Random Rants

Apocalypse Now? A Skeptic Strikes Back

  • December 6, 2012

I hadn’t given the whole “Doomsday 2012” meme much attention, honestly, (no, I didn’t see the movie) but now as the awful date draws nearer the noise has overcome my filter of indifference.

You’re kidding me, right? What pool of ignorance has been the bathing place for these people? Does this doomsaying help explain why so many people still get lathered over UFOs, 9/11 insiders and the Grassy Knoll?

People. Extraordinary claims bear the burden of needing extraordinary proof. You don’t come up with a hare-brained conjecture and then point to gaps in the evidence chain as though they bear you out—it works the other way around. You present a veritable mountain of clear-cut, undeniable and incontrovertible evidence that leaves the most fervent doubter no choice but to accept the conclusion which must be drawn therefrom. If you can’t overcome that level of scrutiny then you have nothing but fancy.

I guess what pissed me off the most recently was reading a little about a NASA astrobiologist who has been maintaining a blog aimed and providing facts and dispelling myths about this whole insanity. One of the posters actually asked for advice on when was best to kill her dog to spare it from the coming calamity! Can you effing believe it? I’m getting angry all over again just remembering.

Here’s an example of common sense: any celestial body of any respectable size, destined to strike Earth in two weeks, would already be the brightest object in the night sky. People whose jobs are to keep track of bazillions of objects of space junk as small as a dropped spare part, people who discover new planets around distant suns based on wavers of starlight you can’t detect with the naked eye, would hasten to let you know that no such dwarf planet could sneak in unseen.

Skepticism is good, people; embrace it. I’m going to quote Brian Dunning’s excellent description on the Skeptoid blog:

The popular misconception is that skeptics, or critical thinkers, are people who disbelieve things. And indeed, the common usage of the word skeptical supports this: “He was skeptical of the numbers in the spreadsheet”, meaning he doubted their validity. To be skeptical, therefore, is to be negative about things and doubt or disbelieve them.

The true meaning of the word skepticism has nothing to do with doubt, disbelief, or negativity. Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It’s the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion.

It’s thus inaccurate to say “Skeptics don’t believe in ghosts.” Some do. Many skeptics are deeply religious, and are satisfied with the reasoning process that led them there. Skeptics apply critical thinking to different aspects of their lives in their own individual way. Everyone is a skeptic to some degree.

Skepticism is, or should be, an extraordinarily powerful and positive influence on the world. Skepticism is not simply about “debunking” as is commonly charged. Skepticism is about redirecting attention, influence, and funding away from worthless superstitions and toward projects and ideas that are evidenced to be beneficial to humanity and to the world.

The scientific method is central to skepticism. The scientific method requires evidence, preferably derived from validated testing. Anecdotal evidence and personal testimonies generally don’t meet the qualifications for scientific evidence, and thus won’t often be accepted by a responsible skeptic; which often explains why skeptics get such a bad rap for being negative or disbelieving people. They’re simply following the scientific method.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, particularly in claims that are far fetched or that violate physical laws. Skepticism is an essential, and meaningful, component of the search for truth.

There. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Oh, and the Apocalypse of 2012? I think I’ve found the answer in this lighthearted comic:

Image courtesy of Bizarro Blog.

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