Think like a skeptic

Merriam-Webster defines skepticism as “an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object”.

Skeptics question assertions.

If someone says “there are fifteen planets in the solar system” they are making an assertion.

A skeptic might say, “how do you know there are fifteen planets in the solar system?” A skeptic does not accept assertions as true without good evidence.

What is “good evidence”?

Science is the best known method for finding good evidence. The scientific method involves observations, hypotheses, predictions, experiments, and replication of the results by other scientists.

One scientist might observe the night sky and conclude there are eight planets.

Another scientist could try and replicate the first scientist’s results. They find they can also see eight planets using a different telescope from a different location.

This analysis continues using better equipment and more scientists. Over time many scientists find that they also can count eight planets. By repeating the same experiment and finding the same results, a scientific consensus develops.

The current scientific consensus is that there are eight planets in the solar system. There is not good evidence to support the assertion that fifteen planets exist. This will not change unless good evidence is presented to support a different number of planets.  Note: Pluto is now categorized as a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt.

What is not “good evidence”?

  • feelings
    • I feel like there are fifteen planets 
  • dreams
    • I had a dream there were fifteen planets 
  • one person’s experience (known as an anecdote)
    • I looked through my kaleidoscope and counted fifteen planets 
  • unrepeatable test results
    • Joe counted fifteen planets, but Mary and Sally and Doug only counted eight

Keep asking questions!


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