Thursday, August 12, 2010

A great comment about the nature of skepticism

by Skeptical Believer

One thing that many people don't seem to understand about skeptics is that we would LOVE to find proof of something weird. We find the natural world to be incredibly interesting, from the myriad things you can find in a speck of dust on the ground to the billions of stars, galaxies, nebulae, pulsars, etc. in the universe surrounding us. As people who quest for more knowledge about our universe, we would heartily welcome anything that shows our world to be even a fraction larger, more complex, more interesting and amazing.

Additionally, we will also be the first to tell you that with all of the scientific knowledge we have, there is so much more that we don't know, and so much more to be learned and discovered.

However, the vast amount of undiscovered knowledge out there does not give us license to break the rules when it comes to determining if a cure or claim is valid. We cannot say that even though the evidence says "No," we should go ahead and say "Yes," just because we don't know everything there is to know in the universe. This is not arrogance, as some detractors, ike to claim, rather it is consistency and applying the same standards of evidence and proof to each thing at hand. We know how electricity moves through a ciruit. Is it possible that it could move another way? So far our evidence says what it says. But since we don't know everything, we can't say with 100% that it cannot move a different way. However, we don't then say that since we don't know everything, we can go ahead and design circuits contrary to our knowledge of electrical flow and claim that they can work because, after all, we don't know everything. That is the same sort of standard that we apply to fringe theories and paranormal claims.

If reiki or theraputic touch or crystals or laying on of hands or psychic surgery really could cure disease and other ailments we'd be dancing in the streets and telling everyone to make use of them. If psychics really could predict the future, talk to the dead, remote view, make objects move with their minds we would be the first in line to cheer and to encourage their development so that these things could benefit our world.

Sadly, none of these things have been shown to really work.

Worse, many have been debunked, yet there are people our there more than willing to take the money of suffering individuals and their families by selling them cures and treatments that won't do a thing to cure them.

Perhaps you don't know many skeptics, or perhaps you, like so many people, have a misunderstanding of what we are. You would be hard pressed to find a skeptic who would not want to do one or more of the following: meet a real alien from another world, remote view, astral project, see into the future, cure diseases with crystals or some life force, find water by dowsing, find Nessie, etc.

You see, it's not that we don't like any of these things, that we have sort of hatred for them, in fact, we'd love for these things to be true. Many of us came to skepticism because, initially we were interested in these things, but after reviewing the evidence found that, much as we liked them, we found that the evidence for them was ultimately lacking. This was both disappointing and encouraging at the same time. It was a let-down to know that a favorite "paranormal" phenomenon was most likely completely bogus, but at the same time gaining the knowledge to discern evidence and evaluate claims and learning how to apply it to other things in life was a good thing.

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