Date: Fri Dec 18 1992 18:39:08
From: Anson Kennedy
WHAT IS A SKEPTIC?
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary gives this definition:
skeptic n [L or Gk; L skepticus, fr. Gk skeptikos,
fr. skeptikos thoughful, fr. skeptesthai to
look, consider] 1 : an adherent or advocate
Well, maybe we need to go a little further. Webster's defines skepticism as
skepticism n 1 : an attitude of doubt or a disposition
to incredulity either in general or toward a
specific object 2 a : the doctrine that true
knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is
uncertain b : the method of suspended judgment,
systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of
skeptics syn see UNCERTAINTY
So, we see now that a skeptic is someone who doubts something. In a sense, we
are all skeptics at one time or another. When Johnny tells his teacher the dog
ate his homework, while possible, the teacher is skeptical. When a politician
makes promises of "no new taxes," while possible, the public is skeptical.
For most, then, skepticism is a day-to-day attitude.
We might call this attitude "common sense skepticism." We *know* to doubt
Johnny's story. We *know* to doubt the politician.
Skeptics groups, on the other hand, apply a more demanding skeptical attitude
to a wider range of phenomena.
Put simply, skeptics believe that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary
evidence." For example, claims of UFOs and alien abductions, extrasensory
perception (ESP), astrology, and other "fringe" phenomena must be backed by the
most unimpeachable proof.