Everyone I meet seems to believe in some irrational nonsense. Anti-vaccination myths, alternative medicine, auras, astrology, ghosts, global consciousness, indigo children, psychics, psychokinesis, reincarnation, religion… the list is endless.
The denialists are just as bad. Evolution deniers want to teach “intelligent design” as though it were science. Global warming deniers (irritatingly, calling themselves "skeptics"), claim global warming isn't real, or isn't caused by humans.
Generically, these things are what skeptics call Woo - pseudo-scientific and often anti-scientific ideas - ideas that are irrational and not based on evidence commensurate with the extraordinary nature of the claim.
I started this site as an antidote to all the woo.
What Is Skepticism Anyway?
I define skepticism as the application of critical thinking to evaluate truth claims.
A truth claim is something like, "astrology works", "homeopathy works", "psychics can talk to the dead". These are claims that are either true or they aren't, and it is in principle possible to use critical thinking to establish whether to accept them as true or not.
Critical thinking is harder to define exactly, but in my view the critical thinker:
Evaluates claims using evidence
Knows what extraordinary claims are, and that they require extraordinary evidence. This implies at least some elementary scientific knowledge to know what is, actually, extraordinary.
Controls for bias where possible. Bias can include experimenter bias and confirmation bias. The need to control for bias is one of the main reasons we use double-blind controls.
Understands some basic principles of statistics and how to apply them.
Understands logical fallacies - recognizes them in someone else's arguments; doesn't rely on them in his or her own arguments. You will note when reading the comments on this blog and elsewhere, that woos invariably rely on logical fallacies in their arguments.
- Applies Occam's Razor where appropriate.
I aim to apply critical thinking and humor to some of the idiotic stories I see on the TV, in the news, on woo blogs and websites, and elsewhere. Some of the articles will be a little flippant; some will be more serious. Check out the "Classic Skeptico Posts" links on the right to get an idea what this blog is about. Above all I hope you will leave this site enlightened and entertained.
To any of my friends who happen to stumble across this site: be careful what you say to me – you may find yourself quoted here tomorrow. Any comments made to me, if silly enough, may end up in this blog. And anyone who emails me by clicking on the email link, or who responds to a Skeptico-based email from me, is implicitly giving me permission to publish all or part of that email on this blog. Just so as you know.
Who Am I?
This blog is not about me, but about critical thinking, facts, evidence and logic. No matter what I said about myself, you’d only know if I was writing the truth by examining what I actually wrote to see if it was actually true. It’s what I write that matters, not what my qualifications are.
The important question is not, who am I? The important question is, why should you believe me? And the answer is, you shouldn’t believe me (or anyone else) automatically. You should read my posts, see if they make sense and are logical. Click the links I provide and read the cited articles, and see if they are valid articles that support my positions. Read the comments to the posts, and see if the arguments of those supporting my position are better or worse than those opposing it. See which group of commenters (pro or anti) provide evidence, links to valid studies, etc to support their claims. See which group of commenters rely on logical fallacies and which group call out the logical fallacies of the others. See which group ignores rebuttals to their arguments, and carries on with the same arguments regardless. And then make your mind up.
One last thing – no one pays me anything for writing this blog, and I am not affiliated to any industry or any other group. But please read my post Ad Hominem to see why it wouldn’t matter even if that were not true.