It forms part of the scientific method, which requires relentless testing and reviewing of claimed facts and theories.
Types of skepticism
There have been various flavors of skepticism endorsed by great (and not-so-great) thinkers throughout history, some with varying degrees of compatibility with the scientific method.
Skepticism, at its heart, holds that in order to understand the universe, it is best to actually look at it and find out. This means challenging those who merely assert their beliefs about nature, and demanding that they show how they have derived their ideas.
Theories and suggestions that can be, and are, backed by evidence and are deemed logically coherent are kept, while those that fail this test are rejected – but, very importantly, nothing is ever held above this challenge.
Regardless of how often an idea or theory passes the test of evidence, skepticism holds that there is always a possibility, however slight, that it might be wrong. As a result, skepticism is the true meaning of having an open mind, and in many respects is synonymous with the scientific method.
The skeptical method provides numerous protections against cons and intentional malice by refusing to accept ideas until they have been demonstrated true.
It is difficult to con someone who is skeptical about the situation because they will push for more evidence until they are convinced it is genuine.
The ability for a skeptic to be convinced by evidence is also proportional to the claim being made, i.e, someone claiming to have gone shopping earlier in the morning is subject to less intense scrutiny than someone claiming a dragon is living in their garage, or someone, for example, who claims their ex-husband, an unemployed musician is a magical “shaman” (see James Hyman) controlling supernatural “quantum-theta” energetic powers.
Opposition to skepticism
The nature of skepticism is that no-one’s word can ever just be trusted and accepted without questions and without evidence.
This can be a problem for people who don’t like this because it is fundamentally distrustful, or the people who know that they cannot supply evidence to back up their claims.
This leads to stereotypes of skeptics being humourless killjoys who hate people with “open minds” and want to spoil all of the harmless fun that can be had in believing comforting things for their own sake.
Someone attempting to solicit money, or control a population can do it far easier if the audience doesn’t question their actions, methods, motives or reasoning.
To turn a skeptic to one’s ideas requires a lot of effort and evidence.