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What is practical skepticism? Why is this important?

Application of critical thinking and learning how to evaluate questionable claims you encounter everyday is far more important than people realize. Consider the following scenarios:

Your brother invested in a business to sell vitamins and herbs and wants you to join in. You could make a lot of money on these products and “they really work,” he says. What do you do?

Your grandmother thinks her house is haunted and wishes to call in a paranormal investigation team she saw on the evening news broadcast. She wants to let them into her house at night to collect evidence to see if she has ghosts. What could go wrong?

Your sister-in-law decides that vaccinating her kids is dangerous and could cause autism because she hears horror stories from her friends who know people this has happened to. Their stories of potential harm scare her. Do you say nothing and assume there must be something to it?

Your spouse insists on shopping at an expensive grocery store in order to buy organic, anti-GMO, gluten-free food even though you are on a tight budget. Is it worth it?

Faced with an illness, do you choose the doctor-prescribed drugs or do you opt for alternative treatment advertised by practitioners to be safe, gentle and all natural?

Walking down the street, you are approached by a friendly woman who says she is psychic and feels you picked up a curse that is hurting your family. After noting that you’ve sadly been experiencing a string of “bad luck” you begin to think she might be right. What’s the worst that could happen if you just give her a few bucks and some personal items to “cleanse”?

Many of your Facebook friends are passing along a story about a creepy sighting of a monstrous animal in your neighborhood and warnings to stay inside and keep a gun handy. Should you panic?

In every case, you should apply some practical skepticism and look a bit deeper into the claim instead of just going along with the original story. All the cases above should trigger a red flag because they go against the knowledge we already find reliable in the world and propose a magical or unusual outcome. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. If it sounds a bit too weird, you should think twice. Practical Skepticism will help you deal with these kinds of scenarios and similar, countless others.

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