Why Bad Beliefs Don't Die

Beliefs are a Survival ToolWhy are Beliefs so Strong?

"Beliefs are designed to enhance our ability to survive and they are biologically resistant to change. To change a belief you must address the survival issues connected to that particular belief."

Beliefs enhance your chances of survival and don't require evidence.

Are you a skeptic? Always wanting proof for what you hear, see, and know? Always weighing evidence before you commit to a belief? It's very likely you are at a much higher level of consciousness then the typical person. Read more to learn why.

Biology and Survival as Connected to Beliefs

Our brains primary purpose is to keep us alive. Of course, it does much more than that but survival is always its most fundamental purpose and always comes first. If you are injured to the point where your body only has enough energy to support either consciousness or your heartbeat...your brain has no problem choosing. It simply puts you into a coma (survival before consciousness) rather than an alert death spiral (consciousness before survival).

Every single function of your brain supports survival. The only way to accurately understand any brain function is to put it into to survival terms. As a tool for survival.

How Beliefs Fill in the Blanks of Your Senses

One of the brains primary tools for making sure you survive are your 5 senses.

  • Sight.
  • Smell.
  • Touch.
  • Taste.
  • Hearing.

You must be able to accurately perceive dangers in your environment before you can take action. If a lion is charging at us we need to be able to see it! If someone is breaking into our house in the middle of the night, we need to hear it!

But your basic senses alone are not enough. As detectors, their limited range and scope are a severe handicap.

We can have direct sensory contact with only a very small portion of our environment at a time. Your brain considers this a big problem because you must continually move in and out of the range of your senses. Moving into an area you've never been before puts you in the dangerous position of having no advance warning of potential dangers.

This is where beliefs come in.

Our beliefs are designed to artificially enhance and augment the danger-identification ability of our senses. Beliefs extend the range of our senses!

Beliefs give us an internal map of those parts of the world which we do not have immediate contact. As I sit here I know I cannot see my wallet full of money inside the zipper of my work out bag. Although I dropped it in there awhile ago, using my emmediate sensory evidence I really dont know if the wallet is still there.

So my real time sensory evidence is of very little use to me. In order to find my wallet I have to ignore the current sensory data (which tells me that, not only do I NOT know exactly where my wallet is RIGHT NOW but also indicates it does not even EXIST since I can't see it!)

But I have a BELIEF my wallet is still there. So by referring to my belief, my brain can 'know' something about the world for which I have NO SENSORY EVIDENCE. My brain has EXTENDED its knowledge of the world using a belief.

Beyond the Senses into Abstraction

Because beliefs don't need sensory evidence to stay around, they have the additional survival value of providing information about life that doesn't deal with senses. This is the area of "reasons", "causes", and "meanings". I cannot actually see the "storm front" reason a thunderstorm suddenly flooded my picnic but I can believe the reason was a low pressure area and NOT flying gremlins that I need to shoot with my shotgun. So I avoid a nasty run in with the neighbors (and the police) if I don't fire buckshots blindly into the thundering sky!

Why Beliefs Don't Die Easily

We've established so far that senses and beliefs are both tools of survival, and are used closely together, the loss of one endangers the other.

Without your senses you wouldn't know anything about your world. Without beliefs you couldn't know the world outside your senses (or about meaning, causes, or reasons).

This means beliefs are designed to operate independent of any sensory evidence. in fact, the entire survival value of beliefs is their ability to persist even in the face of contradictory evidence!

As far as the brain is concerned there is absolutely no need for data and belief to agree.

Each has evolved to augment and supplement one another by connecting with different parts of the world. They are designed to be able to disagree. This is why otherwise rational people can believe, even without credible evidence, such things as telepathy, hypnosis, and God.

When the evidence and belief come into conflict, the brain does not automatically give preference to the evidence. This is why beliefs-even bad beliefs, irrational beliefs, silly beliefs, or crazy beliefs-often don't die in the light of contradictory evidence. Your brain simply doesn't care if it matches. It only cares if the belief helps in your survival.


Like an old soldier with on old gun who doesn't' quite believe the war is over yet. He ain't gonna just surrender his gun because you tell him the war is over.

What does this mean to you if you hope to change someones belief?

Realize that because of the survival value of beliefs, dis confirming evidence alone will rarely, if ever, be enough to change a belief. Even if the person is otherwise intelligent. So you must first understand why that belief has survival value.

Never assume that a belief will change just because you have data against it or that the person is just too stupid to change. Avoid becoming critical or insulting because they resist your attempts to change their mind.

Remember, you are presenting a very real threat to their sense of survival! Think about this, do you know anything more resistance than a person totally intent on surviving!? It's normal for a person to become increasingly defensive in this situation.

The only effective way to de-escalate the fighting is to stop threatening something you cannot defeat. Becoming sarcastic or insulting just gives the other persons defenses a foothold to keep engaging. and the brain has infinite resources to fend of anything it sees as a threat!

So you must stop yelling. Stop attacking. Stop trying to tear it down! Keep your eye on the goal. Realize that beliefs can change and often do, but only when that belief no longer has any survival value.

To change a belief, it takes wisdom. It takes ignorance to force them to change. Are you ignorant or wise?

Nathan's Final Thoughts

IF you encounter a person who can change their beliefs quickly and include new evidence with ease, you are dealing with a special person. How do you know if you've met someone like that? Wait to see if they ask this question (or something similar): "Why?"

That's it. If the first question they ask is "Why?" check yourself if you feel defensive about that. You're about to engage in a battle of beliefs with your beliefs being in question. If you can't handle that, don't have any beliefs.

Learn this lesson. People are generally not intending to be harsh, contrary, mean, stupid, or insulting when you talk to them about beliefs. It's a fight for survival! If you just bring 'evidence' for why they are being 'stupid'... YOU WILL LOSE! If you try to insult them into submission, YOU WILL FAIL in your goal to change their belief.

In fact, you'll create a much stronger enemy. You believe me, right?