I’m sure this has already been discussed to death in the past, but just in case it hasn’t…
I consider myself to be a skeptic. I’d like to think that this means that I don’t take anything at face value unless I can verify it on my own (either by empirical data or rigorous logical analysis). I suspect, however, that in many cases it simply means that I tend to automatically assume that any claim that goes against my particular view of the world is probably false. It also means that I tend to blithely accept other people’s disproof of a particular subject if it supports the opinion I’ve already formed.
If you ask a “true believer” to prove some claim (whether it be the existence of God, the abilities of T.V. psychics, UFOs, or what have you), they will usually not be able to offer any hard evidence and will instead point to anecdotes and testimonies by other people. We, being skeptics, scoff at this.
At the same time, how do I know that psychic powers, for example, do not exist? To be honest, it’s because I rely on the testimony of people like James Randi who have rigorously exposed frauds in the past. It’s not simply that I feel that psychic powers have not yet been proved to exist (which implies that they could, in fact, actually exist), but that they do not, in fact, exist. I’m as firmly convinced in their non-existence as the various “true believers” are in their existence.
I guess what it comes down to is that some people are willing to believe just about anything until it is proven false (and sometimes even then). We skeptics, on the other hand, are predisposed to disbelieve anything unless it is proven true (and sometimes not even then). And in both cases, what one side accpets as a valid proof or disproof may not be accepted by the other side.
Then again, maybe I am more of a cynic at heart and not a true skeptic…