Part 3: Is it Ever Okay to Take a "Leap of Faith"?
Maybe having good beliefs means sometimes believing even when there is not enough evidence either way. In this session, we will consider whether we have control over our beliefs and whether it is ever a good idea to believe something before all the evidence has come in. Because such "leaps of faith" are fairly common in everyday life, it is important to ask whether they can be reasonable, or whether we should resist the urge and always wait patiently for more evidence.
Lecture 3: When Can You Believe "Beyond the Evidence"
Sometimes, it seems like we have to commit one way or another in our beliefs, even if we do not have perfect certainty. In this lecture, Paul asks about what makes such “leaps of faith” rational, and when we would do better to exercise a bit more cautious skepticism.
Faith and Innovation
Steve Jobs was famous for leading a company that consistently produced near-impossible technological innovations, and it seems clear that his faith in such progress played a key role. Jobs is often quoted as saying:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
This attitude is one that many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley have clearly taken to heart. But there is a fine line between being a visionary, like Jobs, and a fraud.
In the next video, Paul will talk about what distinguishes the two by taking a closer look at a “leap of faith” gone wrong and will invite you to reflect on what distinguishes such cases from one another.
Applying the Concepts: Faith or Fraud?
In this video, we consider the story of Billy McFarland, a young entrepreneur whose self-confidence resulted in one of the most infamous marketing and business failures in recent memory.
- An interactive essay on William James “Will to Believe“
Activity: Betting on the Truth
In this activity, we compare believing with betting and ask when it is okay to bet on a particular claim coming true. The decision is illustrated by this important big questions: Can you believe that your relationship will succeed, or that you are a good person, or that God exists, even if the evidence is not all in? This worksheet presents you with an exercise about the way you form beliefs.