TinMan

I Did Not Understand Skepticism

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I feel foolish to say it now, but I did not realize what I was doing for the longest time. While the title of this writing may be true, I should also add on that I forgot how to be skeptical and I know exactly why. Perhaps this will help some others who can relate if they are on the path I was.

 

I remember the day I stopped being a skeptic (when I say a skeptic, I mean it in the sense of never giving something the benefit of doubt before accepting it as true). I was in high school, probably a freshman or sophomore. Something had come up in conversation within the group I was in and a claim was made. I do not remember what the claim was, I just remember I doubted it. Other people then chimed in and said that the claim was indeed true (and it turns out it was true). For reasons I am not able to string together now, I felt stupid for not believing the claim and chastised myself for looking foolish in front of everyone else. In that moment, I clearly remember telling myself to never do that again and from that point forward, I gave everyone the benefit of doubt. My goodness, that was a stupid mistake. It made me absolutely credulous and gullible.

 

From there on out, everyone had a fair chance in my book unless they proved otherwise. No joke, I am 37 and I just realized I have been doing this since I was in high school. Now I get why I had so much trouble within Christianity. Every wild claim, no matter how outlandish, was automatically given equal grounds with every other claim. Because I was not thinking critically, I would then read authors and give all of them the benefit of the doubt, and then someone would give a rebuttal and they would get the benefit of doubt. It was driving me insane because I could not pin any one thing down. Reflecting on it now, I feel like an idiot.

 

Now, I get skepticism (I should say I am learning to - I have to rewire some things). When the atheist are arguing against a claim of religion, they are simply asking if it can be demonstrated to be true. Why are we expected to accept a claim based merely on the claim or on a book that makes a claim? People lie, people lie all the time for different reasons. People make mistakes, eyewitness forget things. Look at all of the religions out there. and if one happens to be true, then people have made serious mistakes contriving 9,999 other ones. Based on that information alone, it should be encouraged to be critical and skeptical of every claim, especially in religion. What I like about science is that is open to inquiry. Do not believe something is true, go test it for yourself. You may need to get a doctorate in order to do such a thing, but the possibility is there, and it is open to anyone who would like to investigate it.

 

Scientific methods work because they lead to realities everyone can attest to (unless you want to deny the possibility our material world is real). I asked a question to myself a few weeks ago and it was related to the idea of "how can we know what we know." Some definition, maybe wikipedia, said reality - or what we now to be true - is defined by what we can demonstrate to be true or by reasoning it out. I disagree with the later part, but I am definitely up for discussion on this because perhaps I do not exactly understand what that means. I say this because attempting to determine reality by reasoning could lead to all sorts of weird ideas that cannot be actually demonstrated to be true. Reasoning is based upon worldviews, cultures, backgrounds, conditioning, and a lot of other things. So, I suppose I have to wonder if the definition of reasoning provided there means thinking something through to its logical endpoint and leaving it at that, or coming to a logical conclusion or hypothesis and then attempting to demonstrate its veracity via existential means.

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Don't be hard on yourself @TinMan, we were all tricked by religion into suppressing our critical thinking. Blind faith is considered a virtue.

I consider the scientific method to be the best method we have to find the truth. All scientists are sceptics. Science is an adversarial world, so it polices itself. The scientific method eliminates bias and ego. 

 

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Critical thinking, aka rational thinking, is certainly used in the scientific method.  It is used in other areas as well.  Its necessary companions include education, intellectual honesty and knowing when to say, "I don't know".

 

 

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This was so well put! I really needed to read this. I have felt suppressed living the Christian life and could never justify why I believed the bible completely. Its contradicting and confusing. Whenever I had queations I would get the general statement I just needed to "have faith." Now i am trying to question what I have believed in my whole life and have taught my kids. Its causing a lot of turmoil, especially with my 11 yr old daughter.

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I never thought of it like that, @TinMan.

 

Skepticism. That must be it.

Some of us possess this and, apparently, some don't. Perhaps we even exercise this at different times and at varying degrees. 

 

Take Mrs. MOHO (yes, I'm going there again). She was a paralegal in a very powerful mass tort firm for decades and thinks critically about most tipics. When it comes to xanity, however, all logic, reason, and rationale go out the frigg'n window in the time it takes to read a passage. Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde I tells 'ya!  :puke:

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On 1/30/2018 at 7:11 PM, TinMan said:

 I asked a question to myself a few weeks ago and it was related to the idea of "how can we know what we know." Some definition, maybe wikipedia, said reality - or what we now to be true - is defined by what we can demonstrate to be true or by reasoning it out. I disagree with the later part, but I am definitely up for discussion on this because perhaps I do not exactly understand what that means. I say this because attempting to determine reality by reasoning could lead to all sorts of weird ideas that cannot be actually demonstrated to be true. Reasoning is based upon worldviews, cultures, backgrounds, conditioning, and a lot of other things. So, I suppose I have to wonder if the definition of reasoning provided there means thinking something through to its logical endpoint and leaving it at that, or coming to a logical conclusion or hypothesis and then attempting to demonstrate its veracity via existential means.

 

We might not be able to be 100% sure that what we are experiencing here in everyday life is reality, but, real or not,  there doesn't seem to be much choice but to live it. :)

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On 7/7/2018 at 4:11 AM, MOHO said:

Take Mrs. MOHO (yes, I'm going there again). She was a paralegal in a very powerful mass tort firm for decades and thinks critically about most tipics. When it comes to xanity, however, all logic, reason, and rationale go out the frigg'n window in the time it takes to read a passage. Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde I tells 'ya!  :puke:

 

Strange how we as humans can fall into this thinking trap. We are willing to put every idea to scrutiny until it comes to our pet beliefs, and then, all bets are off. In the realm of belief, dogma rules the day. It happens all the time, in our justice system, there must be evidence to back an accusation, in science we look for evidence, we look for evidence to substantiate nearly every claim, but religion does not play by the rules.

 

Personally, I did not demand evidence because I was afraid of hell. Better to believe to avoid punishment. It was not until I was able to defeat my fear of hell could I take an honest look at the claims of Christianity. It is a tough process.

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On 7/7/2018 at 2:36 AM, ChangeofFaith said:

This was so well put! I really needed to read this. I have felt suppressed living the Christian life and could never justify why I believed the bible completely. Its contradicting and confusing. Whenever I had queations I would get the general statement I just needed to "have faith." Now i am trying to question what I have believed in my whole life and have taught my kids. Its causing a lot of turmoil, especially with my 11 yr old daughter.

 

@ChangeofFaith thinking new ways is really, I mean really tough. I actually logged in to do a post on it because I think it may help others. I want you to think of something. For those who tell you to "just have faith," why would they not grant the same kind of idea to any other religion. If a Muslim told them to, "just have faith," they would dismiss Islam offhand....why not their own religion? It is because believers readily accept their own religion without evidence, but are unwilling to do so with anyone else's religion. The decision for faith came first, then they want to buttress their belief with rationalism or evidence. I played that game and in the end, I walked away. My first problem was trying to figure out which version of Christianity was true....no luck there (30,000 different denominations attest to that). Then I had a problem even finding evidence for the generic essentials, i.e, the apostolic creed, etc; again, I came away empty handed.

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On 1/30/2018 at 10:11 PM, TinMan said:

For reasons I am not able to string together now, I felt stupid for not believing the claim and chastised myself for looking foolish in front of everyone else. In that moment, I clearly remember telling myself to never do that again and from that point forward, I gave everyone the benefit of doubt. My goodness, that was a stupid mistake. It made me absolutely credulous and gullible.

 

There's different aspects of giving people the benefit of the doubt. We recently had all sorts of problems with people jumping to assumptions and conclusions about what others were saying and / or thinking specifically because they weren't given the benefit of the doubt first and foremost, before jumping to conclusions. So in the case of trying to judge people or make assumptions without a full working knowledge of what the other is thinking, or without first making the effort to understand what the other person is saying in the first place, the benefit of the doubt should be a default position unless proven otherwise. For instance, if someone says something that sounds over the top sensational, then it's best to ask questions and try getting them to clarify what they mean by that before knee jerking to response. 

 

But turning to belief and faith, the benefit of the doubt doesn't work out so well. That's a different issue than assuming and judging. My only point here is that you may not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater because in the correct context giving people the benefit of the doubt can serve you well. It can help to clarify a situation before you take off on a series of assumptions. 

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On 7/9/2018 at 3:35 PM, midniterider said:

I asked a question to myself a few weeks ago and it was related to the idea of "how can we know what we know." Some definition, maybe wikipedia, said reality - or what we now to be true - is defined by what we can demonstrate to be true or by reasoning it out. I disagree with the later part, but I am definitely up for discussion on this because perhaps I do not exactly understand what that means. I say this because attempting to determine reality by reasoning could lead to all sorts of weird ideas that cannot be actually demonstrated to be true.

 

Christians reason their way to a reality where Genesis is true, Matthew is true, and so is Revelation. In their reasoned realities, Israel is fulfillment of prophecy and the end of time is just around every corner. They reason all of this out with self serving beliefs and the bible. And they don't deserve the benefit of the doubt on the level of accepting these reasoned beliefs without having first established them as true. 

 

On 1/30/2018 at 10:11 PM, TinMan said:

Scientific methods work because they lead to realities everyone can attest to (unless you want to deny the possibility our material world is real). I asked a question to myself a few weeks ago and it was related to the idea of "how can we know what we know."

 

The material world issue isn't so much that it's either real or not real, the issue with scientists is whether the material world is as it appears to be or not. It's real either way, it's just that our perceptions of what is real are skewed because viewing and observing reality through our senses is a very "species specific" situation. The material universe exists, but as to what exactly material actually is has come under question. We've been able to 'know that much about what we know, and what we know that we don't know.' 

 

 

Anyways, you're on the right track and healthy skepticism is good when applied to everything from religion, to science, to politics and to just about any authoritarian oriented domain of human thinking. When you question everything you'll then begin to find holes in logic and possibly find solutions in the process. 

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On 7/6/2018 at 3:11 PM, MOHO said:

I never thought of it like that, @TinMan.

 

Skepticism. That must be it.

Some of us possess this and, apparently, some don't. Perhaps we even exercise this at different times and at varying degrees. 

 

Take Mrs. MOHO (yes, I'm going there again). She was a paralegal in a very powerful mass tort firm for decades and thinks critically about most tipics. When it comes to xanity, however, all logic, reason, and rationale go out the frigg'n window in the time it takes to read a passage. Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde I tells 'ya!  :puke:

@MOHO Yeah, I've noticed that. I think that plenty of people with hypocritical or crazy religious beliefs are "intelligent", but that doesn't mean they apply that intelligence consistently - which I think is an aspect of wisdom. Being intelligent doesn't necessarily make a person wise. I think I read back in the day that intelligent people are actually easier to brainwash since they often assume they're above the irrational tactics used in brainwashing - all the while being vulnerable to the  emotional nature of those tactics.

 

@TinMan It sounds to me like you spent a lot of time wanting to believe the best about people. That can be a really good thing since it guards you from the kind of cynicism about humanity that can really mess people up sometimes. I think there are comments above that address this better than I am right now, but it's possible to have skepticism about people's beliefs without necessarily undercutting their intentions or assuming that they're coming from a bad place (although some do - but most people tend to be simply wrong rather than outright evil, in my experience) - and that's a type of "giving the benefit of the doubt".

 

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