Skeptics, schmeptics

skep·tic
ˈskeptik/
noun
noun: sceptic; plural noun: sceptics; noun: skeptic; plural noun: skeptics
1. 1.
a person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions.
synonyms:
cynic, doubter
pessimist, prophet of doom
“skeptics said the marriage wouldn’t last”
a person who doubts the truth of Christianity and other religions; an atheist or agnostic.
synonyms:
agnostic, atheist, unbeliever, nonbeliever, disbeliever, doubting Thomas
“skeptics who have found faith”
2. 2.
Philosophy
an ancient or modern philosopher who denies the possibility of knowledge, or even rational belief, in some sphere.

(Thanks to Google for the definition)

Yesterday I listened to the most recent SasWhat podcast, entitled “Squatchy Skepticism.” I’ve enjoyed SasWhat for a while now, due to its rational, intelligent, and humorous commentary on the world of squatchery. This may be the best episode yet. (A direct link follows at the bottom of this post.)

See, I’ve read all those so-called “skeptical” books. I have issues with them.  The skeptical canon may be many things, but skeptical it tends to be in name only.  Let’s revisit the above definition and see how it applies to Bigfoot.

1. a person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions

Note the word “all.” In the absence of hard evidence to the positive, a skeptic questions the existence of Bigfoot. Equally, in the absence of hard evidence to the negative, a skeptic will also question the non-existence of Bigfoot. The skeptic questions all.

It’s perfectly fine to question and doubt things – in fact, it is your responsibility as a sentient being on the planet Earth – but doubt does not equate to closed-mindedness. Let’s look at doubt, too.

doubt
dout/
noun
noun: doubt; plural noun: doubts

a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.
“some doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of this account”
synonyms:
uncertainty, unsureness, indecision, hesitation, dubiousness, suspicion, confusion

(Thanks again, Google)

Uncertainty. Lack of conviction. If I say (purely for the sake of argument), “I doubt Pierce Brosnan has ever made a good movie,” I’m leaving Pierce room to redeem himself. I am uncertain that Pierce Brosnan has ever been in a good movie, but I am allowing the possibility that he has. If I say, “All of Pierce Brosnan’s movies are absolute crap,” this is a strong and unequivocal statement. It is not uncertain.

Back to Bigfoot. So someone who says “Bigfoot does not exist” is not being skeptical. That person is not questioning, nor is he uncertain, nor does he lack conviction.  He’s making a statement.  That’s fine; just don’t tell me you’re a skeptic when you’re doing that.  The true skeptic would say, “I don’t know if Bigfoot exists or not.”  That uncertain, questioning, doubting old skeptic does not have the knowledge to comfortably make a definite statement.

It’s well and good to believe or disbelieve something. We all have beliefs, and we all have doubts. Let’s stop confusing the two.

And hey you, go listen to this SasWhat episode. For real. Episode 53: Squatchy Skepticism

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