Friday, January 28, 2011

Skepticism and Changing Your Mind

In addition to calling myself an atheist, I also use the label "skeptic" to refer to myself.  What does being a skeptic involve?  A skeptic is someone who requires sufficient evidence to accept a claim as being true.  Another attribute that I connect with skepticism is that a skeptic is always open for a debate and willing to change their mind about anything.  Take me and my atheism, for example.  The theistic claim is that there is a god or there are multiple gods.  I am no where near having sufficient evidence to believe that any gods exist.  However, all it would take for me to be a believer is some type of proof that a god or gods exist.  Some people would call this open-mindedness; I just see it as an application of skepticism.  There isn't a single belief that I hold that I won't challenge and I believe that this is a healthy habit.  Christians often accuse atheists of being close-minded because we aren't "giving God a chance".  Just because someone rejects a claim does not mean they are close-minded towards that claim.  It just means that they feel you have not met your burden of proof yet.  If anything, I would have to say that Christians are more often the close-minded folks.  When someone presents a Christian with scientific counter-claims that are easily verifiable and the Christian still rejects the evidence by running away or not conceding the point; I would call this close-mindedness.  Granted, all Christians are not like this and their personal opinion on what is sufficient evidence is what matters.  However, I find it hard to believe that some people can be so ignorant to deny the theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

I don't quite understand what the big deal is about a Christian giving up their belief in a God.  I was fortunate enough to be an atheist since middle school (I distinctly remember getting into an argument in the boys' locker room with a group of people as I told them how the story of "Noah and the Arc" was absurd).  I love when people tell me when I was mistaken/incorrect about something and I hope that when they convince me that I am wrong they make fun of me for being wrong.  This way I'll never make the same mistake again.  Giving up false beliefs is one of the most liberating feelings one could possibly have and you should never be afraid or embarrassed when you're wrong.  Admitting your mistakes is the height of intellectual honesty.  There is a story that I heard in which a college professor of biology spent his entire career attempting to prove his hypothesis about the golgi apparatus within a cell being an "artifact" that didn't exist.  An American biologist came to this professor's school for a public lecture and, without a shadow of a doubt, promptly destroyed the professor's hypothesis and lifelong work.  At the end of the lecture, the professor walked up on the stage, shook the other biologist's hand, and said something to the effect of:  "My dear fellow I wish to thank you.  I have been wrong these 15 years."  That is how science and skepticism works at their finest (please watch for the aforementioned story as told by Richard Dawkins.  It took me nearly two hours to find this 6 minute clip for you, so I'd appreciate it if you watched!).  Refusing to change your mind to accept a true belief instead of a false one, is like learning that drinking alcohol is harmful towards your body, but keep drinking anyway because you've already invested yourself in it.  Another example of this are internet users that fall prey to e-mail scams.  Some people continue to give money to the scammers even after they find out about the scam because they are in too deep and refuse to accept what the glaringly obvious situation is for them.

Please e-mail me at for any reason (i.e. comments, questions, to start up a discussion, etc.).  Also, if it is more convenient for you, leave a comment in the comments section below.  Have a wonderful Friday night and weekend!


  1. HI Secular Student, I was an atheist or agnostic for a considerable period of time. I came to the conclusion that God exists through science and philosophy, and that Christianity is true based on history and probability.

    I am interested in what you consider to be the Christian claims, and what you consider to be scientific reasons for thinking there is most likely no God. I hope to hear from you soon.

    Robert Vroom

  2. Hello Robert,

    Well, I don't want to misrepresent your views, so I would like to know what your specific evidence is for the existence of God that relates to "Science, Philosophy, History, and Probability." I encourage you to present your best argument for the existence of God first and I will be happy to address it! Also, I would like you to define "God" before we start a discussion (A "Christian God" doesn't cut it because of the fact that there are thousands of denominations of Christianity).

    The foremost scientific reason for my rejection of theistic claims is that a god-like entity is not necessary for our current scientific models of the universe, on both the macro- and microscopic scopes. I, personally, stay away from trying to prove that there is most likely no God because it is difficult to prove a negative (although it is possible in certain definitions of "God"). Furthermore, theists (Christians in your case) have the "burden of proof". A positive claim, such as "God exists" requires sufficient evidence that I find to be lacking. Maybe you can present the evidence and change my mind though!

    Secular Student