Skepticism is the disposition to believe based
only on rational argument

Table of Contents

  1. Skepticism
  2. Michael Shermer Skeptic Magazine’s Brief Introduction
  3. Conflicting Drivers of Belief
  4. Skepticism ≠ Cynicism
  5. Skepticism and Religion
  6. Scientific Skepticism
  7. Skepticism, Politics, and Governance
  8. Why People Have Irrational Beliefs
  9. Facilitated Communication
  10. Practical vs Philosophic Skepticism
  11. Skeptical Advice
  12. Becoming a Skeptic through Religion
  • 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
Becoming a Skeptic through Religion
  • Bart Ehrman on Questioning Religion on Why We Suffer NPR
    • In an earlier book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, I have indicated that my strong commitment to the Bible began to wane the more I studied it. I began to realize that rather than being an inerrant revelation from God, inspired in its very words (the view I had at Moody Bible Institute), the Bible was a very human book with all the marks of having come from human hands: discrepancies, contradictions, errors, and different perspectives of different authors living at different times in different countries and writing for different reasons to different audiences with different needs. But the problems of the Bible are not what led me to leave the faith. These problems simply showed me that my evangelical beliefs about the Bible could not hold up, in my opinion, to critical scrutiny. I continued to be a Christian—a completely committed Christian—for many years after I left the evangelical fold.
    • Eventually, though, I felt compelled to leave Christianity altogether. I did not go easily. On the contrary, I left kicking and screaming, wanting desperately to hold on to the faith I had known since childhood and had come to know intimately from my teenage years onward. But I came to a point where I could no longer believe. It’s a very long story, but the short version is this: I realized that I could no longer reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of life. In particular, I could no longer explain how there can be a good and all-powerful God actively involved with this world, given the state of things. For many people who inhabit this planet, life is a cesspool of misery and suffering. I came to a point where I simply could not believe that there is a good and kindly disposed Ruler who is in charge of it.
  • Michael Shermer  Wikipedia
    • Shermer was once a fundamentalist Christian, but ceased to believe in the existence of God during his graduate studies. 
    • He abandoned his devout religious views, fueled by what he perceived to be the intolerance generated by the absolute morality he was taught in his religious studies; the hypocrisy in what many believers preached and what they practiced; and his growing awareness of other religious beliefs, and how they were determined by the temporal, geographic, and cultural circumstances in which their adherents were born. From this, Shermer came to conclude “it is obvious that God was made in our likeness and not the reverse.”
    • The final step in Shermer’s abandoning religion came when his college sweetheart, Maureen, was in an automobile accident that broke her back and rendered her paralyzed from the waist down.