the skeptic life, part 2


I enter as evidence of my skeptic life a few things I used to believe but the facts led me elsewhere.

Echinacea. I used to think this herbal supplement helped ward off colds. Nope.

Herbal supplements. I used to think that the contents on the herbal supplement bottle reflected what was inside the bottle. Frequently not true.

Vitamins. Once upon a time I thought it was a good idea to take daily Vitamin C, multivitamin,and other supplements. Now I take only Vitamin D during Seattle’s dark winters. Vitamins aren’t that great. Better to eat good food.

Here’s one that’s under consideration … 

Full moon. I used to think the full moon somehow kept me awake at night, even when it was cloudy and not shining through a window. Then I read all the studies showing that the full moon doesn’t do anything regarding crime, auto accidents, hospital admissions, and so on. I dismissed my lunacy. As far as I know that research still holds up. However, now there is at least one carefully controlled study confirming my original suspicion about sleep. Final thought: I’m still quite skeptical, but all the evidence on sleep and the moon isn’t in yet.

I would like to present a case in point to mr. and ms. reader, regarding evidence and belief shift: 

Global warming. When I first heard about it, years ago, I had my doubts. Now, however, more than 95% percent of the entire world’s climate scientists agree it’s happening and humans are doing it and I’m a believer. This is not blind acceptance of authority. Consider two items, please. (1) The consensus did not happen by vote, or by let’s-get-more-funding. The funding ploy might work in the short-term, but over decades, the truth comes out. Reviewers try to tear apart each study and sometimes they succeed. Over the last 25 years, however, the consensus of surviving studies has gained compelling force. (2) It’s not just climate science. Evidence is rolling in from different fields, such as animal behavior/migration, and effects on plants and trees. When lines of evidence from different sciences all converge, you’re standing on pretty solid ground.

The great thing about this skepticism business.

My opinion on any of the above could be changed with good, solid evidence. This is where the rubber meets the road in skepticism. How many times have you heard the phrase “closed-minded skeptics”? If someone is truly skeptical, his or her opinion will change if given appropriate reason to do so. Meanwhile, the person who says, for example, “Astrology is true because it works for me and I know it’s true,” is exhibiting a closed and locked and thrown-away-the-key mind. Yet these are the ones who most likely will wail about close-minded skeptics.

Bring it on, world. I have a guide to help me wade through the sea of information. It’s common sense that is codified into something called rational inquiry or the Socratic method or scientific method. There are deeper questions like, “How do we know anything?”, but let’s leave that for another time. I’m just a humble blogger.


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