Thursday, March 22, 2007

Skepticism

As you may have noticed, I never take anything at face value. Whether it is a claim made by a politician, a religion, a scientist or just that email that smells like an urban legend. I tend to agree with Bertrand Russell when he said,
"If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way."
I've written about this before when I blogged about confirmation bias. Well this issue keeps coming up for me. A few months ago, at the behest of my wife I watched "An inconvenient Truth" Al Gore's documentary on global warming. Since then I've been reading many reports on both sides of the issue. My "tree-hugger" friends refuse to look at conservative skepticism of the science and my conservative friends send me links to the conservative skepticism yet have never even seen the movie. One conservative skeptic of global warming criticized a government funded scientist for cherry picking the data to only show the warming effect that he had hypothesised. However, this same columnist ignored the data that was not cherry picked from many other scientist that still show the same effect. Essential he was guilty of the very same thing he was criticizing.
This is just one specific example of how I feel alienated from many of my friends and family on issues such as politics, religion and science. The fact that I read and study both sides of an issue seems to make people clam up because the assume that I have the opposite opinion as they do. The fact is I simply haven't made up my mind on many of these issues and I am still looking for answers in all of these categories.
I imagine it can be comforting to some to simply unquestionably believe what your theological, ideological or political favorites have to say. I can't do it any more. I guess i just agree with Galileo,
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

2 comments:

  1. Hear him, Hear him!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have seen the "undecided" be a catalyst in a heated debate. They enter the debate with a few legitiamte questions that show possible flaws in one position. Not as an attempt to disprove that position, but in an attemtp to find the evidence that counters the evedence they presented. It is as the "undecided"s evidence is being refuted that the Heated debate begins. A third party, in opposition to the questioned will start providing more and more evidence aparently in hopes of swaying the Undecided to theie side, and possibly the oppositon. As the battle rages on the "undecided" is left with either no answer to the question, too much informaiton to process at once, or heaps of garbage to weed through to separate the facts form the trash. So they leave the encounter with the same questions, and still "undecided".

    ReplyDelete