Jeff Wagg created, earlier this year, IndieSkeptics, a blog that hosts skeptics that want to write articles on topics of skepticism but, “for a variety of reasons, they don’t.” I like the concept and, as a skeptic, love seeing additional real estate on the internet set aside for the skeptical viewpoint. But he recently wrote an article there in which I think he’s dead wrong.
Wagg objected strongly to the recent SkeptiCon theme, which, according to him, was overly atheist in nature rather than skeptical in general. He’s wrong about that, too, but this isn’t the precise point that I disagree with him on. In his article, Are Atheists Delusional?, Wagg states:
The pro-atheist cause is an entirely different endeavor with a community that overlaps strongly with the skeptical community. Skepticism is about drawing conclusions that are proportioned to the available evidence. That’s it. And I think keeping the two things separate if vitally important.
Wagg couldn’t be further from the truth. The pro-atheist cause is central to the skeptical movement. Wagg objects to those who equate skepticism with atheism, saying “if you equate skepticism with anything other than science, you’ve missed the point.” But it’s Wagg who misses the point since no one is making the argument he claims to be defeating here. What atheists (who are skeptics) are saying is that science-based skepticism leads to atheism. I won’t get into the various nuances of soft/hard atheism or agnosticism vs. atheism, etc. Lets suffice it to say that by atheist, what’s implied here is anyone who lives their life without a belief in gods.
The religious influences in government, local and national policies, public education, public health, and civil rights in the United States (and abroad) are more than just significant. Religion is a multi-billion dollar industry and it lobbies government from many directions simultaneously. This is an industry in which its membership and leadership is demonstrably corruptible and bigoted. If there were a single-best cause to be skeptical of, it would be religion, which greatly overshadows homeopathy, astrology, ESP, ghost-hunting, UFO/alien nuttery, and perpetual energy all put together.
Wagg also says, “I see a lot of good people leaving the skeptical community because they’re uncomfortable with the tone and disappointed with, frankly, the lack of skepticism presented by many people.” But he isn’t clear about this supposed “lack of skepticism.” I say its either non-existent or it is absent where he implies it to be. Clearly, those who accept Wagg’s position, or believe they can cherry-pick what they are skeptical about exhibit an obvious lack of skepticism -I doubt, however, that this is what Wagg means.
Rather than worry about alienating a few pretend-skeptics or cherry-picking skeptics who might turn their collective backs on skepticism, we should be banding together and rolling critical thought and skeptical inquiry together against it all. To those who “leave the fold,” good riddance. They weren’t skeptical.
If they’re willing to exclude religion, the single biggest, most influential human institution of supernatural belief from their list of things to be skeptical of, then how can they truly be skeptics?
- Can You Be a Skeptic Without Being an Atheist? (friendlyatheist.com)
- I had no idea I was stepping into a controversy [Pharyngula] (scienceblogs.com)
- Skeptatheism (cubiksrube.wordpress.com)
- Skepticism and Atheism – Is there a Difference? (sandwalk.blogspot.com)