if it is very likely that p; merely that one would be justified in doing so. I also think that the first statement I made is true and is consistent with what you're saying. It's possible to be confident that p because it is likely that p (and to be justified in being confident that p), and nonetheless have dispositive reasons for ultimately believing that not-p.
    – J-Dawg
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 6:12
  • You should make clear the assumptions you are taking in your answer if you want it to be a good answer. (e.g., you assume we should make these sorts of judgments based on utility calculation and bayesian reasoning)
    – virmaior
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 6:38
  • @J-Dawg yes but wouldnt it be better (for the state and society) if we can say unicorns and god do not exists because there isnt enough evidence for it? should we tolerate people teaching stuff that is so unlikely to be true and way more likely to be made up to control people? isnt that just being blind and not actually caring?
    – yamm
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 6:47
  • @yamm This is an empirical question the answer to which I do not know. The fact that theism is so historied and entrenched may affect whether we should take a hard line against it, supposing it is likely to be false. It may be more productive to teach people how to think critically and reason well so that they may come to informed conclusions about theism and religion on their own. The case of unicorns is more straightforward.
    – J-Dawg
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 7:21

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