Friday, August 10, 2012

What's the Difference Between CLAIMING to Be a Healthy Skeptic vs Actually PRACTICING Healthy Skepticism?

I consider myself to be a healthy skeptic. But, then again, I don't think I've ever met someone who doesn't consider themselves to be one? Would anyone really admit to being an unhealthy skeptic?

It seems to me that EVERYONE considers themselves to be a healthy skeptic...especially guys. Why is that? I swear that the average guy unconsciously believes that being a skeptic (or at least saying that they are one) is somehow a more masculine representation of themselves. I wonder if it has something to do with playing the 'protector' role, as if being skeptical of new ideas is somehow more 'protective' by default than is being open and honestly vulnerable. Who knows? But, whatever the reason, the majority of guys and a large chunk of the ladies out there certainly will at least 'claim' to be a healthy skeptic.

There is NOTHING inappropriate about practicing our own personal brand of healthy skepticism, in my opinion.

But, drawing from my own experiences, it seems that VERY few self-proclaimed skeptics ACTUALLY 'practice' healthy skepticism in the face of new concepts. Typically these people are just using a stance of 'nonacceptance' almost as if to appear 'tough' and invulnerable to outside influence. It reminds me of the common treatment of the concept of 'stubbornness'. I would say that the majority of people, when asked for their opinion on stubbornness, will SAY that they consider stubbornness to be a negative trait. Yet it also appears to me that the majority of these SAME people wear their own stubbornness (perceived or otherwise) as some sort of badge of honor. To me, this honestly gets old. Lets seriously stop faking it and get real!

Most of us BELIEVE that stubbornness is a positive trait. Can we just let that cat out of the bag already? What's the hold up? This 'secret' love of stubbornness also bleeds into the concept of skepticism where most people 'claim' one side of the coin and yet practice the other side of that same coin.

So what's the difference between healthy and unhealthy skepticism, then? Well, here is how I see it...

A healthy skeptic both accepts and admits their own ignorance regarding a new concept AND also exhibits active curiosity in the face of these new concepts. They admit that they know nothing and yet actively search for the knowledge and information once their own ignorance has been revealed to themselves. The key, I think, is that they are NOT afraid to be perceived as being 'wrong' and they also have enough confidence in their own intelligence to investigate the new ideas being presented to them.

On the other hand, and unhealthy skeptic has difficulty admitting or being 'wrong' and they are typically apathetic with regards to verifying new concepts that come into their awareness. In my opinion, an unhealthy skeptic is just someone who combines ignorance with apathy, pride and a dash of unresolved issues surrounding being perceived as 'wrong' in the eyes of one or more of their parents. Its just a theory, but I am willing to do some research to at least ATTEMPT verification of my theory!

And, to me, THAT is the main difference between the practice of healthy vs. unhealthy skepticism....the willingness to INVESTIGATE claims even if there is a chance that you could be WRONG! And it is THIS category underneath where MOST self-proclaimed healthy skeptics fall regardless of their own willingness to admit it or not.

To me, skepticism IS a very healthy practice...but only when it IS actually 'practiced'! We cannot simply 'claim' to be healthy skeptics as a way of avoiding the work involved in ACTUALLY verifying the validity of new concepts and information.

If you have issues with being perceived as 'wrong'...get over them. And, if you have confidence issues surrounding your own capacity for intelligent research and debate and hide those issues behind 'stubborn' adherence to beliefs, then I suggest getting over that too. Then, just MAYBE we can ALL actually 'practice' a form of truly healthy skepticism!

But personally, I am skeptical as to whether ALL of us actually DO retain the potential for practicing skepticism in its healthy form...

Christopher Robert Taylor