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Skepticism, at Heart, Is Not Partisan

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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