Skepticism is the disposition to believe based only on rational argument

  • Skepticism is the disposition to believe based only on rational argument
Michael Shermer
Skeptic Magazine’s Brief Introduction
  • “Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas — no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are “skeptical,” we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe.”
Conflicting Drivers of Belief
Skepticism ≠ Cynicism
  • Skepticism is the disposition to believe things based only on rational argument
  • Cynicism is the view that only selfishness motivates human behavior.
    • A cynic believes people are out for themselves, act with ulterior motives, take advantage of others.
  • Everybody Knows, by Leonard Cohen
    • Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
    • Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
    • Everybody knows the war is over
    • Everybody knows the good guys lost
    • Everybody knows the fight was fixed
    • The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
    • That’s how it goes
    • Everybody knows
Skepticism and Religion
  • The Gospels are not historically reliable, Bart Ehrman
    • The authors of the Gospels were Greek-speaking Christians living 35 to 65 years after the events they narrate.  They were not eyewitnesses.
    • The events they write about are based on oral accounts passed down to them.
    • The authors were Christians spreading the Good News, not impartial historians.
    • The Gospel accounts are filled with discrepancies and contradictions.
    • The original texts of the Gospels no longer exist.
    • The modern versions of the Gospels are derived from the original texts by way of many scribes who, over centuries, copied the text by hand.  But the copyists added, changed, and deleted text along the way.For example, the last 12 verses of the Gospel of Mark, about the Resurrection, were added centuries later.
  • View Hume on Miracles
  • View Argument against Revelation
Scientific Skepticism
Skepticism, Politics, and Governance
  • Skepticism of politicians and governmental officials is essential.
    • Politicians, elected officials, and governments make false, unsupported, and misleading claims. 
    • Governments make consequential decisions, sometimes based on false or unsupported claims
  • View Skepticism, Politics, and Governance
Why People Have Irrational Beliefs
Facilitated Communication
Practical vs Philosophic Skepticism
  • Practical Skepticism is the disposition to believe things based only on rational argument.
  • Philosophic Skepticism is a doctrine there is no rational foundation for most beliefs
  • View Practical vs Philosophic Skepticism
Skeptical Advice