THE SKEPTICAL PERSPECTIVE
Life is a dense and complicated tapestry of ideas and beliefs. We are constantly bombarded with information, some of which is true, some questionable, and some wrong. How do we tell the difference?
To believe anything or to doubt everything are two possible solutions. Both dispense with the need for reflection and critical inquiry. Both paralyze the actions and behaviors that are required for living.
Between the two extremes lies the skeptical perspective - helping to bridge the gap between knowledge and belief.
In our paradoxical society, where dependence on science and technology has reached unprecedented heights amidst a populace that is turning away from reason and critical inquiry, skepticism serves as a candle in the dark. It provides a tool kit to effectively navigate through reality and survive in an age of confusion and information overload.
Scientific inquiry has shown that our world is knowable, that there exists an objective reality and that there are reliable and reproducible methods for distinguishing fact from falsehood. This reality has empowered humankind to cast off the yoke of superstition and embark upon a path of exploration and discovery. Our achievements in science have enabled humankind to reach understanding and develop a knowledge base upon which to build great civilizations.
The skeptical perspective is an intregal part of scientific inquiry. It is also a practical and effective response to the torrent of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims that circulate within society - the ideas and beliefs that often go unchallenged.
Skeptics provide this necessary challenge.
By employing the tools of science, skepticism and critical inquiry:
- We are able to effectively evaluate the information we receive.
- We are able to distinguish between science and pseudoscience, reality and fantasy and between reliable and unreliable types of evidence and reasoning.
- We are able to recognize the pitfalls of poorly designed or improperly conducted research and the risk and consequences of uncritical belief.
- We are able to investigate a wide range of ideas and claims and expose the methods and techniques of the purveyors of nonsense.
- We are able to assess the merits of new ideas as well as the validity of resurrecting old ideas.
- We are able to protect ourselves and each other from being victimized and from the disappointment of ideas that don't work, claims that are inherently flawed, and promises that are ultimately broken.
- We pride ourselves on examining the evidence that exists in support or against a particular phenomenon in order to reach understanding and truth.
- We accept ideas based on varying levels of probability, recognize the unrealistic claim of certainty and therefore reach tentative conclusions that remain open to modification as new evidence and facts present themselves.
- We welcome new and innovative ideas, challenge both established and questionable claims to truth and encourage creative and imaginative thinking tempered by critical thought and skeptical inquiry.
- We understand that humanity is evolving and learning new things each and every day and at times we must withhold our judgment and simply conclude that we don't know...yet.
At other times, however, we are prepared to say that we do know, this is what we know and this is how we know it.
* Note: The ideas expressed in the Skeptical Perspective represent a compilation of the mission statements and explanatory documents of several skeptic groups across the world. We would especially like to thank the Cincinnati Skeptics, the New England Skeptical Society, the Australia Skeptics, New Mexicans for Science and Reason, the New York Area Skeptics, the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking, National Capital Area Skeptics, Rationalist Examination Association of Lincoln Land, Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York and the Alberta Skeptics, for providing inspiration and aid in our efforts.
© Copyright 2000, 2001 Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal