Belief vs Knowledge and the Minds of Trump Supporters & other Humans


Humans have two operating systems in their brains, for belief (mammalian) and knowledge (human).  They interact differently in different persons. Some persons have no knowledge about significant phenomena and function only on belief; they cannot be “reached” by informing, as their OS can’t process knowledge.

This is work in progress and feedback is essential.


For over a quarter century, physicists, globally engaged in the collective challenge to discover a new physics for matter/energy systems. Many anomalous empirical findings shouted out that their contemporary conceptual theories about matter/energy systems was both wrong and incomplete. Einstein’s breakthrough paradigm shifts about space-time and gravitation alerted them that major changes in thinking would be required. The breakthrough to Quantum Physics occurred ONLY after they deliberately abandoned all use of the Bohr Atom as metaphor for the atom that they were studying.  Then they also abandoned the metaphor for “spin”, a variable of quantum data that had some analogy with spinning objects. Quantum theories are mathematical systems to “best fit” the data, PERIOD. Any attempts to reverse metaphor from the Quantum World to our everyday world has no scientific justification. It can be interesting speculation, but to seek cosmic universals from these reverse metaphors can be dangerous if lifestyle changes are based on them.

Metaphors from today world’s of perception, quite useful in everyday communicating about phenomena directly observable, can cause great difficulty for theoretical, scientific research in such domains of the very small or very large, where direct observation is impossible. A careful analysis of the advances in the Sci/Tech of human systems vs non-human systems demonstrates an enormous gap, not fully appreciated. In a very real sense, our Sci/Tech of systems with human persons as components has advanced little in millennia. The application of our diverse, personal/cultural beliefs about human systems and humankind usually ignore the fragments of Sci/Tech knowledge that we have gained. For example, the many findings from social psychological research are ignored in politics and economics (or secretly used to exploit). However, these highly inaccurate models of human behavior/thought in practice do employ the exponentially growing advances in the Sci/Tech of systems where humans are not components.  These advances bleed over to our faulty comprehension of human systems and create an illusion of progress.

Also, most advances in human biology and brain studies are strictly not about human systems, as such. A great amount of findings about humans has been collected; but efforts to discover a more comprehensive and accurate “theory” of humankind, to integrate these findings, remains an unrecognized challenge. Our beliefs about humankind are powerful and easily over-ride any knowledge gained.

The physicists were aware of the challenge; human activists are not yet aware of this new challenge – even as anomalous findings accumulate and our Crisis-of-Crises worsens, primarily as a result of our not adequately comprehending ourselves.


In mid August 2016, I began to explore, deeper  – in my mind – than before,  a useful distinctions between knowledge and belief, but was not coming to any clear ideas. Then I listened to a large variety of persons describing why they supported Donald Trump. I was shocked by the compartmentalizing of their ideas. They appeared insensitive to logical contradiction and many reports about Trump’s quoted statements were not mentioned and probably not known or acknowledged. That Trump supporters are in information silos doesn’t adequately account for this observation. This population included college educated and well spoken professionals. That possibly 40% of polled Americans claim to support Trump is very hard to “believe”, and downright scary. I have been groking that the USA Elections 2016 may be a very unique phenomenon – which if studied will provide some very useful insights about humankind.

My speculation on USA Election 2016 (not relevant to this essay): The multiple forces behind the Trump campaign have no intention of winning the election in November. If he was going to lose, Trump would withdraw. If he doesn’t withdraw it means something else is expected. I speculate “THEY” plan to disrupt the election in ways that throw it into SCOTUS (4-4) or the House of Representatives.  There are many ways it could be disrupted, which I will develop elsewhere.  I read nothing about this speculation anywhere, even in the far left and anti-USA news. Could MSNBC speculate on it – or, it can’t be “reported” as it is only speculation at this time.  MSNBC wonders why Trump is holding rallies in States he can’t win. I speculate that “they” are collecting names of persons who may be recruited to take disruptive action on election day or before.  What are projections if Hillary were somehow not to run, and Trump continues? Could he “win”?  Can the Electoral College be successfully attacked as a rigged election?  What if too many election sites are disrupted and vote counts hacked to postpone the decision? What might the “Alt-Right” do if the election isn’t conclusive?

Our challenge is two fold. One, to recognize we need a radically new “theory” of humankind. Two, to remain alert to the dangers of using metaphors from our personal and local/social domains for “entities” in the unobservable “societal” domain.

Even expect “societal weirdness” analogous to quantum weirdness. For various reasons, I (Larry/nuet) have devoted many decades exploring these challenges. I am at the pre breakthrough stage – I have identified many anomalous findings and have discovered a few new features of humankind – but I have not yet had the insights analogous to those that led to quantum physics for our comprehension of humans and humankind.

This essay is work-in-progress, exploring new insights as to the differences between what we label as “knowledge” and “belief”, which might account for the sudden increase in strange behavior among humans; behavior that is quite threatening. Up front, I must declare that I am not proposing any superiority to one of these; it is not Knowledge vs Belief. Or Science vs Art. Or new vs old. Or ….Our mess today is the result of our not yet adequately integrating Knowledge and Belief. Each without the other causes dysfunction in human cultural/societal systems.

Operating Systems for Belief and Knowledge,
are distinct in the human brain.

They may share neurons and neural circuits, and they probably interact.

These OS are not experienced, and we haven’t yet mapped them onto brain structures or processes. They give rise to experiences and behaviors.

The Belief OS is old, mammalian (and animal) and of very high quality. The BOS is subject to conditioning (Classical and Operant). In humans it remains primary for perception and stimulus/response behavior.

The Knowledge OS is new, dependent on human level languages, specifically visual languages. The KOS has probably evolved within those populations that have used KOS.

There is great variation among persons (and possibly populations) in their ability to use and integrate BOS and KOS.  This variation must also account for neuraldiversity related to Autism, Dyslexia, ADHD, and mental imagery competencies.

The terms and associated meanings to belief and knowledge are experienced differently in BOS and KOS.

In BOS, “things believed” are not experienced as “believed”. Belief in BOS is unconscious, unless challenged. Believers are unable to experience an alternative as potentially believable. Challenges to beliefs are “evil”, threatening to their very existence.

In KOS, all knowledge is expressed in language, although it may not be overt. There can be a meta-experientials (grok) associated with the experiencing of knowledge. There can be experiences from BOS associated with this groking of knowledge.


In this analysis, “knowledge” is the meta value used exclusively by humans when processing language information and governing deliberative activity-in-time.  “Thinking” (usually with words) is knowledge processing. Verbal utterances in response to beliefs, which don’t have the qualia of thought, is not knowledge processing. However, all knowledge processing occurs in the context of beliefs. The content of a belief might trigger knowledge of that content – for persons competent in knowledge processing.  Knowledge work might trigger belief content.

Ordinarily, humans don’t distinguish between knowledge and belief for their experiences. And, this proposal is but a theory-of-mind, within one mind/brain, in an attempt to gain some order on our Crisis-of-Crises. For the whole-of-reality, there may not “be” aspects/things corresponding to this model for knowledge and belief.


More on BELIEF & BOS:

In this analysis, “belief” is the meta value used by mammals (including humans) in processing their stimuli and governing their responses. Accuracy is never an issue.  Experience is accepted, without the experience of accepting. Aesthetics and ethics are values used to organize beliefs. Beliefs can be associated and classified (subconsciously by believers – when conscious it is knowledge). Art, poetry, and mythology are human enhancements in the domain of belief. The wonder of mammals (and other living organisms) is a tribute to the quality power of belief.

Many artists, poets, and others are deeply sensitive to the sensory and experiencing how engaging these media effects the overall thinking/behaving of persons – otherwise stressed and dysfunctional. For persons to engage in knowledge work they need quality lives which depends on harmony of their beliefs. Aesthetics and ethics, personalized and applied inter-personally, greatly enhance knowledge work.

On the other hand, much of our trouble today is consequence of domains of reality capable of being engaged only by knowledge and scientific languages. The problem is that competencies for knowledge work don’t emerge from the domains of belief, aesthetic, and ethics. Just as the matter/energy universe, with Earth and Gaia, provide a given reality we humans must live within. We cannot chose any universe we might desire.  The same applies to humans and humanity.  We must create social and societal/cultural systems for a nu humanity consistent with who we “really are”, and not what our myths and beliefs demand. This, a more accurate, “nature of humans and humankind” is our challenge to discover.



Humans can experience imaginary things they know are not real, not believed to be real.  When artwork is concrete, it is experience as real, even when it comes from the imagination. In a sense, mathematical structures, proposed as theories for phenomenon or systems. are from imagination – a relaxing of both belief and knowledge.

Imagination may not be a third OS, but a special way BOS and KOS interact.

I don’t perceive knowledge through my senses, nor am I explicitly conscious of my belief in what I see.  I can read “THIS SCREEN IS WHITE”, and agree that it is a confirmed,knowledge statement. THE MOON IS IN ORBIT AROUND EARTH, is another knowledge statement that I don’t, at this moment, confirm. 2000 years ago the sentence would have had no meaning. To contradict the moon statement would be high imagination; and IF IT WERE TRUE, I would expect immediate consequences (confirmation, assuming Newtonian Mechanics). So, I believe the moon is in orbit. Yet, I don’t experience the essence of “belief” as I believe. Nor do I experience the essence of “knowledge” as I know.  Yet, in the domain of images and statements related to USA Elections 2016, the effects of BOS and KOS are strikingly evident.


I have surveyed quite a few articles and essays about the distinctions between belief, knowledge, and truth. I was greatly disappointed; but none were by famous philosophers – who have thought on Epistemology for millennia. They had to be searched separately. I have only skimmed them. None seemed to stray into the domain (OS) where I recently discovered a possibly useful distinction – as distinct brain processes.  From the online essays it appears that the terms are used quite differently by different authors – and probably differently by the same person at different times.

It would be interesting to query Doug Hofstadter about how metaphors/analogies would play in his take on meaning, as applied to these proposals


Persons experience very differently.

Imagine how the face of President Obama is experienced by persons of different political persuasions.

Some may think of him in many ways, as the current role player in POTUS, with all the complex functions of that office: The Executive Branch of the US Government. They may puzzle over why he does as he does, with the many constraints he has, with a deadlocked congress and a 4-4 SCOTUS. Given agencies as the CIA, FBI, NSA, & Pentagon – one might wonder whether Obama has the power we attribute to POTUS. We may also notice how he has aged, or see him as family man with Michele and his daughters. We experience the visual image of Obama as a believed human person with knowledge of his role as POTUS in the US Government. With knowledge, we may approve or disapprove of his decisions.

Others will react emotionally, with labels they had read or heard assigned to him as real attributes: Muslim, non-citizen, not born in the USA, liar, criminal, conspirator, evil. None of these attributes are knowledge about the POTUS, Obama. They are attached to the image experienced with belief.  There may be mental imagery associated with these attributes that are experienced as a montage, when experiencing a picture or video of Obama. There may be associated behaviors, such a name calling or gestures. These persons may compare “Obama” with other US Presidents – maybe visualizing them.  For these believers, presidents are bosses like fathers of an unruly family. They bandy the term “constitution” with no thoughts that it lays out a system of decision-making. To them it is but a set of rules – to be strictly obeyed.

Many human persons have very strong beliefs but very little useful knowledge (in specific knowledge domains). Actually, I speculate that for many their knowledge is not only small, but absent as an OS – and absent as a moderator of excessive belief.

In most ordinary, everyday encounters, a person without knowledge can function well based on belief alone. I propose that the belief system is mammalian and thus well adapted for proper behavior within interpersonal encounters.  Those with knowledge simply take others as having little knowledge. What I am proposing here, is that there can be a qualitative difference with persons who lack the category, knowledge, when interacting about collective activities of others (patterns of activities that are incapable of direct perception  – e.g., no one perceives economies or governments).

The new tech media and propaganda systems have literally changed how humans function [The Cyber Effect, Mary Aiken] in ways that are just now crossing thresholds.  Mobs have emerged in the past. This may be a new type of mob – where BELIEF is amplified and KNOWLEDGE is eliminated or suppressed – and maintained.

It has been claimed that Hitler and the Nazis were able to achieve their organization because of the new technology, broadcast radio and film.  Social media online and video are much more powerful tools for indoctrination than radio and film. They are able to successfully isolate persons in silos and shield then from conflicting information.

Also, we are discovering that when persons have strong belief systems, information input cannot be used to change them. Only very sophisticated “educational/social” systems can reach them.

Michel Foucault, in The Order of Things described the paradigm shift from categorical thinking to systems thinking in Western European thought.

Author: nuet

01/24/1935. BS-physics RPI 1956; MS-physics UofChicago 1958; PhD-physics Yale 1965; PhD-Edu Psy Uof MInnesota 1970. Auroral Research Byrd Station, Antarctica 11/1960-02/1962. MINNEMAST curriculum dev 1964-68. Woodstock. faculty Pima Community College, Tucson 1974-1997. Transdisciplinary scientist, philosopher, educator, futurist, activist. PC user since 1982. "Wife". daughter, 2 grandsons. 5 dogs & 7 cats. Lacks mental imagery in all sensory domains.