What is Skepticism?

Skepticism is the best approach we know of to avoid being fooled or fooling oneself. To paraphrase David Hume, it’s “proportioning one’s belief to the evidence.” As Carl Sagan said in his Cosmos series, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Skepticism is a way of knowing about the world:

Skepticism involves a working knowledge of:

Skepticism deals with subjects not often addressed by academia:

Skepticism is an area of activism:

What is the “skeptical movement”? It’s people who:

  • Appreciate science and skepticism as tools to determine what is true or false
  • Attempt to apply tools of skepticism widely and consistently in their lives
  • Confront non-evidence-based claims and beliefs, testing them when possible
  • Recognize the harm such claims and beliefs can cause, and try to minimize it
  • Enjoy socializing with other like-minded skeptics, exchanging ideas and opinions

What are some goals of skeptics? According to one source:

  • Debunking. There’s a lot of bunk and someone needs to debunk it. Like the bunko squads of police departments busting scammers and con artists, skeptics bust myths.
  • Understanding. It’s not enough to debunk the things that people believe. We also want to understand why they believe. Through understanding comes enlightenment.
  • Enlightenment. The power of positive skepticism linked to reason, rationality, logic, empiricism, and science offers us a world wondrous and awe-inspiring enough.

There’s a worldwide community of skeptics, rationalists, and other science enthusiasts connected through podcasts, blogs, social networks, conferences like SkeptiCampThe Amaz!ng Meeting, NECSS, and CSIcon, organizations like the Center for Inquiry and local groups like Skeptics in the Pub.