What is a Skeptic?

January 3, 2007

According to the dictionary, a Skeptic is someone who questions the validity or authenticity of something purported to be factual.  I think that most people think of a Skeptic as someone who is a “Nay-Sayer” or simply someone who is opposed to anything new just for the sake of it.  The real defining factor in someone who is a Skeptic, is they are able to think critically and logically. 

I am interested in what is frequently called “Scientific Skepticism”.  It is basically the field of interest where you test the reliability of claims based on scientific evidence, reason and logic.  What our society has right now is a lack of critical thinking skills, and I believe that our education system is mostly responsible – and that is coming from a Teacher.

Skepticism is actually becoming very popular of late.  The Discovery Channel show “Mythbusters” is a skeptical television show.  In each episode they take common beliefs or myths and put them through scientific scrutiny.  A good basic book to get your feet wet would be Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer as well.

Here is something that I have come across in my life: 

There is a belief that if you put hot water in the freezer, it will freeze faster than if you use cold water.  Reason and logic would tell you that the hot water would take more time to cool down to freezing temperature because it had farther to go!

Regardless, there are people who believe this.   Why there are people who actually believe this is a good question.  I reason they most likely believe this because of their trust in the person or source of that information and never use their mind to question it.  I guess if they were really in a rush to make ice cubes, they should put boiling water in the freezer….

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