Skeptical Much?

I'm skeptical by nature. Cutesy little idioms like "It must have been fate", "Everything happens for a reason" and "It was meant to be" don't really resonate with me. I'm more of a "There's no such thing as a free lunch", "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" and "Sure, like that's about to happen" kind of guy when it comes to facing the slings and arrows of day-to-day life. Take this blog for example; my gut instinct right now is "Good luck filling up four or five more paragraphs with this concept, pally."

Interesting, too, how when people hear you say something skeptical they'll often equate it with pessimism, attempting to pigeonhole you with "Ahh, you're a 'glass half empty' kind of guy." The thought, of course, is that if you label a beverage container, its content squarely at the midway point, as half empty then you're somehow being negative. My take is that if that glass was initially full then, yeah, it is now half empty. Contrarily, if it was empty to begin with and you filled it halfway then it's half full. So maybe, instead of splitting hairs, they should check to see if the glass had been washed properly in the first place and, oh by the way, if I'm not mistaking, isn't that a chip on the rim there? Don't wanna cut your lip in the midst of your drinking and dishing out accusations now, do ya'?

Okay, so that might've been a bit harsh but all too often people mistake skepticism for other "ism"s: pessimism, cynicism and even nihilism. Simply put, skepticism is a general attitude of doubt towards claims of truth, especially when the claims are not well-supported. Pessimism, on the other hand, is the lack of hope, the belief that bad things will happen, and that things will get worse. Cynicism, is a specific skepticism regarding people and organizations that claim to be selfless, altruistic, and good while nihilism is the belief that there’s no meaning to our lives, and that it’s pointless to search for it. Talk about bleak, kinda makes my doubting Thomas outlook seem downright rosy, doesn't it?

So yeah, I'm a skeptic and proud of it. In these disjointed times when biased, unsubstantiated claims bombard us seemingly every nanosecond of our waking existance it makes sense to face them head on with arms akimbo, a raised eyebrow and a "don't even think about it" glare, the kind Clint Eastwood made famous in the "Dirty Harry" flicks (or way worse, the one your mom gave you for tracking mud on the carpet when you were a kid). For me, being skeptical just means doing your due dilligence, actually requiring multiple sources to assist you in coming to a conclussion. You know, like seasoned journalists, the ones so often labeled as the purveyors of "fake news" (usually by people with agendas; closet nihilists, maybe?).

I had a feeling I wasn't alone so I did a little digging to find notable people who also suffer from the same affliction. Amongst a laundry list of brilliant scientists and philosophers were Isaac Asimov, the famed biochemist and prolific author; Harry Houdini, maybe the most famous magician of all time along with current magicians (and stand-up comedians), Penn and Teller; Michael Crichton, the novelist and screenwriter who wrote "The Andromeda Strain" and "Jurassic Park" and Carl Sagan, the documentary astronomer responsiblle for the hugely popular "Cosmos" series. Others that definitely weren't on that list but probably could've used a little more skepticism in their lives: Pandora, Narcissus, Sisyphus and the multitude of characters in scary movies who thought hiding in the cellar or attic was the way to go.

Indeed, skepticism has a long history, dating back to the Greeks around 500 BCE and, given today's daunting climate, it probably isn't going away anytime soon... Okay, wait a sec... let me just check... One, two, three... four... five... six. So, yeah, this is my fifth paragraph after having doubted in the first one that I could write four or five more... Huh, whadya' know, I made it after all. Imagine that... Alright, guess I'm outta here.