Sunday, June 15, 2008

Definiton of Skeptic

Thank you Dr. Novella!

Just the other day I was trying to explain to a friend about my local skeptical group, which I am actively involved with. He kept cutting me off and asking simple questions like "so you don't believe in anything?", and "are you skeptical that the holocaust took place?".

I slowly conveyed to him the definition of skepticism and, since he too is a scientist, he conceded that it was a worthwhile movement. But, he added, we obviously have a perception problem and should change our name to something less pejorative. (There are many problems with this suggestion, not the least of which is that it has been tried and failed as pointed out in Dr. Novella's blog).

Anyway, it was nice to see on the SGU blog a (fairly) concise definition for skepticism:

"A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion."

Link to this anytime someone asks "what is a skeptic"?


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