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Skeptics and Believers need not quarrel in my opinion.

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posted on May, 13 2010 @ 04:58 PM
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I wish I could post this in some of the more active and rancorous forums, because I feel that it might be of greater benefit there, but this seems to be the only board whose category and purpose seems fully compatible with the subject matter.

I am writing this post because I have noticed as of late that there seems to be a perpetual war of words between "believers" and "skeptics" regarding a great many subjects. I firmly believe (and this is an example of a skeptic holding a belief i.e. I could be wrong) that this is a false dichotomy and that these arguments, and the stigma often attached to both philosophical positions are both unwarranted and unnecessary.

Why are we all here? We're here because we want to discover the truth (whatever that may be,) and wish to discuss beliefs, facts, hypotheses, news, and experiences with what we hope will be at least reasonably like-minded people. Dismissing one another purely on the basis of being a "believer" label or a "skeptic" label not only does nothing to advance our shared goals, but it also seeks to exclude one or more groups or schools of thought from discussions which by their very nature benefit from having as diverse a pool of heads as possible taking part in them.

And what is "the truth?" If any of us knew that with absolute certainty, we wouldn't be here trying to find it. Some believe the truth is subjective and amorphous or supple. Some believe the truth must be objective and absolute. In the absence of proof of one or the other, philosophically, both points of view are valid. This is an example of a great point of contention which may not even be necessary, because what one accepts (and this is the key word) as "the truth" depends on one's proof threshold. Not only does this differ between the "believer" and the "skeptic," but it can even differ among "believers" and "skeptics" themselves. Many existential skeptics (such as myself) even leave room for doubt that we are even here right now! Others are satisfied by lesser thresholds of proof. Many "believers" believe certain aspects of a given phenomenon, but remain, themselves, skeptical of others.

One of the most pronounced things I've observed lately has been the assertion by pseudo-skeptics that they are being skeptical, when in reality they are merely seeking to debunk (they are not one and the same.) So first and foremost, I feel it is important to establish what skepticism is, is not, requires, and does not require. Skepticism is not debunking, debunking is not skepticism, etc.


  • Skepticism is not necessarily the unwillingness or inability to believe in any given scenario, phenomenon, account, or hypothesis. Given empirical proof, a skeptic can and indeed must, in lieu of any remaining alternative explanations, become a "believer."
  • Skepticism is refraining from accepting something as factual without empirical proof. (This does not preclude accepting that that thing may be factual. In fact, without proof to the contrary, the skeptic must accept the possibility that it is factual!)
  • Skepticism is not asserting that something is not, cannot, or never has been true. That is asserting a fact, which if one is truly skeptical, requires proof. This means a skeptic cannot assert that something is not true without proof. In other words, a skeptic cannot tell you that you are lying, crazy, or wrong, unless they have empirical proof that this is the case. If they do so without firm proof, then they are engaging in pseudo-skepticism (just as many debunkers refer to certain questionable beliefs or theories as pseudo-science) or are setting out preemptively to debunk the topic at hand. The most they can say is in that instance if they wish to call themselves truly skeptical is, "I believe you are wrong, but I cannot prove it, and I distinguish between my personal beliefs and facts."
  • Skepticism is expressing that one does not know something for certain about an asserted fact, and asking questions about that asserted fact. These can be questions one asks oneself, others, embarks on research to answer, or in some cases, unfortunately, which may never be answered definitively.
  • Skepticism does not require that one not hold personal beliefs which lack absolute proof. In other words, the skeptic can say, "I believe __________, but I do not know for a fact that my belief is correct." This includes religious beliefs, beliefs in certain debatable phenomena, etc.
  • Skepticism does require distinction between facts and beliefs. That is to say, the skeptic can hold any belief he or she feels drawn to or prefers to hold, but they cannot assert that those beliefs are facts without empirical proof.


So, with that having been said, you may notice how the above makes it quite possible for the believer to be skeptical in their approach, and the skeptic to still hold personal beliefs. You may also notice how nothing in the above points makes it necessary or desirable, in any debate or discussion, to personally attack anyone, no matter how skeptical or faithful they may be.

The implications of this should be fairly straightforward in my opinion, but people still seem intent on arguing with one another. Self-professed skeptics call believers crazy crackpots. Self-professed believers call skeptics close-minded and ignorant. Are there believers in the world who are wrong? Yes - otherwise they wouldn't be "beliefs." The possibility always exists that a belief is inaccurate. But by the same token, are there also pseudo-skeptics in the world who are completely unwilling to entertain even the possibility that something is true? Yes, and that is why those individuals are not truly skeptical.

In short, both extremes exist in combination but one does not necessarily follow the other. Assumption is the enemy of both the believer and the skeptic. Assumption of intent, assumption of position, assumption of feeling, assumption of experience, and assumption of fact. The skeptic is not supposed to be making assumptions if they are to be truly skeptical lest they delude themselves into bias, and the believer, whose proof threshold is different than that of the skeptic, is at equal (some would say greater) risk of following assumptions into self-delusion.

I would also like to touch on the ego massage that feeling as though one is part of an elite, or special group seems to impart. I have observed many people saying things along the lines of, "I'm glad I'm a believer so that when X happens, I'll be able to say I told you so/protected/chosen/holy/etc." or, "Thank goodness I'm a rational skeptic so that I don't have to labor under the delusions most people seem to." What does this sort of intellectual "class warfare" or exclusivity accomplish other than to validate the poster's own ego? What constructive purpose does it serve?

As I discussed in another thread, skepticism is a tool for determining fact, while belief is a state of consciousness which allows us to experience possibilities before they are determined to be fact. This does not mean that those beliefs are not facts unless proof exists to that effect, nor does it mean that the skeptic's facts might not be in error. We are, after all, all human, fallible, and on the same journey. We're just in slightly different vehicles.

Personally, I like to sample both. What I don't like, however, and what I deeply feel damages, slows, and disrupts our shared yet different journey toward whatever the truth is, is the seemingly perpetual battle between these two points of view. I have learned a lot from believers (and have my own beliefs.) I have learned a lot from skeptics (and I practice skepticism.)

To quote the Matrix, which I regard as a work of philosophical import personally, "There's only one way to get there, and that's together." Whatever the truth ultimately is, is it not for the skeptic and the believer alike in the end?

[edit on 5/13/2010 by AceWombat04]




posted on May, 13 2010 @ 05:06 PM
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Great thought.

I think one of the underlying issues is one of our primal insticts, being territorial in both surrounding real world as in groupprocessing beliefs.



posted on May, 13 2010 @ 05:25 PM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 


Well written, and very informative.
Flag and a star flying your way.

I personally use skeptics and believers to highlight duality, in a sort of yin yang format.
Say a "believer" comes out with some hidden knowledge or something, it'd be useless if no "skeptics" were involved in the process. A skeptic will push and push the believer and challenge their views. This results in more information from the believer, and more ideas to work with to then decide a certain viewpoint. If people believed everything they were told, it'd suck, would it not? Skeptics are needed.



posted on May, 13 2010 @ 05:27 PM
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Couldn't agree more OP, the trouble is with the world that we spend so much time trying to balance these differing sides of the coin (In this analogy, humanity is a coin
) That's IMO is what holds us back from finding the ultimate truth to life...........



posted on May, 13 2010 @ 05:30 PM
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While 2 sides are imperative to uncovering any truth, there are people/ groups who do not want the truth to come out. (the very meaning of "conspiracy") It has become a common fact of life AND an epic battle. Sadly, for all concerned.



posted on May, 13 2010 @ 05:35 PM
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As soon as the skeptics accept the light beings of the space brother of niburu then there will be no peace in the high dimension plane of 2012.



posted on May, 13 2010 @ 05:42 PM
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reply to post by DogsDogsDogs
 


Bang! goes my coin analogy...

Maybe not! perhaps the consipiracist could form the rim of the coin, keeping us all penned in........



posted on May, 13 2010 @ 05:50 PM
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That is a pretty good description of proper skepticism. In short, I find true skepticism to be the condition of demanding to be convinced by the evidence.

I have found ATS to be a site in which true skepticism is often met with hostility and pseudo-skepticism always and deservedly so. I'll have to disagree on the contention that ATS is a site where people search for truth. "Believers" in most anything operate without the need for indisputable evidence and often operate to serve a confirmation bias, reinforcing beliefs. Conspiracy theorists flourish here by assembling disparate facts and making conclusions on their assembly. Such people have little interest in arriving at truth, only to confirm preconceived notions. Believers and theorists are notoriously hostile to skepticism in any form.

With this dynamic in play, quarreling is inevitable. Such quarreling is also necessary to arrive at the truth or eliminate the spread false beliefs, and to provide stimulating discussion (the purpose of forums). The ideal situation would be to simply try to reduce the emotional petulance which often accompanies such quarreling.



posted on May, 13 2010 @ 05:50 PM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 


Star+flag+respect!

I couldn't agree more, this is what's needed to bring our collective consciousness to the next level. I too would consider myself as sort of a daywalker, a sceptic and a believer at the same time.

I also love your Matrix quote, that is truly a great philosophical movie. Thank you for making the world a better place


Peace and love.



posted on May, 13 2010 @ 06:27 PM
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reply to post by traditionaldrummer
 


Yes, that's really what I was getting at. For me personally, one way to reduce, as you said, the emotional petulance seemingly inherent in such debates (or, if you prefer, the way to render quarrels into civil discourse) is an acceptance or tolerance of this duality, even if one outright disagrees with its existence. Or, put another way, by remembering what goes into creating a particular point of view - whether that point of view be that of a believer or a skeptic - we can enable ourselves to refrain from becoming emotionally hostile to one another purely on that basis.

In the end, while the debate and discussion that stems from the differences between skeptics and believers are worthy and in my opinion even noble, what productive ends come from a skeptic calling a believer crazy, or a believer calling a skeptic close-minded? If one believes either to be the case, then it should be self-evident, and thus pointing it out does little but serve as ego validation. There are always ways to say things that don't constitute personal attacks, and there are always possible perspectives from which what seems true might not seem true, and vice-versa. Remembering how those perspectives arise, and trying to acknowledge them - even if we disagree with them - I believe allows us to all correspond without rancorous conflict at least.



posted on May, 13 2010 @ 08:13 PM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 


Great thread. But this fits into the larger scheme of human sociology. It's called "Divide and conquer" where the so called "leaders" of each side will seek to emphasize, inflate and exploit a point of contention into a factionalized conflict in order to better profit and gain higher influence with their particular faction. Otherwords classic manipulation of human nature. And I wager this kind of shenannigans are at the base of every factionalized snafu, like the atheism versus theism bickering match.



posted on May, 13 2010 @ 08:21 PM
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reply to post by Watcher-In-The-Shadows
 


I agree. I suspect the same dynamics and the same psychological factors are what perpetuates that divide as well. You have the same empirical vs faith dichotomy, the same ego validating assertions of authority or correctness, and the same assumptions being made about each other by each opposing "side" of the arguments.

None of this is to say (it just occurred to me some people might take my comments this way) that people can't or shouldn't discuss and debate such topics. I think debate and discussion are two crucial ways in which we all learn about ourselves and each other. But nothing productive comes from narrowly viewing one "side" of a debate as the enemy or as inferior.



posted on May, 13 2010 @ 08:40 PM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 


Yes. Debate is a very good and needed thing. But people need to learn to keep their egos out of it IMHO. No one has the "inside track" on "ultimate knowledge" and this crap only gets in the way.



posted on May, 13 2010 @ 11:40 PM
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I couldn't agree more. That was the main point I was hoping to lead people to consider with this thread. I'm weary of threads that get sidetracked by these divisions. I understand why they happen, and I respect people's views even when I strongly disagree with them, but when a topic just grinds to a halt because people intransigently regard those with different philosophies their adversaries, or somehow inferior or deluded automatically purely because of their philosophical position, it's just incredibly frustrating - not to mention, at times, heartbreaking.



posted on May, 14 2010 @ 01:08 AM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 


Yea, true reasoned discourse gets thrown out the window in favor of the same old broken record zombies chanting the same old party lines all to often. But, what can you do? Lots of people only want to talk about how right they think they are and I think deep down inside are truly dismayed when someone dares to condescend. Thus the ego driven insult response.



posted on May, 14 2010 @ 01:15 AM
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The only difference between a believer and a skeptic is how much evidence is needed to believe. A believer is labeled that because they rely on faith or very limited amount of proof to believe, when everyone would be a believer with the right amount of facts backing it up.



posted on May, 14 2010 @ 01:24 AM
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reply to post by OrionTri
 


Yes, this is how I feel as well. It's like a system with two necessary components. In a sense, it's like the intuitive and logical parts of human consciousness sort of. We evolved both, and both are probably useful whether one side on its own would think so or not.



posted on May, 14 2010 @ 02:45 AM
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reply to post by Xtrozero
 


The problem is what you define as "facts" and "proof", what they define as the afforementioned is different obviously. Your dismissive attitude and attitude of superiority does nothing but feed your ego and perpetuate hostility.

[edit on 14-5-2010 by Watcher-In-The-Shadows]



posted on May, 14 2010 @ 12:09 PM
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Originally posted by Watcher-In-The-Shadows

The problem is what you define as "facts" and "proof", what they define as the afforementioned is different obviously. Your dismissive attitude and attitude of superiority does nothing but feed your ego and perpetuate hostility.

[edit on 14-5-2010 by Watcher-In-The-Shadows]


I'm just stating a point without anything attached. If you tell 10 people a story and ask them if they believe it you will get very mixed views. Then if you start to feed them small amounts of further information they will all believe at some point but will reach that point at different stages of the information that they are given.

At the basic level Belief in something is a personal choice and that is what I'm talking about, so facts and proof will be very subjective, but my point still stands that everyone is a believer and skeptic and it’s the facts they accept that makes them different from each other.



posted on May, 14 2010 @ 06:45 PM
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reply to post by Xtrozero
 


Well, I agree. But that is not what you said in the post to which I was refering. In which you spoke the usual rhetoric of "believers" needing no proof only "faith". Which I have always found funny when people regurgitate that gem as you have to have "faith" in whatever to believe it as faith means more or less trust. But I know there are those attempting to redefine terms to make it a bad word in an attempt to semanticly place *illusion, proves nothing but sounds good to those who wish to place themselves upon a pedistal* above their chosen enemies.



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