I’m feeling self-absorbed today. I want to talk about how skepticism helps me, me, ME.
Don’t get ME wrong. I concede that not just I, but the whole of humankind stands to benefit from a skeptical approach. But sometimes my Inner Activist needs a rest. It is then that I pause to revel in the ways skepticism benefits my paltry life, mine alone, the rest of the world be damned. Here are four examples. I’m sure many of you have your own examples, which I hope you will share in Comments.
Example First: Skepticism saves me money.
I had a favorite brand of barbecue sauce. Whenever it chanced to set foot in my mouth, my taste buds greeted it by standing up and singing hymns. One day I picked up a considerably cheaper brand, just to compare. Sure enough, it proved not as good. But thanks to skepticism, I knew a thing or two about how easily we fool ourselves. I wondered, “How would James Randi test this?” I took out two spoons and poured a dollop in each. Good so far, except skepticism had also taught me the value of a blind test. How was I going to manage that on my own? Here serendipity intervened. I received a phone call. By the time the call ended, I couldn’t remember which spoon held which sauce. I sampled them both … and could taste no difference. My taste buds now stand and sing for Brand X, and my wallet joins in.
For reals, it is the 21st century! But, some are still blaming Satan for everything. Here is a rundown of the weekly weird news courtesy of Doubtful News.
It was a huge week on Doubtful News. There was a demonic invasion.
The story of LaToya Ammons demonic possession and life in the "portal to hell" house was posted on the Indianapolis Star website and then exploded two days later. The story was, on its face, unbelievable and full of holes. Doubtful News readers were able to produce a mock up of the fakey photo. Then, Ghost Adventures star Zak Bagans, who takes his paranormal investigation awfully seriously, purchased the house. No word on whether only the paranormal believers will be allowed in but it does appear that only pro-paranormal people are invited. No skeptics allowed. This story is a circle of reinforcing feedback.
Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo-woo in medicine.
pH Miracle Living “Dr.” Robert O. Young is finally arrested, but will it stop him? (David Gorski) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/ph-miracle-living-dr-robert-o-young-finally-arrested-but-will-it-stop-him/ Robert O. Young is famous for promoting quack cancer cures and claiming that “the over-acidification of the body is the single underlying cause of all disease.” His answer to everything is to alkalinize. California law permits licensed healthcare providers to practice this kind of harmful pseudoscientific nonsense and Young was only arrested because he was practicing medicine without a license.
Washington State’s Unconscionable, Unconstitutional Child Protection Law (Harriet Hall) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/washington-states-unconscionable-unconstitutional-child-protection-law/ Washington law mandates reporting of child abuse and neglect and allows parents to be prosecuted for denying essential medical care to a child – unless they are Christian Scientists! The law is clearly unconstitutional, since it gives preference to only one of the many faith-healing religions. And it is clearly immoral, because it denies some children the protection of law and allows manslaughter to go unpunished.
It began with a brutal double murder on July 5, 1692. A wine merchant and his wife were killed in the cellar of their shop in Lyons, France. Since the money known to be in the shop was missing, authorities concluded that the couple had been robbed and murdered using the bloody billhook that had been left behind. Forensic science was virtually non-existent at the time and the magistrates had no idea about who might have committed the crime.
Rather than letting the crime remain unsolved however, the magistrates were urged to consult Jacques Aymar. Though actually a stonemason, Aymar had become fairly famous in the area for his skill as a dowser. While dowsing had largely faded into obscurity by the 17th century, local stories quickly spread over Aymar’s success in locating underground springs and other lost items.
A JREF workshop presented by Sharon Hill and Barbara Drescher.
The common notion about being a "skeptic" is that you hold a generally questioning attitude or have a dubious opinion on a certain topic. At the extreme, terms like "climate skeptic" or "truther" express distrust and denial of scientific conclusions. Scientific skepticism, however, is an approach that emphasizes evaluating claims based on evidence. The process of skepticism is of great value to society to lessen the potential of believing or investing in something that isn't all it appears to be, which may have social, financial or even tragic consequences.
This presentation will provide a look into organized skepticism -- what it is, what it means to be a skeptic, what skepticism isn't, and why it's important for everyone to know how to apply it in a world overloaded with questionable information. Come visit with some friendly neighborhood skeptics who can help you sort through the nonsense and critically evaluate some extraordinary claims. Find out the difference between merely saying "I'm skeptical" and REALLY applying skepticism.