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Monday, January 4, 2016
Using Science and Skepticism to Build a Better Tomorrow Today
I would like to leave a trail for others to follow like bread crumbs. If I could every once in a while drop a piece to help others stay on the path, that would be fulfilling. Whether it is through a story or shared experience, the end result is finding some common uniting factor and building upon it.
"The point of an argument or debate should be progress, not victory."
With all of the focus on what is wrong with the world and the things in it, we should be turning our attention to what is great about the world and the ways we can make it better. That starts with becoming better thinkers and decision makers. Then, becoming leaders in anything we do.
The initial intention behind the start of this blog was to help other people who were like me and felt lost amongst all of the spiritualness in the world. I could not find my place, but knew I was part of something bigger than just myself. Was I Apache, Navajo, or Hopi? Was I white? Where did my answers lie? In one of those tribal religions or perhaps in the white mans' religion?
I am not trying to change people's minds about their beliefs or looking to debunk myths. I am trying to get people to think for themselves and become just a little more skeptical. But, when I say skeptical, I don't mean cynical. I mean scientifically-skeptical. A large portion of science and scientific skepticism is open-mindedness. That tenet should always be in the forefront, clear and present. A large part of understanding science is getting to know skepticism. It makes us better critical thinkers.
"You don't change people's minds, you give them the tools to decide on their own."
That is what science, critical thinking, and skepticism have done for me. Not only are they the best ways for vetting new information and attaining knowledge, they act as self-defense systems for your way of thinking as well.
So, my focus went from what we don't know to the things we do. Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? What is the meaning of these patterns I see in nature? These questions began to seem less relevant to me as my brain was now infatuated with learning as much as I could about the universe and our place in it.
I started my journey thinking that science was all about math and facts. Along the way, I found out that it was much more than that, it was "a way of thinking." Now I see it as humbling, awe-inspiring, and elegant.
Carl Sagan on Charlie Rose in 1996.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, are the implications to our civic duties to be informed citizens and engaged with the issues at hand. When we stop questioning authority, we leave ourselves open for them to take advantage of us. Then, people don't run the government, the government runs the people. Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of questioning authority because of these very reasons.
Who will govern the governors?" There is only one force in the nation that can be depended upon to keep the government pure and the governors honest, and that is the people themselves. They alone, if well informed, are capable of preventing the corruption of power, and of restoring the nation to its rightful course if it should go astray. They alone are the safest depository of the ultimate powers of government. (Jefferson 1903-04)
Benjamin Franklin has been quoted as saying, "It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority." I hold a similar belief. Socrates believed that ordinary citizens were not fit to govern themselves. He didn't believe that the general public was informed enough to make big decisions and often voted against their best interests. But, I have more hope for people and would like to see a world where more people can think for themselves and are not afraid to question authority or the status quo. A place where we can argue constructively and find progress, despite any differences. The aim isn't to win debates, but to be just a bit more skeptical. About as much as you would be buying a car. It is especially important when we are most vulnerable. While scientists are busy doing real science, people like me are prepared to take on what is not like the paranormal and supernatural. That's the difference I would like to make in the world. The best part about living with today's technology, is we all have a real chance to make a change!
Sagan, Carl. 1996. Charlie Rose. YouTube. Can be accessed online at: http://youtu.be/d8O1e_TZHZo.
Jefferson, Thomas. 1903-04. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson on Politics and Government. Memorial Edition (Lipscomb and Bergh, editors). 20 Vols., Washington, D.C. Can be accessed online at: http://famguardian.org/Subjects/Politics/thomasjefferson/jeff0350.htm.