Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Scio and credo are Latin for I know and I believe, and they give us the English words science and creed.

I’m interested in considering these related ideas of knowing and believing as they are generally understood and distinguished from one another.

In both cases, when I know something to be so or when I believe something to be so, I am making a claim about what’s real or true.

Typically, though, “knowing” implies certainty whereas “believing” implies a degree of doubt, as in, “I can’t be certain I saw someone breaking in to that house, but I believe that’s what I saw, though I don’t know for sure."

A belief is a supposition: something supposed or assumed or “taken on faith,” something hypothetical rather than verifiable. What is held to be credible is reliable, but not absolutely real.

A belief is a swaying footbridge made of ropes and planks rather than the Golden Gate Bridge of knowledge.

But we depend on our rope-and-plank bridges to cross gaps from here to there. More or less reliably they let us traverse chasms of doubt and fear. They get us through the night.

We hope to know, but we need our creeds.