Some Things I’m NOT Overly Skeptical About: Part III
I’m going to both finish this up from last Thursday and shift gears just a bit, and discuss some of my thoughts on the nature of doubt — when it’s reasonable, when it’s not, what it is, and why. While it is true that many skeptics do not doubt the very things believers require them to, or at least in the same way, skeptical doubt has a couple of features that set it apart from that of dedicated belief or abject denial.
[A] skeptical doubt, when applied correctly, is based upon a need for compelling evidence defined as appropriate and proportionate to a given claim, and is exercised when this is scant or lacking. Only claims of reality that are testable can be consistently accepted.
Claims or statements about objective reality ≠ Claims or statements of subjective personal opinion…
[B] Skeptical doubt is provisional, amenable to acceptance of claims by way of, above all, justification, not absolute proof (after all, this is scientific skepticism we’re talking about here) for that acceptance like sufficient evidence and sound argumentation.
My experience is such that most of the time you can actually argue with skeptics because by and large their approach to discussion is based upon reason and facts and not anti-rationalism and wishful thinking.
Not all the time, but often enough as a general rule, True Believers and Deniers have taken the opposite tack in discussions I’ve attempted with them, and beyond count are the instances of moving goalposts, red herrings, knee-jerk dismissals, straw-persons, logically incoherent statements, non-sequitur arguments, fallacious appeals to authority, factual misconceptions and sometimes outright intentional falsehoods, that I’ve encountered in dealing with them.
The professed doubt and intellectual strategies of those with an intolerance of skepticism is based, in large part, on a poor understanding of sound critical thinking, supported by rationalizations, poor scientific literacy and a liberal application of cognitive and logical fallacies, as per those who are ‘critical’ of things like evolution or climate science without being willing or skilled (or both) in truly assessing the evidence for that which they claim to be ‘critical’ of.
Scientific literacy is more than merely being able to spit out the facts and figures, though facts do have some importance (since you can’t think on an empty mind…), but an understanding of what a fact actually is in science – outside of pure mathematics and formal logic – and the nature of scientific theories and thinking, and that of scientific proof . That last is somewhat of an oxymoron, since facts of science and therefore those about reality can never be absolutely proven, for nobody is omniscient and it is simply not possible to ensure absolutely that all of the relevant evidence has been examined.
Further, my experience has been that anti-science types are primarily ‘skeptical’ of those things, and persons, that do not agree with their views, and both tend to attribute more worth than they have reason to for such things as biases, vested interests, and other suspect motivations, especially when these are neither true nor relevant and are merely projected onto one’s critics out of distaste.
Uncritical acceptance or rejection are not based upon facts or reason, but upon ideology and unfounded suspicion, the latter lending itself well to conspiracy theorizing…
It is not easy to change one’s mind or apportion belief to evidence when these are at play. Some people cannot face being wrong, or that they have or can be fooled by themselves or others.
None of us ‘likes’ being taken or admitting it when we have been…
The mental strategies of True Belief and Denialism are common to both — the use of logical fallacies, anecdotes as proof and spuriously perceived anomalies — only the focus and application differs, and they are not necessarily exclusive to each other, even in the same person…
To sum this up, I do not think that skepticism means the same thing for everyone who says that they are ‘skeptical’ of something, nor how it is done and even what it is by those who say it. That is a subject for discussion in an upcoming post, and I’ll explore it in more detail then. Fnord.
- The skeptical community (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- On the difference between religion and woo (atheistexperience.blogspot.com)
- What type of Theistic Skeptic are you? (atheistexperience.blogspot.com)
- What it Means to be a Skeptic (randi.org)
- Wisco on Religious Fanaticism Disguised as Skepticism (grantlawrence.blogspot.com)
Posted on Tuesday, 16:17, October 26, 2010, in Skepticism and tagged Argumentation, Belief, Critical Thinking, Denial, Fallacy, Rationalism, Science, Science in Society, Scientific Skepticism, Skeptical Inquiry, Skepticism. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.