Someone found this blog recently by searching for this phrase. I don’t remember blogging about this before, and I thought it would make an excellent conversation piece. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say about it!
There are a lot of things that I admire about the modern skeptical movement: their intellectualism; their curiosity; their willingness to change their minds when presented with new evidence; their hesitation to take anything as the gospel truth regardless of who says it.
With that being said, it isn’t a perfect movement. Like any other group of people that is loosely tied together, skepticism has its own share of shortcomings.
- Not everyone who uses the skeptic label actually knows what they’re talking about. This isn’t something I blame on the skeptical movement itself, of course. It’s human nature to want to belong to a group, but I still cringe when people get into debates about topics they know almost nothing about or use skepticism as a cover for beliefs they have that aren’t actually supported by current scientific research. (This is one of the biggest reasons why I don’t jump into online debates about a lot of the things that skeptics debate. I don’t have enough scientific knowledge to argue the finer points with anyone!)
- Too much skepticism can devolve into cynicism. Is there something about our inquisitive personalities that leads so many skeptics to question absolutely everything? Quite possibly, but I don’t think it’s emotionally healthy to spend as much time on these things as I’ve seen with some of the skeptics I know. Sometimes you have to slow down, take a deep breath, and live in the moment.
- It’s not our job to control other people’s lives. I have relatives who swear by alternative medicine. They take all kinds of untested supplements and vitamin pills every day because they genuinely believe that those things will cure their health problems. Some of those pills are probably harmless, while others have been shown to increase the risks of certain diseases for users who take large doses like my relatives do. Do I insist that they stop? No. While I hope their health won’t ever be harmed by their choices, they’re adults. What they do with their bodies is their own business.
- It’s not our job to prove that other people are wrong about issue X. This urge was something that irritated me when I was a Christian and other believers tried to debate others into agreeing with them. It still bothers just as much now that I’m part of an entirely different group. While I completely understand the urge to set the record straight, I’ve become a much happier person since I decided to stop making this my job in life. People will either change their minds or they won’t. Arguing with them about it – especially online – isn’t going to make a difference in the vast majority of cases.
I’m going to end this post with an old XKCD comic strip. As usual, the guy who makes them hit the nail on the head.