Friday, June 17, 2005

The Skeptic's Dilemma

So, when you read that title, did you automatically draw a conclusion in your mind about what a "skeptic" is? Did that word have a negative or a positive connotation in your mind?

I must admit, when it first occurred to me to write about skepticism this morning, I was thinking about those people who never trust anything unless they have proof; those people who want to live in what they KNOW, not what might be possible; those people who won't support anything new; people who are basically difficult to have a conversation with because they question the logic of every idea. For me, the word had a negative connotation.

But when I looked up the meaning of the word in my trusty dictionary.com, I found out that the definition is:

One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.

And I discovered that I am a skeptic.

I've always been a questioner. As far back as I can remember, I had to know why things were the way they were, and whether or not they had to be that way. I really don't believe I was trying to be difficult - I was just curious.

But the older I got, the more I began to understand that questions didn't always have answers, and the people to whom I was addressing my questions didn't want to appear uninformed or unintelligent, so they encouraged me to stop asking questions. Whether this was in school, in Sunday school, or even at home, I remember the effect of my questions on my teachers and parents, and I remember that I slowly began to shut up - at least on the outside.

But now I wonder, where would we be in our world of science, religion, education, business without those people who "instinctively doubt, question or disagree with generally accepted conclusions"?

Maybe for me the hangup has been with the context in this definition provided by the word "habitually." Even the "right" thing done for the "wrong" reasons is still "wrong," right?

Was I asking questions all my life just to be difficult? Was it a habit? I don't think so. I'd like to get beyond my own preconceived notions and concepts of what constitutes skepticism and trust my own gut and instincts. Maybe that's why I asked other people for the answer - because I didn't trust my own knowing. Maybe I wanted validation. Maybe I just wanted to be acknowledged. Maybe I just wanted attention. I'd like to think those reasons for being curious evolved as I evolved throughout my life.

Maybe people have to be skeptical as they're learning things in their lives. Maybe it's their conditioning that turns them from intuitive skeptics into habitual skeptics. Let's not let past perceptions - others' or our own - keep us from questioning.

So let's get back out there and be curious. Ask questions. Challenge the status quo. But don't be afraid to look inside yourself for the answers.

Skeptics unite!

4 Comments:

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Christopher Bailey said...

You know Jodee, Skeptics Unite would be a fantastic name for a blog. We skeptics get a bad rap by all those naysayers and sticks-in-the-mud that have coopted the word.

Let's hear it for all of us folks who don't accept the standard definitions, the cultural shallowness, the minimalizing fears of the status quo. Thanks for the kick in the pants. It was just in time.

 
At 8:26 AM, Blogger Jodee said...

Chris:

So good to hear from you! So let's make a new blog - and be the voice of the skeptic in the world!

Can't wait to hear how things are going in your world. I'm confident that you continue to make a difference wherever you are!

Thanks for visiting!

Jodee

 
At 11:43 AM, Blogger Hanna Cooper said...

Jodee, Your post reminded of a link a reader on my blog (makingadifferene.typepad.com) sent me - http://samkeen.com/home - philopsophy for everyday life. He writes in part about how the questions we ask - or don't ask - in part determine who we are. Great food for thought!

 
At 7:42 AM, Blogger gnitz said...

So, is being a habitual skeptic better than being an intuitive skeptic?

 

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