Cover of 'Doubt, A History'
Confucius, Socrates, St. Augustine, Galileo and Frederick Douglass were just a few of the innovators who left their mark on history by challenging conventional wisdom. In a new book, Jennifer Hecht traces the force of skepticism in her new book Doubt: A History.
Test your own level of doubt:
The 'Scales of Doubt' Quiz
Answer "Yes," "No," or "Not Sure" to the following:
1. Do you believe that a particular religious tradition holds accurate knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality and the purpose of human life?
2. Do you believe that some thinking being consciously made the universe?
3. Is there an identifiable force coursing through the universe, holding it together, or uniting all life-forms?
4. Could prayer be in any way effective, that is, do you believe that such a being or force (as posited above) could ever be responsive to your thoughts or words?
5. Do you believe this being or force can think or speak?
6. Do you believe this being has a memory or can make plans?
7. Does this force sometimes take a human form?
8. Do you believe that the thinking part or animating force of a human being continues to exist after the body has died?
9. Do you believe that any part of a human being survives death, elsewhere or here on earth?
10. Do you believe that feelings about things should be admitted as evidence in establishing reality?
11. Do you believe that love and inner feelings of morality suggest that there is a world beyond that of biology, social patterns, and accident -- i.e., a realm of higher meaning?
12. Do you believe that the world is not completely knowable by science?
13. If someone were to say "The universe is nothing but an accidental pile of stuff, jostling around with no rhyme nor reason, and all life on earth is but a tiny, utterly inconsequential speck of nothing, in a corner of space, existing in the blink of an eye never to be judged, noticed, or remembered," would you say, "Now that's going a bit far, that's a bit wrongheaded?"
If you answered No to all these questions, you’re a hard-core atheist and of a certain variety: a rational materialist. If you said No to the first seven, but then had a few Yes answers, you’re still an atheist, but you may have what I will call a pious relationship to the universe. If your answers to the first seven questions contained at least two Not Sure answers, you’re an agnostic. If you answered Yes to some of the questions you may still be an atheist or agnostic, though not of the materialist variety. If you answered Yes to nine or more, you are a believer.
From Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht. (Harper, 2003)