Editor’s Note: There is lots of good advice in this post that I wish more Americans, including the one in the White House, would pay attention to as we all cope with the plague. Trump clearly doesn’t have all, or even most of the answers, especially when it comes to scientific issues surrounding the coronavirus. He just makes them up as he goes along and he certainly isn’t thinking like a scientist. You don’t need an advanced degree to think straight, but it does require common sense and clear thinking, as a former mystic describes below. /Linda LaScola, Editor
It seems that meditators, mystics, and people of faith advocate shutting “off” your brain so you can experience the holy spirit or altered states of consciousness. The intuition is worshipped and intellect is ridiculed. Why? Ego, or thinking for yourself, is considered dangerous to faith. It very well may be dangerous to faith, when your spiritual teacher, prophet, or guru is supposed to have all the answers. So, to follow one’s own reasoning and feelings, warn the gurus, leads you astray — “off the path”. Of course, the gurus have a vested interest in you not thinking for yourself.
So what happens when you dare to use your brain and your own thinking to benefit yourself as an individual? Ironically, despite guru warnings, skepticism and thinking like a scientist leads to more intuition and creativity, to greater morality, and improves our society. This post will show you why. The bottom line is that skepticism and thinking like a scientist every day is vital to increasing your chances of living a safe, productive, and ethical life. You can’t be passive. Everyday we are bombarded with lies, false claims, and misconceptions in the media, advertising, books, and workshops– virtually everywhere. So what is skepticism?
What Is Skepticism? – And Thinking Like A Scientist
Skepticism and science are similar. Skepticism is having a healthy dose of doubt and exercising your reason to determine whether a claim is probably true or whether it is likely BS or false. It means withholding your belief until solid evidence has been presented. We all practice skepticism. The question is: Are you a weak or strong skeptic? The strong skeptic proportions his belief to the evidence. Skepticism is not arrogance. It means keeping an open mind and being able and willing to change your mind should evidence demand.
Thinking like a scientist, or being a skeptic, doesn’t guarantee finding perfect answers to life and its challenges. Strong skeptics and scientists are willing to admit they don’t know — they don’t have answers (unlike the gurus who claim to have all the answers Skepticism provides the most reliable way to navigate your way safely through this crazy world of ours, with all it’s quacks, liars, and scamsters. Some of these (the gurus or their faithful followers) may be sincere, but are nevertheless themselves deluded, and they are more than willing to take your money, your time, and your trust. So, what’s the solution?
Twenty-One Reasons Why Skepticism Benefits You and Your World
Economic benefits of skepticism
- Reduces money you squander on crackpots, quacks, and shysters.
- Decreases spend on dubious businesses: psychics, spiritual healers, alternative medicines, and miracle cures.
- Increases dollars and tax revenues to fund scientific research and development of proven products backed by solid evidence, science, and medical effectiveness.
Intellectual benefits of skepticism
- Avoids groups and organizations that discourage asking meaningful questions.
- Starves out (from lack of support) groups that prey on the weak and suffering.
- Stimulates creative thinking, by encouraging questions rather than settling for simple, absolute answers.
Spiritual benefits of skepticism
- Eliminates delusions and wishful thinking, evaluates extraordinary claims using reason.
- Avoids investing your time and energy on con artists, false prophets, and faith healers.
- Shrinks organizations that are based on dubious and supernatural claims.
Ethical/Moral benefits of skepticism
- Questions exploitation of anyone, including women, children, and all minorities. (A few examples why faith traditions give answers that are unethical and immoral, includes beliefs that: women are subservient to men, gays are an abomination, and masturbation is a sin).
- Reduces hate crimes and murders (motivated by irrational beliefs and religious fanaticism).
- Treats others more fair and justly (by reducing bigotry, avoiding righteousness, and stopping blame of the victim).
- Minimizes gullibility and shame in succumbing to quackery and religious guilt.
- Clears thinking. Conducts our lives based on reality, not delusive wishful thinking.
- Generates personal responsibility for changing ourselves and our world (rather than waiting for or giving credit to a divine, mystical being to fix things).
Physical benefits of skepticism
- Assesses health claims based on medical science, not pseudoscience (fake science), quack or homeopathic potions, energy healing, or crackpot medical treatments.
- Saves lives based on using proven medicine (versus avoiding blood transfusions for religious reasons, overdosing on supplements or not getting proper medical care, or parents who don’t take their children to doctors because of their faith).
- Eliminates diseases and plaques (eg. recent resurgence of epidemics of measles in U.S. and HIV/AIDs in Africa from thinking “vaccines are harmful”, “condoms are immoral”).
Social/Cultural benefits of skepticism
- Questions herd mentality, mass marketing, group-think, and peer pressure. It’s OK to say “no”, to not buy it.
- Reduces bad choices, embarrassment, and shame. (E.g., You don’t spend many years or thousands of dollars on bad products or programs, such as: ineffective abstinence only sex ed for teens, starting wars based on bad evidence, or blind following of leaders with corporate, political, or religious authority).
- Improves individuals, families, and helps society progress. All of the above benefits collectively make us better: as individuals, communities, and as a sane, healthier world.
The above are my 21 great reasons to think and be a skeptic and how questioning everything saves you money, time, and makes you a better person. By no means are these the only benefits. There is so much more I want to say about the benefits of skepticism. I strongly urge everyone to exercise skepticism everyday, especially on claims that seem to be mystical, supernatural, or commercial.
This post was inspired by my reading of Guy P. Harrison’s book: Think: Why You Should Question Everything. I strongly recommend Guy’s book to everyone. It is an easy, fun read that gives a good introduction to skepticism. If everyone reads this book, and practices strong skepticism, their wallets would be fatter, their bodies and brains healthier, and this world would be a better place for all.
**Editor’s Question** How do you think skepticism could be of benefit as some states start to “reopen” their economies after being closed to control the spread of COVID-19?
Bio: “Scott” was a monk at the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) ashram for 14 years before leaving to complete his education and enter the business world. Raised Roman Catholic, he got into eastern religious practices and was influenced in his 20’s by reading The Autobiography of a Yogi by SRF founder Paramahansa Yogananda. He is now a member of The Clergy Project and a successful business consultant. He discusses the hidden, and sometimes dangerous side of meditation practices, systems and groups at SkepticMeditations.com
>>>>Photo Credits: By NIAID – Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID Director, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82983928