O Noes!! Troythulu is feeling more like a proper eldritch entity from beyond spacetime, and is in the mood for much gratuitous snarkitude. Still here? Good. Let’s proceed.
Having read The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a collection of short material by Dick Feynman, my current favored definition of modern skepticism could be “the art and endeavor making science relevant to the general public and social institutions by inquiring into and discussing claims of fact of a scientifically meaningful and testably questionable nature,” for this is, after all, scientific skepticism, and not the classical sort, nor a universal or global skepticism, though it may be a component of the latter.
That depends on the individual.
The emphasis of modern skepticism on scientific claims is a point missed by those with little sufferance for skeptics. Some have claimed, in purely rhetorical fashion, with much use of often vehemently loaded language, that skeptics are not really skeptical because they do not doubt their own beliefs or the establishment.
Are they serious?? *giggle*
This assertion is so ludicrous that it may be summarily dismissed without evidence, for it is offered with none. But I’m going to continue just because I can. So there.
This claim, even if it were only marginally true, obviously misses the point. What one doubts is a matter of individual taste, not dictated by a cookie-cutter personality template cobbled together out of the posterior of someone who harbors a deep resentment of skeptics and knows little if anything about psychology beyond what he’s seen on “Oprah.”
If you really want to know what a skeptic believes or doubts, ask one. Really. How hard can it be?
The apologists for antiscience just don’t get it, and perhaps they don’t want to, since that would require a concern for valid facts and good reasoning, matters they have often and repeatedly shown themselves untrustworthy in.
They have shown thin skins indeed, and most of their tirades are of the “Waaah!! Why do they have to pick on my precious beliefs?? Those bad pseudo-skeptics are just a bunch of big old meanies!! Mommy, make ’em stop!!” variety, which provides me endless hours of amusement during late-night web-surfing excursions looking for new logical fallacies.
It is precisely those claims of fact, whether of pseudoscience, the paranormal, of religion or politics, in particular any of those claims that intrude upon the territory of science and its conduct, and those claims concerning reality that are questionable and/or revolutionary, that modern skepticism mainly concerns itself with.
Such claims just happen by some odd coincidence to be the very ones advocated by pseudoscientists…
It is only those claims which can be examined and meaningfully investigated and if true, explained if the data allow it, that the new skepticism mainly concerns itself with, claims of fact, not untestable matters of mere opinion or subjective worth.
Many of us who self-identify as skeptics do consider the actions of governments, corporations, organized religions and other powerful institutions questionable, sometimes unconscionable, occasionally reprehensible, and at times even horrific, but these are matters which warrant personal protest and condemnation in a capacity as concerned citizens and individuals, not necessarily in a capacity as members of the skeptical community.
Yes, I know it’s difficult to swallow, but skeptics really do spend their lives doing things other than, well, being skeptical, more than just debunking weird claims, which is another thing that some just don’t get.
Fringe-proponents typically seem to view skeptics almost exclusively in terms of a relationship of opposition to their doctrine’s own claims.
They seem to see skeptics only in the capacity of mere one-dimensional debunkers. That’s the impression I get from their online and hardcopy literature.
For those who are so often given to proclaim their imaginative creativity and unconventional thinking, this seems very unimaginative and terribly conventional of them.
Some people need their opposition to be faceless thugs, easily pigeonholed and so often comically evil villains, and indeed, their characterizations of skeptics are often quite comical. I suppose that that makes ‘the other side’ easier to think of as ‘other,’ to them, though I don’t see how it really contributes to genuine understanding.
Then again, the promotion of nonsense as fact is not a curiosity-motivated quest for understanding, but a rigid fascination with one’s predetermined conclusion.
Anti-skeptics know already what they want the truth to be, and there is nothing based on sound science or reason that will avert them from that revelation.
On pain of sounding condescending, it’s unfortunate how frightened and confused people often do whatever they can to remain frightened and confused, the lengths people will go to to protect their wishes and fears from scrutiny and open discussion.