By Steve Cuno
I’m feeling self-absorbed today. I want to talk about how skepticism helps me, me, ME.
Don’t get ME wrong. I concede that not just I, but the whole of humankind stands to benefit from a skeptical approach. Here are four examples:
Example the First: Skepticism saves me money.
I had a favorite brand of barbecue sauce. Whenever it chanced to set foot in my mouth, my taste buds greeted it by standing up and singing hymns. One day I picked up a considerably cheaper brand, just to compare. Sure enough, it proved not as good. But thanks to skepticism, I knew a thing or two about how easily we fool ourselves. I wondered, “How would James Randi test this?” I took out two spoons and poured a dollop in each. Good so far, except skepticism had also taught me the value of a blind test. How was I going to manage that on my own? Here serendipity intervened. I received a phone call. By the time the call ended, I couldn’t remember which spoon held which sauce. I sampled them both … and could taste no difference. My taste buds now stand and sing for Brand X, and my wallet joins in.
On another occasion, I was running errands with a friend when he ducked into a so-called nutritional products store. He emerged a few minutes later with a handful of bottles and $50 less in his pocket. Thanks to some skeptical knowledge, I recognized the product names and knew that none of them performed as claimed, or, if you will, as claimed in large type and disclaimed in small. My friend would hear none of it. That was his privilege. I came away grateful that skepticism protects me from spending good cash on worthless products.
Example the Second: Skepticism rescues me from unproductive arguments. Continue reading