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Michael Shermer on Skepticism and Religious Beliefs

More from Ora: Michael Shermer on Skepticism and Religious Beliefs

Dave Rubin on the Importance of Skepticism

The Rubin ReportJan 21 '16

"When preachers, politicians, or conspiracy theorists tell you they know what's really going on, just know that they're full of something, but it ain't knowledge." Stay tuned for clips from Dave's interview with Michael Shermer (Author, "Skeptic") coming today 1/21, and the full interview Friday 1/22.


Published on Ora TV on Jan 21st, 2016:

I think a healthy dose of skepticism is one of the most important attributes one can have, but also something most of us could use a little more of. You guys know I'm big on definitions, so let's actually define the word 'skepticism' before we go any further:

  1. an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object
  2. the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain:the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of skeptics
  3. doubt concerning basic religious principles (as immortality, providence, and revelation)

All skepticism really is, then, is the desire for more information before making a judgement.This seems like a really simple and pretty obvious concept, yet we are so lacking it in our public discourse.We are so quick to dismiss people the second they say something we don't like, we ignore evidence when it doesn't suit our narrative, and too often we pick sides when we don't really know the facts. This is why pundits on cable networks, radio online media are yelling all the time. Instead of making a compelling argument based on fact and reason, they just yell with righteous indignation so you think what they say must be true. After all, they're really fired up, so they MUST have a true and decent cause, right? Usually the opposite is true.

Of course, it's not only these talking heads who could use a healthy dose of skepticism.We're in the midst of an election year, so all of us should be skeptical of everything each of these politicians running for office say. We shouldn't take their word for it, instead we should question whether what they're saying is true and take the time to learn the facts. Politicians prey on an uniformed, uninterested, and non-skeptical electorate. It's our job as citizens to make them be more honest and more forthright. Pretty sure we all know they aren't gonna do it on their own.

Going even deeper, it's not just pundits and politicians we should be skeptical of, but it's also our very selves. The word skeptic even has a slight tinge of negativity to it. "Oh, he's a skeptic, you better watch out for him." All the skeptic wants is more information to form an opinion on the world in a rational way using facts and proven methods. Sure, that's not as comforting as blind faith, and it certainly isn't as easy, but perhaps the satisfaction is in the journey of questioning.

My guest this week is Michael Shermer, an author who has written much on this subject and is a thought leader in the skeptic movement. Using science and provable methods, he talks about how we can have morality that is based on fact, not fiction. It's a harder road, but it is one that more and more people seem to be taking. It's also an idea I use in all my interviews. I'm the first to admit I don't know everything, and I am genuinely curious to learn from people of all walks of life. Talking directly to them is one of the few ways we can really do that. 140 characters is nice, but there's nothing like true personal connection.

At the end of the day, none of us truly know the meaning of life and the answer to the big question. We can think, we can guess, we can create, we can destroy, but we simply cannot know. It's the age old question that will remain until the end of time. In a way, not knowing is perhaps the most human trait there is. So when preachers,politicians, or conspiracy theorists tell you they know what's really going on, just know that they're full of something, but it ain't knowledge.

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