Skeptical Thinking

The Skeptics Society strives to investigate and question ideologies and dogmas in popular thought.
The Skeptics Society strives to investigate and question ideologies and dogmas in popular thought.

The New Paltz Skeptics Society won’t question if the sky is blue or if the grass is green; they will, however, question the use of rabbit’s feet.

“Think of all the time and money wasted every day on rabbit’s feet,” Matthew O’Connell, founder of the Skeptics Society, said.

O’Connell said the Skeptics Society is all about taking on topics like that, ones that can seem controversial — like good luck charms or religion — and dissecting why people believe in it in a friendly and open-minded manner.

“If you believe something, the more important that thing is, the more you should consider why you’re believing it,” O’Connell said. “If you believe in something enough to make it the core of your being, you should probably have a better reason than that it makes you feel good.”

O’Connell said the club aims to be different than a normal philosophy club. They try to accumulate data and understand the world around them by engaging in debates over topics people have opinions on.

Fourth-year education major Samrat Pathania takes a particular interest in the ideologies behind the teaching styles of the professors.

“What are some of the most prevalent dogmas? Look at what you see in the education department. There is a certain belief that professors hold onto about how students should be taught,” Pathania said. “But, how can they all agree on one method of teaching?”

O’Connell said they originally formed the club to combat the credulous nature of New Paltz.

“There’s a lot of ‘touchy-feelyness’ and the idea that anything’s true if you believe it’s true,” O’Connell said.

Pathania said that one of their most recent conversations was a heated discussion of organic food.

“We understood the value of organic food, but what was it for? If we can establish that, we can say whether it’s fulfilling its purpose or not,” Pathania said. “It is about a healthy lifestyle or is it about feeding people? The answer depends on what the question is.”

Pathania said the club uses scientific and logical reasoning to discuss the topics that come up. They aim to come to conclusions in their own right, but if they had to choose a goal, it would be to make people more intellectually honest.

“If you believe in something and can back it up,” Evan Burger, a third-year education major, said. “You’re more likely to achieve what you want out of life. It’s a healthier way of living, so to speak.”

Though always interested in new members, O’Connell said he warns potential new members to come with an open mind.

The Skeptics Society meets regularly on Thursdays at 7 p.m. in front of Jazzman’s in the Sojourner Truth Library.