Skeptical? Me too.
“What do you mean by “skeptical?” asks an acquaintance/family member during a casual conversation.
“Well,” I begin, “A skeptic and the skeptical community are people who carefully consider claims made by others by evaluating the evidence. The evidence must be better than your believe, opinion, a blurry photo or an eyewitness story on TV where the event or description can’t be verified, examined or reproduced. So, many claims about alternative medicines, miraculous cures, UFOs, conspiracies, psychic ability, supernatural phenomena, etc. do not withstand a skeptical inquiry because the evidence is of poor quality. It is not established as true by science.”
Why is practicing skepticism important? For one, you learn better how not to be fooled. You might add, “Most people can’t take the time to check the so-called facts they hear on TV or in print, even the internet, but the skeptical community examines these claims critically and points out the fiction. A skeptic can expose hoaxes, tricks, scams or the misuse of facts. They can spot something that sounds like science but is really just a put-on that sounds credible. So, the skeptical community serves a very useful role in society because they question what many people just assume to be true. Exposing claims that are likely not true allows us to stop wasting time, money or effort on them.”
In a nutshell, I’d like to share Tim Farley’s “skeptical elevator pitch“:
“Skepticism is the intersection of science education and consumer protection. We help people learn from science to avoid spending their money on products and services that do not work.”
To help with this description problem for the public and the press, I developed the Media Guide to Skepticism, a community document meant for the media but good for anyone who would like a consise intro to skeptical thought and why it’s a positive thing.