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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It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him young.

— Konrad Lorenz

It would seem to me… an offense against nature, for us to come on the same scene endowed as we are with the curiosity, filled to overbrimming as we are with questions, and naturally talented as we are for the asking of clear questions, and then for us to do nothing about, or worse, to try to suppress the questions…

— Lewis Thomas

When an old and distinguished person speaks to you, listen to him carefully and with respect — but do not believe him. Never put your trust into anything but your own intellect. Your elder, no matter whether he has gray hair or has lost his hair, no matter whether he is a Nobel laureate — may be wrong. The world progresses, year by year, century by century, as the members of the younger generation find out what was wrong among the things that their elders said. So you must always be skeptical — always think for yourself.

— Linus Pauling

Do not let yourself be tainted with a barren skepticism.

— Louis Pasteur

No idea is above scrutiny and no people are beneath dignity.

— Maajid Nawaz

You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

— Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.

— Mark Twain

When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself.

— Mark Twain

The capacity to combine commitment with skepticism is essential to democracy.

— Mary Catherine Bateson

Given the power and influence that science increasingly has in our daily lives, it is important that we as citizens of an open and democratic society learn to separate good science from bunk. This is not just a matter of intellectual curiosity, as it affects where large portions of our tax money go, and in some cases even whether people’s lives are lost as a result of nonsense.

— Massimo Pigliucci

Skepticism is not a position that you stake out ahead of time and stick to no matter what.

— Michael Shermer

The skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found.

— Miguel de Unamuno

Skepticism is a virtue in history as well as in philosophy.

— Napoleon Bonaparte

I view my role now as providing more of a macro-level skepticism, rather than saying this poll is good or this poll is evil.

— Nate Silver

The catchword I use with my classes is: The authority of the writer always overcomes the skepticism of the reader.

— Nikki Giovanni

Skepticism is the beginning of Faith.

— Oscar Wilde

In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.

— Paul Davies

A universal skepticism is limited by its own criteria. If we assume it to be true, then it is false.

— Paul Kurtz

The logic of validation allows us to move between the two limits of dogmatism and skepticism.

— Paul Ricoeur

Every reporter inhales skepticism. You interview people, and they lie. You face public figures, diligently making notes or taping what is said, and they perform their interviews to fit a calculated script. The truth, alas, is always elusive.

— Pete Hamill

Reflect on everything you hear, but believe only on proof.

— Publius Syrus

Skepticism is unbelief in cause and effect.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everyone — pantheist, atheist, skeptic, polytheist — has to answer these questions: ‘Where did I come from? What is life’s meaning? How do I define right from wrong and what happens to me when I die?’ Those are the fulcrum points of our existence.

— Ravi Zacharias

Extreme orthodoxy betrays by its very frenzy that the poison of skepticism has entered the soul of the church; for men insist most vehemently upon their certainties when their hold upon them has been shaken. Frantic orthodoxy is a method for obscuring doubt.

— Reinhold Niebuhr

In order to seek truth, it is necessary once in the course of our life to doubt, as far as possible, of all things.

— René Descartes

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.

— Rene Descartes

If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain…. In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar.

— Richard Feynman

So my antagonist said, “Is it impossible that there are flying saucers? Can you prove that it’s impossible?” “No”, I said, “I can’t prove it’s impossible. It’s just very unlikely”. At that he said, “You are very unscientific. If you can’t prove it impossible then how can you say that it’s unlikely?” But that is the way that is scientific. It is scientific only to say what is more likely and what less likely, and not to be proving all the time the possible and impossible.

— Richard P. Feynman

Skepticism, is that anything more than we used to mean when we said, Well, what have we here?

— Robert Frost

Most institutions demand unqualified faith; but the institution of science makes skepticism a virtue.

— Robert K. Merton
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