Knowledge and belief

‘Rationalism is an attitude of readiness to listen to contrary arguments and to learn from experience. . . of admitting that “I may be wrong and you may be right and, by an effort, we may get nearer the truth”.’

Karl Popper, philosopher and former patron of the BHA (1902 – 1994)

What should I believe? How can I know what is true? Can you ever have too many questions? Find out why humanists believe our curiosity is one of the things that makes human beings special and the importance humanists place on evidence when deciding what to believe.

What makes us special?
Suitable for: 5-7, 7-11

Lesson Plans

What makes us special?

In this lesson students will investigate what makes human beings special. They will discover why humanists value human beings’ ability to ask questions and find answers. They will explore how our questions and the desire to answer them can help us to understand ourselves and the world, and transform the world for the better. They will go on to explore their own questions, assess what makes a question interesting, and think about how they can know whether they have been given the right answer to a question. Finally they will take a look at what else, as well as our curiosity, humanists think makes us special, and use what they have learned to create an artwork. Download

Presentations

What makes us special?

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Activities

Interesting questions?

Which questions are difficult? Which questions are interesting? Are more difficult questions, more interesting? Download

Happy Human outline

Decorate a Happy Human with questions or with what makes human beings special. Download

Other activities

Three activities to get students thinking about good questions. Download

Films

Questioning

(Age 5+) Why are questions important to humanists? Watch

How do humanists decide what to believe?
Suitable for: 11-14, 7-11

Lesson Plans

How do humanists decide what to believe?

In this lesson students will explore different reasons to believe things and how those beliefs can sometimes be mistaken. They will discover how humanists try to rely on reason and evidence to help them decide what to believe. Through playing a card game they will evaluate what counts as good evidence to believe something and discuss how humanists might respond to particular claims.     Download

Presentations

How do humanists decide what to believe?

Download

Activities

The Murder Trial

Acting as the jury on a murder trial, students will assess the evidence provided by different witnesses. Download

Beliefs and evidence

A card game to explore what evidence counts as good evidence for different beliefs. Download

Humanist responses: belief

Fill in the speech bubbles with how humanists might respond to various beliefs. Download

Humanist responses: belief (blank)

A sheet of blank speech bubbles for students to write different beliefs and comment on them. Download

Films

How do you know what is true?

(Age 7+) Humanists explain how they make decisions about what they believe to be true. Watch

How do we know what is true?

(Age 11+) A short animation about how humanists believe science is the best method for answering questions about the world. Watch

External Resources

Karl Popper and Falsification

Karl Popper and FalsificationA BBC animation on the scientific method and the importance of our claims being capable of being falsified

Models of the solar system

Film: How did we develop our understanding of the universe? A celebration of the scientific endeavour, and how our capacity to question makes human beings special.

Origins

Where do our beliefs come from? This film from TrueTube explores how the circumstances of our birth and our upbringing affect the person we become. Great for exploring questions around freedom of belief.

The Big Bang

Big BangA BBC animation on the Big Bang and what happened before it

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