One tool humanists should have in their tool box of life is Skepticism. It’s the notion that we don’t accept something without testable evidence to back it up. It can lead us to the truth of something or to establish the facts of something. One doesn’t use skepticism just to be contrary. Skepticism can take practice to perfect but once you learn how, it will make your humanism stronger.
Here is a basic definition:
: an attitude of doubting the truth of something (such as a claim or statement)
In everyday use, one would respond to a claim with something like “Prove it”. If the person can’t offer proof then we are free to dismiss the claim. In most cases we test the reliability of certain kinds of claims by examining them using some form of the scientific method.
Humanists mostly use skepticism to evaluate religious claims but we can also use it to evaluate all types of claims including political ones.
For example, conservatives claim that lowering taxes and cutting government spending during a time of economic distress can bring prosperity to the people. The evidence shows the claim doesn’t hold up to examination so we can conclude their argument is false.
Skepticism is used to reach a conclusion, even a tentative one, about some idea or claim, even our own. It doesn’t mean we don’t accept a certain claim just because we don’t agree with the conclusion. It really isn’t just about agreement.
For example, someone tells you the sky is blue. We use Skepticism and ask them to prove it. They open a curtain and the sky is blue. We then can’t say “well you said it would be blue not teal” just so we can “win” the argument.
Skepticism isn’t used just to be contrary. It is needed to discover the truth about some claim or argument. If we find that truth, like we did for Evolution, then skepticism isn’t needed. If you still tell people you are skeptical about Evolution then you aren’t being intelligent, you are putting yourself into the creationist crowd. Evolution isn’t in doubt at this time so there is no reason to be skeptical about it unless you want to remove it from science education. You can be skeptical about aspects of evolution especially if they are a new idea but the underlying concept is pretty much settled in science.
The next time someone makes a claim, ask them to prove it. It’s the Humanist way.