Date: Fri Dec 18 1992 18:39:08 P_SKEPTIC - WHAT IS A SKEPTIC? Webster's Ninth New Collegia

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Date: Fri Dec 18 1992 18:39:08 From: Anson Kennedy P_SKEPTIC ------------------------------- 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 of skepticism Well, maybe we need to go a little further. Webster's defines skepticism as follows: 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.

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