I am a skeptic, and I try not to be a cynic. Skeptics accept the scientific method and rational thinking as the best tools with which to evaluate claims and get closest to the truth. Skeptikos in Greek means to inquire, or find out. This can be hard work; being a cynic is easy.
The skepticblog refers to cynics as cheap skeptics. Cynics often dismiss things out of hand, usually without a rational explanation, and often with an ideological agenda. This may take the form of denialism, and is usually very negative as it is not constructive and falls short of offering a solution. I would class conspiracy theorists as cynics: unscientifically bending the story to fit their world view.
More than this, cynics distrust not only the information presented, but also the motives of those behind the information. Skeptics question the idea, not the person. This area can be murky however, because in previous blogs I have talked about Conflict of Interest, which is basically saying that financial incentives (motives) drive biased (erroneous) results. There is considerable evidence to support this (one example).
So does that make me a cynic – one who discards claims out of hand without scientifically evaluating the evidence, AND one who questions the motives of the researchers? I would like to think that I am not guilty on the first count, but I believe that it is reasonable to question the motives of researchers when there is good evidence that financial incentives lead to biased studies. To ignore this would be naïve (un-skeptical).