Recently, in the course of a heated debate about science and evolutionary biology a “friend” let slip some of his true feelings about me (Mojo) and my atheism/skepticism. In his defence, he was upset and may not have known what exactly he was saying, but as you may have already guessed, I no longer consider this person a friend as I once did.
Chances are, if you read this blog, you are a skeptic or critical thinker and you may even be an atheist. If this is the case, you may do well to remember this article as a bit of a warning. If you are not a skeptic but have friends that are, maybe this article will help enlighten you to what it is like for them and perhaps increase your tolerance to their way of life. Either way, this is purely a cathartic experience for me to get a few things off my chest.
1. We skeptics cannot pretend to be fence-sitters for your sake. Keep this in mind when you broach “controversial” topics like evolution, UFOs or alternative medicines. It would be a lie to everyone involved if skeptics simply shrugged away catagorically wrong statements of fact as if they didn’t care. If you’re not prepared to go all-in with these types of discussions, don’t bring it up.
2. Try to ignore your personal feelings when discussing science. If you are going to discuss these things and don’t like being told that you’re wrong, again, back away slowly. A skeptic usually doesn’t treat any topic as a sacred cow. If you are personally invested in this topic for any reason, you should remember that as a scientist, your skeptic friend will debate the topic… not you. If he/she discounts your claim as false, try to keep it there and don’t take it as a personal attack.
3. Not everything is a matter of opinion. Very often, people who realize they have inadvertently opened a proverbial can of worms that is a skeptical debate will attempt to end the conversation with statements like, “That’s just my opinion” or “Well that’s just what I beleive”. We have all learned from a very young age that most people will not challenge beliefs and opinions because everyone is entitled to their own. Matters of science and the nature of reality however, are not matters of opinion. Skeptics MUST have evidence to say something is real or not. We have a hard time understanding how people can turn statements like “Big foot is real” into a matter of opinion. As such, don’t expect to get off the hook that easily with a skeptic. In all likliehood, a skeptic will brush that comment aside and get back to the topic at hand.