“Trust me — this is how it works”. Part 1 : The emergence of belief systems. [Frameworks]

Vichar Mohio
3 min readAug 10, 2020

Have you been labelled ‘stupid’ or ‘smart’, not after a thorough analysis of your opinion, but rather after someone determined your opinions didn’t align with their existing beliefs?

Your actual smartness/stupidity (if it can be quantified) had very little to do with the label.

It happens to me often — people may call me stupid, because my views don’t align with their pre-existing beliefs.

It is also very easy for me to fall in this trap myself. When this happens, I dismiss others after a superficial attempt at understanding another person’s opinion. If what the other person is saying goes against my belief system — they must be stupid.

Through this article I wanted to investigate this phenomenon more deeply. I believe it is imperative to change how we react to conflicting opinions — especially in an age where complexity is on the rise & ground realities can change faster than our opinions.

This article aims to shed light on how belief systems are formed & how we can be the masters of our belief systems (versus the other way around).

Emergence of frameworks

Human curiosity is a marvelous thing.

I believe it to be one of the most important drivers of the “success” we’ve seen as a species.

We may not have been around the longest, or be the hardiest species physically, but humans have been able to tame (to a limited extent) the universe’s inherent unpredictability. This has allowed us to achieve a level of safety and convenience that is unknown to other species.

This taming of the uncertainty begins with developing a better understanding of the world around us, and using that understanding to predict future events. It is this desire to better understand phenomena around us & make predictions that can be defined as curiosity.

This isn’t limited to science itself. Taming of uncertainty is what compels me to better understand the schedule of my favorite food truck (the thought of returning empty handed is depressing).

Following this logic, one could say that curiosity is built upon the (never ending) search for frameworks that can explain a collection of phenomena in an internally consistent manner. If it can help us predict something about these phenomena — then all the better.

And belief systems are nothing but another word for framework — i.e., a set of rules that helps guide our lives towards a desirable goal.

Can a perfect belief system exist?

It is important to note the use of the words never ending in my definition of curiosity (above).

This never-ending aspect of curiosity is important because it hints at the fact that frameworks cannot be perfect.

All frameworks (incl. belief systems) seek to approximate some aspect of reality, not perfectly represent it, in order to help us achieve our goals.

Perfect representation of reality is a pipedream because:

1. We can’t claim to have observed all phenomena that exist in the universe. It is a big place, and for all we know there could be phenomena out there we haven’t encountered that make our frameworks inconsistent

2. Even for observable phenomena, there is usually a trade-off between accuracy and usefulness. A framework that seeks to perfectly represent reality may easily become so unwieldy so as to be useless for improving our safety or convenience.

It is therefore very important that we remember that our frameworks are approximations of reality. Not perfect representations.

Interestingly, it is my friends who are in academia & the “hard-core” sciences who understand this notion better than anyone else.

No physicist worth his salt will claim they “know” what reality is— even if they have millions of data points. Rather they will all concede that they are building frameworks & equations that are best approximations for the phenomena observed.

It is telling that people with non-scientific backgrounds & often no data to back up their viewpoints are so much more sure of their beliefs being “true”.

It’s not only the dunning-Kruger effect , but rather something more fundamental at play.

I believe it has everything to do with how we form stories about ourselves in our own minds.

Read up on a fun little story in Part 2

Read up on why we refuse to change our belief systems in Part 3

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Vichar Mohio

Writing about topics I find interesting & original. Usually a mix of philosophy, evolutionary psychology & technology