Here’s the idea. To see how likely it is that your belief is well-founded, imagine that you are standing in front of a row of 10 people who are going to assess it; the people are numbered 1 -10.
At one end, Number One is a poorly educated and gullible person who has little idea of life outside his own experience. They lead a simple life, know little or nothing about literature, science, current-affairs, history, human behaviour, economics, etc. They are far from observant, never use critical thinking skills and they accept things as true “because they once heard someone they like say it.” They never analyse a question or statement. If asked for an opinion on a complex problem, it is likely that (a) they will not have understood the problem and (b) say the first thing that comes into their head.
At the other end Number Ten is a polymath. This person has a remarkable, wide, unbiased, and detailed knowledge of literature, science, current-affairs, history, human behaviour, economics, etc. Before they answer, they will always analyse a question or statement and bring in new but relevant points. They use amazing critical thinking skills and always reach a sound and well-supported conclusion that addresses each of the points of the argument with outstanding authority and clarity and leaves you nodding in amazed agreement.
Between them are 8 people, perfectly graded, each with more ability than the previous person. From number 2 onwards, it becomes increasingly likely that any fault in your argument will be detected: 2 may see faults that are not there or perhaps blatant inconsistencies, 5 will see the most obvious faults, 7 will see whole ideas that do not sit well together and 10 will let nothing at all slip past.
We use this test by standing in front of the row and proposing an idea: if we want, we can speak for up to 10 minutes in its support. The idea is then addressed by each person in order and the idea is given a mark based upon the highest numbered person who gives unqualified support to your idea. i.e. someone who has seen a problem that you have not. This results in finding out how likely the belief is to be correct.
It will be seen that Number One always gives an answer based upon what they think
you have said, which lacks all detail and is unlikely to be helpful, whereas 8 and 9 rarely give an answer without adding words to the effect of, “but research may alter this.” or “if we knew more about X, it would help.” and 10’s answer will invariably be given as a probability.
Ten will also always find a fault with the way you stated your belief, One never will:
A: “I believe that oak leaves are always green in summer.”
1: “You are correct! Always! Mine are: so of course they are. Stupid question.”
7: “All things being equal, we can say oak leaves are green in summer.”
10: “Where are the oak leaves? Are they on the tree? Are they diseased? “When you say “oak” which species did you mean or do you mean every single type of oak that ever was? I am not sure what you mean by “green”: Colours are simply arbitrary names for a broad set of wavelengths of reflected light and different languages have different words for the same colour. What you understand by “blue” and “green” are often taken to be the same colour and have the same word. And how are you defining “summer”? You realise that no two summers are the same and extreme conditions may alter perceived colour?”
[There would then follows a complex but exhaustive answer in which all possible contexts from the molecular to the macro were covered, followed by, “At least that is how the matter is currently understood by the majority but that, of itself, does not create certainty. Your belief is, however, valid in the majority of cases.”]
As the highest unqualified support you received was from 6, you can then go away with a mark of 6 for your belief, which translates as “Slightly above average, just worth mentioning, but with faults.” But you should also go away thinking that you could have given more thought to the way the belief was expressed and a realisation that you’re probably not a Ten.
So we could test this on:
“I believe that the Book of Genesis is accurate and exhaustive description of the manner of the creation of the world, the universe and all that is contained within.”
Which number would give the last unqualified answer?