Skepticism

There was a time in human history when belief in things without evidence was a normal or even positive thing for people to do.  Belief in spirits that ensured safety in times of strife were commonplace or that some mystical being was responsible for the lightning that struck nearby.  One could even say that it is natural for humans to attribute human attributes to non human events or entities.  We’ve all seen the nice old lady being annoyed when their little Fufu isn’t given a proper show of respect as a person.  For most people in this modern era it is a funny way of speaking or joking about a particular minor happening. No harm, no foul, right? I mean that lightning strike didn’t seek your tree out and intentionally knock that tree into your house….right?  It seems the more serious or major the event the more likely some kind of Force is responsible for the outcome.  Winning $5 in the lottery is luck or completely explainable by the rules of statistics and mathematics, but winning $5 Million. Now that is divine intervention as any religious lottery winner will tell you, but maybe we should ask them exactly why that is so.

The reason that this is brought up is because believing things without evidence can be insanely harmful not only in a physical sense where a false belief in a resistance to fire will burn you, but for humanity as well. Imagine if everyone still believed that tomatoes are poisonous or that baths were unhealthy or even harmful.  We’d have a lot less great food and a lot more smelly people, and neither are good things.  An important point about both of these is that people really believed them and many other myths in times past, and many such myths persist today.  Each of these claims are scientifically falsifiable and only needed a serious scientific inquiry to find out if tomatoes really were poisonous or if you really would fall off the edge of the earth.  However, each was held to be true without any real reason to speculate on their validity at the time, they were simply believed without any evidence other than hearsay.  Only through rational inquiry and a hunger for an answer that could be deduced in a comprehensive way was humanity able to being unlocking the answers of our universe.  Or in other words, be skeptical of any claim on how the world is until you see further evidence.

It makes sense on the face of it though, to believe in something simply because an easier explanation is better than one you must discover.  A simple “because I said so” is a much easier (and lazier) response to an inquisitive mind than putting forth the effort of finding out a rational cohesive and helpful answer.  This type of attitude is extremely harmful to not only children but to humanity in itself.  A mind that does not seek a rational justification for the world as it is, is a mind easily led astray.  If there were no Magellan’s or no Galileo’s or no Darwin or Huxley, where would we be?  We would have no space travel, no understanding of gravity, no understanding of poles, or of evolutionary biology.  We would be left with “because I said so” from those that are able to enforce their beliefs on others.  We would be left with whatever cultural dogma existed before we came into this world and gladly lockstep with the march of those around us.  There would be no “why” or “how” or “what happens if I do this“.   For this reason, always be skeptical and ask one more question: “Show me the evidence”.

This is why skepticism is so important in an increasingly modern world as more tools for discovery open up to us. Whenever there is a claim as to why something happened, being skeptical of any explanation until further evidence is presented will prove to be extremely valuable in our search for truth and understanding.  If  there is a claim as to why a storm took out one road and not the other, do not accept that “Ah I had a guardian watching over me” as an answer.  Quite frankly I’d think that the person that was not spared by the storm would find that answer sufficient to deny an insurance claim or assistance from those so guarded.  No, we must do research, learn more about our world, and be skeptical of any claim not grounded on evidence.  If our society as a whole took this to heart there would be far less unhappiness and much more social and political progression as a whole.  In closing, to quote Mr. Thomas Huxley – “The deepest sin of the human mind is to believe things without evidence”.

Jason K.

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10 comments on “Skepticism

  1. zntneo says:

    Jason, you really should have came to the discussion about. evidentialism. As an example of when it might be acceptable to believe something without evidence. Suppose you are a baseball player we know that the likelihood for you hitting the ball is merely about a 1/3 which does not seem to be good enough evidence for you to believe you are actually going to hit the ball. We also know that if you believe you will hit the ball you will be more likely to hit the ball.

  2. Mike says:

    Jason,

    Once again, it appears tht your frustration with the world, is all due to denominationalism. I agree. The Catholic Church, Methodist Church, Lutheran Church and multitude of others have done a GREAT disservice to humanity. But no more than Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the like. None of these religious beliefs are approved by God. Because they were invented by men and teach their own dogmas, it is THEY who have caused the problems you have discussed.

    Thank God that He created within everyone of us the ability to think, to reason, to demand evidence and to make our own choices. It is unfortunate that most people choose not to use the sense God gave them, and take as you said, “The lazy way” out.

    No, it is not God who caused the lightening to strike the tree that fell on your house. No it was not God who caused the earthquake, or the tornado, or hurricane. To think so, or to chalk it up to divine intervention for anything from natural disaster to lottery tickets is pure ignorance.

    The question I have is this – are you not being lazy as well, by not searching out the Scriptures for yourself to see what God has to say, instead of what men tell you God says? If you are going to speak of rational thought, then you need to give both sides equal opportunity before making your decisions. I know I certainly have and continue to do so.

  3. jastiger says:

    I do find it very interesting that your criteria for evidence is to study the scripture to find out what god “really” said. Time and time again you allude to the fact that men have twisted the words of god into their own agenda and ideals. However, if we are going to use those two things as starting points for the evaluation of a gods teachings, then how do we separate the ideas that men “twist” gods word and that men wrote the bible? To me it seems intellectually dishonest to claim that someone hasn’t done their proper research from a proper source when the only source is afflicted by the same problems that you claim exist with that person. It isn’t a question of laziness when it comes to dismissing holy scripture as an objective moral standard, it’s a question of intellectual honesty, rational thought, and a refusal to participate in cognitive dissonance in order to feel better about presupposed ideals.

  4. Mike says:

    Based upon the “fact” that you do not believe in “God,” and therefore should not even use the word “Holy” as it refers to “God,” it would do no good to show you how “God” used men to write His revelation to mankind. Would it?

    • zntneo says:

      We can use what ever word we want. First,one must show that god exists to show us how god used men to write his revelation.

  5. jastiger says:

    Thanks, Zach.

    It actually would do SOME good in the sense of correspondence, Mike. Even if I do not believe in a “holy god”, if there was a comprehensive and logical explanation as to why such a being existed, we could give the argument for Christianity more weight. However, theism cannot even do this in such a way. This means that just because I do not subscribe to your belief doesn’t mean I dismiss it out of hand just because I don’t like it. I dismiss it because I find it to be not only full of holes, logical fallacies, and frankly impossible, but also because it requires me to abandon reality and believe in something that has no basis in reality.

    So I can use the words holy and god when it comes to describing your system, just like I can talk about other things without knowing EVERYTHING about them. As long as we agree on a definition we can talk about something. Just like I don’t know how 401K’s work complete, you can still talk to me about them, the idea of a 401k would exist. If i choose not to invest in the one you talk about, that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to discuss 401K’s, it just means I find it unconvincing.

  6. Mike says:

    Jason, I understand what you are saying, I just find it strange that you will use words of the things you do not believe exist. Unlike 401K’s which all know do exist.

    As for proving God exists, I’ve been waiting patiently for someone to debate this issue, so I guess that you will never hear my arguments for, and I won’t hear yours against.

    • zntneo says:

      So the only way you will tell us your arguments is through a verbal debate?

      Also, i can talk about unicorns,Santa Claus,faires,ghosts,bigfoot, elves, Russells teapot all without believing any of these things exist.

  7. Brad says:

    I thought philosophers had rejected this idea (the belief that all beliefs must be based on evidence) long ago. Incorrigible beliefs, for example. To show the strangeness of this belief, we can ask “What is the evidence for the belief that ‘The deepest sin of the human mind is to believe things without evidence’?” There is none!

    • zntneo says:

      There are still exist plenty of evidentialists in philosophy today. These philosophers would respond that by believing things without evidence (logical arguments can be evidence and descartes felt that the evidence for “i think therefore i am” was that it was impossible to doubt it). You are in general correct that that evidentialism is falling out of favor in philosophy but some of the popular alternatives do not allow faith into the picture.

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