General Question

Trustinglife's avatar

What does your skeptical filter let in, and what does it keep out?

Asked by Trustinglife (6623points) April 28th, 2009

In other words, what causes you to have faith?

Many people believe in certain things they have never seen. For example, have you been to Madagascar and seen it with your own eyes? If you haven’t been there, are you sure it exists? Is seeing photos enough to make you believe in its existence? Then what about UFO’s? If you saw a photo of a UFO, would you believe in UFO’s? If not, what’s the difference?

What are you skeptical of, and what do you accept on faith?

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9 Answers

astrocom's avatar

Most things I have faith in have already been confirmed by multiple sources, based on fact.
In other words: I trust science. Why? Because science inherently recognizes the shortcomings of perspective and the flaws in human observation, and accounts for them by requiring consistency in observations and results.
While I haven’t been to Madagascar, I can easily bring up endless sources that show that it exists, not just that it exists but nearly every minor detail about it you could possibly think of, and the large majority of these sources will be consistent.
That said, I don’t make a habit of trusting inherently subjective things, especially if they’re some kind of forced evaluation (on a range of 1–5 how much do you dislike this?), and as a result I intend to visit all of the most interesting places I can managed to travel to, to determine if they’re actually as interesting as people say.
(and, a little bit so I can observe they’re actually there. I trust science because it’s the best option that doesn’t involve me observing everything that’s ever happened)

wundayatta's avatar

Hmmm. I have faith that my senses generally give me useful information about what is “out there.” I believe there are correction mechanisms available should my senses be giving me non-optimal information. I have faith that my mind can interpret information, and that it matters that I interpret things as best I can, so that I will have a better life.

I have that faith because I don’t see any way of objectively determining what is “out there.” Other than that, I am skeptical.

theartfuldodger's avatar

I live my life by faith, outside of what my personal experiences have been.

I have to believe other people’s observations and believe that they were in the right mind to make conclusions about what they observed.

When I approach life, I approach it as though everyone has something to bring to the table, and the common denominator is the truth. Think, Blind Men and an Elephant.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Refusing to accept something exists because you haven’t been there, like Madagascar in your example, is a case of universal skepticism, which is quite a silly way to go through life. Skepticism doesn’t mean to deny, it means to search. A skeptic searches for answers to questions, he doesn’t automatically assume it isn’t true because it seems too outlandish.

Ghosts? Nope, because there is nothing that I have seen or heard of to prove they could exist, and the tales told by people of ghosts refuse to pass simple logical tests. I accept the findings of the scientists who have searched and found nothing of consequence. There is no scientific evidence for ghosts and that is good enough for me.

UFOs? Again, no, because studies of the nearby universe states that the closest system with planets that could support life of such an advanced nature as to perfect a near light speed drive are many, many light years away. Does other life exist out there? I don’t doubt it. Are they visiting earth? Hardly likely. Again, logic tells us what can be true and what is mostly likely false assumptions.

Taking stuff on faith is fine, as long as you are being realistic about it.

fireside's avatar

I take these words on Faith:

Furthermore, know ye that God has created in man the power of reason whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to blindly imitate his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind or the faculty of reasoning by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth; and that which he finds real and true, he must accept. He must not be an imitator or blind follower of any soul. He must not rely implicitly upon the opinion of any man without investigation; nay, each soul must seek intelligently and independently, arriving at a real conclusion and bound only by that reality. The greatest cause of bereavement and disheartening in the world of humanity is ignorance based upon blind imitation. It is due to this that wars and battles prevail; from this cause hatred and animosity arise continually among mankind.

Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity

Critter38's avatar

I think what I accept as likely to be true versus unlikely to be true is entirely context dependent.

What’s the source? Is it something or someone I have found to be reliable in the past.

What’s the motivation for the claimant? Do they have something to gain from convincing me of something that may not be true…eg. I have this money in Nigeria…

What’s the basis for the claim? Observation, experimentation, multiple independent sources, etc (good)... or an argument from authority, tradition, anecdote, etc..(not good).

What’s the nature of the claim? Is it mundane or extraordinary? Is it consistent or inconsistent with other sources possesing higher levels of verified evidence?

What’s the relevance of the claim? Does incorporating the claim or dicarding the claim as part of my worldview has an inherrent cost or benefit…or not. In other words some things may or may not be true, but their validity has no relevance to me so I am unlikely to actively believe or disbelieve. Others will change the way I live based on whether I accept them or not so I am more likely to investigate before taking it on board.

I think keeping all accepted truths as tentative and open to being discarded if contradictory evidence arises is a good way to ensure that ones worldview is likely to approximate truth.

I think being aware of the tendency to fall for wishful thinking should sound alarm bells..eg. do I accept because it is true, or because I want it to be true.

And finally I think being aware of cognitive dissonance is important..eg. do I use the same standards of evidence for what I accept as true or do I give special privileges to certain beliefs, ideologies, political views etc which I can only justify keeping by dropping the bar.

I think I’d define faith as the antithesis of all of the above, and as such something to avoid rather than embrace as a means of finding truth.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Not much gets in with a free pass. My faith lies in proven odds or results. New things, new ideas are always received with skepticism (if there’s any interest) and then watched.

fireside's avatar

Yeah, I’m that way with new technology. I’ll hear about it and wait.
Someone else can enjoy their first generation iPod or their Windows Vista, I’ll wait for the refinements.

Critter38's avatar

and the price comes down will time.

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