Please don’t call me a Skeptic

Several people have asked me to explain why I now reject “Skeptic” to describe myself. In short, the label is limiting and is overwrought with mistaken assumptions of being elitist, arrogant, and closed-minded. Unfortunately, being labeled a Skeptic sends a signal to some to tune out what I might say by default because of the association with having a dismissive, know-it-all attitude, defeating any efforts at meaningful exchange over questionable claims.

The philosophy and process of scientific skepticism should be the unifying connection for the network of people who label themselves “Skeptics” and who participate in the associated activities and behaviors. I can’t see a clear mission or positive coherent message that unites Skeptics. This ongoing problem worsened in the past 10 years, reaching its low about 5 years ago with scandal, factions, and boycotts in what appeared to me to be a failure in leadership.

In 2000, when I first participated in this circle, the skeptical community was almost entirely older white men and professorial figures. Effective lessons on the value of critical thinking were missing from school curricula and the internet. There was scant worthwhile content for communicating critical thinking to kids. There still isn’t much. Material for children, parents and teachers is crucial and must be a primary aim for effective skeptical advocacy. Instead, the topics of CFI/CSI and Skeptic Society are still geared toward an older, educated, elite audience as they were back then. The media content of skepticism still does not include much in the way of women’s interests, does not appeal to minority populations, and the writers and commenters on skeptical media are still overwhelmingly male.

The rise of Skepchick in 2005 was promising and signaled a shift in participation in the skeptical movement of younger, more diverse people. Finally, a rational, science- and logic-based forum existed for women’s issues. But the Skepchicks – experienced in marketing, not science or reasoning – set themselves up as an exclusive club who aimed to be popular and get paid for it. The Skepchickal wave came with gossip, slanderous jabs, overly simplistic science-themed content, and click-bait drama used to get website hits and media attention. This exasperated many who gave up reading about the enemy of the week and trying to follow the hypocritical arguments. The trendy topics were no longer about questionable claims but about social justice and feminism signaling a major mission shift [1].

Certain spokespeople were not doing the community any favors with their behavior and comments. Big names in science and skepticism blundered into scandals both big and small. That didn’t mean their past work was suddenly nullified yet they were socially punished in social media campaigns from foul-mouthed “science” bloggers and Team Skepchick.

A distinct attitude of scientism exists in skeptical circles. Science was used interchangeably with skepticism and as a weapon. One mantra of skepticism was “Science. It works, bitches” – another example of the tone-deafness of the movement. People who called themselves Skeptics were more prone to state that science can fix any problem regardless of the complexities of social, cultural, and economic disparities.

Added to that was the ever-present derision towards the “woo” believers. People who subscribed to religion or who bought into pseudoscience of all kinds were called “stupid,” “morons,” or “idiots”. The ugliest sentiments were revealed in comments about those who were killed or injured due to lapses in critical judgment – that these people deserved their fate.
When half the American population (with similar numbers in other English-speaking countries) subscribe to at least one paranormal belief, it seems foolish to mock or ignore these topics. I saw little in the way of empathy in trying to understand other belief systems and few attempts to find novel but moderate approaches to relate to them. The disagreeableness of “Skeptics” was displayed all over various media.

Meanwhile, the primary skeptical media was stagnant and old-fashioned. Magazines and newsletters were still primary vehicles for skeptical content [2]. I found (the U.S.) Skeptic Magazine unreadable [3]. Lately, Skeptical Inquirer also fails to interest me. The organizations invested sparingly in technology, modern web design, video, and public relations. Now, most conference talks don’t even make it to YouTube – the popular way for people under 35 to get video content! A few vibrant voices that could be fine spokespeople are subordinated behind celebrity scientists on the Skeptical marquee. The media and public craved a skeptical voice on topics ranging from the paranormal to political platforms [4], yet there wasn’t a framework in place to provide those voices. You will find several vulgar, unfamiliar voices touting a very different version of the “Skeptic movement” on YouTube and social media. Highly motivated for ad revenue and focused entirely on socio-political issues, this version of “Skeptic” is yet another reason for me to eschew the label.

Atheism adherence and advocacy, a separate and narrower niche, continues to be conflated with skepticism, which holds back the expansion of useful science- and reason-based ideas to broad audiences. CFI merged with the Richard Dawkins Foundation in 2016 which I saw as another sign of the solidification of an atheist agenda. CFI already was heavily emphasizing humanism (and atheism) in their content even though there were other societies that promoted these issues. What was needed was an organization exclusive to advocating for critical thinking in society focusing on topical subjects for a wide spectrum of people. The merge with Dawkins signaled an appeal to the atheistic, University-educated base, which moved Skepticism, as a brand, more towards the negative stereotype of scientistic, elitist anti-religionists.

Conferences were the main event for the year. These huge investments of time and money delivered the same messages again and again, praising science and skeptical ideals. Soon after the JREF folded, CFI took over the Las Vegas “Amazing Meeting” (TAM) format [5]. How unoriginal. Year after year, skeptical events across the world featured many of the same speakers and science evangelism for the niche audience. I lost interest in them.

By 2016, I no longer had any confidence in the organizations representing skepticism. I also felt let down by many in the community who were not the thoughtful people I first assumed they were. While it is unreasonable to impose rules on a loose social set, expecting certain norms to be followed (such as respect, cooperation, and reasonable discourse) is not too much to ask. Drama that transpired at events, online, in the press, and behind closed doors led to many people becoming disgusted with the skeptical circle. Including me. The community did, as some said, “eat its own”[6].

My ideas and goals were no longer in line with the majority. The idea of being a “Skeptic” has become distasteful [7]. It wasn’t my tribe anymore – I can’t relate to it. And, the trend in social justice, ultra-liberal topics is overtaking the foundational ideas of scientific skepticism in popularity. It may soon overtake it online leaving the organizations left behind to dry up and die unless they adapt to 21st-century media and concerns.

The Skeptic community needs a reset. The current lackluster state of scientific skepticism cannot be mitigated until new leaders of the community define and embrace a solid mission to reach a broad spectrum of society. The old ways don’t work – we have to seek common understanding in order to get anywhere. Efforts that reinforce “otherness,” ignore common ground, and attempt to abolish ideas we think are “dumb” are irrational.

I hope I see the day when skepticism gets a reboot and catches on with a public tired of lies, scams, and nonsense. Until then, I continue to be skeptical as warranted, but please don’t call me a Skeptic.

—————
1. This was no fluke. Go on YouTube and see what the “Skeptic Community” means there. It’s completely different than the community I’m talking about here, consisting of young, diverse men and women posting regular stream-of-consciousness opinion pieces with hundreds of thousands of views.

2. Skeptical Briefs is no longer published.

3. The only good thing in Skeptic Magazine was Junior Skeptic which was stuck in the back of each issue where it got far less attention than it deserved.

4. It can’t just be Bill Nye and Neil Tyson!

5. The JREF was an educational foundation so TAM was scheduled in July to appeal to teachers. CFI moved it to October to coincide with Halloween.

6. In decades past, there was always animosity and upset in skeptical groups. I wonder if there is something inherently unstable about an association of smart, opinionated, and critical people that results in periodic explosions. It seems difficult to get us all on the same wagon and going in the same direction.

7. I will always attempt to adhere to and advocate for the process of skepticism in assessing questionable claims. I still want to know the best answer. I’m not leaning toward the “dark” side (as some have supposed) but we should recognize the value in listening to and respecting what non-skeptics have to tell us about the human experience.

Thanks to Howard Lewis for guidance on the outline for this piece. 

Advertisement

35 thoughts on “Please don’t call me a Skeptic

  1. This reflects my feelings about the movement. There was a time when I wrote for Skeptical Inquirer quite frequently. The civil wars that Sharon speaks of really turned me away. I stopped writing and let my subscription lapse. (The less said about Skeptic magazine, the better.) The rise of social media did the movement no favors because it became a battleground for people with nothing better to do than attack each other. They certainly weren’t doing what was necessary to build the movement. Skepticism became just another identity, rather than a method by which to approach questions and resolve problems. I still listen to a few podcasts and read occasionally (I really liked Sharon’s recent book, Scientifical Americans). But I would not participate in any events and certainly do not do social media.

  2. I’m glad you brought up Junior Skeptic. It really is the best part of Skeptic Magazine, by a lot!

    Several of my skeptical friends have departed from whatever skeptical movement is left. I just do my own thing now, so I guess I’ve done the same. But I don’t mind calling myself a skeptic, though I’m really a cheer leader for those who do the actual work of investigating dubious claims.

    It’s been rather painful to see how things have gone down. That’s for sure.

  3. Your position, which I agree with, reminds me of CSICOP co-founder and co-chairman Marcello Truzzi and how he resigned from the organization in 1977 because he wanted to be an open-minded skeptic with a courteous demeanor and they only wanted to pretend to be and instead go on the attack employing ridicule, which is one of the reasons why “skeptic” has the negative connotation it does today.

  4. Just as sceptic crowd can be elitist, arrogant, and closed-minded, so can the social justice crowd. I tend to distance myself from both these days.

  5. Same.

    Being an agnostic atheist (people miss the agnostic part and go straight to atheist) implies that I deny the existence of a creator, what have you. I simply don’t know and I can’t know either.

    But people need easy answers and you’re either a believer with them or a hard-line, headbanging atheist who believes (!) that there is no god(s).

    I’ll continue working in scicomm, but I don’t call myself a skeptic any more.

  6. I’m a skeptic and proud of it. In a world unindated in faith, beliefs and bullshit, healthy, rational Doubt is sorely needed. I’m too old care about the credulous misunderstanding of the label.

  7. Backstabbing and other petty behaviors notwithstanding, what do you think about friction like you’ve seen in the skeptical community as inevitable once that community had reached some critical mass? Follow-ups: If not skepticism, what term if any do you prefer for the work you do? What do you see as a more constructive role for science in the promotion of critical thinking?

  8. Excellent piece, Sharon. I agree with all points — and especially with support for the teaching of critical thinking, at all educational levels. A question, though: What word would replace “skeptic” as the common/popular moniker, the “bumper sticker” moniker? We do need such a word, I believe.

  9. Tim and Michael:

    I don’t think we need a term.

    The term lately refers to the something other than the process of skepticism. Like I said, I still practice the method because it works but I don’t need a label to define my views. Labels and categories are artificial and often get corrupted. Let your words and behaviors define you instead.

  10. Well… I don’t think I’d go as far down the path to paranormalism as Truzzi did. I know of his split and there was some merit to his views for sure. But I don’t think it’s very close. I certainly don’t think Skeptical Inquirer should allow paranormal research papers and to put the pro-paranormal claims on the same level as a science-based view. That’s not right.

  11. The atheist/skeptic community has been a write-off ever since it devolved into a dysfunctional caliphate of mutually antagonistic tribes, all waging a perpetual series of holy wars against each other.

  12. Very refreshing to hear your views on the skeptic movement. I was excited and hopeful when I first found Skeptic Society media after college and entering the workforce. I thought it was a way to continue to stay educated on topics both in and outside of my field that are linked through an approach I respected-scientific reason and skepticism. But I find myself skeptical of a society or community that seems to be celebrety focused and worshiping and hypercritical of dissenting views. Honestly your podcast, Monster Talk, and Archyfantasies are the only things I discovered through my interest in the skeptic community I still consume and enjoy. I like that these resources continue to provide me with tons of topics, avenues and source information to continue my own research and understanding.

  13. What you say is true, Sharon, and you are free, of course, to accept or reject any label you please, but my concern is the widespread hijacking of useful and time-honored words, abetted by the media, for polemical purposes. Radical populists are now “conservatives.” Religious extremists who barely represent one-third of U.S. church folk are now, simply, “Christian” — ditto “Muslim” for fanatical jihadists. And now “skeptic,” for all the reasons you’ve so eloquently adduced. If we’re to surrender these words to the hijackers, then we need replacements, I believe. Especially in a social/media environment where labels do matter.

  14. Language like that grows organically, I can’t see forcing the issue. Unless organizations are successful at recruiting people under a name, it probably won’t work. I’m just not interested in labels at all.

  15. I have always preferred the term “critical thinker.”

    CSICOP managed to offend my intelligence and my sense of decency on a number of occasions. and there were others that’s just the one that I remember.

    Criticalal thinking skills need to be taught in grade school and reinforced throughout School. As part of that people need to learn to accept critique as well as providing useful critiques. Consider how rarely you’ve seen that happen in the wild pitch or catch.

  16. Yes, this article represents another surrender to the alt-right and anti-science folk on defining words. The word Skeptic has meaning. If there are several people who call themselves (anything) , but do not meet the criteria for that thing, then disagree with that label.
    Labels, like any other group of words are useful, rather than describing oneself in 100 words.

  17. This article has exactly nothing to do with the alt-anything. I tried to be clear that this label now applies to a persistent stereotype that many in that community are reinforcing. I want no part of that. Skepticism is a method anyone can apply, and most people who do apply it don’t need to label themselves.

  18. Every movement has divisions and imperfections. That doesn’t mean that the label is thereby bad.

    If self-proclaimed skeptics are not behaving as such, then call them out. Show them how to do it better. What you are doing here, Sharon Hill, is surrendering to the alt-right. They are much more of an enemy to the values you claim to uphold, such as feminism. I understand that online comments for bloggers, etc, can be brutal, but we need to be warriors for things like feminism, not cave in when overgrown spoiled children whine in unison that they don’t like feminism (or progressives or scientific skeptics).

    You seem to be saying, “Skepticism should be X, and if there are people who apply that badly, then the word is misused and does not apply to me.”
    Trying to be a skeptic does not mean that one is perfectly skeptical and has thrown off all the baggage of patriarchy, elitism, racism, etc., as with any other non-extreme (e.g. “perfect”) label. But if you were skeptical, you would know that.

    In sum, your arguments for not using the term “skeptic” are all very faulty.

  19. This post is doing what I have tried to do for the last 7 years, call out the problems and volunteer to help change them including speaking out and discussing the matter with some leaders of the organizations. It’s a broken community right now. Why should I die on this hill? It appears that you are a passionate supporter of social justice causes and may perceive me as a deserter. While I support the values and sentiment behind social justice, I never resembled a “warrior” against the alt-right (it’s own ill-defined and nebulous label for an ideology). I mention nothing about blog comments getting me down or defending feminism so I don’t get that reference. Perhaps you aren’t familiar with the work I had done but just came here for this post?

    Nothing I wrote in here is “news”, it just hasn’t been articulated much. This is partly an opinion piece but it is supported by defendable arguments you can corroborate for yourself, the evidence exists. Part of my point was that a self-righteousness about science and skepticism is unhelpful and detrimental overall. Examples of that arrogance and rudeness are also self-evident.

    But be assured, as I said, I will continue to do what I have been doing, just without a tag that I and others perceive as a pejorative label. So, there is no real loss to the wider point of promoting critical thinking. I don’t see that as faulty or worthy of scorn.

  20. Free-associating as I read the posting:

    But the Skepchicks – experienced in marketing, not science or reasoning – set themselves up as an exclusive club who aimed to be popular and get paid for it.

    Skepchick sounds like they were only interested in holding court at the Kewl Kids’ Table in a never-ending high school. “They have never left high school, they will never leave high school, and they will never let any of the rest of us leave their high school.” (All that’s missing is the Sparkly Vampire Stud.)

    People who called themselves Skeptics were more prone to state that science can fix any problem regardless of the complexities of social, cultural, and economic disparities.

    Science as Personal LORD and Savior?

    Added to that was the ever-present derision towards the “woo” believers. People who subscribed to religion or who bought into pseudoscience of all kinds were called “stupid,” “morons,” or “idiots”.

    Another reason for the “stupid idiot morons” to Stick It To ‘Em with Trump in 2016. PAYBACK TIME!

    Conferences were the main event for the year. These huge investments of time and money delivered the same messages again and again, praising science and skeptical ideals.

    Would it be accurate to call them “Revival Meetings”?

  21. Best to get far far away from the Kyle’s Moms, no matter what their Righteous Cause.

  22. Not helped by the fact it’s too easily pronounced “Psi-Cop”, i.e. “That slimy bunch of psychic SS” from Babylon-5.

  23. With Michael R., I think a label is still a helpful thing. Maybe “skeptic” has worn out its welcome (or maybe not), but that doesn’t mean we can just throw up our arms and leave a vacuum. (Sorry about the mixed metaphors.) It’s true, various labels get hijacked by groups with ironically opposite agendas such as the so-called Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network (AVN). And, I believe, Steve Novella (Skeptics Guide to the Universe) has given up on the term “evidence-based” in favor of “science-based” since “evidence” is often touted by folks who use the term for whatever “scientifical” woo they can muster. But those of us wanting to congregate and communicate through Meetups, conferences, blogs, podcasts and Skeptics in the Pub-type gatherings, still need some mark, insignia or identification so we can find our sympaticos.

    Clearly, the skeptical movement made a huge misstep with “brights.” But terms like “critical thinkers” don’t help so much because, like the “evidence” people, everyone thinks they’re a critical thinker, just as everyone thinks they have a good sense of humor.

    So let’s not give up on terminology lest we find everyone just calling themself a “citizen of the world” (who loves to laugh).

  24. An interesting read with many valid points. It’s also good to point out that if you feel the need to seriously cling to a term, that’s probably the moment when you should question that need the most. The fight for logical thinking has wandered far enough off track over the past 20 years that the term “skeptic” has become as tainted as the term “believer” in the minds of the people you are most trying to reach.

    The only thing that bothers me about this piece is the seeming dismissal of women’s issues in the movement. Yes, it’s mentioned in terms of “inclusion” issues and the predominance of “old white men”, but when it came down to going over the abuses of some of those old white men and the damage done in terms of attracting fresh life to the movement, it seems like the tone suddenly becomes “oh those skepchics and their drama”.

    The skeptical movement acted somewhat as the canary in the coal mine when it came to seeing the problems of misogyny and abuse in the STEM community as a whole. It would have done the movement a great deal of good to be seen fighting that fight BEFORE the “Me too” movement came into being. Yes science is wonderful, but you are all social beings as well. You cannot examine the problems any community is having surviving and evolving if you are still acting like it’s the 50’s and women who speak up are just generating “clickbait”

  25. The atheist/freethinkers were more involved with the “Brights” idea. Once again, promotion of general critical thinking skills was secondary to the freedom from religion ideas.

    I think you really missed the gist of the post which is not as much the label but the very messed up condition of the community today which that label at least partially represents. Again, go on youtube and see what “skeptic” is like there. You can’t unsee it. I would gladly stand behind the label if there was strong support but the community is stuck in the past, with no vision that appeals to the younger generation, and no strategy. That’s not a winning bet. I’ve thought very long about this and I’m in no doubt about giving up this association with Skeptic.

  26. As a woman, I do not dismiss the women’s issues. First, women’s issues are not just sexism, misogyny, and a so-called “rape culture” that was publicized in the Skeptic/Atheist circles as “rampant”. I want a female perspective including. The perception of the circle as being a distinct threat to women is a different issue for which there is no good evidence. I see it as very much comparable to other communities such as science, business, etc. This is a social-cultural issue, not a skeptic issue. The much smaller circle made the few voices seeking publicity about it very loud. To this day, I refuse to see soliciting coffee in an elevator as something to make a big deal about. In the post I mention scandals, that includes the sexual-themed ones. There were certainly incidents that occurred. Note that one major scandalous claim was later retracted because it was demonstrated to be false. Other claims were made by people who were less than credible or in subjective situations. I don’t think this is any different than any other situation where an egotistical man thinks he can take liberties that will be construed to the other party as uncomfortable. Frankly, I got really annoyed at women telling me that my experience of NOT feeling threatened at a conference or event was not a valid experience because they wanted to promote that idea that it was a misogynist culture. That’s wrong. To characterize this as a 50’s throwback is just weird.

  27. I can’t say that I agree completely with you, but I do think your point is well taken. I’m especially on board with the ideas about ultra left social justice and drama taking over the skeptic movement. Some of the most disgusting people I’ve come across online have been atheists/skeptics, although I think many people use the terms interchangeably without knowing what a skeptic really is.

    You said that skeptic movement needs a reset. Okay. let’s say this essay is the starting point. You said skepticism suffered a lack of leadership? I’ve read enough of your writing to trust you. Be a leader, Sharon.

    I’m willing to forego my occasional forays into calling overly superstitious people morons if it means we can have a viable movement with the primary goal of getting critical thinking skills taught in school from K-12.

    So…reset complete. What’s step 2?

  28. I’ve spoken out to the various orgs repeatedly on this topic. Repeatedly. They don’t wish to take that advice; they seem happy with the status quo. I’ve been actively involved since 2000 and observing since 1993. I’ve done all I can short of setting up my own nonprofit which I have no inclination to do as I have a day job and a family. I’ve done enough heavy lifting with my websites, writing and presenting. I tried to lead by example and will keep on doing my thing. Step 2 perhaps is an investment by the orgs into PR, social media, video, websites, etc. and a shift from the skepto-atheist agenda to a strategic plan with measurable goals and new ideas. It’s got to be a cultural change that can’t be done overnight. Frankly, marketing skills are needed for this phase as it’s not about science education as much as it is about selling the message that we should attempt to reason ourselves into a better society. The hole is pretty deep right now.

    I don’t think the skeptical orgs in existence will last much longer on this current course. Things may reset themselves by necessity. I apologize I took my dog out of this fight. I tried. You gotta know when to fold em and move on.

  29. I don’t think you can fit into any tribe without experiencing some sort of “drama”; as Tim O’Connell ruminated in his comments about reaching “critical mass,” except I don’t think it even needs to get that far. What we are talking about is human nature. Conflict is inevitable when people are pooled together for any purpose. So are splits. All groups eventually become politicised by our very inclinations toward establishing doctrine and order.

    Indeed, this also applies to our tendency toward labelling; another human nature trait. After all, our very communication is formed by labelling. Each and every word we are typing here is invested with baggage and meaning. The call to replace “skeptic” with something else will inevitably reach the same circular effect once it, too, becomes tarnished.

    That said, I think there are great points on humanising communication and education on the topic. Yes, skeptics can be awfully snarky and derisive (and that includes me). That, of course, cut off discourse and entrenches “sides” rather than bridging gaps, which should be the aim.

    But I’m also very curious about the alternative. Apart from Junior Skeptic, what would you view as a workable example of the type of literature in this field that you view as a benchmark; a better example to aspire to?

  30. I will take to care to avoid use the “wrong” name for rationalism. The masses have always been easily swayed by charismatic speakers, evocations of supernatural forces
    that blithely explain the human condition, and the promise of more of the almighty currency.

    The anti rationalism movement really took off in 2000 when the U.S. Republican Party nominated an acknowledged “BS’er for President. The Democratic nominee ran in part on the rational importance of addressing climate change. As a matter of politics, the Republican Party became anti-science and anti-rationalist, and has enlisted the full powers of capitalism in that strategy.

    One result of this stance is that in many communities anti science has become a political issue, and it is difficult if not impossible for teachers to teach the scientific approach and rational ways of considering problems.

    Securing political power for the more rational group in the US is by far THE most important way to combat anti-rationalism and anti-science,

    Imho.

  31. As I said on Twitter, congrats on seeing the light.

    Even if it was 5 years or more after people like Massimo Pigliucci and I did. And some of us got attacked for it. I know I did, for pointing out some of the things that you list now. I know I did and I’ll leave it at that.

    Re one or two other comments.

    Amirong? “Scientific Skepticism” is no guarantor of intelligent action, in part for the reasons mentioned above, plus that Homo sapiens is far less rational as a species than most “scientific skeptics” admit, or even understand, to be honest.

    SS also has its history of tribalism and within the scientism, anti-philosophical stances. (That’s why I use “scientific skepticism” or “movement skepticism” rather than “skepticism,” which refers to an actual philosophy.)

    Anthony is right about the tribalism, which is one reason why, per Sharon’s one comment, the orgs don’t want to listen. Within that tribalism is leadership, money and jobs for the leaders, which is another reason they don’t want to listen.

  32. I still do identify as a skeptic, as I share their goals and agenda, though not entirely their psychological mindset. I tend to be way overtolerant in private face to face discussions. However, what I always push forward, be it in gentle discussions or public feuds, is the idea of rationality, and epistemology in all matters. That leads me attack pseudo-science, for sure, but I do not refrain myself of making clear where and why I disagree with skeptics, on the most rational grounds possible.

    I do share the goal of a rationally, science driven society, with evidence based practices implemented as far as the judicial system and in politics. But I also try to help as much as possible people stigmatized, rightly or wrongly, by skeptics to make their case. Pointing out where they’re wrong is fun and can be at times done with huge derision. Pointing out where they’re right is politically tougher, and needs to be done gently and with as much nuance as possible. Practicing balance and thoughtfully hierarchising information and facts raises ethical issues. We shouldn’t hide from addressing these ethical issues, as rationally as it is possible to do in public discourse.

    Bullshitters can sometimes have a point in specific topics. We should also learn how to criticize ourselves rationally.

    Because any skeptic or rationalist can in the future be witness to stuff that is publicly thought to be “irrational”. If they reach that point, they will either have the choice to shut up, fall into woo either because their mind is immature or for political reasons, or stick to rationality in order to make their point, which will be immensely tough. Happily, most skeptics will never reach that state of mind. But we should be thoughtful about helping them epistemologically if they become confused. Because any skeptic can, in the future, be ridiculed into silence by the majority of skeptics. We need to listen to people, not agree with them. Why is it that this simple distinction seem so hard to abide by in practice?

    (And there are times where we should not even listen to people and just plainly ridiculise them, that’s for sure…)

Comments are closed.