One of my favorite quotes on this subject is from the French mathemetician Henri Poincaré:
To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.
I've used it here as my signature, off and on. It's as much appropriate here as it is in the world of mathematics, or anywhere else for that
I approach most new information with skepticism, whether it's a new conspiracy theory here or a new technology being introduced at work. That
doesn't mean that I have an instant dislike for it, or that I will go to the ends of the earth to debunk it, just that I cannot take it as given yet.
I use critical thinking skills to figure out if the information presented seems valid, and make my decision based on that conclusion.
For example, if someone proposes an "International Conspiracy of Evil Podiatrists" bent on world domination through the insideous manipulation of
shoes, and says that they've channeled all information from their past-life incarnation as Z'tkun the Atlantean mystic stoned to death for eating a
hot dog on a Friday, I'd put that theory in the same category as the marketing drone's phone call at working promising that his or her new program
can "increase standard dialup speeds to the equivalent of a DS-3.
On the other hand, if the conspiracy theory is well-presented, coherent and contains references that I can check out myself it goes into the same
mental slot as a marketing professional calling to tell me about a download accelerator that can help speed up dialup users' web browsing by
compressing images before downloading them.
Unfortunately we're not encourage to use critical thinking skills often. Without going into too much of a rant on education (a topic for a different
thread) kids are being conditioned to expect the answers be given them, instead of learning how to evaluate things for themselves. When I was
teaching high school, kids in my 4th year French class were absolutely stunned that I would ask for their interpretations of a passage in the book we
were reading. Seniors in high school and they'd never been asked to do that before.
I see the same thing online, and not just here. To be honest, I expect it a bit on sites like ATS. We deal in the fringe here, and as such we get
some folks who've gone a bit (or a lot) over the edge. I see it on technology sites, on education sites, pretty much any place I visit regularly I
see it. The thing about ATS, and the other sites that I continue to visit regularly is that they do encourage their members to approach things in, if
not a logical manner, at least a coherent and skeptical manner. This raises some hackles. People think that just because you're asking questions,
because you're addressing the weak points in their arguments, that you're predisposed to disbelief. In most cases that couldn't be farther from
the truth. The reason we ask tough questions here on ATS is that we desperately want
you to be right. We want to learn that the world is a
bigger, more magical place than is presented on Friends reruns. We, each of us, hold out the impossible hope that the world isn't as banal as it
sometimes seems. We ask the questions we do because we hope the weaknesses are a result of poor editing on your part, not poor thinking. When we ask
the questions, we're rooting for you.