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What is Skepticism?
Here are some quotes or thoughts that I come across which prove to be useful to me that encapsulate what this movement is all about. Some of these quotes are from famous philosophers, scientists, or anyone that I admire in the free-thinking community of skepticism.
"It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful ideas from the worthless ones. If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all."
-Carl Sagan an American astronomer, astrophysicist, author, and cosmologist of some note.
Modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, that involves gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. A claim becomes factual when it is confirmed to such an extent it would be reasonable to offer temporary agreement. But all facts in science are provisional and subject to challenge, and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions. Some claims, such as water dowsing, ESP, and creationism, have been tested (and failed the tests) often enough that we can provisionally conclude that they are false. Other claims, such as hypnosis and chaos theory, have been tested but results are inconclusive so we must continue formulating and testing hypotheses and theories until we can reach a provisional conclusion. The key to skepticism is to continuously and vigorously apply the methods of science to navigate the treacherous straits between “know nothing” skepticism and “anything goes” credulity.
-Excerpt from Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer, 1997, W. H. Freeman, American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of its magazine Skeptic,
"We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."
"A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers."
-Stephen Mitchell’s modern translation of the Tao Te Ching, in homage to Lao Tzu
"I realized that there is a wonderful fringe community that is verging on the mainstream and all of us who embraces curiosity, science or any of the geek-arts have the right to be a part of it. Regardless of what college degree you have or do not have or what your job title is, what your qualifications are, if you have a talent or something positive to contribute to this community or simply a desire to learn more, you should feel welcomed into it. This community that I self identify with encompasses much more than just "skeptics". Skepticism is a part of it, but that is simply one aspect of it. It is a collective that celebrates ideas and the sharing of empirical knowledge and science-based information. It is a world-view that I want to be a positive and productive part of."
-Skepchick Amy part from her blog post, on the Skeptical Movement
"Sum Ergo Cogito"- I Am Therefore I Think