I’m sure many of us have felt this way. I know I have. I have been in uncountable situations where people have told me that acupuncture would cure whatever ailment I might be suffering from, or that rubbing oil on my son’s feet would cure his asthma. They tell me that it has been used for centuries, and if it doesn’t help, it can’t hurt. Mostly they’re flat wrong. Sometimes I bite my tongue for the sake of social peace, other times I can’t. It doesn’t make me popular.
Remember though, a true skeptic tries to weigh evidence and determine the veracity of the source. Not all evidence carries the same weight. What research has said about vaccines vs the claims of celebrities and self-serving quacks are not on equal footing.
Another thing that is important is research constantly changes what we know about the universe. We must be able to change our thinking as new information becomes known. Adherence to beliefs that cannot be altered with new facts is not skepticism, it is religion. A claim that something has been used for hundreds or thousands of years is actually an argument against its veracity or effectiveness.
What is interesting is the way that believers in UFOs, CAM, religion, etc subvert the term skeptic in an attempt to add credence to their own beliefs. Of course the existence of a single verifiable instance of an sentient alien race landing on Earth would invalidate all of our skepticism, but the simple fact that thousands of these claims have been proven false makes the likelihood of this occurring to be negligible. That means we should treat all such claims with doubt, rather than high expectations that this one will be the one to rule them all.
I also think “I don’t know” is a perfectly valid stance for a skeptic. I know I certainly don’t know everything (which may come as a surprise to some), and I don’t have the time to or the expertise to understand all topics.
I am educated in biology and understand most aspects of medicine reasonably well,and I link to think I can spot a lot of health garbage without much study . I tend to dismiss conspiracy theories simply because I know human nature, and if a large number of people know a ‘secret’it doesn’t stay secret very long.
On the other hand, I know absolutely squat about nuclear reactors. In Japan right now, people labeled as experts are predicting everything from “it’s under control’ to worldwide radiation. Who is ‘right’ in this case? Honestly, I don’t know, and I can defend that position.
It is being skeptical of our own beliefs that makes us skeptics.
Via orac at Respectful Insolence