by Edie Kendel
January 26, 2014
I am a skeptic and use skepticism in my every day life. It is a part of my thinking and my decision-making processes. This does not mean that I doubt everything I read or hear. It also does not mean that I look for what is wrong with the things around me. Skepticism is the critical thinking and logical inquiry that Is used to make informed decisions. It is a skill set that I will always be improving upon and one that you should be building upon too.
We all need to be better skeptics. We all should be forming conclusions based on reasonable evaluations and asking necessary questions. Discerning fact, from speculation, and pure fiction is the essence of skepticism. Recognizing common flaws in our logic sharpens our critical thinking. Understanding the nature of perception allows for a clearer view of reality. The decisions you make every day are based on what you have determined to be the truth about the world. They are the choices you make based on your judgment.
Something as simply as going to the grocery store and choosing a meal requires you to make decisions. If you have decided you will select a healthy meal, you already have made determinations as to what a healthy meals consists of. The knowledge that you draw upon was imparted upon you by some means. Is your idea of a healthy meal really what your body requires to function properly or are their flaws in your version of "healthy?" When you select products, you are chosing items that conform to your idea of healthy. Do the products contain the nutrition you believe they do or are you being misled by the packaging? The notions that you have and the practical application of those ideas require you to make decisions amidst many choices. Some choices we make may be based on false ideas or flawed thinking.
We all are susceptible to false information and errors in our conclusions. Our brains are designed to make rapid decisions with as little information as possible. This allows us to navigate through the world and recognize the things around us virtually instantaneously. If you see a tree that is of a variety you've never encountered before, you are capable of recognizing it as a tree even though it is a novel object. If part of the tree is obscured, you are still likely to know it is a tree. Shadows formed from its placement and other objects surrounding it are used to determine the tree's size and relative distance from you. Your brain only needs certain characteristics, or pieces of information, to make a determination as to what an object is and where it is. The sensory inputs from our body are only part of the process of our perception of reality. Previous experiences and expectations are used as references. As your brain is deciding what the object is, it is also making conclusions about your safety and how you should react. Recognition happens through the brain's subconscious interpretation of many pieces of collected information. Our brains decide what information is important to make rapid conclusions and allow for quick responses. The nature of these process, which allow us to function so efficiently, can also lead to an altered or skewed perception of reality.
The natural tendency for us to make rapid associations also affects our higher consciousness, or things that we are actively contemplating. As you read this blog, the act of reading, in itself, requires a recognition of words and understanding that draws upon your knowledge and previous experience. The information or ideas that I wish to impart upon you are dependent upon my ability to express ideas and your willingness to accept the ideas. Everyone who imparts an idea is subject to biases, misinterpretation of supporting data, and false conclusions. We, as recipients of information, are susceptible to the same errors in our thought processes. We are bombarded with information daily. Being a passive recipient of things you are told will, undoubtably, give you false ideas about the world. The better you are at separating fact from fiction, the better your judgment will be. You are the one who needs to decide what information is true, false, or simply unknown at the time. The tools of skepticism are the key to unlocking your own doubt. If you have taken the responsibility of evaluating information you are given, you own your truths about the world.
by Edie Kendel
@Skeptoid Media, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit