Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What's a sceptic anyway?

What is a sceptic? What makes someone a sceptic? How do you know if you are one? Aren't sceptics just boring closed minded people? How do I get sceptics to have sex with me? All very good questions, which I will endeavour to answer here:

What is a sceptic?
Basically a sceptic is someone who doesn't believe a claim unless there is evidence to support it. If a friend walked up to you and said "I can fly", most people would ask to see their friend fly before accepting that claim. If you are wise you might go a bit further and check that there are no wires allowing your friend to fake flight. You might even ask an expert in illusions to investigate further before accepting the extraordinary claim of flight.

What makes someone a sceptic?
There are very few people who would believe their friend could fly just because they said they could. We would require some kind of evidence. In that regard, we're all sceptical to an extent. Interpreting the evidence and deciding if it supports the claim can actually be pretty difficult. Learning about fair experimental procedures and data analysis takes a bit of time and effort. Many sceptics take this time because a)it's fun and b)you get benefits from not falling for false claims. Future posts will discuss how to develop your sceptic-fu.

It is important to note that sceptics may not automatically accept a claim, but once the evidence is clear they should accept the conclusion the evidence leads to. This is what separates sceptics from denialists. Denialists dismiss a claim despite the evidence, a sceptic doesn't accept a claim unless there is evidence. This does mean new evidence can and should change your mind. It's best not to take arguments with a sceptic personally as they're not personally attached to their 'beliefs' so are a little more callous about them than non-sceptics.

How do I know if I'm a Sceptic?
Well, if you want some proof before you believe stuff people tell you, that's it. You're a Sceptic. Congratulations! If you want to be good at Scepticism, it takes a bit more. But trust me, it's worth learning about. (Hopefully, you didn't accept that based on my word or you haven't learned anything).

Aren't Sceptics just boring close-minded people?
Scepticism isn't about being close-minded. The opposite is in fact true. A Sceptic should be open-minded. They also should be sceptical about those new ideas and not accept them as true until the evidence is taken into account. Be warned though, Sceptics have often heard the same claims many times and some may get a bit impatient about hearing them again. If you want to challenge a Sceptic, it is advisable to do so with new evidence instead of the same tired old arguments.

As for being boring, well, I guess the term 'boring' is subjective. I haven't measured the 'boringness' level of a representative sample of sceptics so I can't say for sure but I am pretty sceptical that they are more or less boring than any other subgroup (see what I did there).

How do I get Sceptics to have sex with me?
I'd suggest being honest and not trying to use pick up lines or asking what their sign is. Perhaps "Hey, would you like to have sex with me?" might work. Just make sure you try it on a large enough sample size before you reject the approach.

Advocatus Diaboli

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