Friday, November 16, 2018

The Skeptic's Dilemma



Being a skeptic means observing the world with integrity, allowing honest observation and science to build an honest world view. Although the world boasts more humans living better lives than ever, objectively our collective negative behavior is driving global changes for the worse.  Environmental degradation, animal abuse, cultural tribalism, political nationalism, religious myth and pseudo-scientific misinformation, to name but a handful, are prolific. 

As a whole it's understandable why a skeptic who responds with reason and compassion to effect change might become dispirited, depressed or even cynical. What one person can do to shift the balance is minimal. Recycling to conserve resources, bicycling to reduce emissions, going vegan to decrease environmental and animal impacts, are all well and good, but if only 1 person, let alone 1 billion of 7.5 billion make these changes, the global situation will shift very little.

And yet the prevailing credo remains "live and let live." Which for all intents an purposes implies let every human do what they like to the world as long as it doesn't directly hurt another human. With a societal mindset like that there is a lot of inertia to overcome.

Bringing the best science and focused resources available to confront these issues is our best bet to contend with the problems at hand. Alas we are emotional creatures as well, and merely educating oneself about the world's problems and acting alone is insufficient to building up a positive attitude. To accomplish that feat we need to employ a number of tricks to outsmart our evolutionary predispositions.

Indeed, encouraging the joyful skeptic inside is challenging. To be sure, it starts with doing the best we can do for ourselves and those immediately around us, but does not stop there. We must become active in our communities, not just for positive policy change but for the selfish joy of forging positive relationships. Our society has become uniquely segregated by the very social networking technology that has amplified our virtual connections at the cost of our real ones.

As skeptics adopting an attitude that sings "always look on the bright side of life" can be a dramatic pressure relief of bitterness at the personal level. Strategically, bringing to bear a sense of humor alongside our reason and compassion is another method to maintain sanity in an insane world. If we are to combat the world's problems, both daily and longterm, we must not only be good skeptics, but we must remains steadfast, healthy minded humans so as to live our lives with integrity and sell a hopeful message to the world effectively.

Indeed the dilemma is real, but we must rise to the challenge.


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