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”.