Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Skeptics Aren’t Always Skeptical

By Peter Bowditch

Skeptical minds aren’t always applied when it comes to colonies on Mars and self-driving cars.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Most of the people I associate with in my life could be called “skeptics”: people who exhibit some level of critical thinking when they choose between things they believe are possible and things that are either highly unlikely or actually impossible. This leads them to accept scientific research (if conducted by reputable researchers) and reject claims that are not backed by evidence. Examples would be accepting that vaccines are effective and about as safe as they can be made, and that pharmaceutical drugs that have passed rigorous clinical trials are more likely to be effective than turmeric, cannabis and coconut oil in the treatment of cancer. They feel that on the balance of probabilities the white trails behind high-flying aircraft are more likely to consist of condensed water vapour from jet engine exhausts rather than chemical sprays to control the population. They joke about astrology (I was predestined to be skeptical because I was born on the equinox at the cusp of Virgo and Libra) but don’t think that it’s very much use for predicting personality or the future.

One area in which I differ from many of my friends is on the topic of science fiction. I’ve never been a great fan of the genre, and I’ve had to give polite answers when asked whether I prefer Star Trek or Star Wars (the answer is “neither”), and I have to be very careful if I feel like saying that...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.