What you know is important but not nearly as much as how you think. Skepticism is one of the most powerful defenses against intellectual laziness and sloppy thinking. Having a healthy level of skepticism and asking the right questions can keep you from being manipulated.
What is Healthy Skepticism?
Healthy skepticism refers to not accepting any proposition or claim at face value. It means looking for weak links in arguments, asking hard but fair questions, and insisting on evidence that confirms the credibility of a source. Skepticism shouldn’t be absolute. Total skepticism leads us to commit to nothing and doubt everything. Blanket skepticism is not compatible with critical thinking. The true meaning of skepticism has nothing to do with negativity, disbelief, or doubt. It is actually the process of applying critical thinking and reason to determine validity.
What Makes it So Important?
Healthy skepticism has a positive influence on the world. It is very powerful and it’s not just about ‘debunking’ as most people refer it to be. Healthy skepticism is about redirecting funding, influence, and attention from popular misinformation and baseless superstitions, and towards ideas and projects that are evidenced to be beneficial to the world and humanity in general.
Extraordinary evidence is a must for extraordinary claims, especially the claims that violate physical laws or are simply farfetched. Healthy skepticism is important because it is a meaningful and essential component of the search for truth.
How Does it Benefit Critical Thinking Skills?
Healthy skepticism is an attitude towards something. It is a method of intellectual caution and inquiry that requires applying reason to the information and ideas that we are presented with. Being skeptical is beneficial for one’s critical thinking skills as it encourages to hit pause on just believing in something simply because we see or hear it. It encourages us to use systematic doubt to pursue knowledge.
Healthy skepticism is an important part of critical thinking. A lot of people are satisfied with settling on personal truths as they are not interested in finding out what is objectively true. Subjective truth or personal truth is something you believe to be true. It is unique based on your specific life experiences and perspective. It may be true or false. Healthy skepticism encourages us to pursue objective truth. An objective truth is the one that is an accurate representation of reality. It is universally accepted and confirmed by evidence or science.
Our lives are full of subjective truths and we need improved critical thinking skills to make real progress with things like our relationships, personal goals, or work. For such progress, the inquiry and pursuit of what is actually true matters.
How to Practice Healthy Skepticism
So far, the article has focused on healthy skepticism and why having it is beneficial for one’s critical thinking skills. To take advantage of it, you must learn how to practice it. The following guidelines will you help you in this regard:
Be a Deception-Detector
People constantly make claims that affect our everyday lives. From selling various services and products to candidates running for political positions, we are bombarded with decisions that require us to act. It is recommended that you challenge such claims by asking for evidence.
Constant streams of campaign ads, TV news, and commercial messages try to tell us how to think. When we let others think for us, we become vulnerable to powerful emotional appeals, propaganda, and indoctrination. Look below the surface instead of accepting information and ideas at face value. Identify the limits to anyone’s claims of truth.
Use Logic and Intuition
We are swayed to believe or doubt others’ claims through intuition and logic, and a majority of us often rely on one or the other type of thinking. Regardless of whether you are an intuitive or logical thinker, it is recommended that you alternate between these two mental attributes.
Play Devil’s Advocate
Playing devil’s advocate is an essential part of practicing healthy skepticism. For the sake of argument, take a position you don’t entirely agree with. Putting your mind to work in this way can lead to better understanding of a problem.
Be a Bias-Detector
Determining whether or not the source of analysis and information are impartial is an important task of a true skeptic. Ask questions, e.g. “Is there an underlying assumption or belief being made that reflects the philosophyof this person?”, “What’s the other side of this story?”, etc. Your goal in detecting bias should be to identify messages that are meant to persuade instead of inform us.
Healthy skepticism leads to better creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem-solving. This is the era of the internet where we can access any information we want within just a few clicks. While such easy access to information is an advantage, it can also be problematic since not everything is worthy of your attention. So, maintaining a healthy level of skepticism to curate the information you receive is crucial now more than ever. I hope this helps you better understand why some level of skepticism is quite beneficial to your own growth. Till Next Time! – The Black Sheep