What is Scepticism/Skepticism?
Do you think sceptics are cynics, anti-religious bigots or just argumentative morons? You won't believe how often I hear these things and how many times I have to tell people about how these perceptions are just way off the mark.So I wrote a blog about it.Sceptics are actually quite open to new ideas. It’s simply an endeavour to not be gullible. We are all sceptics in a way. If I tell you I can do 500 push-ups, you’d tell me you would have to see it to believe it…if you managed to stop laughing first. You need to see evidence because, sometimes, a claim is just too far-fetched to be plausible. That’s you being sceptical. If someone makes a claim, a sceptic will try and find evidence for it before accepting or rejecting it.
The Nature of Evidence
Unfortunately, your personal experience, as real as it may be to you, is not always good enough. Since we humans are quite fallible, biased and easily deceived (with something as simple as a magic trick or an optical illusion) anecdotal evidence just doesn’t carry much weight. Evidence should be widely accepted by people who specialise in the field of the claim, and is preferably scientific. Therefore evidence, at least for claims regarding nature, should come from the scientific community in the form of peer-reviewed papers, or better yet, a demonstration. Basically, I’d have to get on the floor and show you how many push-ups and I can actually do in order to convince you. And just to be sure, get an unbiased party to count independently.
I’m no scientist but I do try and find as much evidence as is adequate for me to accept or reject a claim. So I look for articles published in reputed sceptical and scientific websites and magazines. It’s the best I can do.
But “science doesn’t know everything”, right? Of course, it doesn’t. But it is the best method we have to attempt to understand the real world and minimising the fallibilities of the human mind. And it works. Every TV and t-shirt, computer and Corvette, bottle of soda and box of chocolates, and even the internet we are created using the scientific method. This has been the main engine of progress for our species. And that in itself is evidence enough for me to use that method when testing claims.
In its very essence, science is a way of thinking. It’s about thinking critically about the world around us and trying to understand it rationally and naturally while minimising biases and fallibilities. We must observe, test, experiment and question everything so that we can come to understand what is most true; what is most real.
That doesn’t stop people from claiming a phenomenon to be possibly true, and even if not scientifically proven yet, it may be some day. For instance, what if ghosts or spirits actually do exist but we just don’t have the technology to measure and observe them? In which case, how did you observe them? And if you have experienced such phenomena, isn’t it more plausible or possible that you imagined or dreamed it? My response usually is, if you’ve had a personal experience, it could be true for you. But for me to believe it as well, you need to show me evidence that your experience was objectively real.
It is with this spirit that I write on this blog. This isn’t about just debunking the supernatural or bashing religion. Rationable is about critically thinking about our everyday experiences and trying to find a way to make this world a better place. If you have a claim or a reason to oppose what I have to say, please do let me know. I encourage you to be as sceptical about my claims as I am of yours. Provide the evidence for your claim and let’s discuss it. If I am proven wrong or inaccurate, I will amend whatever is required and change my mind. We are all allowed to do that, you know.In none of my articles do I plan to make any absolute claims, even though my tone may suggest otherwise in some cases, probably by mistake. I only endeavour to provide the arguments which have the most evidence backing them so I have a high degree of certainty. And if I have holes in my argument, I welcome you to rip it apart…or help me fill the gaps.
As Matt Dillahunty once said, I want to know as many true things and as few false things as possible. And being sceptical and scientific is the only way I can do that.
So I can’t do 500 push-ups. No surprises there. But I may be able to some day. But the possibility of something happening doesn’t make it probable and I don’t suggest you hold your breath. What I do recommend is that you think critically of people’s claims, think rationally, think logically and think plausibly. That is all that sceptics do. You’ve been doing it too on many things for most of your life. Just acknowledge it and try applying it to what you believe and what people try to make you believe. And you’ll end up being a far less gullible person than you are today.