Over the past week or two I’ve witnessed skepticism, a trait I pride myself on, being misshapen to become an all-consuming monster that chaos-lovers and destroyers-of-reality cling to. No longer is skepticism being offered as a fair questioning of perceived reality, but rather a justification for action to produce a desired outcome. Being familiar with the fraud and cryptocurrency spaces, I’ve previously witnessed skepticism being weaponized, but never on the scale that is occurring recently.
“Karma is a B*tch”
The elephant in the room on this is that I am keen on skepticism regarding a stablecoin called Tether. However, my skepticism is rooted in a foundation of truth-seeking: Tether made a series of promises and those broken promises should be kept. Tether and Bitfinex have guaranteed numerous audits, none of which have taken place, along with a slew of other issues that need not be addressed here. The point I’m making is: I may be quite skeptical of many concepts and goods — but I do my best to ground those questions in facts. It seems this should be called “Good Faith Skepticism” now, because there’s emerged an alternative.
“Bad Faith Skepticism”
Due to the elections, my bullshit detector has been going off mercilessly. Claims of voter fraud have appeared from the usual sources, including, but not limited to, Project Veritas, Breitbart, and Steve Bannon. The claims are numerous, loud, and thrown about with no regard for the implications.
Mark Twain has an important quote about this:
“A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots.”
I dated an Evangelical Christian in high school, we’ll call her Eva.
Full disclosure, I’m born Jewish, but lack any faith.
Regardless, Eva and I had a pretty sweet arrangement going: we’d fool around and hardly talk. But one day, she informed me that she was praying for me, praying for my salvation. And while I certainly appreciated the sentiment, I couldn’t help but dig deeper, hoping to fully understand the ramifications of her faith.
At some point I brought up dinosaurs and how amazing they were, how much I’d loved the Natural History Museum as a child, and how I wanted to go back.
Shocking, only to me, was her response: dinosaurs are cool, but they aren’t real.
Aren’t real? Eva, what is that even supposed to mean?
The world, she explained to me, calmly and carefully, began 6,000 years ago. Dinosaur bones were planted in the ground by Satan himself to deceive the non-believers. Fooled again!
But Eva, what about oil? What about radiocarbon-dating? What about birds, the direct descendants of dinosaurs?
All of this, along with Darwin’s theory of evolution, had been a big huge trick, perpetrated by the Devil. I was on the fast track to Hell — the highway, if you will.
Surprise, we broke up.
Maybe that story seems irrelevant, so let me explain myself. Eva and I fundamentally disagreed about what it meant to be skeptical.
I do not ask if 2 and 2 equals 4, for when I combine 2 and 2, I have 4. This is knowledge that has been passed down, and while I can smash and mush the numbers together in infinite ways, 2 and 2 will always equal 4 in this universe. There is little reason to introduce skepticism.
But if you wanted to, you could. How? Easily.
2 is actually 3, the Devil made everyone believe 2 is 2.
Well, no one can really refute that, can they? There’s no proof that it’s an inaccurate description, but it also fails to entrench itself in any facts whatsoever. While no one can force anyone else to believe anything, it’s fair to write-off “bad faith skepticism,” allow those who take that stance to continue to believe, and move on.
A Simple God-Based Comparison
As a child, I struggled to understand religion. My mother repeatedly told me I was Jewish (the exact way she termed it was, “If Hitler was alive, he’d say you’re a Jew.”), while I occasionally attended Mass with my lapsed-Catholic father and his mom.
I couldn’t find a single way to understand God that convinced me of this all-knowing man in the sky, because all of the arguments for “Him” amounted to “having faith.” Until my mom introduced me to “Pascal’s Wager.”
The TL;DR of Pascal’s Wager is: you have no reason to not believe in God. If there isn’t a God, no big whoop, and if there is, your eternal bonus round is Heaven. This is skepticism at its finest, without falling into the hellhole of bad faith.
The beauty of Good Faith Skepticism is that it can be translated easily and is almost impossible to dismiss. Look, you can even make it into a math equation:
It’s Okay That It’s Not Okay
As much as I am a cynic, I am also rational and optimistic about humanity. There are waves in every market, including the perception of reality, and as much as we love to remember the heroes like Galileo, Da Vinci, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein, it’s best to acknowledge that they’re only considered heroes now because of the immense obstacles they had to overcome to speak truth.
Stay skeptical, friends.