Sitting here in the student union perusing the Skeptic’s Dictionary when I should be working on my paper about sensibility in Goldsmith’s “The Deserted Village” and I thought it might be nice, since I’ve obviously got people reading my blog whom I don’t know, to give a little overview of why I am a skeptic and a brief history of how I came to be one.
I didn’t always hate all things irrational. In fact, when I was younger, I was a true believer of everything from haunted houses to faith healing. I attended séances and practiced witchcraft, all the while taking ginkgo biloba for fear of losing my memory. One time, I even thought I spoke to the devil. (In retrospect, I now realize that this was a hypnopompic hallucination.)
My belief in the irrational was due largely to the fact that my father is a physicist and former calculus teacher at the college level and we never had a great relationship (it has improved over the past two years or so). For me, holding all sorts of crazy beliefs was a way to rebel against my evil daddy.
I began to see the light when I was 14 and joined my school’s philosophy club. I found out that not only am I gifted at both logic and philosophy (I actually got a perfect 100% semester average in Modern Logic my sophomore year of college), but these things are incredibly fun. I’ve always been driven by the need to know things and solve problems (I am a classic INTP… if you believe this shit), and I quickly realized that if I think logically about things these needs are easily fulfilled. Simple as that.
I will admit that I am a little harsh towards believers, because I tend to take logical thinking very seriously. To me, humans’ capacity to reason and think critically and analytically are the key features that differentiate us from other animals, so when people don’t exercise these faculties it makes me think that they’re no more evolved than my pet cat. I’m not saying that you have to be 100% logical 100% of the time; that’s wicked difficult (trust me, I’ve tried). In fact, I’m probably only logical 60-75% at most of the time because I suffer from severe Major Depressive Disorder and when I am symptomatic my logic skills seem to go right out the window. (Usually the first step to recovering from an episode for me is forcing myself to think logically about whatever issue is causing the most anxiety.)
Some people may think it’s harmless to believe in magic and other such bullshit, but I think it does major harm in that it hinders our species’ evolution. Evolution never stops, and one day we will give rise to something greater. I only hope that that new species doesn’t worship dead carpenters or pop colloidal silver.