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GRE Issue 141

It is more harmful to compromise one's own beliefs than to adhere to them.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.

A belief is something that one always wants to stick to in one's life, conditionally or unconditionally. In the view of its definition, it may be right that it is more harmful to compromise one's belief than to adhere to it, for once compromised, belief could not be called a "belief" anymore. However, I think there are different situations for us to evaluate this claim, and the result may appear not to be so absolute.

First, there are definitely beliefs which can do harm to their believers, such as some religions with very inhumane doctrines and rules that forbid believers from living normal lives, or even threaten their lives. And when one deeply believes in something, it is extremely hard for him/her to realize the hidden dangers of such a belief, for the obsession can blind their eyes. At that time, if someone is kind enough to point out their wrong belief and persuade them to give it up, it would be the best result if they do compromise and give the belief up so to protect themselves. So compromising is not only does no harm, but is rather very necessary for someone who has a dangerous belief.

Second, in a case that one's belief is not essentially harmful, it is even more complicated to evaluate the claim. A normal belief does not mean a belief that is right, or at least, objectively right. For instance, many scientists have once had some scientific beliefs in their fields which turned out later to be wrong, then is it helpful to compromise their beliefs in order to realize the mistakes and get things right more quickly? Or will adhering to them do more good in the hope that they may be the real truth and be proven one day? Well, I think if we see things in the society's point of view, it is certainly harmful for them to adhere to their wrong beliefs (even they do not know for sure that they are wrong), for such behaviors slow down the pace of science development. However, if we see it in the scientists' perspective, it is often not a good choice to compromise their beliefs, for it is a sign of lacking faith in their own beliefs, and it will likely lead others' lack of faith in them. So, this is really a dilemma, and I think we could not simply say which one is the better.

In conclusion, it cannot be simply judged whether compromising one's beliefs is better or adhering to it is more helpful, for it depends so much on the situation in which we discuss the problem.

Submitted by: Juliana


I have a trivial suggestion: would it be better to change "scientific beliefs" to "beliefs in scientific hypothesis"? Because scientific belief to me indicates that the belief is scientific while here in your essay I presume you meant a belief in some unproven theory and the "scientists" want to prove it by themselves.
April,16 2014

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