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Skepticism, at Heart, Is Not Partisan

CRAIG A. FOSTER

The United States has just completed the most contentious presidential election in recent memory. The concept of President Trump is obviously distressing to many members of the skeptical community. It might be particularly tempting at times like this to associate skepticism formally or informally with being a political movement. I think it is important for skepticism to avoid making this mistake.

Skepticism, as it is used in the skeptical movement today, is not necessarily easy to define. Suffice it to say that modern-day skeptics promote the logical and reasonable interpretation of existing evidence. They question claims that lack legitimate supporting evidence and embrace claims that are supported by such evidence. In so doing, skeptics promote good science, criticize bad science, and question no science. Skepticism is needed because people frequently fail to interpret evidence in a sensible manner due to humans’ limited cognitive capacity, memory distortions, and a variety of well-known cognitive errors and biases.

Skepticism can be conceptualized as a nerdy superhero. Until nobody believes the scientifically unreasonable, skepticism is there! Skeptics’ powers are an odd sort. They constitute little in the way of physical force. Skeptics do not overpower villains with superhuman strength or with Amazonian combat skills. Rather, skeptics possess a heightened ability to detect flim-flam, a willingness to educate about corresponding issues, and a propensity to ask a series of annoying questions possibly ending with a lecture about non-falsifiable claims. Skeptics use these tools to promote a particular kind of truth—a truth based on science and reason.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Skeptical Inquirer - Jan Feb 2017
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Stem Cell Research: Still Embattled after All These Years Science vs. Silliness for Parents: Debunking the Myths of Child Psychology Survey Shows Americans Fear Ghosts, the Government, and Each Other and much more..

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Other Articles in this Issue


Editor’s Letter
The 2016 presidential election campaign—one of the most bizarre in
Bill Nye’s “Promote Reason, Prevent Climate Catastrophes: Let’s Get ’Er
NEWS AND COMMENT
Buzz Aldrin is an American hero. The Apollo 11 astronaut
After years of equipping important security checkpoints throughout Iraq with
In August 2016, creepy clowns were reported in Greenville, South
Robert Carroll, philosopher, CSI fellow, and prominent skeptic widely known
In September 2016, a New York–based psychic was arrested for
SPECIAL REPORT
Every year, Chapman University tells us what we fear the
Susan Gerbic, founder of the Guerilla Skeptics on Wikipedia Project,
INVESTIGATIVE FILES
Joe Nickell, PhD, is now well into his fifth decade
PSYCHIC VIBRATIONS
Sheaffer’s “Psychic Vibrations” column has appeared in the Skeptical Inquirer
NOTES ON A STRANGE WORLD
Massimo Polidoro is an investigator of the paranormal, lecturer, and
THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION
False Beliefs about Antibiotics Are a Global Threat
BEHAVIOR & BELIEF
Stuart Vyse is a psychologist and author of Believing in
SKEPTICAL INQUIREE
Benjamin Radford is a research fellow at the Committee for
ARTICLES
Had stem cell research not been obstructed by political and religious opposition, it would probably have arrived by now at effective treatments for a number of severe chronic diseases
How can scientists navigate highly polarized public controversies, and how can the public’s legitimate demand for involvement be accommodated without compromising the integrity of science?
Parents and students struggle to distinguish between pseudoscience and evidence-based ideas in child psychology. This study sampled the beliefs of 163 students and 205 parents on topics related to parenting and development
Cretionism is not an exclusively North American phenomenon. In Europe, creationism is also finding a foothold, drawing the attention of European scholars
When news media tailor their science reporting to their expected audiences, the message of science can get lost in the requirements of the medium. An episode of the BBC flagship science series Horizon offers an unfortunate example
Uncertainty and imprecision are basic attributes of interpreting the world and should not be viewed with scorn or disdain but understood, measured (when possible), and mixed into the framework of well-planned and well-reasoned public policies
REVIEW
Nearly six years ago, I reviewed Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book The
NEW AND NOTABLE
Listing does not preclude future review
QUIRKOLOGY COMICS
THE LAST LAUGH