The latest in a long line of skeptical shitstorms recently erupted in the blogosphere, on Twitter and Facebook. It’s been people overacting to some good points and bad points left, right and centre and frankly I’ve been avoiding commenting because I don’t want to become a target for vile comments from people who have vendettas against those involved in previously mentioned shitstorm.
However, I have noticed a reoccuring theme emerging when people discuss the latest controvery bugging skeptics and that is ‘The Skeptical Community’ that we all belong to.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t belong to a community just because I identify as a skeptic. I’m not like most other skeptics and I wouldn’t dream of pretending they were like me. There are skeptics out there that used to abuse me for believing in ghosts – I’m not like them and I certainly don’t exist in some special “community” with them.
I’ve never really understood why people are so fascinated with the idea that if you identify as a skeptic you are suddenly a part of a community, because as far as I am concerned skepticism is part of a bigger community we all exist in – it’s called the world.
The problem I have with identifying myself as belonging to The Skeptical Community is that it judges those who identify as skeptics as holding the same ideas, principles and ethics but that simply isn’t the case. There are skeptics who are religious and have strong faith in a god, there are skeptics who use homeopathy, there are skeptics who are doubtful of climate change, who subscribe to conspiracy theories about Princess Diana’s death, Crop Circles, or the New World Order. There are skeptics who are misogynistic, misandrist, and trasphobic and biggoted. There are skeptics who are intolerant of those with beliefs that clash with their own, skeptics who are condescending with their tone, skeptics who abuse people and call them names when they aren’t as skeptical as they possibly should be about certain things.
By claiming we all belong to ‘the skeptical community’ we act surprised when people don’t think the same way as us.
This happens because we each have our own ideas, ethics and principles (and they often match others who identify as skeptics, but not always) and when we imagine we’re part of some bigger community of like minded people we unintentionally hold the other members of the community to our standards of thinking and see it is a failure when they don’t live up to our expectations. We brand them as bad skeptics or talk about how the skeptical community has big problems to solve when in all reality it’s society as a whole that has a problem.
I don’t speak for other skeptical folk just as they don’t speak for me.
Misogyny, Misandry and other biggoted positions are a problem for skeptics just as they are for a wider society, and yes we totally should combat them and I am not stating otherwise. I just wanted to comment upon the mythical skeptical community that we all apparently belong to and how it in fact sets us up to fail and always will do until we realise it is individuals we need to hold responsible for their own behaviour, rather than a group of people who all just happen to identify as skeptics.
p.s. the image at the top of the post says ‘skepticism is a virtue’, but I don’t think it necessarily is when it comes down to an individuals skepticism, and how they behave.