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Benefits of Skepticism in Society

Are you a skeptic? Or can you be skeptical of something and not skeptical of something else? That’s called biased skepticism. If you are interested in learning more about skepticism, this article is for you.

Definition of Skepticism

According to the KBBI, skepticism means lack of trust or doubt about teachings and so on. The word skeptic forms the notion of skepticism which comes from the Greek “skeptomai” which means to think carefully or carefully. Skepticism is an attitude that gives room for doubt about something.

Many people still think that skepticism is the same as critical thinking or negative thinking. Critical thinking is the ability to judge whether an information, whether it is opinion or citing facts, is acceptable or not. Critical thinking demands the ability to apply basic logic independently. That is, there is a relationship between skepticism and critical thinking. While negative thinking is a thought that sees everything from the worst possible or finds fault. Skepticism is broader than thinking negatively. Skepticism contains a spirit of seeking the truth and distrusting every claim before actually finding solid and plausible evidence.

Examples of Skepticism

1. Philosophical skepticism

Philosophical skepticism is to refuse any idea to become an indisputable dogma, with the realization that proof always involves uncertainty and the possibility of misinterpretation.

2. Rational Skepticism

If you are compelled not to immediately believe the words of a purported expert on Twitter, or seek more information to check the accuracy of the news you read, or examine the claims of an advertisement, you are exhibiting a form of rational skepticism. This skepticism encourages you to check the facts or see if there is consensus from those you trust.

3. Professional Skepticism

The goal of professional skepticism is to use skepticism to verify data in order to make informed decisions. The business world knows the adage “trust, but verify”. An example is an auditor who uses skepticism when conducting due diligence.

4. Scientific skepticism

Scientific skepticism arises when we question claims that may not be supported by empirical evidence obtained using the scientific method. An example is people who say that crystals can be used for healing, because there is no scientific research to support this claim.

5. Bias Skepticism

This kind of skepticism arises when a person can be extremely skeptical of one source, but not overly skeptical of another. An example is people who regard everything that is supported by pure natural science as true, but doubts anything else as supported by social science.

6. Motivational skepticism

This kind of skepticism appears when a person rejects an idea that makes him psychologically uncomfortable. This includes rejecting ideas that have been supported by scientific research. An example is doubting the various research results that show Ivermectin is not effective, because the drug gives a sense of comfort, as if there is an easy way out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

7. Strategic Skepticism

People with strategic skepticism cultivates doubt to make others afraid, doubtful, and unsure of achieving a certain goal. Examples are how the tobacco industry in the United States pays scientists to continue to raise doubts about the link between smoking and cancer, or the petroleum industry uses similar tactics to get the public to doubt human activity as a cause of climate change.

Indonesian’s perspective on skepticism

According to the World Values Survey Wave 7 (2017-2020), most people think that obedience is important to teach children. This means that, for most Indonesians, obedience is an important value, which is usually negatively correlated with the desire to question whether what the authorities say is true. The same report states that most Indonesians value authority and trust the government1. Therefore, it can be concluded that Indonesians tend to see skepticism as an attitude that needs to be avoided.

Do Indonesians have a “healthy” level of skepticism?

According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), there are 20% of people who do not want to be vaccinated. This survey was conducted on 212,000 people online on July 13-20, 2021. From the total surveyed, 15.8% did not want to take the vaccine because they are worried about side effects, while 4.2% do not believe in the effectiveness of the vaccine2. Even though all vaccines have gone through an evaluation process by the POM Agency, recommendations from ITAGO, WHO, and experts so that their safety, quality, and efficacy are guaranteed3. However, if explored more deeply, there are various other reasons why people do not want to be vaccinated. On social media, we can see that not all people understand science. There are also people who trust other sources that are considered to have the same identity or value system. If viewed from this case, it can be said that Indonesians do not have a “healthy” level of skepticism because the skepticism is not applied properly so that it is not beneficial for themselves or the community.

The benefits of skepticism in society

In general, skepticism has various benefits, such as increasing discussion and interaction between people, raising views about knowledge and information, and transmitting high curiosity. However, what if skepticism is applied in society?

1. Easy to avoid fake news

Not only one factor causes the spread of false news. The rapid development of technology is one of the causes. In addition, those who have certain motives are also the cause of the spread of disinformation. Here skepticism plays a role in preventing the spread of false news and hate spin because it can make the reader pause and think about the validity of the information.

2. Avoid judging others without evidence

Many of us still like to judge others. Skepticism can help us to find out the truth about something before judging. For example, discrimination against minority groups in Indonesia such as the LGBTQ community. If we refuse to relate to someone just because of their sexual orientation, we could lose the opportunity to work together and build something positive for Indonesia.

3. Save the social environment and the environment

Capitalism encourages a consumptive lifestyle. In consuming goods and services, people find it difficult to distinguish want vs need. If you are not skeptical of what is offered, there will be over-consumption that can harm yourself and the environment (through waste, or greenhouse emissions).World Values Survey Wave 7 (2017-2020) Indonesia 

References

1. World Values Survey Wave 7 (2017-2020) Indonesia 

2. Putri, C. A. (2021, 2 August). Survei BPS: 20% Orang Indonesia Tidak Mau Vaksinasi Covid! Retrieved from https://www.cnbcindonesia.com/news/20210802124130-4-265395/survei-bps-20-orang-indonesia-tidak-mau-vaksinasi-covid

3. Putra, E. P. (2021, 7 September). Semua Vaksin Efektif dan Aman, Masyarakat Jangan Khawatir. Retrieved from https://www.republika.co.id/berita/qz0nuq484/semua-vaksin-efektif-dan-aman-masyarakat-jangan-khawatir