What is skepticism? And what value does it have? Isn’t it just something that grumpy old men do to make the world cloudy for the rest of us?
Remember that first coloring book you had? The boring black and white outlines on the pages would stare at you expressionlessly, so you would take the crayons you hadn’t yet eaten and scribble in wild abandon inside and outside the lines in an uninhibited expression of creativity…or at least I did.
As you grow older, you realize that you have a choice; you can either forfeit all meaning in the pictures by coloring over and outside the lines, or you can color within the outlines of the figures to enhance the story.
Skepticism can be considered coloring within the logical lines of our universe. It is not necessary. In fact, many individuals wildly scribble away with beautiful colors of the imagination, and finish the book without paying much attention to the story it contains. They consider the story they have colored to be superior to the outlines of logical and scientific truths contained in the book.
Other individuals find the story of the book quite interesting even if impersonal. So they add personal meaning by coloring carefully within the outlines found in the coloring book with colors that will nicely enhance the story.
The outlines of the coloring book are analogous to the logic and truths of the material world we live in. The colorlessness of these outlines compel some to immediately to reject the story it tells, and motivates them to color over the lines with their own notions of truth.
Coloring outside the lines is analogous to abandoning or going beyond the evidence by employing “faith”. We may psychologically need for there to be a sun in the picture, so we add one with our crayons of the imagination. We emotionally need a big brother beside the outline of ourselves in the book, so we flip from page to page coloring one in. We find outlines of limitations or of fate or of something frightening, and we frantically scribble over those lines until they are no longer visible.
So the lines correspond to the evidence available that informs our identity and place in the universe. I’ll be the first to agree that the story is inherently not the Care Bear story most hope for. But it is the evidence, and I’ve committed myself to coloring inside the lines until the end of the book. In doing so, I’ve found the story to be much more interesting than I expected when I was first handed the coloring book. I now look with embarrassment at the first few pages of my own book that are full of colorful but incoherent scribblings.
Here are just a few ways individuals color outside the lines.
- Asserting beyond or over the evidence that there is a god that provides purpose, morality and justice.
- Asserting beyond or over the evidence that humans are necessarily progressing towards some utopia, and that a certain ideology will take us there.
- Asserting beyond or over the evidence a conspiracy theory that places the one making the assertion in the center of the drama.
- Asserting beyond or over the evidence notions such as “true love” or “fate” that provide illusory meaning not otherwise there.
Is such coloring outside the lines understandable? Yes. I’ve done a considerable amount myself. However, by learning to color inside the lines and following the story as you progress towards the back of the coloring book, you can better predict how the story will unfold. And this predictive power informs our purchasing of new crayons of various hues in anticipation of certain elements in the story.
Now allow me to plug the story of our coloring books. This coloring book is not just based on a true story, it is a true story. Knowing who we actually are in an amazing world that we can explore with a skeptical and scientific mind is unimaginably rewarding far beyond what most of us can conjure up with our crayons of imagination. The outlines are who we truly are in a genuine universe. It’s not all pretty, but it’s all true. The interesting thing is that we can, to some degree, actually influence the outlines on the next page as we color in the current page. There are real limitations in this mode of coloring, but the sense of integrity felt when acknowledging the lines and attempting to color within those lines is quite satisfying.
So how can someone learn to refrain from emotionally coloring over the lines of reality? Here are a few thoughts.
- Remain skeptical until there is sufficient evidence for any belief.
- Understand your own mind and emotions. Your mind is the tool by which you assess all other truths. Unless you understand the workings of the mind and know how to calibrate it correctly, you are ill-equipped to assess reality.
- Develop critical thinking skills that include logic, scientific methodology, and an understanding of statistics and probabilities.
It takes discipline to color your life within the lines of reality, but in my opinion, the end result is a coloring book with a coherent and beautiful story. And don’t eat the crayons.