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Why We Must Always Be Skeptical

Why skepticism matters -- not just in science, history and other academic pursuits, but in everyday life.

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And prioritizing hard evidence over wishful thinking -- prioritizing what is true over what I want to be true -- is an essential part of that practice.

I'm not advocating that we all live our lives as purely rational beings. I don't want to live on Vulcan. Impulse and intuition, emotion and creativity, passion and insight... all of these have crucial places in a full human life. The world would be desperately dull without them. When it comes to subjective questions, questions of what is or isn't true for us personally -- am I in love with this person? Should I move to a different city? Should I save my money for a down payment on a house or spend it on a trip to Barcelona? -- it is entirely right and reasonable to be guided, at least partly, by the world inside our heads and our hearts.

But when it comes to objective questions of what is and is not true in the world outside our heads... we need to be skeptical. And we need to be disciplined about it. We need to prioritize good evidence and critical thinking over ideology and preconception. We need to not accept propositions without good evidence. We need to let go of conclusions when the evidence doesn't support them. We need to care about reality more than we care about what we want to be true about it.

Reality is a harsh mistress. She demands our honesty. She demands our work. She demands that we give up comforts, that we let ourselves feel pain, that we accept how small we are and how little control we have over our lives. And she demands that we make her our top priority.

But she is more beautiful, and more powerful, and more surprising, and more fascinating, and more endlessly rewarding, than anything we could ever make up about her.

And we can't let her in unless we're willing to let her be what she is.

And the discipline of skepticism is essential to making that happen.

Read more of Greta Christina at her blog.

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