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Encyclopedia > Scientific skepticism

Scientific skepticism or rational skepticism (non-US spelling, scepticism) sometimes referred to as skeptical inquiry, is a scientific, or practical, epistemological position in which one questions the veracity of claims lacking empirical evidence. In practice, a scientific skeptic generally focuses on critically examining claims and theories which they believe to be far beyond the mainstream of science. This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Phrenology is regarded today as a classic example of pseudoscience. ...


Scientific skepticism is different from philosophical skepticism, which questions our right to claim knowledge about the nature of the world and how we perceive it. Scientific skepticism utilizes critical thinking and attempts to oppose claims made which lack suitable evidential basis. The New Skepticism described by Paul Kurtz is scientific skepticism (Kurtz 1992). This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims. ... are you kiddin ? i was lookin for it for hours ... Paul Kurtz (born February 12, 1926 in Newark, New Jersey) is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), but is best known for prominent role in the American skeptical community. ...

Contents

Characteristics

Like a scientist, a scientific skeptic aims to decide claims based on verifiability and falsifiability rather than accepting claims on faith, anecdotes, or relying on unfalsifiable categories. Skeptics often focus their criticism on claims they consider to be implausible, dubious or clearly contradictory to generally accepted science. This distinguishes the scientific skeptic from the professional scientist, who often concentrates her or his enquiry on verifying or falsifying hypotheses created by those within her or his field of science. Scientific skeptics do not assert that unusual claims should be automatically rejected out of hand on a priori grounds - rather they argue that claims of paranormal or anomalous phenomena should be critically examined and that such claims would require extraordinary evidence in their favour before they could be accepted as having validity. The physicist Albert Einstein is probably the most famous scientist of our time. ... Ther word claim has several uses: a right; an insurance claim; a patent claim; a logical assertion of truth. ... In science and the philosophy of science, falsifiability, contingency, and defeasibility are roughly equivalent terms referring to the property of empirical statements that they must admit of logical counterexamples. ... Faith is commonly known as a belief, trust or confidence not based on Logic or Reason, but based on a transpersonal relationship with God, a higher power, elements of nature and/or a perception of the human race as a whole. ... An anecdote is a brief tale narrating an interesting or amusing biographical incident. ... In science and the philosophy of science, falsifiability, contingency, and defeasibility are roughly equivalent terms referring to the property of empirical statements that they must admit of logical counterexamples. ... Science in the broadest sense refers to any system of knowledge attained by verifiable means. ... The physicist Albert Einstein is probably the most famous scientist of our time. ... A hypothesis (= assumption in ancient Greek) is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. ... The terms A priori and a posteriori are used in philosophy to distinguish between two different types of propositional knowledge. ...


Popular targets of criticism among skeptics include dowsing, astrology, alien abductions, ESP and other psychic powers, which skeptics allege are pseudosciences. Skeptics such as James Randi have become famous for debunking claims related to some of these. Many self-professed skeptics are atheists or agnostics, and have a naturalistic worldview, however Martin Gardner is an example of a committed skeptic with a theistic world-view. A dowser, from an 18th century French book about superstitions. ... Hand-coloured version of the anonymous Flammarion woodcut. ... The Abduction Phenomenon is as umbrella term used to describe a number of kidnap individuals--sometimes called abductees--usually for medical testing or for sexual reproduction procedures. ... Extra-sensory perception, or ESP, is the ability to acquire information by means other than the five main senses of taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing. ... Parapsychology is the study of certain types of paranormal phenomena (parapsychology comes from the Greek para, “beside, beyond,” + psychology, derived from the Greek psyche, “soul, mind,” + logos “rational discussion”). The term was coined by Max Dessoir (1889). ... Phrenology is regarded today as a classic example of pseudoscience. ... James Randi (born August 7, 1928), internationally billed as The Amazing Randi, is a stage magician and scientific skeptic best known as a debunker of pseudoscience. ... Debunkers are skeptics who attempt to disprove and pursues what they consider to be false, unscientific, bizarre or abnormal claims. ... For information about the band, see Atheist (band). ... The term agnosticism and the related agnostic were coined by Thomas Henry Huxley in 1869. ... Martin Gardner (b. ...


The following is a definition of scientific skepticism from Skeptic magazine:

What does it mean to be a skeptic? Some people believe that skepticism is rejection of new ideas, or worse, they confuse skeptic with cynic and think that skeptics are a bunch of grumpy curmudgeons unwilling to accept any claim that challenges the status quo. This is wrong. Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas—no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are skeptical, we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe. Skeptics are from Missouri, the "show me" state. When we hear a fantastic claim we say, "that's nice, prove it."...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 dowsing, ESP, and creationism, have been tested (and failed the tests) often enough that we can provisionally conclude that they are not valid. Other claims, such theories concerning the origins and dissemination of language, gravity waves, or the diet of Tyrannosaurus rex have been tested but results are inconclusive, so we continue formulating and testing hypotheses and theories until we can reach a less provisional conclusion.

From a scientific point of view, theories are judged on many criteria, such as falsifiability, Occam's Razor, and explanatory power, as well as the degree to which their predictions match experimental results. A certain skepticism is part of the scientific method; for instance an experimental result is not regarded as established until it can be shown to be repeatable. Skepticism (Commonwealth spelling: Scepticism) can mean: Philosophical skepticism - a philosophical position in which people choose to critically examine whether the knowledge and perceptions that they have are actually true, and whether or not one can ever be said to have absolutely true knowledge; or Scientific skepticism - a scientific, or practical... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... A phenomenon (plural: phenomena) is an observable event, particularly something special (literally something that can be seen, derived from the Greek word phainomenon = observable). ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena and acquiring new knowledge, as well as for correcting and integrating previous knowledge. ... A dowser, from an 18th century French book about superstitions. ... ESP can mean: In the paranormal: Extra-sensory perception Effective Sensory Projection In music: E.S.P. (Miles Davis album), an album by Miles Davis E.S.P. (Bee Gees album), an album by the Bee Gees Ectopic Shapeshifting Penance-propulsion, on The Mars Voltas De-Loused in the... The Creation of Light by Gustave Doré. Creationism can either refer to: the belief that humanity, life, the Earth, or the universe as a whole was specially created by a supreme being (often referred to specifically as God[1]) or by other forms of supernatural intervention. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Binomial name Tyrannosaurus rex Osborn, 1905 Tyrannosaurus rex (ty-RAN-o-sawr-us) meaning king tyrant lizard because of its size and large teeth and claws (Greek tyrannos = tyrant + sauros = lizard; Latin rex = king), also known colloquially as T. rex and The King of the Dinosaurs, was a giant carnivorous... In science and the philosophy of science, falsifiability, contingency, and defeasibility are roughly equivalent terms referring to the property of empirical statements that they must admit of logical counterexamples. ... William of Ockham. ... In methodology, the power of a method is inversely proportional to the generality of the method, i. ... A prediction or forecast is a statement or claim that a particular event will occur in the future. ... In the scientific method, an experiment (Latin: ex-+-periri, of (or from) trying), is a set of actions and observations, performed in the context of solving a particular problem or question, to support or falsify a hypothesis or research concerning phenomena. ... Scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena and acquiring new knowledge, as well as for correcting and integrating previous knowledge. ...


Perceived dangers of pseudoscience

Skepticism is an approach to strange or unusual claims where doubt is preferred to belief, given a lack of conclusive evidence. This is a personal principle -- it does not, on the surface, imply that skeptics should attempt to convert other people to their beliefs. The question is often asked: what is the danger of "magical thinking" and pseudoscience? Skeptics may regard it as misguided to believe in UFOs and psychic powers. In the history of religion, Magical thinking is a kind of non-scientific causal reasoning. ... A UFO or Unidentified Flying Object is any real or apparent flying object which cannot be identified by the observer and which remains unidentified after investigation. ... A psychic is a person who has the abilities of extra-sensory perception, such as clairvoyance, psychometry, premonition and precognition, or other paranormal abilities such as psychokinesis. ...


The Ancient Greek philosopher Plato believed that to release another person from ignorance despite their initial resistance is a great and noble thing. Modern skeptical writers address this question in a variety of ways. For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ...


James Randi, for instance, often writes on the issue of fraud. On a case by case basis, he attempts to show how some promoters of pseudoscience make money from their claims, while secretly knowing them to be false. This is generally known as a "profit motive". Critics of alternative medicine often point to bad advice given by unqualified practitioners, leading to serious injury or death. Richard Dawkins points to religion as a source of violence, and considers creationism a threat to biology. Some skeptics[citation needed] support opposition to some cults and new religious movements because of their concern about what they consider false miracles performed or endorsed by the leadership of the group. They often criticize belief systems which they believe to be idiosyncratic, bizarre or irrational. See also Allegations against cults made by skeptics. Clinton Richard Dawkins (born March 26, 1941) is an eminent British ethologist, evolutionary theorist, and popular science writer who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. ... The Creation of Light by Gustave Doré. Creationism can either refer to: the belief that humanity, life, the Earth, or the universe as a whole was specially created by a supreme being (often referred to specifically as God[1]) or by other forms of supernatural intervention. ... Opposition to cults and new religious movements (NRMs) comes from several sources with diverse concerns. ... According to many religions, a miracle, derived from the old Latin word miraculum meaning something wonderful, is a striking interposition of divine intervention by God in the universe by which the ordinary course and operation of Nature is overruled, suspended, or modified. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...


By the principles of skepticism, the ideal case is that every individual could make his own mind up on the basis of the evidence rather than appealing to some authority, skeptical or otherwise. Evidence has several meanings as indicated below. ...


Criticism

Naturally, many targets of skeptical criticism are themselves critical of scientific skepticism. These and other critics may claim that scientific skeptics are biased and rigid in their analysis, use propaganda techniques like ridicule and mere assertion of fact, and do not actually use the scientific method to support their arguments.


According to critics, self-described skeptics favor established, consensus science and normally would reject any claim to the status of skeptic by anyone indulging in paranormal or supernatural beliefs, though religious belief (e.g. as in the case of Martin Gardner) seems to be allowable, perhaps because they are often explicitly based on faith. A common criticism of skepticism therefore is that it is, in effect, not an epistemological position at all, but a belief system which rejects certain alleged phenomena as real possibilities. Skeptics can counter that scientific skepticism has frequently attempted to investigate claims outside the mainstream of science while retaining reliance upon the scientific method and evidence - and that scientific skepticism, properly carried out, uses the same tools and concepts as science. Anomalous phenomena are phenomena which are observed and for which there are no suitable explanations in the context of a specific body of scientific knowledge, e. ... Look up Supernatural in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Martin Gardner (b. ...


Non-skeptics sometimes argue that in history, it has been pointed out that what is "substantial evidence" to one skeptic may be dismissed as trash by another. Because of the often flexible nature of scientific observations, the elusive quality of nature, and the humanity of the actors involved, scientific change has rarely been a simple process of logical proofs and acceptances. This point of view is not generally accepted by mainstream philosophy of science. Philosophy of science is the branch of philosophy that studies the philosophical assumptions, foundations, and implications of science, including the formal sciences, natural sciences, and social sciences. ...


Quotations

  • Issac Asimov was a famous scientific skeptic. He had this to say:

    Don't you believe in flying saucers, they ask me? Don't you believe in telepathy? — in ancient astronauts? — in the Bermuda triangle? — in life after death?
    No, I reply. No, no, no, no, and again no.
    One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out "Don't you believe in anything?"
    "Yes", I said. "I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be." (Issac Asimov 1997:43) Isaac Asimov Isaac Asimov (c. ...

Famous skeptics and Skeptical Organizations

Isaac Asimov was an American science fiction author. ...

Media

This article is about the TV show. ... MythBusters is an American pop science television program on the Discovery Channel starring special effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, who use their skills and expertise to test the validity of various rumors and urban legends in popular culture. ... The Skeptics Guide to the Universe is a weekly podcast produced by the New England Skeptical Society featuring discussions of myths, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience and the paranormal from a hard scientific point of view. ... Point of Inquiry is a popular podcast produced by the Center for Inquiry. ... Skepticality is a popular podcast which explores rational thought, skeptical ideas, and famous myths from around the world, throughout history. ...

See also

It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Paranormal. ... The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, or CSICOP, is an organization formed to encourage open minded, critical investigation of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims from a responsible, scientific point of view. ... In the history of religion, Magical thinking is a kind of non-scientific causal reasoning. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... In Christian theology, fideism is any of several belief systems which hold, on various grounds, that reason is irrelevant to religious faith. ... Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH, MA, Ph. ... Intellectual dishonesty is the creation of misleading impressions through the use of rhetoric, logical fallacy, fraud, or misrepresented evidence. ... James Randi (born August 7, 1928), internationally billed as The Amazing Randi, is a stage magician and scientific skeptic best known as a debunker of pseudoscience. ... Phrenology is regarded today as a classic example of pseudoscience. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Pathological science is a neologism to pejoratively describe the pursuit of pseudoscientific claims as being irrational to the point where they like a pathology or disease. ... This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims. ... Pathological Skepticism is closedmindedness with deception: it is an irrational prejudice against new ideas which masquerades as proper Skepticism. ... The event which most historians of science call the scientific revolution can be dated roughly as having begun in 1543, the year in which Nicolaus Copernicus published his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) and Andreas Vesalius published his De humani corporis fabrica (On the... Scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena and acquiring new knowledge, as well as for correcting and integrating previous knowledge. ... In ordinary usage, skepticism or scepticism (Greek: skeptomai, to look about, to consider) refers to an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object, the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain, or the method of suspended... David Hume (April 26, 1711 – August 25, 1776)[1] was a Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian, as well as an important figure of Western philosophy and of the Scottish Enlightenment. ...

References

  •   Robert Todd Carroll (2003). The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-27242-6.
  •   Paul Kurtz (1992). The New Skepticism: Inquiry and Reliable Knowledge. Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-766-3.

Isaac Asimov, Ph. ... Prometheus Books is a publishing company, which publishes Scientific, educational, and popular books. ...

External links

  • The Skeptic's Dictionary - Carroll, Robert Todd, contains many articles on science, alternative medicine, pseudoscience, etc
  • A skeptical manifesto, Shermer, Michael, A philosophical analysis of scientific skepticism
  • Some notes on Skepticism". 2003. - Delineating skeptics, disbelievers, nonbeliever, and pseudoskeptics.
  • Proper Criticism. (csicop.org) - Hyman, Ray, Suggestions to upgrade the quality of Scientific skepticism
  • Strategies for dissenting scientists. Martin, Brian, Society for Scientific Exploration. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Volume 12 No 4. 1998. (PDF), Strategies available for dissenting scientists.
  • Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit. Operation Clambake. 1998. Based on the book "The Demon Haunted World: Science as a candle in the dark". (ISBN 0-345-40946-9)
  • New England Skeptical Society Newsletter Articles - Includes articles on such topics as Homeopathy, Intelligent Design, and other pseudoscientific topics
  • sci.skeptic FAQ
  • Topics that are commonly discussed in the newsgroup sci.skeptic (page is outdated)

  Results from FactBites:
 
Scientific skepticism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2141 words)
Scientific skepticism or rational skepticism (UK spelling, scepticism) sometimes referred to as skeptical inquiry, is a scientific, or practical, epistemological position (or paradigm) in which one questions the veracity of claims unless they can be empirically tested.
In practice, a scientific skeptic generally focuses on debunking theories which they believe to be far beyond the mainstream of science, as opposed to a professional scientist, who focuses on extending scientific knowledge.
Scientific skepticism is different from philosophical skepticism, which questions our right to claim knowledge about the nature of the world and how we perceive it.
Skepticism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1481 words)
For the skeptics, the logical mode of argument was untenable, as it relied on propositions which could not be said to be either true or false without relying on further propositions.
Religious skeptics often focus on the core tenets of religions, such as the existence of divine beings or reports of earthly miracles, while scientific skeptics tend to target cryptozoology, UFO encounters, and alternative science.
However, some supporters of scientific skepticism argue that these criticisms come from pseudoscientists, paranormalists, and spiritualists who are motivated to discredit rational investigation of their claims.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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