It’s one thing to show intellectual humility; it’s quite another thing, to be naively hesitant; or indeed hypocritically so.
Words like ‘may’ or ‘might’ are sometimes useful, as you do not wish to be dogmatic. Serious, sceptical thinkers should always consider using them. However, it is possible to use them in error.
Quantitatively speaking, an essay strewn with hesitations, caveats, ‘hedges,’ is unappealing, and undermines confidence either in the credibility of your ideas, or your credibility as a confident, assertive and (at worst) honest and sincere writer. It is important to remember that disreputable writers often hedge, in order to ‘get a wedge’ in for extravagant ideas.
Qualitatively speaking, it’s not good to express doubt where it is unnecessary to do so. There are cases where you need to be more clear.
You do not have to be apologetic about the fact that Stalin, Hitler and Ayatollah Khomeini were dictators.
You do not have to say “I personally find Darwin’s theory of evolution the most convincing explanation of our origins.”
And there is no whatsoever place for saying, “It is worth considering whether the anti-vaxx movement may perhaps be making statements about immunology that are not quite up to the best scientific standards of today.”
Love him or hate him, many people consider Hitler a significant figure in history. And it seems fairly certain that one way or another, people will be talking about Mein Kampf for generations to come. It seems some people believe he is misunderstood, while others have damned him as an evil dictator. Why don’t you read this book, and make up your own mind?
Many people believe the world is 6 billon years old. Others believe the Bible is a reliable guide to the history of our planet. I hope that, having read Alan’s account of the mainstream Darwinian narrative, you will continue to make up your own mind, and eventually draw your own conclusions. Still, I guess that one way or another, the debate continues!
I guess (!) just maybe (!) you get the point. -Ish !!!)
Here, hedging is used as a dishonest strategy. By the insincere use of doubt that is purely feigned, the more gullible and unwary reader is lulled into a false sense of security. Look how undogmatic the writer is!
In addition, the writer not only pretends to be humble, thereby gilding their own attitudes; they also flatter the reader, by appealing to their ego.
Look! You too can be an open-minded person like me, who challenges the mainstream narratives, but without becoming dogmatic in turn!
Obviously, none of you will want to take this path. And the two examples given are undoubtedly extreme, aren’t they?
Still, the ‘shock effect’ is helpful.
If you want to convince a serious and critically-minded thinker, then try to be careful with overusing words like ‘may,’ or using them in the wrong context.
Truth is not a democracy; far less an anarchy.
There is no majority vote, when it comes to ideas.
You can be as egalitarian you like when choosing your leaders, or voting whether to strike or not.
But, as Professor Dawkins says:
I don’t give a damn for anybody’s opinion, I only care about the facts. So I’m not an enthusiast for diversity of opinion where factual matters are concerned.
Or as the old Christian saying runs:
“Truth cannot be tolerant of error.”
Be proud, be assertive, and where possible…
The success of your writing might just depend on how you handle this one!