The Media Guide To Skepticism – Want To Explain Skepticism? One Easy Document For You

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Definitely a media guide, since it ignores the prior history of skepticism as a philosophy going back several thousand years, in favor of promoting a modern movement’s self-definition. I don’t know what “practical skepticism” is but skeptics such as Epicurus and Sextus Empiricus certainly were practicing skepticism.

    Indeed, in skeptical terms, many of the claims in that document are unsupported dogmatic assertions:
    Skepticism is an approach to evaluating claims that emphasizes evidence and applies tools of science.
    No, skepticism is a philosophical school which emphasizes withholding judgement regarding claims that are unsupported or unconvincing. The tools of science are one means that some use to attempt to address the epistemological challenges skeptics raise, but some skeptical schools such as the pyrrhonians would withhold judgement about scientific results.

    I understand that this is a document aimed at informing people who don’t know anything about the topic, but why go out of the way to misinform? It appears that the author of the guide is sincere, but – sincere and wrong only gets partial credit and is going to result in more people mistaking empiricism for skepticism.

    A good book regarding skepticism would be Popkin’s “History of Skepticism from Savanarola to Bayle” – which I highly recommend. Good books regarding empiricism abound, but I’d personally recommend Cromer’s “Uncommon Sense”

    • Kylie Sturgess

      I’ve passed on your comments to the creator of the document.

    • http://www.skepticfriends.org/ Dave W

      Marcus Ranum wrote:

      …mistaking empiricism for skepticism.

      You’ll note that the author capitalized ‘Skepticism’ throughout the document, which is meant to indicate that what’s being discussed is the “scientific skepticism” of the modern Skeptics Movement. According to folks like Daniel Loxton, that sort of Skepticism is indistinguishable from “scientifically testing weird claims when possible” (and “finding plausible natural explanations for paranormal claims” when not – Joe Nickell’s investigations, for example). So it wouldn’t be misinformation to say that capital-S Skepticism refers to empiricism, but the capitalization is maybe going to be lost on a lot of people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/idoubtit Sharon Hill

    Marcus: You’re right this IS a Media Guide, not a history of skepticism. It’s important to define and stick to the purpose of your project, not go off the rails. This has little to do with the history of skepticism which the media would not necessarily find useful. The goals and purposes were stated and I think we met those. This document reflects modern skepticism. Today. Therefore, people in the acknowledgements, especially Barb Drescher and Massimo Pigliucci were instrumental in crafting it. Also, I had input from practicing scientists, from everyday skeptics and from humanities experts who were also crucial to defining our skeptical ideal that EVERYONE can use.

  • GregB

    I see some potential conflicts between:

    Respect for methods, conclusions and the consensus of science

    and

    Awareness of how we are fooled

    The “consensus of science” can sometimes mean a bad concept, consensually held.
    This can be due to commercial, institutional, or personal biases on the part of scientists.
    It can be particularly dangerous when the driver behind the consensus is “big science”,
    with big money, big bureacracy, and big just plain social inertia behind it.

    As Skeptics we owe it to ourselves to make sure that science, above all, is as free of mental
    pathologies as possible, and we should strive to make ourselves experts in the many ways humans–
    including all scientists–can let those pathologies lead them (and us) astray.