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An open letter in support of skepticism

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posted on Jul, 20 2007 @ 04:58 PM
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There’s something I’ve wanted to get off my chest lately, a concept so simple yet so profound that I could write an entire book about it. When I watch the news and see what’s been happening in the world during the past ten years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend that seems to run throughout the fabric of our culture, media, and politics, a trend that underlies most of the issues we see in the news. What is it, you might ask? I’ll sum it up in one word:

GULLIBILITY

Look carefully, and you’ll find the consequences of mass societal gullibility, or lack of skepticism, in almost every issue that dominates the headlines. Take, for example, the war in Iraq. War critics say we were sold on and unjustified war, but in reality we were sold a grand conspiracy theory: Saddam and his massive stockpiles of chemical weapons, his soon-to-be realized nuclear capability, his clandestine dealings with the leaders of Al-Qaeda. It was ominous, it was terrifying, it was oh-so-sensational wasn’t it? In a perverse way, it was fun to believe.

And what about global warming? Plenty of dire predictions there, too. Melting polar icecaps, drowning polar bears, coastal inundation, it’s all quite lurid isn’t it? The point is, it sells, and if you fail to buy all the arguments, there’s no shortage of alarmists who’ll criticize you for it. They’ll say the debate is over, when it’s not. They’ll say we’re already experiencing the harmful effects, when the evidence is preliminary. And they’ll tell you we must act now to curb greenhouse emissions, regardless of the economic impact, when there’s scant evidence that we can affect the global weather at all. I’m not saying global warming is a hoax, I’m just saying we need to know more, and that skepticism in this area of debate should be encouraged, and not inhibited.

Speaking of economics, let’s consider the real-estate market, and the bubble created by all the frenzied speculation. Who got rich? All the book authors and seminar speakers, that’s who. They did it by convincing millions that all it took to build enormous wealth was a no-money-down loan on a home they couldn’t afford, and when things got really tough, don’t worry, refinance! Now the bubble is collapsing around the country, ruining the credit of millions of Americans, while those who got rich selling the “American dream” to the gullible masses lean back with a huge grin, watching it all happen.

When it comes to education, the gullibility epidemic is in full force there too. A good example is intelligent design – a pseudoscientific concept that currently belongs in the realm of UFO’s, astrology, and new-age belief systems such as spirit channeling and crop circle worship. Forget about hundreds of years of science and biology, as long as someone can point to a complex chemical reaction inside a cell and say, “HEY, THAT LOOKS LIKE A MACHINE! THERE’S NO WAY NATURE COULD MAKE SOMETHING LIKE THAT!” Well, I’ve got some bad news: we don’t exactly know how the Egyptians built the pyramids either. The mere fact that we don’t know how they did it does not mean they were built by aliens, and not knowing how nature created DNA doesn’t prove the existence of a higher being. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, so I really need to see those aliens.

I could go on and on here citing other examples of mass gullibility: the threat of terrorism, the threat of illegal immigration, the threat of trans-fats, and the hysteria regarding secret societies such as the Trilateral Commission and the Freemasons(come to think of it, there’s some masonry outside my apartment; should I be worried?). And in case you haven’t heard, we’re about to be wiped out by an epidemic of avian flu.

The real epidemic, in my opinion, is chronic lack of skepticism in lieu of an abundance of alarmism.

So what’s causing it? How did we come to this state of delusion? Maybe it has to do with the internet, with the sheer abundance of speculative ideas. I suppose one could blame the media as well, citing the prevalence of cable television and the 24 hour news outlets in their stampede to get sensational stories on the air before verifying material. Maybe it’s a result of our public education system and the fact that it spent decades downplaying the importance of science(and its methodical approach to logic), in favor of focusing on the SAT and other standardized tests. Probably all of the above.

What do you think about my ideas? Are they just wild speculation, or am I onto something here? If you feel the need to take my theory with a grain of salt, please do so. I encourage it.




posted on Jul, 25 2007 @ 04:17 PM
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Unfortunately, the willingness to believe what they are told seems to be part of the basic human psyche now - and it is almost certainly a product of the society in which we live, which prizes 'trust' as a positive quality.

It may also be a throwback to the days when the human race was rising, as those who trusted others (for example those with new inventions - the crudest example being the wheel) succeeded much easier than those who were not prepared to accept help (eeek, the strange circle is the devil-spawn! i will never use it to transport heavy loads!)

Clearly, however, skepticism is far from dead. The key to progress as a civilisation is balance. Something we are notoriously bad at achieving (climate change?)

By the way, this film said the world doesnt exist, so i think we all live in a computer!



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