What Does Skepticism Mean To Me?
What does it mean to be a Skeptic? More importantly, what does it mean to me to be a Skeptic?
For me, it’s a pretty general thing. Basically, I don’t take anything at face value. I don’t just accept things that I’m told without some kind of reasonable proof. I place a very high value on science. It’s the only way we, as human beings, can know anything. And this goes hand-in-hand with my thoughts on faith.
Faith is, basically, an artificial reasoning process. It’s a method of convincing one’s self of something when there is no reason to believe in it otherwise. There’s no reasonable proof of the idea, and so it requires faith to accept it. I do not put faith in anything as far as religion, or philosophical thought is concerned. Again, reasonable proof is the key element.
This isn’t to say that I don’t have any “faith” whatsoever. There are many things that I have faith in. Maybe I should put it a different way. There are many things that I have trust in. I trust that my kids love me. That their mother, the woman that I love, loves me. I trust that when I hold a ball in my hand, before I even let go of it, I know that it will fall toward the ground. I would bet my life on it. I trust that when I put “1+1=” in my calculator, when I press Enter, the number 2 will follow as the result. These previous examples are things that are tangible. Things that have been demonstrated to me. The mathematical examples follow certain laws, things that we’ve learned from science to be true under all conditions. The other two examples are a bit more complicated, but you see my point.
There is a tendency, though, in Skepticism, of being almost dogmatic with it. There is a tendency to become almost mechanical in one’s thinking. And this, it might be thought, may be the reasoning behind why religious believers claim that the theory of Evolution is a “religion.” It’s not necessarily the facts that they’re calling into question. Perhaps, even subconsciously, their reasoning may come from the attitude of the guy claiming that Evolution is fact. His “science is the only answer” attitude.
Science is the only answer when it comes to observational proof. But, when it comes to matters of religion and faith, believers argue and debate more on the level of emotion, and on that of being human – imperfect. When a Skeptic approaches these people in a mechanical manner of thought, reciting facts and such, it doesn’t sound any different than when believers argue from the Bible – citing scripture. In that way, we Skeptics are doing the same thing we’re complaining about. We think science has all the answers, and the believers think the Bible has all the answers. We both use a model of reasoning that rubs against the grain of the opposing party.
Science is not infallible. It is, after all, based on human observation. And this is why, in the beginning of this post, I stated that I only accept things that have reasonable proof. In a deceptive manner, anyone can make anything seem like there is “proof” to support it. You can lie with statistics. You can argue from authority – some guy with a Ph.d in Physics claims that Evolutionary Biology is completely incorrect. How would this guy know? Yes, he has a Ph.d, but not in Evolutionary Biology. So this, to me, would not be reasonable proof. Even more than this, a prominent Theologist could claim that Evolution is wrong, and people would believe him just because of his position – not because of any specific proof or evidence that he offers. In fact, he will probably not offer any physical proof whatsoever. He will, more than likely, try to simply appeal to the emotions of those around him. This is the typical method of reasoning for people of faith.
The main difference, then, is a standard of proof. Believers require some type of allegorical proof. Something that stirs the emotions. They totally distrust science (possibly a “tool of the Devil”). Skeptics, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. Only scientific evidence is accepted. Emotions and allegorical proof is never trusted.
In objective reality, scientific evidence of anything is more reliable than allegorical stories or emotional statements. So, you might say that the real difference between the two groups might be that of education. This, and the fact that there are different ways of perceiving the world. Those who are more “fantasy prone” tend to accept what they are told. They rationalize proof into situations that would otherwise have no proof. Manufactured proof. Emotion plays a large role in how they think. If it feels true, then it probably is. Feeling is the standard of proof.
But I got a little off topic here. I guess my reasoning for going off on that tangent was to talk about what Skepticism means to me, what I want out of the Skeptical philosophy. Why I am a Skeptic.
Skepticism, to me, seems to be the most logical way of looking at life. Religion answers no questions about the world. It only creates confusion. It goes against everything we know about reality. Miracles, supernatural phenomenon and the idea of psychics (prophets). There is no physical evidence of any of these. The texts themselves are morally reprehensible. The death penalty is demanded for the slightest offenses. Rebellious teenagers, women who are married and found not be be virgins, those who work on the Sabbath. All these are punishable by death. And this is where people get their “morals?” And Christians actually have the audacity to ask where morals come from if not from the Bible? The 10 Commandments are supposedly the foundation for all of these “morals?” And what happened before the 10 Commandments? People could just kill, rape and steal all they wanted? Not that they didn’t, because there’s plenty of evidence of that in the Bible as well – all at the command of the Almighty God.
No, morals come from somewhere else. It comes from instinct. And more than that, it’s simple common sense. You don’t need a Bible to know that killing another person is wrong. And anyone who says otherwise is a lying fool. Or they’re trying to deceive themselves, to rationalize their beliefs. I don’t need a God to tell me what’s right and wrong. Christians make up nearly 80% of America’s prison population. Atheists make up .2%. (This study is far from perfect – but there is, nevertheless, a stark contrast between those who claim to be religious and those who don’t as far as prison population is concerned.)
So, if you were going to base morality on what religion someone was, Atheists seem to be the most moral of all religions. Or, at least the most moral when it comes to punishable crimes. In fact, you could probably conclude from this study that believing in God made you more likely to be arrested and sent to jail. I suppose that throws out the whole idea of morals “coming from God.”
As far as what I don’t want from Skepticism, I don’t want to be mechanically minded. I don’t want to be perceived as someone who thinks they’re greater than others because he values science. I’m an Atheist, but I don’t hate people of faith, and I think that is a common misconception. I’m a person, a human being. I’m not perfect, and neither is science. I just have a lot more “faith” in science than I do in religion. Religion, to me, is on the same level as Greek Mythology. Science has a lot more to offer than a 2,000 year old book that has never had a revision to keep up with modern times. 2,000 year old philosophy grounded in bloodthirsty revenge and bigotry.
I feel that since abandoning Christianity and becoming a Skeptic, my life has improved 100%. I no longer feel guilt over thoughts that I’ve had, or for listening to the “wrong music,” or for simply thinking for myself. Having my own philosophies about life. Worrying about whether or not I’m “really saved.” Whether or not I’m following the “right brand” of Christianity.
No more. I now know, from accepting ideas like basic logic and reasonable proof, that there is a better explanation for how life came to be. It doesn’t involve magic. It involves natural processes that we know took place because we can see them taking place today. It’s a liberating feeling.
Being tied down to superstition is a horrible way to live life, and I realize that now after experiencing what it’s like not to have it. I now understand that everything happens for a reason… and that reason is called cause and effect (AKA: The laws of physics or biological processes). Natural phenomenon causes things to happen.
There’s nothing mystical that happens when you get a raise at work. No ghost controlling your boss’ mind. Nothing magical when you find a dollar on the ground. It only seems that way because we don’t see the entire process. We only see the end reseult. Actually, what happened was, someone was walking down the street counting their money and just happened to drop a dollar due to an inadequate grip on the bill, causing it to fall (notice all the physics involved – no magic spells) to the ground. You just happened to be walking in the same area as him. No magic involved. But then again, some people are prone to accept magical explanations – they are fantasy prone, and almost prefer the magical/supernatural explanation over the ordinary/scientific explanation. Maybe it makes life more interesting for them?
To conclude this extra-long post, I’d just like to say that I’m happy and proud to be a Skeptic and an Atheist. I wouldn’t live my life any other way – providing that the evidence supports it.
Read a book.