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Posted by on Feb 2, 2013 in Philosophy, Science, Skepticism | 20 comments

Michael Shermer on skepticism

Michael Shermer – someone I have a lot of time and respect for – has an interesting piece about the nature of skepticism over here. He basically equates skepticism with science, and perhaps he’s right.

This is your chance to start hashing out the issue. I’m not sure that I agree with hi, or that¬†I actually think that skepticism is readily¬†definable. My own grounding is in philosophy (though I do have some pretty solid literacy in science), and this makes me think far more broadly when I think of skepticism. For example, there is skepticism about religion, skepticism about morality (I’ve always argued, in my contributions to the blogosphere, in favour of skeptical theories about morality), and even radical epistemological skepticism, which is skeptical about almost everything.

Even the sort of scientific skepticism that we see from Shermer, and from others with similar views, seems not to be simply the same as science. A particular cluster of claims, or of classes of claims to be particularly targeted. So yes, a lot of what goes on in the formal Skeptic Movement is the scientific investigation of what are, intuitively, claims that are anomalous when considered against the general picture of reality emerging from science, e.g. paranormal or magical claims, various sorts of apparent pseudo-science, and implausible cryptozoological narratives. In that sense, Shermer is correct.

But what is the essence of skepticism? Is it really just the scientific investigation of claims that are, prima facie, implausible from the viewpoint of contemporary science. This is a perennial source of controversy, so have at it.