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Every day we're faced with outlandish claims and unverifiable statements. Now, more than ever, it's important to be skeptical on the internet.

This recommendation ventures into a little personal philosophy. Follow along, as I do believe - strongly - that the concepts here apply to the internet and how we use it, nowadays more than ever.

I am a skeptic.

For many people, that implies that I believe nothing (not so), believe in nothing (also wrong), and that I somehow take delight in pointing out the flawed thinking of others (wrong again).

I view healthy skepticism as simply understanding the difference between belief and knowledge, not promoting belief as knowledge and understanding that knowledge is backed by independently verifiable facts. Ultimately, skepticism is about discovering what is true.

The Skeptic web site is a great source of information for those wanting to understand and gain better tools to help cut trough so much of the misinformation in the world, and on the internet.

And that's why I'm bringing it to you.

"I view healthy skepticism as simply understanding the difference between belief and knowledge ..."

One of the statements you'll often hear is that you can't believe anything you find on the internet. That's wrong, of course, but it's the beginning of a healthy attitude. It's the beginning of a skeptical attitude.

When it comes to what we find online, we must all be skeptical.

That doesn't mean believe nothing, it means understanding what's verifiably true, understanding what it takes to make that determination.

With chain letters and hoaxes and bogus job offers and miracle cures and miracle devices all being thrown at us via the internet every day, questioning what you read and see is more important now than ever. A healthy skeptical mind set will let you separate the wheat from the chaff, the legitimate from the bogus, and make your internet experience a much safer one.

Skeptic delves into much more than just internet hoaxes and thinking. Classic topics like evolution and religion are of course discussed as well ... but before you jump to another false conclusion, did you know that many skeptics are religious? As one put it: "You don't have to be against god to be against fraud.". Current issues like the massive ponzi scheme recently exposed and it they could possibly happen is also a topic for investigation and discussion.

Skepticism has a bad name in some people's eyes because of poorly done research and attitudes by some skeptical researchers. If that's you're view of skeptics like me, please consider this quote from Skeptic:

Remember, the goal of skeptical investigation isn't to cast rhetorical doubt on paranormal claims, but to discover what's true.

As as you know, the truth is out there.

Article C3702 - April 6, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Greg Bulmash
April 6, 2009 11:55 AM

Totally agree with you Leo. A skeptic is not someone who does not hold beliefs, but someone who does not hold unexamined beliefs. A skeptic believes space in his head and heart have value, and he's not going to let ideas take up that valuable space until they've passed his screening process.

April 7, 2009 6:06 PM

You're absolutely right about this, Leo. I'm a Catholic priest, and I have strong religious beliefs. I am also a skeptic. Many friends know they had better check before they forward emails to me, as I will check them, and I will Reply All with the appropriate link, if necessary.

April 18, 2009 1:58 PM

There's a very interesting book which have things like this: "To want to believe is not to care continuing being ignorant" "To want to know means to exert yourself to overcome ignorance" "Doubt incites to research and research is the way to the right knowledge" "If you want a real faith, doubt!". It seems it's written for skeptics.

Walt Lindgren
June 17, 2010 5:53 AM

It may be useful for your readers if you offered a definition & distinction between skeptic & cynic. Many skeptics "devolve" or slip into a sense of cynicism about many, perhaps too many, aspects of life & the world around them. A skeptic may observe that 90% of everything is probably false or not useful or both, & acts upon the 10%. A cynic KNOWS that 100% of everything is drek, false or useless & devised by a diabolical trickster to fool people. Also, a couple of my favorite skeptical websites are & Media Matters. Thanks.

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