Tue, 08th Apr, 2014

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PostHeaderIconWhy Trubees Believe. (Or - On Being a Careful Skeptic (tm))

I'm imagining that I'm a trubee.

I know that homeopathy works. I've seen it, I've heard other people talk about it, and I've been told, by people that I trust and respect (mainly because of their passionate defence of my point-of-view), that it works.

If it works, then - if it gets tested properly - there must be good solid scientific evidence for it.

Note, by the way, that, so far, none of this has been a conscious logic process. This has all happened behind-the-scenes as it were.

I've seen some positive studies, and I've been told by others that there are many more. (There must be, right?)

Now I've got mean, nasty skeptics telling me that I'm wrong and that all the evidence that I've seen (and the evidence that I've imagined) is 'not good enough' (arrogant, snooty, bastards).

OK - all fairly obvious so far. My point?

These people (and you can substitute anything you like for "homeopathy" - this is very much how I used to think when I was a creationist) truly and honestly believe that they are right and that we (the skeptics) are wrong.

So what's the difference between us and them?

Well - the skeptic will say "Show me the evidence and I'll change my mind", and this is a big difference - no trubees would ever make that claim, although there are a few that will come over to our side after seeing enough evidence...

But - how often do you go and check a trubee's references, and how often do you rely on experts and other (more qualified) skeptics to do it for you?

I know I don't have the time or knowledge to check every (or any) scientific (or non-scientific) paper that a trubee throws at me.

This is something that I wonder about every now and then:

Am I being close-minded? Have I already made up my mind (and now just dismiss [insert woo here] because it goes against my world view)?

How much am I relying on and trusting the experts and all the other skeptics that I talk to?

And that, I think, is the fundamental (pun intended) difference between trubees and skeptics.

It's the doubt that keeps us skeptical...

It's the question:

"What if I'm wrong?"

"That's right!" shouted Vroomfondel, "we demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!" - Douglas Adams


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