I come back to the subject of skepticism frequently.
Todays topic: “skeptic” and “cynic” are not the same. In fact, I’m a mushy, romantic believer in all things good and wonderful. I like babies, woodland creatures, milk and cookies – and that’s just my lunch menu! “Haw haw!” as Jack Chick would say.
The fact is, someone needs to pull people out of the mush when they’re sinking into vague double-talk about “energy” and healing. Someone ought to question the “super” in supernatural.
Aren’t you glad somebody thinks twice about quack devices, like the fake bomb detectors that were nothing more than repurposed dowsing rods? People died because of that one. Remember the “power balance” bracelets that would make you a better athlete? Australian skeptics shot that one down and the company’s executives admitted they were fake and filed for bankruptcy. Skeptics do consumer protection.
The anti-vaccine people seem determined to bring back deadly diseases and infect children. Who’s doing their best to hold them in check? The damned skeptics. And homeopathic medicine – zero active ingredients – no plausible mechanism of action – no good evidence that it does anything – multimillion dollar industry. Need I say more? Yes, I do. If you’re a believer, I have some homeopathic water for sale – take one drop and you’re hydrated for a week.
What are the warning flags that indicate something might not be true, and what signs lend credence to a claim? Ask your neighborhood skeptic.
Skeptic’s secret agenda: promotion of critical thinking and science.
“Science doesn’t know everything!” It’s true. But what it does pretty well is detect real physical effects in the real world. So if someone says they can cure a disease, move objects with their mind, or prove the existence of ghosts – bring in the skeptologist, or better yet, sharpen your own brain.
Don’t worry too much if you get fooled sometimes. Critical thinking can run contrary to what we are “wired” to do. We’re supposed to see faces in the tortilla. The important thing is correcting yourself when you recognize the error.
One last item and maybe I’ll get this topic out of mind for a while. It’s a quiz! This test is called,
¿Quién es el más cerrado? (Excuse my lousy Spanish.) Who is the most closed-minded?
Ms. X: “I was really dubious about global warming being real, but the evidence kept piling up and piling up and now almost every climate scientist on the planet believes it. I changed my mind.”
Ms. Y: “Astrology is true. My horoscopes are accurate every time. Nothing could change my mind about that because my personal experience proves it.”
Ms. X is a skeptic. Ms. Y is a true believer. Do not use the phrase “close-minded skeptic” without thinking hard about whether it really applies.