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GLOSSARY


Skeptic/sceptic


WOO-WOO/WOO WOO

Person, or thought process, that is the opposite of sceptical. Credulity is high, as is gullibility. WOO-WOO thinking includes passionate commitment to ADC (After-Death Communication), New Age therapy (Acupuncture etc), other New Age ideas (Feng Shui et al) and extreme Post Modern Relativism (eg "it is acceptable for women in Islamist nations to be treated in ways we in the West would regard as barbaric, because that is part of their culture and we should not judge it")


Brindy

Counter to 'spiritual' - a quality that the possessor uses to critically evaluate arguments and their evidence.


Proof


Demonstration


Falsifiability

Idea from Karl Popper, one of the most highly regarded philosophers of science of the twentiath century. Popper suggests that an idea, hypothesis or theory should only be deemed scientific if, in principle, it can be demonstrated (see above) to be false. For example, the claim that there IS a god, is not falsifiable since there is no way to demonstrate it is untrue. On the other hand, the claim that there IS NOT a god, is falsifiable (if a God appeared to us, for instance) and can hence be considered a scientific claim. Remember not to confuse the idea of a scientific claim with a truthful one. Some scientific claims will be demonstrated to be false.


Parsimony/Occam's Razor

The principle that, when alternative explanations are available for the same phenomenon, the simpler explanation (the more parsimonious one) is likely to be correct. A classic example is the statement that there is no need to assume that in the US, fire operates on a completely different principle from the way that it works in Asia. The same explanation for the workings of fire in Asia is sufficient and parsimonious as an explanation for the workings of fire in the US. Idea first formulated by Occam (Ockham).


Belief

Rigorous: An act of faith Popular: Any statement asserting reasonable, or otherwise, grounds for claiming knowledge regarding a matter. Example of the first: I believe in Santa Claus. Example of the second: I believe I am sitting in a chair.


Tautology

A circular argument, or one which, by providing no further information about a definition, does not constitute an argument. Example: I am god because it says so in my book "I am god". We know the book tells the truth because it was written by me, god.


Evidence

Rigorous: Objective, replicable observations that are not dependent on, or influenced by, the state of mind or belief of the observers. Popular: Any perception, so long as it feels 'true'.


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