I have decided to have fewer opinions. I used to have lots of opinions in the eighties. For example, Morrisey of The Smiths whined too much, Salman Rushdie's novels were incomprehensible, the Space Shuttle was a cost effective way of launching satellites, that sort of thing. Then I found that having an opinion based on what I read in, say, the Daily Mail, was not a solidly defendable one.
Then I saw a UFO. I had an opinion on UFOs, naturally. My opinion was that they were definitely real metal craft from distant planets. The books I read told me so. Why wouldn't I believe von Danikan? Because he wasn't telling the truth, that's why. Because he misrepresented solid research, cherry picked his information and presented ifs and buts as certainties. But I saw a UFO and it changed my perspective.
The reason was remarkably simple. I stood and watched this bright white dot move across the sky for several minutes before it disappeared from view. What could it have possibly been? A tin vessel from Alpha Centauri? Something a bit more significant, ready to come down and play its ice cream jingle for me in my third kind encounter? No, what changed my mind was thinking about what I had seen, really seen.
I had seen a light, no shape or detail. It did not blink or flicker and it disappeared suddenly. Perhaps it was an aircraft, but those had navigation lights. It was too slow for a meteor. Perhaps it was a satellite. Yes, that was it, and some research in the local library told me it was true.
Now this shouldn't really be a big deal but it was the first time I had found something out like that for myself, using my grey matter and research rather than accept the simple and entertaining, but wrong, answer. It wasn't what I hoped for that mattered, it was what reality provides.
I was reminded of that by a comment by Victor Vermena over at WUWT which was snipped by the moderator because, presumably, it didn't meet the biased and slanted views of the deniers over there. Snipping the comment, which I read before it was snipped and didn't seem slanted to me, won't change reality. This is boy standing on burning deck attitude, the band plays on but the ship still sinks. Reality won't help so let's try and avoid it.
A real skeptic will have a look, at least, to see if there is something in the comment, and the blog it linked to, and make up their mind. A fake skeptic knows in advance. A fake skeptic is sure what is true and what isn't before they read up on the subject. A fake skeptic looks for evidence to support, a real skeptic looks for evidence for and against.
My wife gets irritated when I put so many conditional statements around virtually anything I say that I am sure the only reason she doesn't divorce me is that she couldn't face the defence I would put up. But I do it because I know that there are uncertainties and errors and all sorts of reasons not to be entirely sure of something that to say so becomes unreal. I can't help being skeptical. I want to check everything and the more outlandish the claim, the more I want to check it. And if someone says something that contradicts so much well established science, I have to check it. And usually the claim turns into vapours.
But being a skeptic is tiring. There's all the googling of facts, papers, blogs by experts, to be done. I'd rather just know in advance, have more opinions. So if someone knows where I too can get a slanted mind like the deniers, then please let me know in the comments.