Why You Shouldn’t Be Too Harsh in Dismissing Unfounded Claims as a Skeptic

Pioneer “Flat Earthers” managed to sway the minds of seemingly healthy-minded individuals by clinging to a never-ending stream of ignorant questions and denials. 

Their outright denials of completely solid and well-founded evidence is an unnerving thing to observe.  We are reminded of how susceptible people are to being influenced in their behavior and thought as we watch them free-fall into the depths of unfounded ideology. We are reminded of how sure someone can be in their unwavering belief of provable falsehoods.

A mistake by those on the opposing sides of obviously dismissible notions, is to dismiss such beliefs too forcefully and quickly. Submitting yourself to fully hearing out and investigating the arguments of individuals who are possessed by ridiculous beliefs is like listening to nails being dragged on a chalkboard on a loop.

It is difficult to maintain the reputation of being an open-minded individual when someone else’s idea goes so against your common sense, that the prospect of it spreading scares you. It isn’t difficult to understand a rational individual’s desire to strictly oppose obviously bogus ideologies the first chance they get.

This article hopes to encourage you to never be too quick in dismissing some people’s obviously incorrect patterns of thinking. Though you may be totally correct in the skeptical opinions which you hold, the act of being forceful with your dismissal of blatantly false ideologies can encourage their growth.

 


The Double-edged Sword of Open Mindedness


Authentic open mindedness involves the analysis of any new idea, even some of the more unproven ones, with seriousness and respect. An authentic attempt at collecting, observing – and most importantly – waiting for evidence should take place.

Even if you absolutely know for a fact an idea to be incorrect, dismissing it prior to calmly explaining why it is incorrect is a mistake. To the believers of the incorrect ideas around you, your quick and forceful dismissal will render your opinion as just another enemy to their cause. They will perceive you to be close minded and not meticulous in your journey toward truth. They wouldn’t feel as though you gave them a fair shot.

The attractive tendency to dismiss ideas too quickly – whether they’re right or wrong – is a behavior trait associated with inexperienced thinkers. Such individuals’ lack of an experienced sense of looking, and waiting, for evidence to come in encourages them to eagerly dismiss things they’re not willing to meticulously investigate with a thorough and unbiased perspective.

Open mindedness, is thereby an important trait for even the most intellectual thinkers to possess. The prospects of erroneously blinding yourself from following valid lines of questioning and tracking down well-founded evidence increase the earlier you side yourself against seemingly dismissable claims

Open-mindedness is thereby a double-edged sword: its full implementation is required to get to truth, but it’ll force you to slowly and patiently venture through mounds of manure on your way to it. 

Dismissing the most unintelligent of ideas too quickly can cause the unintelligent people who believe them to strengthen their guard against real evidence. They need to be shown that you’re willing to go back and forth, and that your perspective is open to be changed based on the evidence they present too. Do not enter interactions with people you suspect of believing radically untrue ideas with the goal of dismissing and discouraging them too quickly. It is a slow squeeze, not a knockout punch.

Enter such interactions with the goal of exhibiting a contagious and curious desire to understand. Thoroughly attempt to understand where even the most ignorant of individuals are coming from. Only once you do, respectfully present your vantage point from your own pursuit for truth.

 


The Skeptic Who Quickly Dismisses Always Comes Out on Top, but Does Not Encourage Learning


There are skeptics who fall into an attractive cycle of abruptly denying the claims of those who don’t have all the evidence behind those claims laid out on a platter. Assuming such strict positions against the ones who aren’t prepared to feed evidence into a salivating skeptic’s open mouth is often rewarding. 

The truth is that unfounded claims are often incorrect in their assumptions, so taking a stringent position against any claims which aren’t followed by a meticulous line of well-founded research is most often the correct position to take.

What makes that stringent position of denial even more attractive, is that the lack of evidence at the current time can always be used as an excuse should that unfounded claim turn out to be true.

The people who strictly deny claims due to a lack of evidence have an authentic excuse if those unfounded claims turn out to be right. 

Though they often acknowledge those claims to have been true all along as new evidence presents itself, they never seem to regret dismissing such claims too quickly when the evidence wasn’t there. The burden of proof was correctly attributed to the person making unfounded claims, so skeptics are fully correct to quickly dismiss unfounded claims; even if they turn out to be true. 

Logically, such positions are well warranted. After all, it is a skeptic’s job to simply follow the evidence to where it leads. 

What is often overlooked by most stringent skeptics however, is how much of an emotional effect this win-win act of rejecting unfounded claims – which later turn out to be true as the evidence comes in – has on those observing from the side. 

The more brutal one’s rejection of unfounded claims is, the more pleasant it is for others to witness those claims turn out to be surprisingly true. The quickness, brutality, and bluntness of your rejections of unfounded claims takes away from the lesson of always following the evidence to where ever it leads. Your brisk dismissal would rile up an emotional desire in others to see you retract it when the claims you dismiss turn out to be true. 

As they see you rightfully double down on your skeptical position by citing a lack of evidence at the time, you’d be correct, but you wouldn’t fulfill the observer’s desire to see you lose. Such observers would think twice before respecting your position enough to learn from it. In future discourse, they’d cite your act of bluntly rejecting claims, conspiracies, and assertions which went on to surprisingly be right.

They’d view you as someone who gamed the system by always coming out top in the stances that you take (right if you reject wrong unfounded claims / right if you reject correct, but unfounded claims due to a lack of evidence at the time). 

Being slow, calm, and sensitive in your dismissals of unfounded claims seems to ease the dissonance observers feel if those unfounded claims surprisingly turn out to be true. 

 

Book Recommendation: 

Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue



Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims in any way.