Let’s Take Back Skepticism

I’m actually becoming numb to a lot of the online vitriol that passes for dialogue between so-called Skeptics.

In the past, I’ve called for civility and I really knew that for the most part that call would fall on deaf ears. Why? People either can’t or won’t ever to admit being in error no matter the evidence presented to the contrary. It’s says a lot to me, because to me being a skeptic means that I am open to evidence that may disprove even those beliefs or opinions Ive had for years.
I’ve said this before in another way but this is where skepticism ventures into ideology. If you define yourself as a skeptic and you allow a particular ideology to rule your thinking, in my opinion (please comment and tell me where I am wrong here), you are no longer being skeptical. I know everyone’s tired of hearing this, and sometimes I do wonder if I’m just talking to myself because I hear very few voices in agreement. I mostly hear or read…silence.
Today it’s more of a back-and-forth of mockery and derision. Or ad hominem attacks. People become frustrated though, I know I have. There are some that make their living from deriding and trying to ruin reputations of those with which they disagree.
For some reason, these people really believe(at least I think this) that they’re doing good for the community when all they do is drive a wedge. Then again, maybe that’s what they want to do. It could be the latter and all I can see happening is that these folks slowly but surely marginalizing themselves to the point when even if they have something important to say, no one will listen.
I’m not going to rescind my call for civility, but I would like to see more skeptics actively involved on the Internet and not just sit on the sidelines and watch this train wreck as it occurs.
There’s no “you’re either with us or against us” here. I’m not calling for attacks against any specific individual or group of individuals. What I am asking is that when you see something that you disagree with, no matter where it comes from, speak up. The more voices in this schism the better. Don’t allow anyone to intimidate you into silence.
When you see someone attacking an individual or group and disagree, then remain silent, that’s tacit agreement.
Let’s take back skepticism from these pseudo-intellectuals that constantly convey nonsense to the world. I am sick of certain people that, with their own words, have the rest of the skeptic community seem a joke to the wider world. There are people that have spent decades of their lives educating, debunking pseudo-science, writing and speaking against ideologies that are harmful to the human condition.
So here, now, I’m stating that I’m going to get off my butt, and become n activist for skepticism. Yeah, I’ll continue to write about it here, but now, I’m going to start getting out there in my own community and do what I can to support other activists in various parts of the world.
Let’s take back skepticism.

5 comments on “Let’s Take Back Skepticism

  1. You are not talking to yourself. I think there are at least a few of us who agree that skepticism and ideology are tough to reconcile. You identified a big part of the problem when you said, “There are some that make their living from deriding and trying to ruin reputations of those with which they disagree.” I think you are right about this, and it is important because it is unlikely to change until this mode of operation is no longer profitable.

    Some have suggested that ignoring the people who do this will reduce the attention they receive and make their enterprise less profitable. I imagine that is why it looks like they are sitting on the sidelines. Others argue that we cannot ignore this sort of thing because doing so amounts to “tacit agreement.” This seems to be your position. I can see the possible merit of both approaches, and I’m really not sure which would be more effective if large numbers of people could be convinced to adopt one. I think that part of the problem is that neither may be very effective unless there are more people involved in implementing it.

    What does taking back skepticism look like to you? If it means more traditional skeptics taking to the Internet to speak out against some of what the pseudo-skeptics and drama bloggers are saying, that is going to involve quite a bit more conflict. Is this something we should embrace as necessary, no matter what it does to the community, or should we try to avoid it? I’m not sure.

    • All great points. I believe however that there are enough traditional skeptics out there that if there were an escalation of conflict because more stood up, the conflict would be brief. Right now, it’s been going on, from my point of view anyway, for 2.5 years. It’s time to bring this silliness to an end.

    • The sad part is, it’s not much of a living and I suspect, seeing that some of them have taken to e-begging, the income from their burn-the-bridges approach to making money via blog hits has backfired. Sure, it works for a while and history is full of the rise of demagogues who’ve exploited their rise.

      But history is also full of their falls. And I think we’re seeing that.

      I also think it’s a good thing.

  2. I was not aware that skepticism had been stolen. Of course I haven’t read every post by every skeptic out there. So perhaps there are some who have stolen it from the rest of us. If this is the case it would be helpful if you would identify who they are. I am also curious as to what you think are the boundaries for skepticism. There is a schism in the skeptic community with which I am familiar. That schism appears to be between those who think skeptics should stick to the traditional topics of skepticism (bigfoot, the paranormal, UFO abductions, and the like), and those who argue skepticism should also be applied to social justice issue, economic issues, political issues and religion. I think all of these topics – the traditional ones and the non-traditional ones – should be subjected to skeptical scrutiny. I see this happening. But I honestly don’t know who you are talking about when you say we need to take skepticism back. From whom specifically?

  3. What a refreshing thing to read. For a while I thought I was alone! I don’t think that adhering to an ideology is a bad thing. However, I do believe that many in the A/S community adhere too tightly. If you accept an ideology lock, stock, and barrel and then refuse to continue to re-evaluate it, you become prone to templatic thinking, or thinking from ideological templates, which short-circuits the entire skeptical process. Facts are facts, and we have to accept where the evidence takes us, even when the destination may be uncomfortable or in conflict with previously held ideas.

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