I’m So Tired of These So-Called Skeptics


I can’t help but think that there needs to be a test before one can call themself a skeptic. It’s amazing how many people call themselves skeptics while having no critical thinking skills once so ever. This is the biggest reason I don’t really identify as a skeptic.

Today I received a reply to a comment I wrote on YouTube. The person considered themself a skeptic, but they couldn’t be bothered to supply any evidence to support their claim that masculinity and femininity are biological despite the fact that different cultures around the world hold to different ideas about what is masculine and what is feminine. Skeptics are supposed to be critical of all claims, and they are supposed to look at the evidence before they decide what is true, but so few actually do that. So many skeptics ignore the evidence and determine what they believe to be true on what society accepts, or who they hero-worship, or what they simply feel to be right. But that isn’t being skeptical.

Skepticism is a fine line to walk. It isn’t easy. But it also isn’t that difficult. Somebody says the sky is blue? Look up. Does the sky look blue? If yes, then do you have any reason to believe you are being deceived? No? Then the sky is blue. Obviously not everything is this simple, but it follows the same pattern. Someone says god exists? Can you see god? No? Then what other ways can we know something using our senses? Can we feel god? No? Can we smell god? No? Can we taste god? No? Can we hear god? No? Then how else can we find out if this claim is true? What evidence does the person making the claim have to offer? Can that evidence be verified? If not, then what does this say about the claim? If you can’t verify something using your own senses, and the evidence offered by the person making the claim isn’t verifiable, then the person’s claim can be dismissed.

But skeptics don’t generally have an issue applying this method to gods. It’s other things, more mundane things that skeptics want to be true, where they have difficulty applying their skepticism. But applying skepticism to one area does not a skeptic make. So where do skeptics fail?

Skeptics fail at applying skepticism to claims about sex and gender. It’s widely accepted that men are stronger than women. But how do we know if this is true? Can you see a man lift something that a woman can’t? Probably. But this is one man and one woman. So how do you turn the “this man can lift something that that woman can’t” claim into a “men are stronger than women” claim? First you need a lot of men and a lot of women. Then you need to compensate for weight difference. What do the results show? Obviously the average person doesn’t have time to do all of these experiments to determine what they should believe. Luckily scientists have done much of the research for us. So what have scientists found when they have done these studies? Are there studies that contradict each other? Does one debunk the other one? Are there meta-studies that explain why one is more accurate than the other? And are you sure your sources are good (ie. can you follow the source back to original research?)? Once you’ve done all that, you can be reasonably sure that your belief is accurate. However, to be a good skeptic, you can not say that you are a 100% certain that your belief is true. There is always a chance that you are wrong, and a true skeptic understands this. The problem with most so-called skeptics is they do not understand this.

So do you need to use the process given above to determine if your believes are true if you want to be a good skeptic? Yes. But it is not as daunting as it sounds. We all do the process to a certain degree, but most people don’t look at both sides of an argument, and they aren’t often open to changing their mind. The research doesn’t have to be done all at once. It can be done over the course of months or years, but both sides need to be considered, and you need to be open to changing your mind. That’s how we learn and grow.

So please, if you call yourself a skeptic, please make sure that you are as willing to apply your skepticism equally to all of your beliefs. And please make sure that you are willing to accept that you might be wrong. Because as soon as you say “I know x for certain” you cease being a skeptic. And as soon as you fail to apply the rigorous research needed to accept a belief you cease to be a good skeptic.

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26 responses to “I’m So Tired of These So-Called Skeptics

  • deebayuu

    Reblogged this on adebayoadegbite and commented:
    An old saying goes thus: “Every story is true, until another person comes and tells the other side.” We all like to style ourselves as skeptics in one form or the other. The skeptic is the very definition of a “wise” man, in that the wool cannot be pulled over his eyes and that is how we want to appear to other people no matter our age, gender or social status.
    The essential argument that Hessianwithteeth raises in this post is that skepticism is more than a latent distrust of beliefs brought forward by others, it is a state achieved by critical examination and study. As a skeptic you cannot afford to select the beliefs you want to distrust either, every beliefs has to be subjected to the same critical screening, only then can one lay claim to true skepticism.

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  • arekexcelsior

    I think you have to bear in mind that being a “skeptic” allows one to fit into trendy communities. When you say that you’re a “skeptic”, it enables you to challenge whatever idea you want under the presumption that you are just tearing down whatever sacred cow that someone wants to defend. It’s likely that your interlocutor is anti-feminist and wants to support the idea of intrinsic biological difference for his own reasons. (Of course, intrinsic biological difference and feminism aren’t in conflict, unless we assume that because people are different they should be treated worse. This argument is one I have yet to hear any apologist for patriarchy actually coherently engage with).

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  • AberrantAnderson

    Reblogged this on soberingsociety and commented:
    Honestly I don’t think calling yourself a skeptic is that big of a deal, however I feel like many people of all demographics tend to be one sided on a large array of topics. I feel as though it only makes sense for people to look for evidence that supports their claims this day in age, and understand the other side. Considering you can pull up a ton of studies, statistics and various point of views by simply googling the subject of debate you would assume everyone would do that. Instead when people have an opportunity to gain infinite knowledge they choose ignorance and bias. So unfortunately we’ll have to deal with others ignoring the facts on every topic of conversation ever and with them bashing people who have different views.

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  • jackcollier7

    I firmly believe that I am skeptical of all things, including everything I think is true. As it goes I would rather that informaton was useful rather than true.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      Well I firmly beilive you try too, but I’m skeptical when people say they are skeptical of all things. That’s a very hard road to follow, and I haven’t met a person yet who’s capable of being skeptical of all things. Though if you’ve actually managed it well it’s certainty a feat.

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  • teatimewithmissb

    Actually you don’t have to have a one to one comparison or else no scientific experiment would get off the ground. Those who refined the scientific methodology have already established variety within individuals. Without generalizations, as harsh as it may seem, you’d have no drugs released that do nice thing for people. Your subject populations have to have enough people to meet the statistics criteria of an IRB. So you cannot compare one man to Rhonda Rousey and say men and women are equally strong. You would select a population of 100 or more of each gender, have them perform the same tests where “strong” has been defined and then when the results come back you apply mathematical analysis. The humans don’t have to all be the same size, just the same age group (usually) or in aged sets.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      Age says absolutely nothing about strength. A 40 year old can be as strong as or stronger than a 20 year old. Size and weight do matter. A bigger person can easily get more leverage than a smaller person, which makes it easier to lift. Density also affects how easy it is to lift. A denser person finds it easier to lift because they have a more stable platform to lift from. This is simple physics.

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      • teatimewithmissb

        And yet, when human subject studies are conducted they submit them in age groups. 🙂

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        • hessianwithteeth

          Well i have to correct Hessian when she says age says nothing about strength. Age on the aggregate does say some about strength, although statistics do not then translate well to any particular individual.

          Though on to your point miss b. While yest you can point to the how a particular study or group of studies are conducted, in this case you point to human studies conducted by age, as they often are. However, you cannot then say that a study that is based around age group is then indicative of the results on a study based around body mass, or vise versa until you have a both bodies of research to compare.

          By my reading that makes your point moot in that it does not vindicate your original objection.

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          • teatimewithmissb

            Well, the really amazing thing about research is that any research will pass with appropriate statistics and adherence to the Belmont Principles of human subject testing. Your research does not necessarily have to be good or even sound to be funded. Many a ridiculous research project was funded for political reasons, but what were you saying again…? Ahhh, yes! In an appropriate study they would match body type to body type, within an age frame, and then compare to gender…when that happened in the US while conducted by the Office of Naval Research under the aegis of the Secretary of the Navy it was discarded because they chose instead to perform their own testing on live volunteer subject populations, which was then discarded when a 98% wash rate was uncovered compared to a 4% wash rate of males because, quote: their civil rights were violated.

            Thereby proving that God is the Law is the God, and that Science is merely just an archangel or something.

            I do love your blog though. I really love progressives, you guys are totally cute! 🙂

            Was that patronizing? I think it was feminizing actually…to call it patronizing is sexist. 🙂

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          • hessianwithteeth

            You can be silly all you want, but I try to build I repport with people before I try to joke with them. Let alone use a lot of Sarcasm.

            Anyway we are tired of you so good bye. (You can safely consider this a no to the cyber drinks.)

            Like

  • I'm So Tired of These So-Called Skeptics | Christians Anonymous

    […] Source: I’m So Tired of These So-Called Skeptics […]

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  • The Brain in the Jar

    What a much needed post!

    I’m surrounded by people who are proud of their atheism. Start discussing slightly uncommon ideas – giving birth is morally wrong, romantic relationships are a sham, gender roles, race is bullshit – they start parroting crap. I had very intelligent people tell me that ‘black’ people look different than ‘white’, therefore different taxonomy!

    I don’t understand why people care so much about whether men are generally stronger than women or not. If I need people for physical labour, I’d choose the strongest. Why should I care what they have between the legs if strength is the sole citeria?

    Liked by 1 person

  • A Psychopath and a Scholar

    Great post. A true philosophical skeptic is generally skeptical about everything. This does not mean that they don’t have any beliefs, but rather that they don’t believe in the absolute validity of any belief. For example, evidence leads me to make many claims about what seems to be true, but I would also contend that it is theoretically possible that nothing exists at all or that the “brain in a vat” or “dream” theories could be true. You made a good point, because many people use the term “skeptic” to describe apathy aka I don’t care enough to study so I’ll just believe what I want, but be skeptical about it. As someone who has been involved in research work before, I can tell you that there are almost no theories or studies that have had a 100% accuracy rate, because there are often other factors that cannot be controlled. I personally believe that every logical person should have a degree of skepticism, as this allows them to improve their theories as new evidence presents itself. On a side note though – assuming that this YouTube “skeptic” believes in evolution, you should ask them if they’re familiar with the societal patterns of our believed two closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Bonobos and Chimps have differing cultures especially in that one is a male-dominant species, and the other is a female-dominant species. There’s also some bisexuality going on, so it makes an interesting study in both gender-roles and homosexuality.

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  • transforminglifenow

    I wouldn’t ever call myself a skeptic; however I am curious and will look studies up, and then check to see who funded the study. That’s the way to figure out if that study had a bias. I think we need more people who will look things up and use their own intelligence to decide for themselves instead of just believing whatever someone tells them.

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  • stchauvinism

    Reblogged this on Stop Trans Chauvinism.

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  • Vader Diem

    “f you can’t verify something using your own senses, and the evidence offered by the person making the claim isn’t verifiable, then the person’s claim can be dismissed.”

    Not necessarily. In skepticism, ideas are not entirely dismissed; We would just need more evidence to support the hypothesis.

    Liked by 1 person

  • equippedcat

    What definition are you using for the term “Skeptic”? The one I’m familiar with is “a person who questions or doubts something (such as a claim or statement) : a person who often questions or doubts things” (merriam-webster)

    Using that definition, I don’t see any implication that rigorous thinking is required, just doubt. The behaviors you describe should be discouraged. However, having those behaviors would seem to say nothing about a person’s claim to be a “skeptic”, however it does speak volumes about their ability to reason and debate.

    It seems to me that most people can validly claim to be a “skeptic”; it appears that all that is required is to doubt or question at least one thing, and rare is the person who can’t make that claim..

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    • Vader Diem

      I’m pretty sure Hessian means scientific skepticism, which mean more than just doubting. It is about testing assumptions and hypotheses, a continuous process of seeking the truth through scientific inquiry.

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      • equippedcat

        If so, adding the qualifier “scientific” is necessary to describe this particular subset of skepticism.

        Scientific skepticism (also spelled scepticism) is the practice of questioning whether claims are supported by empirical research and have reproducibility, as part of a methodological norm pursuing “the extension of certified knowledge” (Wikipedia)

        A skeptic doubts something. A scientific skeptic questions whether the something is adequately supported.

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        • Vader Diem

          I can understand that viewpoint, but it would be rare to see the term “scientific skeptic”. Popular skeptics such as Michael Shermer are clearly “scientific skeptics”, but just identify as skeptic.

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          • equippedcat

            The definition of “skeptic” does not require any rigorous thinking but does not prohibit it, so I suppose anyone who defines themselves as such is probably accurate. However, claiming to be a skeptic is no indication on whether they are worth conversing with, as HWT describes. Some might be, some probably aren’t.

            Being upset with people who insist on things they can’t support is reasonable. Whether they claim to be skeptics or not is immaterial.

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          • hessianwithteeth

            “Skeptic” is an actual personal label. Saying “I’m a skeptic” is much like saying “I’m an atheist” or “I’m a socialist.” And it is currently a popular movement within atheism. The other label of “skeptic,” Philosophical skepticism, is not widely accepted. As such, when I say “skeptics” it’s pretty obvious who I’m talking about to anyone halfway familiar with the movement. Dictionary definitions aren’t really useful when you’re talking about an actual movement because the group generally adopts their own version of the definition. Philosophical skepticism is the belief that we can’t know anything, ie. that we should doubt all knowledge claims. But the modern skeptics movement simply believes that evidence is required before a claim should be believed.

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          • equippedcat

            And that’s MY pet peeve (well one of them). People redefining words to suit themselves. It does not aid in communication, much the reverse. If one group of people use a word to mean one thing, and another group uses if to mean something else, it makes interaction between the groups much more difficult and encourages failure.

            Dictionary definitions may not be useful, but they ought to be…

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  • rura88

    We live in an age where context if neglected while sound bites are over emphasised. Intellectuals have observed and and continue to observe this trend with concern.

    Partly society is to blame. Partly education is to blame. In my “higher education” school the management does not offer serious academic research and academic writing courses in the first year.

    In the end it is up to the intellectuals to challenge this situation and face the audience. “You want answers?” They reply “yes” and the intellectual asks “do you want to do the research?” and silence follows. The intellectual follows “I can teach you the steps but you have to walk.”

    Not everybody wants to walk the walk. Even so you can only listen and offer to help when possible.

    Liked by 1 person

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