Thorough and Perpetual Skepticism

Skepticism is a method.

I’ll repeat.

skeptical-method-by-amySkepticism is a method.  It is not a set of beliefs or even tentative conclusions (it leads to the latter, however).  You cannot be a skeptic for a little while, come to some conclusions, and stop being skeptical.  OK, well, you can do that, but doing so is counter-productive, assuming you care what’s true and not merely a little better than what you used to think. I mean, if all you want is to ditch Christianity, and you use skepticism to do that and get to Scientology, then it did it’s job, but you left the job partially done (and poorly, in that case).

You have to keep that toolbox open all the time, apply it to new information, and make sure that old information is challenged in light of new data.  It may sound tiring, but being a skeptic is perpetual, and should be applied periodically.

I mean, sure, enjoy your life and don’t constantly analyze information skeptically, but when you hear new claims, be skeptical and either talk it through then or investigate it later.  Assuming you care about whether that thing is true, which brings me to the other thing.

You should be skeptically thorough.  

You should question your assumptions, carefully analyze your worldview about all sorts of things.  Again, not constantly, but periodically at least.  You should be willing to apply the tools of skepticism to all of the important ideas and behaviors you have, because you might miss some set of assumptions if you fail to do so, and end up living a silly lie for no good reason.

What happens if you don’t do this?

Well, being around the atheist community for many years, I’ve seen people find skepticism, apply it to their religious beliefs, and either accept some other religious or spiritual belief because they didn’t follow through or simply stop after doing so.  This is how Christians become Pagans or atheists who oppose inclusiveness in our community and larger skeptical movement.  I’ve also seen tons of skeptics become atheists (as they should) and then fail to apply that skepticism to other things, like Men’s Rights Activism, for example.

No! just no....
No! just no….

Or monogamy.  You know, the acceptance of possessiveness and exclusivity in romantic relationships.  That doesn’t make any sense, except as a rationalization of jealousies, fears, and other unsavory behaviors towards people they supposedly “love.”  I both laugh and cry when I see someone declare love with words clothed in possession (you are “mine”, you “belong to me”, etc). It’s absurd.  I mean, sure, if you simply are not into anyone else, then fine, but if so you don’t need to be possessive or jealous because your happiness with monogamy has nothing to do with the fact that it’s not all about you.

If you love someone, them loving other people should not matter.  Hopefully, they love you too, and you should be willing to share.

I’ve seen the same thing, in reverse order, in the poly community.  Somehow these people come to realize the absurdity of this possessiveness and exclusivity, but don’t think to criticize their basic beliefs about the nature of reality.

I know, I know, I’m weird because I think about stuff like that naturally.


Strengthening your tools

I think that the more aspects of your life you apply skepticism to, the better skeptic you can become.  The more ideas you get over, the easier it can become to think through other ideas.  Don’t stop questioning just because you gave up religion, monogamy, or chasing Bigfoot (seriously, does anyone still really do that?).  Keep applying those tools, and you will be better for it in the long run.  It can be tiring, emotionally, cognitively, and socially, but there are others out there who are willing to help, befriend, and accept you as one of us weird skeptics.


5 thoughts on “Thorough and Perpetual Skepticism

  1. Reblogged this on Shadow in the Mirror and commented:
    I love this. I could never understand why people stopped short on certain topics. I’ve always been a searcher, and I’ve taken time a few times a year to reexamine what I think I believe and what I actually know. It’s a lovely task, oftentimes, but it is right. I swore to take nothing for granted for my own sake and each day I can shake off some dust-covered useless idea. I’m certain of less and less as time goes on yet that which I know has a stronger foundation for it.

  2. When I hear people use possessive terms for loved ones, I throw up in my mouth a little. Seems to happen a lot in pop and country music for some reason.

  3. Do you ever question what you mean by “evidence” or by “information”? Those terms may have unquestioned assumptions embedded in them, models of human consciousness and human experience, perhaps an unquestioned faith that the methods of the natural sciences give access to Reality (as opposed to just helping us make sense of possible experience), or faith that mathematics is the true and only language of the Universe Itself.

    You say you don’t want to go there?

    Why stop short?

  4. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment
    is added I get several emails with the same comment.
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