First post, and skepticism

15 10 2008

How do you start a blog? Well, I have no idea, so I guess I’ll have to make up my own way!

I’m hoping to start using this blog to write about science, skepticism, atheism, etc from a high schooler’s perspective. If no one ever reads the blog, well, I get to vent frustrations and maybe think through my ideas more often, and if people do read it, cool! I guess this first post should have a topic, so on to the inaugural topic.

Skepticism isn’t a dogma, a body of knowledge, or even a system. It’s a way of thinking. Skepticism doesn’t mean that you reach a certain conclusion, it means that you arrive at that conclusion a certain way. Most skeptics agree on issues relating to pseudoscience because pseudoscience is about facts, not about values. Skeptics disagree on politics, sometimes religion, and often on how to spread skepticism because those are not based on skeptical thinking, although they can use it. Those are based on your underlying values. Conservatives and liberals arrive at different conclusions not just through different types of thinking, but through disagreeing about what matters most.

The point of skepticism, however, is that if you are shown that your reasoning or evidence are wrong, you will change your position. Christopher Hitchens, for instance, after having himself waterboarded, changed his position and decided that waterboarding was in fact torture. He still has the same political orientation, but he has changed his view on a specific aspect of it based on evidence.

That is why skepticism is important. It allows us to realize when we are wrong. If we accept claims uncritically, we won’t find problems with their evidence or holes in their reasoning. Without skepticism we accept falsehoods not through any willful bias, but simply through lack of the tools to tell the difference between truth and falsehood.

Skepticism is about analyzing our own ideas with the light of reason. It is about identifying our subtle biases and avoiding them. It is about finding the little tricks we play on ourselves so that we don’t see when our logic breaks down, or when our evidence is insufficient. It is not about atheism or theism, it is about how you arrive at atheism or why you believe in a god.

A process relies on its input for its output. Skepticism is only the process. If two people have different values or premises, they will arrive at different conclusions. And part of skepticism recognizing when this happens and just agreeing to disagree.