For all of my life, I’ve been a skeptic who accepted nothing at face value. If I don’t know the underlying truth behind a claim, I ask questions or research it until the whole picture fits together to make sense. More often than not (usually on social media), I run into statements that seem to not have undergone this simple scrutiny, which I’ve observed leads to understandings that are not only untrue, but damaging and wide spreading.
Think of the last time you browsed Facebook or Reddit. How many headings caught your eye that you thought couldn’t be true at first glance? A common example of this is the countless medical claims that nonconventional means such as homeopathy or ‘natural medicine’ has cured someone of some illness where traditional medicine has failed. As a digression, I want to just say that medicine is almost all natural. It’s simply that the compounds that work, are the ones which become engineered into drugs. The compounds that are tested to not work are simply not utilized. Believe me, if a company can put a price tag on a plant that contains a compound with valid medicinal purposes, they will. Any who, back to far out claims. When you see an article or a personal claim that something seemingly nonconventional produced conventional results – just be slightly weary.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. Albert Einstein turned the world of physics upside-down, kicked it out the door and told it to never come back. But there is a stark difference between Einstein’s methodology and the simple claims of a few cases where someone feels better after consuming homeopathic medicine. The key difference is data. I’m a software engineer and truly see the value of data every single day I sit down to work. The truth is always somewhere in the data. If you want to prove that homeopathic medicine works, you have to organize a study and test your claims. That way, other people can follow your logic and even verify your results. After all, humans are known to make mistakes all the time. This is how science works, and it’s been one hell of a validator so far.
Let’s take a look at another case that is even more controversial. Climate change has been accepted by the science community as fact (the climate is changing), whereas some of the populous see it as a false claim. I agree that to question is to be healthy, and so, I empathize with the skeptics. If you fall into this category, you have but two options before you. Either you have a better theory that fits the data collected worldwide on the climate, or you believe the data itself to be invalid. In the first case, you could work to prove your theory and gain worldwide fame (which would be pretty cool). Or in the second case, go out there and collect your own data (which you could then use to produce your own conclusions). Either is scientifically sound, and is also quite healthy in my opinion!
Your views should be ‘forced’ in a sense, rather than arrived at through your own experiences of reality. Human beings have a very centralized outlook, which makes us terrible at removing ourselves from the notion of truth. A classic example of this is ‘broken telephone’. Look at how much the original statement chances as it passes through a few people. Now imagine the amount of change that arrises as a claim passes through the ages (such as religious texts) or as it passes through social media (such as Facebook). Again, and this is important: I’m not saying each always produces false statements. I’m saying that it is POSSIBLE that the truth itself has evaporated in the process (either intentionally or unintentionally).
Do you think a goldfish in a curved bowl thinks anything of the outside world other than it being correct? In fact, the goldfish could arrive at all of our own physical laws even through a curved outlook on the world. My point is, never trust your senses, nor your experience. More so to the point, never trust the ‘experiences’ of others. Extraordinary claims that can only be supported by experience alone are almost always found to be false.
Einstein didn’t accept the common framework of reality laid down by Newton, who was and is still viewed as the ‘father of science’. The people of his time thought he was a little wacky, just as we would have today. The difference is that we didn’t have to take Einsteins word for truth – he proved it. Anyone can retrace his steps and see the truth for themselves. That, my dear reader, is the power of the scientific method. It is the sole tool used to satisfy curiosity and broaden our understanding of the world in a way that instills confidence. The beauty in this process is that one could challenge Einstein’s ideas, just as he challenged Newton’s. Never let anyone offer you the truth without evidence. Take no claim as truth if such a claim has no evidence. By simple logic, it follows that if a claim can be made without evidence, you can therefore dismiss it without evidence.
Standing strong, staying curious and questioning is what fuels progression. It is what cured diseases in the past and put us on the moon. It is the what forced our hand to take risks and explore, when the safety of home seemed so comforting. It is the reverence one gets when he or she looks at the universe in awe of its sheer scale and mystery. It is life, and we as a species should question and wonder. After so many years, I have found there to be beauty in the truth, and incredible wonder in discovery.
After all, to question, is to be – human.