Clarification: When I write, I don't prepare or organize my ideas, I just write what I would say if I was talking to you in person, so sometimes my blogs end up a little messy. I don't even proof-read what I write before posting it so you may find grammatical mistakes and poorly written sentences. Sometimes I'll read my blogs a day or two after publishing them and I may re-write things that weren't too clear and any embarrassing grammatical mistake. Also, English is not my first language, so I apologize if reading my blogs become a struggle. Of course, if this is the case, I would imagine you wouldn't continue reading.

Jan 7, 2015

The Poorly Written Instruction Manual Of Skepticism.

It appears to me that a lot of people have been using the terms skeptic, skeptical and skepticism incorrectly. I keep reading/hearing people labeling themselves as skeptics just because they have doubts of well established facts that happen to be against their own personal beliefs. That is not skepticism, but I'm not sure what it's called. Denial? Maybe bias? Delusion? I don't know. What I do know is that while the dictionary definition may actually describe accurately their behavior, they are not part of what is considered modern skepticism, the kind that aligns itself with reason and science. This is my silly attempt to explain skepticism to the 2 or 3 people who may end up reading these poorly written words.

A skeptic, or what is currently considered a skeptic, is not someone who doubts one or more accepted opinions. This is, however, the dictionary definition, but I think it's a rather outdated one. First of all, let's get rid of the word opinions, because in the world of skepticism, opinions don't mean much.

A skeptic is someone who doubts popular claims that appear extraordinary, or make no sense, or appear alarmist in character (a.k.a. bullshit) and that cannot be backed up with the proper amount of evidence or data.

A skeptic will never use the "it can't be disproved" or the "there's a lot we don't know", or similar arguments. Instead, a good skeptic adopts the "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" approach. If someone says they own an invisible flying dragon pet that spits fire, it's not my job to prove this is bullshit before I have the right to label it as such. If you have something to claim, then you should provide the evidence that shows it's not bullshit.

This doesn't mean that skeptics cannot acknowledge possibilities that may be extraordinary, or the fact that there are many things that we don't know. In fact, a good skeptic accepts both. However, to a skeptic, not being able to disprove something means absolutely nothing. The fact that there may be a tiny possibility that something incredible is true is never a good reason to believe they are in fact true. They don't even have to be considered as "probably real". There are infinite number of things that cannot be known or disproved, so you could use that argument to believe in anything you want. For example, you can't disprove I'm not God, or that your life is not the dream of an alien. The people who use the "can't be disproved" argument think they have a logical safety net to back their bullshit claims, yet you can see how weak it is when it only the same arguments is only valid for things they believe in. If you can't disprove the existence of the Christian god and you can't disprove the existence of the Greek gods, then it doesn't make sense choosing to worship only one of the two if both are equally possible. Unless you like to gamble your afterlife situation.

For the most part, a good skeptic is not someone who doubts or disagrees with science. By definition, the scientific method is THE skeptical method, so unless you are a scientist who has a better explanation to a scientific observation (a.k.a. scientific breakthrough), then disagreeing with science doesn't make you a skeptic, even if in the end you were right. For example, climate change denialists are not skeptics, they are conspiracy theorists, they have chosen to arrogantly dismiss all the hard work thousands of people from all over the world, everything they have studied, discussed, tested, described, accurately predicted, etc, just because they don't like what the scientists have discovered.

Again, this doesn't mean that a skeptic can't think there may be alternative explanations to certain phenomenons that have been studied and explained by science. For example, I think in the near future we'll find a different explanation to the Double Slit Experiment. It would be extremely arrogant of me to say that all those incredibly intelligent quantum physicists were wrong in their conclusions. I can only humbly accept their explanations, which are the best explanations we have at the moment, but I think there may be more to it. I wrote "may" in bold, because I want to make clear that I'm not saying "there is more to it".

The goal of a good skeptic is not to disprove bullshit claims, or to fight spirituality and mysticism, or to ridicule New Age beliefs. The only goal a good skeptic should always be to know the truth and to accept it, regardless of what it is. Which incidentally is the same goal of science. 

A good skeptic doesn't believe in things, a good skeptic doesn't give opinions, a good skeptic only presents the information they've collected. If Feng Shui or reiki actually worked, a good skeptic would have no issue in accepting them as true, however, that wouldn't be their opinion, but what they have learned. It's also not their opinion when they say that Feng Shui and reiki are both bullshit.

 To an skeptic what's important is the truth, regardless of what the truth is. They don't have any emotional attachment to the truth they are defending. A skeptic shouldn't have any problem replacing an idea they thought was the truth with a completely different one, in the case there's the enough evidence to validate this new idea and disproof the old one. People who believe in bullshit tend to be quite rigid and inflexible with their beliefs because it's part of who they are. A good skeptic is only loyal to the truth. If tomorrow we discover that Catholics were right, then a good skeptic would be in the confession line at church this coming Sunday. Inflexible beliefs are clear signs of indoctrination and lack of reason.

Here is a list of a number of current claims that skeptical people have issues with:

- Vaccines could cause autism and/or other conditions.

- There's some truth to the claims made by astrology.

- Acupuncture, reiki, aromatherapy, crystal therapy, are effective to treat certain conditions.

- GMOs are bad for you and/or the environment.

- Organic foods are superior to non organic foods.

- The Secret and the Law Of Attraction will help you achieve success.

- Juicing will purify your body.

As far as I know, all of the above are bullshit. Things like acupuncture and the other treatments mentioned could work because of the placebo effect, which can be, in fact, very powerful, but there's no evidence they work the way they claim.

I think that is all. But even if it isn't, it's fucking 4AM, so I'm going to stop right now.

Need to zzzzzzz

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