A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient… — Steven Novella
This is a good way to define someone with common sense and a healthy mind. Learn how you can develop this skill set no matter what you believe.
Healthy Mindset Tips
Almost everyone you talk to would agree with the above statement about a skeptic. Even the religious believer would agree as long as they could qualify what they think is reliable evidence. So, developing a healthy mind is a good thing. Learning to question things is also prudent.
This is different than being a cynic. A cynic is someone with a cynical or pessimistic attitude. Being skeptical is not an attitude, it is the philosophy of questioning things. So, a skeptical mindset is being open-minded but also validating the evidence. Here is the best way to gain and maintain this perspective:
1) Eliminate Negative Programming
2) Practice self-care
Add elements of self-care to your daily routine. Self-care isn’t selfish if you do it in moderation. This is one of the healthy mindset tips for the spiritual explorer that is often overlooked. But, it is just as important as the other tips.
3) Learn to Research
Use the scientific method to determine fact from fiction. Enhance your critical thinking skills. Study and use the toolbox of logic. This includes logical reasoning, spotting logical fallacies, and logical axioms. These mental tools will help you avoid many common pitfalls of a culture immersed in religious dogma and commercialism.
4) Strive to be a Freethinker
Develop the skills of a healthy open-minded skeptic. Become a freethinker. Learn how to see things from all angles. Again, learn to apply the scientific method to your thinking.
Skeptical Mindset is the Scientific Method
“.. therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion. — Steven Novella
This is a nice way of saying the all hypotheses and claims need to stand up to the rigorous scientific processes and verifiable evidence. And, one should be on guard to avoid being deceived into believing sources that point out the inconsistencies. The true meaning of skepticism has nothing to do with doubt, disbelief, or negativity.
Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It’s the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion. This is also the basis of the scientific method.
What is the Scientific Method?
Science doesn’t care what you believe. The scientific method is a process for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be scientific, a method of inquiry must use empirical or measurable evidence on which to base conclusions. We can describe this process in six steps:
- Make observations
- Record and communicate the observation accurately as possible
- Form questions concerning what we observe to find out more
- Form a hypothesis using the evidence
- Conduct an experiment
- Analyze the data and formulate a hypothesis
These Six Steps either confirms the hypothesis or leads to other questions. The ability to make good observations is also essential to the development of other science process skills: communicating, classifying, measuring, inferring, and predicting. So, an open-minded skeptic is a Freethinker guided by Logic.
Shades of the Skeptical Mindset
Scientific skepticism and rational skepticism are the same things. And, both of these are sometimes referred to as skeptical inquiry or methodological skepticism. However, scientific skepticism is different from philosophical skepticism.
The New Skepticism described by Paul Kurtz is called scientific skepticism. It is the basis of all other healthy mindset tips for any spiritual explorer.
Philosophical skepticism deals with our ability to claim any knowledge about the nature of the world and how we perceive it. Methodological skepticism is nothing more than using a systematic process. Subsequently, testing, being skeptical about, or doubting findings and conclusions one reaches. That’s the same as the various forms of science-based skepticism.
Religious skeptics question religious authority and are not necessarily anti-religious. However, they tend to be skeptical of all religious beliefs and/or practices. There are some that question whether religion is a viable topic for criticism given that it doesn’t require proof. It’s a system based on belief. Others, however, insist it is as much as any other knowledge except that it requires faith. And, most often their test of reliability is their sacred texts or their religious leader’s opinion. So, their skepticism is qualified.
They are taught to apply their skepticism to external sources only. For example, anything that contradicts their paradigm is automatically unreliable. Anything that points out the errors, contradictions, or fallacies of these texts is an unreliable source. This also applies to sources of any otherwise scientific sources or processes.
“Briefly stated, a skeptic is one who is willing to question any claim to truth, asking for clarity in definition, consistency in logic, and adequacy of evidence. The use of skepticism is thus an essential part of objective scientific inquiry and the search for reliable knowledge.” — Paul Kurtz
How to Become an Open-Minded Skeptic
So, are you on-board with this method of seeking spiritual truth? It’s open to everyone, no matter what you believe. All you need to do is follow engage in activities that foster a healthy mindset.
Above all, this discussion should make you think about how religion has integrated itself into the fabric of your life. Even if you aren’t ready to become a methodological skeptic, you should learn to question the cultural narrative. It should make you think about all the other ways religion has integrated itself into the fabric of our modern lives.
Thankfully, you don’t have to believe in religion to engage in spiritual exploration. It’s very different from religion. It’s the opposite. In fact, developing a skeptical mindset is a result of enhancing your critical thinking skills. Learn to approach each subject with an open mind, a beginner attitude, and healthy skepticism. This is just one component we recommend you include in your spiritual toolbox.
Interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission. This helps others learn the knowledge for developing their path.
Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia