From my Dad:
You have used the word "skeptic" and we can still use it if you wish. To me it conjures up a closed mind rather than an open (perhaps just semantics), so I prefer to use the concept of "truth seeker," for that is what I do in medicine as well as in my philosophy of life. If I'm always skeptical, as I've been at many times in my life, I've found that it often is the result of my choosing one way of thinking about a topic and closing my mind to the other ways, often resulting in a regrettable attitude of personal intellectual arrogance. I'm sure you've witnessed that in me enough times over the course of your life! So: let's both continue to seek the truth in all matters...not always easy, given the "DRIP" syndrome (Data Rich, Information Poor).After reading this, I felt it was necessary to define what the word "skeptic" and "skepticism" meant to me, and what I think it means to most modern self-proclaimed skeptics. I explained to him that, as Dr. Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptic Society puts it, Skepticism is not a position; it's a process. It's a popular misconception that a skeptic is a person who just disbelieves things. To many, skepticism connotates negativity, doubt and disbelief. While doubt and disbelief may often be a result of skepticism, they have nothing to do with the true meaning of the word. Skepticism, to me, is the process of using the tools of critical thinking and logical reasoning to deterimine the validity of things. A "skeptic" is someone who uses skepticism to "seek the truth", as my dad puts it. As a skeptic, when I hear a claim, and I care about whether or not that claim is true, I put it to the test. I think too many people try to "justify" their own beliefs under the guise of reason, instead of simply demonstrating why their claims are well supported by logic. Skepticism is the process of applying the tools of critical thinking and reason to find a well-supported conclusion, not to justify a pre-conceived conclusion.