The word “skeptical” comes from the Greek, “σκεπτομαι,” “skeptome,” which originally meant “to think,” and not necessarily with suspicion. Although thinking can lead to quarreling, we believe this can be a good thing, especially if the quarreling is with yourself — and if you keep in mind the following great insights:
You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. (Mark Twain)
There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t tell ‘em. (Louis Armstrong)
He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions. (Confucius)
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. (Richard P. Feynman)
Doubt everything or believe everything: these are two equally convenient strategies. With either we dispense with the need for reflection. (Henri Poincare)
The voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new horizons, but in seeing with new eyes. (Marcel Proust)
Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought. (Albert Szent-Györgi)
Surely we cannot take an open question like the supernatural and shut it with a bang, turning the key of the madhouse on all the mystics of history. You cannot take the region of the unknown and calmly say that, though you know nothing about it, you know all the gates are locked. We do not know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable. (G.K. Chesterton)
If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress. (Carl Sagan)
You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks. (Dorothy Parker)
A danger sign of the lapse from true skepticism in to dogmatism is an inability to respect those who disagree. (Leonard George)
Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth. (Albert Einstein)
She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. (Jean Paul Sartre)
I am too much of a skeptic to deny the possibility of anything. (Thomas Henry Huxley)
Scientists say Hurricane Sandy likely linked to record Arctic Sea ice loss this year, but f**k them. They’re just scientists. What does the bible say? (Bill Maher)
I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder. (Bill Maher)
The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also. (Mark Twain)
The only gratification that science denies to us is deception. (Ann Druyan)
The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it. (Neil DeGrasse Tyson)
It is scientific only to say what is more likely and what less likely, and not to be proving all the time the possible and impossible. (Richard P. Feynman)
Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved? (Carl Sagan)
I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy. (Richard P. Feynman)
What we call rational grounds for our beliefs are often extremely irrational attempts to justify our instincts. (Thomas Henry Huxley)
I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives. (Leo Tolstoy)
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. (Oscar Wilde)
It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place. (H.L. Mencken)
All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it. (H.L. Mencken)
To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true! (H.L. Mencken)
Believing everyone is dangerous, but believing nobody is more dangerous. (Abraham Lincoln)
Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. (Voltaire)
The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it. (Bertrand Russell)
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. (Albert Einstein)
The contemporary proliferation of bullshit … has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. (Harry G. Frankfurt)
This article was originally published February 13, 2014.
Related front page panorama photo credit: Bill Maher (Steve Anderson / Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 3.0).
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