Healthy levels of skepticism

You have a board meeting at 2:00 o’clock. You get there ten minutes early to shoot the breeze with one of the long-time board members.

At one point, they start spouting antisemitic rhetoric–what do you do? Do you stand there in silence (after all you have much to lose, no one else heard it), allowing this sort of behavior or do you speak up and challenge the authority?

Okay, another example. This time you are at lunch with a friend and they are talking about superstition and mysticism, how astronauts didn’t land on the moon, Princess Diana didn’t die in a car crash and how they saw bigfoot on a camping trip. What then?

Our culture has come a long way in drawing the lines between right and wrong. In the first scenario, we have built little tolerance for that sort of outright behavior. (The answer is to speak up, the question is whether you have the courage.) So much has changed in just the last 50 years for the good (with so much more to go). What I also find interesting is the grey area. How do we allow people the right, the freedom to think/believe/speak while steering people towards truth?

It’s a delicate line to walk. When we are silent (grant it even if the belief at face value is mostly harmless) we are breeding the wrong kind of culture of skepticism. At the same time, when we speak up and are skeptical about someone’s belief system, it might be considered impolite. Tricky. Indeed, this takes wisdom on our part to navigate these kinds of conversations today. It also might mean that your friend isn’t being heard or seen. Do you have the courage to hold this tension? After all, skeptics have paved the way for great leaps forward. At the same time by allowing all types of thinking (amplified by the dark patterns of the web), we must also live with the consequences of what every type of thinking brings to the table.