Doubting Skepticism

February 5, 2010

It is ironic that for a philosophy which is pervasive in Western society and whose motto is “Doubt everything” that skepticism itself is so seldom examined. I am no philosopher, but being skeptical has practical consequences – from being skeptical of evolution and global warming through to the existence of Jesus and of God. Here is just one reason why I am not a skeptic.

There are two primary duties to the truth which every thoughtful person faces in their life. These are:

  1. To believe true beliefs
  2. To reject false beliefs

It can be complicated to balance these competing responsibilities. The big temptation is to be intellectually lazy and, instead of grappling with the issues, to reject one or other of these duties entirely. But neglecting either one can be harmful. You end up just as dead if you disbelieve when someone tells you that the bridge up ahead is out, as if you believe the car is able to jump the gap. We have names for people who jump to one extreme or the other.

On one side of the equation are gullible people. Their catch-cry is “You are not open-minded enough!” These people, who we all know and love, are primarily concerned maximizing the number of true beliefs they hold (1) but neglect attempting to minimize the number of false beliefs (2). To do this, they will believe almost anything unless it’s undeniably proven false. They undoubtedly do believe many true beliefs, but also many false beliefs. Gullible people have neglected their human responsibility to truth – to reject false beliefs.

On the other side of the equation are skeptics. Skeptics are concerned with rejecting false beliefs (2), at the expense of their responsibility to believe true beliefs (1). Skeptics often refuse to believe something unless is undeniably proven true. Although this attitude has the benefit of rejecting many false beliefs, unfortunately it also leads to the rejection of many true beliefs. Skeptics have neglected one of their key their human responsibilities to the truth – to believe true beliefs.

In my humble opinion, both gullible people and skeptical people have both taken an easy way out. They have placed an elephant on the scales of belief, rather than to live up to both our key responsibilities required to grapple earnestly and evenly with the truth.


4 Responses to “Doubting Skepticism”

  1. yeyeah Says:

    Hows something true if it cant be substantiated?

    Skepticism is putting forward the effort to get to the bottom of the matter, whether its proving or disproving. The skeptic is the guy that goes to the bridge to find out whether its really out or not, without driving off a cliff, instead of getting snookered into staying in a podunk town for someone to tell him its “fixed” while the locals rack up a nice hotel invoice.

  2. Chucky Says:

    That is obviously what I would do. But that is the attitude of someone who is not – according their philosophical convictions – either entirely skeptical or entirely gullible. I see it as a spectrum between these two extremes. Those of us in the middle have to genuinely search for the truth.

  3. A chicken passeth by Says:

    I agree, but you have to forgive both sides for taking the easy way out. As a fowl who’s been perching on the fence for years I’ve been coaxed, jeered, encouraged and pressured to give up my position.

    Sure, taking a side may be the easy way out, but people tend not to think much of folks who sit on the fence. You want real courage? Sit on the fence in terms of religion.

    No, really. The accusations of being indecisive are just only the beginning, not to mention that it’s also difficult to defend this position if you’re genuinely indecisive and not taking that as a belief system in itself. >_>

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