On Skepticism

Skeptical Corgi is Skeptical
(Image: leonotenboom.com)

Skepticism has served me well, and I wish more people were more skeptical than they are.

To begin with, I do not think it means what you think it means.

Many people see being a skeptic as either

  • someone who believes nothing.
  • someone who’s perpetually grumpy.

While I’m sure there are skeptics that match either or both descriptions (*cough* as I do, on occasion), neither is a core tenet of skepticism.

To me, being skeptical is not always taking things at face value. It’s looking for proof or supporting evidence before accepting claims as being accurate.

Doubting Thomas is a good example not only of a skeptic, but of one reason skepticism gets a bad rap.

The only thing Thomas wanted was proof of a fantastical claim, nothing more. In the centuries since the story was written, he’s taken not as an example of rational thinking, but instead vilified for not accepting something on pure faith alone.

Be more like Thomas.

Question fantastical claims.

If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably not true. Yes, “probably” doesn’t mean “always”, which is why we look for evidence and confirmation. Sometimes fantastical claims are real.

But usually they’re not.

Of course, where I see this most often is online. You’ll find extreme examples of fantastical claims in your spam folder, for example. Or in ads promoting the latest health concoction, security software, or body enhancement drug or device. Or in the latest conspiracy theory making the rounds.

The extreme examples are easy for most to identify and dismiss. It’s the less extreme, more plausible items that warrant our scrutiny. Many people are more than ready to take advantage of our desire to believe what we want to believe online and off.

Make a skeptical approach a habit.

It’s nothing at all to be ashamed of, and can save you much embarrassment, or worse.

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