RE: I am a Pseudoskeptic

Here is a post by a person who thinks of themselves as a skeptic and is humorously accepting the label of pseudoskeptic.

I am a Pseudoskeptic by Troythulu

I disagree with him to an extent in that I’m quite critical of what I deem as pseudoskepticism.  I don’t, however, disagree with his skeptical attitude to the degree it’s genuine.  My only issue might be that it seems he may have more faith than I do in the objectivity and effectiveness of science.  I do love science and the potential of science… with emphasis on the potential.  As I see it, science in general is still in its infancy.  I suspect it will be a long time before humans begin to have a clear appraisal of reality… if ever.  Assuming the human species will survive, the science of the future would be unrecognizable to contemporary humans.  As a wise man once said, a highly developed technology would look like magic to us.

My view presented below is what I wrote in the comments section of the above linked post.

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I’m neither a pseudo-skeptic nor a Neo-Velikovskian.  I’m not sure if I’m in between those ideological extremes or simply outside of this categorical division.  The labels I prefer are Fortean, Zetetic, and Pyrrhonian skeptic.

Similarly, I don’t consider myself either atheist or theist.  I sometimes think of myself as an agnostic gnostic which is a position that allows for both the rational and non-rational sides of human experience.  At other times, I think of myself as a militant agnostic: I don’t know and neither do you.  My problem is that too many people, whatever their ideological persuasion, are too sure of their opinions.

As for logic and science, I’m for applying such things when and where they’re applicable.  But they aren’t always applicable.  For instance, if you remember a dream, neither logic nor science will likely be able to offer you much understanding.  You can choose to dismiss the dream as nonsense which is your choice, but this would be an avoidance of the complexity and strangeness of human experience.  Even in waking life, odd things happen all of the time that can’t be easily explained.  Even when there are possible explanations, there is a difference between proposing a hypothesis and explaining something away.  Pseudo-skeptics would rather apply logic and science selectively… and so would the Neo-Velikovskians.

I’m from the school of thought that thinks everything should be questioned and doubted.  Nothing is sacred, not religion and not even science.  Look at all sides, consider all possibilities, verify all evidence.  Everything should be brought to the table: hard science research, social science surveys, demographics, anecdotal evidence, Einsteinian thought experiments, unusual personal experiences, intuitive insight, critical thinking skills, philosophical ideas, theoretical frameworks, socio-historical context.  Et Cetera.  But, more important than anything, what is required is infinite curiosity and wonder, an unfailing desire for truth and a willingness to follow the evidence where ever it leads.  All assumptions and ideology must be left at the door.

Also, never bow down to any authority.  Don’t accept what someone says simply because they claim to be an expert.  The moment anyone claims anything, no matter how respectable they may seem, immediately consider all possible criticisms.  Always look for the spin, for the vested interests, for the beliefs taken as facts.  Continuously search for the alternative perspectives and try to find the outline of truth amidst the fog of opinions.

In the end, be intellectually humble.  Realize how little you know and further realize how infinite the universe is compared to your tiny primate brain.  Realize that human knowledge is constantly changing and that much of what is conventionally believed to be fact at present (including mainstream scientific theories) will be proven wrong or severely inadequate in the decades and centuries to come.

And be practical rather than idealistic.  Don’t make religion or science into a belief system that answers all doubts.  To the extent any theory is worthy, it is because it works.  The ultimate purpose of a theory, including scientific theories, isn’t it being absolutely true.  Rather, what matters is if it works.

As for science, Newtonian physics have been proven wrong in some ways and yet it still works as a model of prediction.  It’s an imperfect model, but it’s usually good enough for the purposes of taking action in the world.  As for religion, it too has practical effects.  There is truth in religion for those with discerning minds.  Some things are real and yet can’t presently be explained by science.  For example, UFO experiences, religious experiences, and traditional folklore all follow similar patterns.  These patterns exist within the human psyche across cultures.  In some sense, they’re real.  Any particular explanation of them may be wrong, but what is clear is that science hasn’t figured it out as of yet.  Yes, there are scientific hypotheses, but a scientific hypothesis is far from being a scientific theory.  I look forward to a time when some of these hypotheses can be tested.