woman with long braid, hands on hip, skeptical look on face

Skepticism is a questioning attitude or doubt, especially towards a belief that claims to be truth. Skepticism is often applied to dogmatic religious beliefs, to scientific inquiry or philosophy, or to conspiracy theories.

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I encourage active skepticism, when people are being skeptical because they’re trying to identify the best course of action. They’re trying to identify the next step for themselves or other people. I discourage passive skepticism, which is the armchair variety where people sit back and criticize without ever subjecting their theories or themselves to real field testing.

— Tim Ferriss

On the road from the City of Skepticism, I had to pass through the Valley of Ambiguity.

— Adam Smith

Men are never convinced of your reasons, of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings, except by your death. So long as you are alive, your case is doubtful; you have a right only to their skepticism.

— Albert Camus

The question “Why” in the human sphere is easy to answer: to create satisfaction for ourselves and for other people. In the extra-human sphere the question has no meaning. Also the belief in God is no way out for in this case you may ask “Why God”.

— Albert Einstein

Skepticism is a way of freeing the dogmatic mind, and that’s where its value lies.

— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Vaccines don’t cause autism. Vaccines, instead, prevent disease. Vaccines have wiped out a score of formerly deadly childhood diseases. Vaccine skepticism has helped to bring some of those diseases back from near extinction.

— Alex Pareene

We could hardly believe that after so many ordeals, after all the trials of modern skepticism, there was still so much left in our souls to destroy.

— Alexander Herzen

There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking.

— Alfred Korzybski

I consider myself to be a relatively sceptical person. I like to see evidence for myself, and try to avoid speculating beyond available evidence. But I also have to accept some things on trust.

— Alice Roberts

I think I’ve always had a certain amount of skepticism of this whole ‘shut up and smile’ theory. I haven’t ever swallowed that pill so easily, although I tried.

— Amber Heard

It is evident that skepticism, while it makes no actual change in man, always makes him feel better.

— Ambrose Bierce

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

— Aristotle

I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re skeptical.

— Arthur C. Clarke

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

— Arthur C. Clarke, Clarke’s First Law

Investors should start with a view of skepticism. They should become intellectual investors rather than emotional investors. They should be careful, and they should be skeptical.

— Arthur Levitt

Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.

— Bertrand Russell

Skepticism must go hand in hand with rationality. When theories are shown to be false, the correct thing to do is to move on.

— Brian Cox

Science … is part and parcel of our knowledge and obscures our insight only when it holds that the understanding given by it is the only kind there is.

— C.G. Jung

It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish useful ideas from the worthless ones.

— Carl Sagan, 1987 lecture “The Burden of Skepticism”

The chief deficiency I see in the skeptical movement is its polarization: Us vs. Them — the sense that we have a monopoly on the truth; that those other people who believe in all these stupid doctrines are morons; that if you’re sensible, you’ll listen to us; and if not, to hell with you. This is nonconstructive. It does not get our message across. It condemns us to permanent minority status.

— Carl Sagan

At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes — an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense.

— Carl Sagan

People are not stupid. They believe things for reasons. The last way for skeptics to get the attention of bright, curious, intelligent people is to belittle or condescend or to show arrogance toward their beliefs.

— Carl Sagan

What counts is not what sounds plausible, not what we would like to believe, not what one or two witnesses claim, but only what is supported by hard evidence rigorously and skeptically examined. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

— Carl Sagan

Every aspect of Nature reveals a deep mystery and touches our sense of wonder and awe. Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. They avoid rather than confront the world. But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.

— Carl Sagan

But in introducing me simultaneously to skepticism and to wonder, they taught me the two uneasily cohabiting modes of thought that are central to the scientific method.

— Carl Sagan

Those who make uncritical observations or fraudulent claims lead us into error and deflect us from the major human goal of understanding how the world works. It is for this reason that playing fast and loose with the truth is a very serious matter.

— Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain

If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.

— Carl Sagan

It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science.

— Carl Sagan

But then arises the doubt, can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?

— Charles Darwin

I am not very skeptical… a good deal of skepticism in a scientific man is advisable to avoid much loss of time, but I have met not a few men, who… have often thus been deterred from experiments or observations which would have proven serviceable.

— Charles Darwin
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