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Being a Skeptic

EVD's picture

After class today I was thinking about how I might apply Sagan's skepticism to my life. I consider myself a pretty skeptical person, especially of authority, but I was trying to think of instances when I might not be skeptical...When I go to the doctor's office and my doctor diagnoses a sickness I might have, I never question her diagnosis as long as I have been thorough in telling her my symptoms. But when I take my dog to the veterinarian I ALWAYS question the vet's diagnosis and course of treatment because I have been a vet tech and know that vets make mistakes and there are always several diagnoses and courses of treatment that a vet might make. The vet could also prescribe treatment just to make extra money. The only reason I question my pet's vet is because I am somewhat knowledgeable about animal health, though obviously not as knowledgeable as a veterinarian. I don't question my own doctor because I don't know much about human health. I think that Carl Sagan would say that I should be skeptical in accepting the opinion of my own doctor even though I don't know much about human medicine. Or would he say that I should become knowledgeable about my illness, even if the illness is very insignificant, so that I have the knowledge to judge my doctor's opinion? Perhaps I would do this if the illness was very serious but not in most cases. I think you could make the same argument about judging the advice of your lawyer or even of a professor who gave you advice about editing a paper...but is this really feasible? No matter how much I try to learn about these things I still won't be as knowledgeable as a person whose profession it is to be knowledgeable about the subject. I think that maybe in these cases there is a difference between an authority figure unknowingly giving incorrect information and an authority figure lying (maybe to charge you more money, avoid work, etc). I guess my conclusion would be that I'm still not really sure what exactly Sagan means by "skepticism" and "questioning authority."

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