Beliefs and Attribution (III)

In two previous articles we have talked about nuclear beliefs, intermediate and automatic thoughts (I) and the impact of beliefs (II). In this third post on the subject we intend to identify some categories of beliefs.

We can classify the beliefs in open or closed as they admit or not to be discussed.

Open Beliefs

Science is the paradigm of open beliefs. The scientific method exists and is unique. From this can be sketched an overview of the map of knowledge in general. It inspires not only the way to acquire new knowledge but also the way of disseminating it, that is, a whole theory of teaching.

The central pretension of science is to understand reality. And for this, the observation. These are influenced by each other. Observation is of reality, understanding is of observation and reality is the ultimate object of understanding.

Not all understanding is scientific. For it to be, it is essential that it be sensitive to the reality it seeks to understand. According to Popper‘s nomenclature (1959), understanding must be falsifiable, reality must have the right to contradict a proposition of comprehension so that it can be considered science.

“Science tends to be objective (that is, universal), tends to be intelligible (that is, anticipates uncertainty) and tends to be dialectical (that is, progresses).” Jorge Wagensberg.

Open beliefs are those that allow discussion and contrast by anyone who adheres to a model of logical analysis, and reasons based on it.

  • Scientific beliefs: Science is characterized by offering an understanding of reality through knowledge gained through research and empirical experimentation. The existence of constant and definable rules allows the construction of postulates, axioms, hypotheses, theorems and theories and delimit the scope and conception of a scientific discipline (method / s that uses, study objective, etc.)
  • Pseudoscientific Beliefs: These are claims, beliefs or practices that are presented incorrectly as scientific but do not follow a valid scientific method, can not be reliably tested, or lack scientific status.
  • Scientistic beliefs: Scientism is the position that affirms the universal applicability of the method and the scientific approach, and the idea that empirical science constitutes the most accredited cosmovision or the most valuable part of human knowledge, even the exclusion of other points of View, reducing science as the only reliable source of knowledge.
  • Historical Beliefs: Historicism is a philosophical trend that considers all reality as the product of a historical becoming. Its task is to carry out a theory of history. It aims to carry out a systematic exploration of scientific, artistic, technical, political or religious facts that can be considered historical facts because they are important for human life.
  • Secret Conspiracy Beliefs: A conspiracy theory can be defined as the attempt to explain an event or chain of events, succeeding or still to come, whether perceived or actual, commonly of political, social, economic, or historical importance, through Existence of a very powerful, extensive, long-lasting and generally malicious secret group.

An open system of beliefs operates under a progressive-epistemological worldview. Truth is capable of being altered by the growth of scientific progress. It is a belief system capable not only of micro-changes, but also of macro-changes, making even fundamental concepts open to alteration and, over time, replaced by better approximations of truth. All this happens without any serious damage or without causing instability to the belief system. The assumptions held in an open system of beliefs will always remain open to scrutiny if there is ever a need to question them.


Closed beliefs

Closed beliefs are those beliefs that only allow discussion and contrast by a certain class of people, chosen by their authority and affinity to the ideal.

  • Religious beliefs: They are the set of beliefs of a religion, the set of beliefs of someone, a group or a multitude of people, belief that is given to something by the authority of who says or by public fame. Religious beliefs refer to attitudes towards the mythological, supernatural or spiritual elements of a religion and often refer to the existence, characteristics and worship of a deity or deities, divine intervention in the universe and human life, or Deontological explanations of values ​​and practices centered on the teachings of a spiritual leader or group.
  • Esoteric beliefs: Esotericism is a generic term used to refer to the set of knowledge, doctrines, teachings, practices, rites, techniques or traditions of a sectarian current that are secret, incomprehensible or difficult to access and which are transmitted only to a minority Select called initiates, so they are not known by the profane.
  • Social beliefs: These are the customs, traditions and values ​​of a social group that constitute the beliefs of that community. Custom is a habit or tendency acquired by the frequent practice of an act. Tradition is each one of those patterns of coexistence that a community considers worthy of being constituted as an integral part of its uses and customs.
  • Political Beliefs or Ideologies: In social sciences, an ideology is a normative set of collective emotions, ideas and beliefs that are compatible with each other and are especially concerned with human social behavior. Ideologies describe and postulate ways of acting on collective reality, on society in general.
  • Myths, Legends, Superstitions: A myth is a traditional story that refers to prodigious events, carried out by supernatural or extraordinary beings, such as gods, demigods, heroes, monsters or fantastic characters, who seek to give an explanation to a fact or a phenomenon. A legend is a popular narrative that tells a real fact, fabulous of natural, supernatural facts or a mixture of both that is transmitted from generation to generation in oral or written form. Superstition is the belief contrary to reason that attributes a magical explanation to the generation of phenomena, processes and their relationships.

Closed belief systems contain knowledge claims that can not be successfully nullified. Whenever their fundamental beliefs are threatened, a closed belief system has a number of devices that prevent the system from being disproved, at least in the eyes of believers.



Ideologies are worldviews or sets of ideas and values, in other words, a belief system. The term ideology is widely used in sociology and often includes negative aspects such as:

  • Distorted, false or misleading ideas about the world, or a partial, unilateral or biased view of reality.
  • Ideas that conceal the interests of a particular group, or that legitimize (justify) their privileges.
  • Ideas that avoid change by deceiving people about the reality of the situation they are in or about their own interests or positions.

Therefore, very often when someone uses the term ideology to describe a belief system, it means that they consider it as a moral mistake.


Science as a closed system

For Kuhn, science is also a closed system of beliefs. He argues that science is a closed system because it is based on a set of shared assumptions that it calls a paradigm. The paradigm influences the scope and scope of research, and if a scientist goes against a paradigm is rejected by the scientific community.

Polanyi argues that all belief systems reject challenges to their demands for knowledge and science is no different.

Knorr-Cetina (1999) argues that the invention of new instruments, such as microscopes or telescopes, allows scientists to make new observations and create or “fabricate” new facts.

Marxists consider that scientific knowledge is far from the truth. Instead, they consider it as a service to the interests of dominant groups. Marxists argue that many advances in supposedly “pure” science have been driven by the needs of capitalism for certain types of knowledge.

Postmodernists also reject the claims of knowledge that science has “truth.” For example, Lyotard views science as a meta-narrative that falsely claims to possess the truth. It considers that science is only a “discourse” or way of thinking that is used to dominate the people. Like Marxists, some postmodernists argue that science has become technoscience, simply serving capitalist interests by producing goods for profit.


If you want to know more …


Kuhn, T.S. (1975) La estructura de las revoluciones científicas. Fondo de Cultura Económica.(1ª reimpresión) México.

Polanyi, M. (1952) The Stability Of Beliefs. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 3:11 (November, 1952): 217-232.

Popper, K. R. (1962): La lógica de la investigación científica, Madrid, Tecnos.

Popper, K. R. (1985): Búsqueda sin término. Una autobiografía intelectual, Madrid, Tecnos.

Knorr-Cetina, K. (1999) Epistemic Cultures. How the Sciences Make Knowledge. Harvard University Press. May 1999.

Lyotard, J.F. (1979) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (French: La condition postmoderne: rapport sur le savoir).

Wagensberg, J. (2007) El gozo intelectual. Teoría y práctica de la inteligibilidad y la belleza. Editorial Tusquets /Metatemas. Barcelona, 2007.