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Skepticism (British spelling: Scepticism) can mean:

Scientific skepticism is related to, but not identical to, philosophical skepticism. Many scientists and doctors who are skeptical of claims of the paranormal are nonetheless not adherents of classical philosophical skepticism. When critics of controversial scientific or paranormal claims are said to be skeptical, this only refers to their taking a position of scientific skepticism.

The term skeptic is now usually used to refer to a person who takes a critical position in a given situation, usually by employing the principles of critical thinking and the scientific method (that is, scientific skepticism) to evaluate the validity of claims and practices. Skeptics view empirical evidence as important, as it provides possibly the best way to determine the validity of a claim.

While skepticism involves the use of the scientific method and of critical thinking, this does not mean that skeptics necessarily use these tools consistently or simply find that there is indeed evidence of their belief.

Skeptics are often confused with, or even denounced as, cynics. However, valid skeptical criticism (as opposed to arbitrary or subjective misgivings about an idea) strictly originates from an objective and methodological examination that is often agreed between skeptics themselves. Note too that cynicism is generally seen as a viewpoint that maintains an unnecessarily negative attitude toward human motives and sincerity. While the two positions are not mutually exclusive and many skeptics may also be cynics, they each represent a fundamentally different statement about the nature of the world.

Many critics accuse scientific skeptics of being "closed-minded" or of inhibiting scientific progress. Such critics, however, are often pseudoscientists, paranormalists, and spiritualists, whose views are not adopted or supported by mainstream science. On the other hand, people who deny the possibility of something simply because it hasn't been proven by the scientific method often can inhibit scientific progress.

A debunker is a skeptic who pursues dispelling false and unscientific claims. Famous debunkers include James Randi, Basava Premanand, Penn and Teller and Harry Houdini. Many debunkers become rather controversial because they have strong opinions and can be vocal about things that may offend people, such as religion and pseudosciences.

Critics of debunkers state that their conclusions are filled with self-interest, and that they are crusaders and true believers with a need for certainty and stability. They (true believers) are readily identified by their cognitive distortions. (In the world of science, the term "cognitive distortions" is not a slur, but a psychological explanation).

In particular, many pseudoscientists are quick to attack skeptics and skepticism in general because of resistance to their fringe ideas and theories, which lack evidence and which the scientific establishment does not accept.

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