Learning Curve


In my past I have had a bit of difficulty finding a balance between extremes in aspects of my life. Thanks to a recent post by one of the Skepchicks, I realized that I had become more of a cynic than a skeptic. I look at balance like the swing of a pendulum. For instance, I used to be one of those arm-waving Spirit-filled Christians. Now, my pendulum is at the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m a fairly militant atheist. Like I said, finding balance is difficult.

What led me to the conclusion that I had become cynical? We’ve all hear about the Balloon Boy hoax. Unfortunately many in the skeptic community started saying things like “I knew it all along!” and “There’s no way a kid that size could have floated away in that thing!”.

THAT, dear reader, is cynicism. When you claim that you knew it all along, you leave out the possibility for error. The responsibility of a skeptic is to remain open minded enough to examine the data. We did not have, to the best of my knowledge, exact data on the size of the balloon, the size of the compartment or the carrying capacity during the balloon flight. So really, regardless of the “expert” input on CNN during the incident, we really could not be certain.

What *I* found totally inexcusable was the talking heads on CNN speculating about the child falling out of the compartment. When I was training to be a reporter in college it was stressed to me repeatedly you do NOT speculate without all the evidence. It’s just irresponsible reporting.

When those in the skeptic community say that they “knew” it, they’re suffering from hindsight. We fill in the blanks after the fact. Sometimes incorrectly. That’s why eye witness testimony is no longer used in court cases as admissible evidence.

Many on Twitter were speculating after the balloon came down that the boy was hiding somewhere in fear of a whuppin for letting Daddy’s balloon go. And then someone pointed out that there is no way the child could have let the balloon go AND been inside. The panic seems to have been a combination of lack of rational thought, lack of information and an overabundance of media hype. Couple that with hindsight and you’ve got a big ol bowl of cynicism served up piping hot.



  1. makarios said,

    October 24, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    eye witness testimony is no longer used in court cases as admissible evidence.”

    Are you insane? Do you just make this stuff up as you go?

    • Herbwoman said,

      October 26, 2009 at 9:56 am

      There’s no need to be rude. I read that in a reply on one of the Skepchicks posts (I think). There is also a reason that this blog is called FLEDGELING skeptic. I’m just learning. Sometimes I’m going to be wrong. When I AM wrong, tell me, but, to quote Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick”.

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