TNQ | Today’s Noontide Query
Warning: The following post involves personal statements that may seem arrogant and dogmatic to those with nonscientific worldviews and those who value faith over reason. Discretion and thicker skins are highly recommended.
Though it annoys people, I doubt. I question. I doubt often, and lately I doubt well.
To paraphrase Voltaire, doubt may be disagreeable, but I find it far better and far more useful than certainty outside of mathematics. It’s getting easier for me to hang question marks over stuff that ordinarily I’d once considered givens.
This is a Good Thing™. But it is not rational to doubt absolutely everything, to reassess my worldview, my core beliefs and values, my every thought, my self-image, every single time I come across each little singular, niggling, trivial disconfirming datum.
Doubt, like all things we indulge in, should be done in moderation. Nonetheless, it is rational to doubt when the weight of the evidence warrants it.
Let me tell you of the most significant change in my views in recent time: my views of the Fantasy-Prone Personality type, (FPP) a set of distinct clinical criteria attempting to explain why some people have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality without fully diagnosing them as psychotic.
My earlier views regarding this concept involved casual acceptance, and its use by some in the skeptical community to explain paranormal belief.
But I have recently discovered that while this concept may indeed be true, it is currently scantly supported by the empirical evidence and not widely accepted by a consensus of the mainstream psychological community.
Simply put, I keep this idea open as a possibility, and I think that further studies and more robustness of evidence and acceptance by the mainstream need to be made before can I think of it as reliably demonstrated.
Mind you, I still don’t reject the idea, but it remains an open question that may or may not pan out with more and better findings.
Did I lose my ‘faith’ in the FPP?
Was my worldview shaken by this?
Simply put, no: No faith was involved to begin with.
That’s because this idea was held only as a convenient and likely possibility, rather than something I build my life around or stake my reputation on. It was a simple shrug of the shoulders for me as I assimilated the new information and moved on, having corrected a possibly erroneous notion with new and better information.
When shown evidence from credible sources, and indications of the lack of a consensus on this as standard psychological theory, only the rock-solid nature of the evidence for it is in question, not reactionary disbelief, as the opposite was never in effect.
The point of this little ramble is that among skeptics, even mainstream ideas can be and are open to reasonable doubt and debate, that there are some findings so well-established by up-to-date evidence that doubt is not reasonable until reason is presented with new data, until better evidence makes it warranted.
Doubt without good cause can be just as dogmatic as refusing to doubt, and just as detrimental to knowing the world as it is rather than as we would see it.
A happy medium must be made between these extremes, and changing one’s mind over every contrary bit of information is not skeptical, but flighty and indecisive.
There are some matters about which we can come to reasonable conclusions, however tentatively they are held.
Always be willing to consider as open questions those things you take for granted.
So, my incredible readers, now does Troythulu ask of you:
When do you think doubt rational? When do you think it not? Should only some things be doubted? Everything? Nothing? What does the term ‘doubt’ mean to you? Do you think it necessary? Detrimental to scientific progress?
TNQ is a daily question that I pose to you, my readers, and please, do feel free to comment — I’m not an ogre. As per the title, TNQ is published each weekday at 12:00 PM