Pseudo-Skepticism, Doubt & Certainty

Pseudo-skeptic: “A person who defers reason and evidence at the behest of institutions and authority figures; especially prone to deferment when persuaded by a biased media outlets presenting experts, and other authority figures, who are actively involved in, or are retired from but still related to an authoritative institution.”

Psuedo-skeptics often dismiss information contrary to their world view as conspiracy theory, crazy or negative, and often devote greater energies toward character assassination than vetting of the information presented.

This is also related to doubt (skepticism) and certainty (faith).

“Skeptics” who deny the possible in “spirituality”, alternate medicine, conspiracies, and many many other things, use only a superficial doubt that is not doubting enough. It is rigid pseudo-skepticism of doubting and rejecting those things which do not conform to their pre-existing belief constructs. They only doubt that which is beyond their conditioning. They don’t doubt their own beliefs which they accept as “truths” ingrained from their environment and conditioning from society, economics, government, life, etc. They are conditioned and have continued to accept what they have accepted from an early age, the basic axioms of modern society, or a particular cultural outlook. Somethings they have let go of, but so many things they hold onto, they remain attached to. They have not doubted these things. They have not unlearned what they have learned, and doubted everything, to begin at 0 and rebuild their worldview.

“The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt”
– Bertrand Russell, “Christian Ethics” from “Marriage and Morals” (1950), quoted from James A. Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief.

What Bertrand says is true for the most part, as the paralyzing effects of how most people operate. The overconfident cocksure certain person will believe what is not true and remain attached to it. The reserved over-doubting person will refuse to believe what is true. This dichotomy that many people fall into is just as Kierkegaard said:

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
– Soren Kierkegaard

Doubt is not negative, but a positive requirement to learning. Doubt goes with curiosity and asking questions, the foundations for driving forward in development of knowledge. But the problem with doubt and certainty can create stagnations in learning, where certainty and doubt each block Truth by rejecting it from oppositional positions. Certainty is so sure of itself that it rejects new information. Doubt is so unsure of itself that it cannot accept the new information.

Tying into the doubt and certainty issue with relation to the pseudo-skepticism is the Dunning-Kruger effect, or Overconfidence effect. Certainty becomes blinding for those unable to doubt themselves and what they think they know.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.

Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. David Dunning and Justin Kruger conclude, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others”.[2]

Charles Darwin (“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”)[3] and Bertrand Russell (“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision”)

Pseudo-Skepticism, Doubt & Certainty

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