After writing some good things about doubt, I got to thinking if it was really that good to doubt. As it turns out, there is an ugly side to doubt as well. As with most good things, too much tends to be detrimental and unhealthy.
So what is the ugly side of doubt? It is when one doubts just for the sake of doubting; of opposing just for the sake of opposing; of questioning just to satisfy a rebellious streak within, not really caring about whether the answer might be reasonable or not.
Yes, there are such people with such attitudes and they turn me off about as much as fanatic bible-thumpers. I was once at this forum where there was someone expressing his religious views in response to a question from the audience. Then this other guy probably hears a phrase that pricks his ears and he asks a question in a sarcastic tone. Despite that, the first speaker takes the question seriously and begins to answer in earnest. But when I turned to look at the other guy, he wasn’t even listening but was smirking and chatting with his friends, probably celebrating his own wit and intellectual superiority.
Even though I shared the same question with that other guy (it was after all, a perfectly reasonable question), his attitude turned me off. Whether one calls himself a doubter, an intellectual, a skeptic, a freethinker, a logician, or whatever is no license to disrespect other people and cast their views aside. Doubt is ugly when used in this manner.
The healthy way to doubt is to always be open — not always accepting — but always willing to listen, to process, to discuss. When I ask doubting questions, the purpose is never to destroy the other person (well, unless that person is already being an insufferable ass), or to prove that I am better than him. Rather, my goal is always to come to a greater understanding of truth than the one I started with before. It is perfectly possible to be skeptical, yet not come across as being arrogant and spiteful, and it would make for more interesting and stimulating conversations.