Skepticism? Just a Bunch of Sexists

I heard about a blog this morning from one of The Usual Suspects that tries to address the skepticism movement.

So, not really wanting to go and read it because I am very suspicious whenever this one person writes anything about skepticism since famously, and publicly, year ago denounced and left skepticism. I thought I had to subject myself for a moment.

This diatribe is over 1300 words long. He correctly states that people often conflate science and skepticism. Yes, they’re two different pursuits. Not all skeptics are scientists and not all scientists are skeptics.

After two examples of where skepticism has contributed to exposing fraud and misinformation, the real reason for the post starts to slowly unwind and we begin to get hints of a possible agenda in this post.

Here’s a statement that caught my eye. At this point, I was sure there was going to be something really good coming up and of course, I wasn’t disappointed. But first:

What we’re stuck with is a schema that tolerates motivated reasoning, as long as it looks like debunking.

I wonder what he’s referring to as “motivated reasoning”? No explanation. Let’s move on for a bit and see if we can find any more hints.

Well, right here, just below that statement he accuses skeptics of “contemptible sexism” and “Libertariam bullshit”. Now we’re starting to see the issue here. Wait for a moment and the agenda will become absolutely clear.

It’s actually in the very next paragraph. He’s gone on for hundreds of words and now, just now, we know what his objection to the skeptical movement has been all along:

And then the movement as a whole has been wracked with this bizarre denial of sexual harassment, and refusal to deal with the issue.

Okay! He could have said that in the first paragraph and spared us his infallible wisdom don’t you think? He then proceeds to briefly mention hyperskepticism. I still don’t know what that is and if you do please let me know in the comments. As far as I can determine, it’s not an actual word.

The last part os almost 400 words trashing a fellow blogger of mine here on the network. I won’t make any comments here about that. Maybe in a future post.

He sums up his objection to skepticism by saying, “When your whole business model is simply about rejecting fringe claims, rather than following the evidence no matter how mainstream the target, you’ll inevitably end up with a pathologically skewed audience that uses motivated reasoning to abuse the weak.”

I think that rather describes his business model. He inflames his weak minded minions to forward his personal agenda. All you have to do is read the comments in any of his posts.

Before he leaves us though (thankfully!) he must take one more shot at an accusation of someone groping breasts at a conference. Although, being evidence-based, he has none. He just takes someone’s word that heard someone say that something happened.

Now that’s science!

5 thoughts on “Skepticism? Just a Bunch of Sexists

  1. “I wonder what he’s referring to as “motivated reasoning”? No explanation. Let’s move on for a bit and see if we can find any more hints.”

    Now this really surprises me. A self-descripted skeptic who is unfamiliar with motivated reasoning, a form of cognitive bias. Here is a little help for you from the Skeptics Dictionary (http://www.skepdic.com/motivatedreasoning.html):

    “Motivated reasoning is confirmation bias taken to the next level. Motivated reasoning leads people to confirm what they already believe, while ignoring contrary data. But it also drives people to develop elaborate rationalizations to justify holding beliefs that logic and evidence have shown to be wrong. Motivated reasoning responds defensively to contrary evidence, actively discrediting such evidence or its source without logical or evidentiary justification. Clearly, motivated reasoning is emotion driven. It seems to be assumed by social scientists that motivated reasoning is driven by a desire to avoid cognitive dissonance.”

    The entry for motivated reasoning goes on. I strongly suggest you read it.

    • As usual, you miss the point of the post. I know what motivated reasoning is and all I was doing was poking a little fun.

  2. “He then proceeds to briefly mention hyperskepticism. I still don’t know what that is and if you do please let me know in the comments. As far as I can determine, it’s not an actual word.”

    True, it is not a word that is in the dictionary. But its meaning comes from the joining of the word hyper with skepticism. In this case hyper means unusually high or an overabundance of something. And of course you know what skepticism means. So hyper-skepticism is employing an overabundance of doubt while maintaining that you are being skeptical.. I know this sounds crazy, but one can be so skeptical that they doubt everything no matter the quality, quantity and persuasiveness of the evidence. And such a person still maintains that they are a true skeptic. This is what we see with those who claim to be global warming skeptics. A more accurate description of them is global warming denialists.

    Here is what I think is a fairly good description of hype-skepticism.

    “There’s a subset of skeptics that are skeptical well past reasonable levels. There are people who will pore over every detail of a paper or news article hoping to find (or spin) some part of it into something supporting their overarching worldview that the paper doesn’t actually do by itself — think global warming denialists. There are people who will not take at face value the most trivial parts of a person’s story, where every scrap of evidence must be subjected to CSI-level scrutiny — think the right-wingers checking the kerning on the fonts on Obama’s birth certificate. And there are people who must actively sow disinformation about any case or example that undercuts their chosen narrative of How It All Works, who are so skeptical of every piece of media that runs counter to their worldview that it MUST be “liberal bias” — think FOX News.

    “These people are unhinged lunatics, for the most part. And the manner in which they are unhinged is that skepticism normally works by keeping us from believing every little thing that’s suggested to us uncritically. I posit that the abovementioned groups are victims of a runaway skepticism of the sort that produces AGW denialists, Birthers, the Tea Party, 9/11 Truthers, New World Order conspiracy nutjobs, and just about anyone else who says something about “the establishment keeping the truth suppressed”.” (http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2011/10/04/the-problem-with-privilege-or-evidential-skepticism/)

    Now you may not be a fan of the blogger Lousy Canuck, since he is an FtB blogger and I suspect you think of him as one of those “Usual Suspects”, but this is a pretty good description of what some skeptics call hyper-skepticism.

    Climate denialists are a particularly good example of hyper-skepticism. Why? Because they claim, without any sense of irony, that they are skeptics. Yet they are not. They don’t employ the method of skepticism in any recognizable fashion. They actually distort skepticism, reshape it and redefine it and then employ it in defense of a position that is actually based upon or driven by some ideology – in this case a political ideology.

    Here is another link to another discussion about hyper-skepticism. I recommend reading it. The end result should be that you will have a good idea of what is hyperskepticism.

    http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2009/04/hyperskepticism.html

    One of the most effective methods for identifying when hyperskepticism is being employed is to apply Bayes Theorem to the claims. Here is a good example of just this: http://deusdiapente.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/the-charge-of-hyperskepticismhyposkepticism/). This theorem is, also very good, for evaluating pretty much any claim. Richard Carrier has used it successfully to evaluate and dismantle the claim for the existence of a historical Jesus.

    I think of hyper-skepticism as skepticism on steroids. It is reasonable to assume you have likely encountered it when you are arguing with a person who claims they are being a true skeptic when they call into question those conclusions that were arrived at by employing the tool of skepticism. I have already mentioned the self-described global climate skeptics who dismiss consensus on global climate change and the abundant body of evidence for it. Skeptics give provisional assent to a conclusion when the evidence warrants it. When a counterclaim is made about a widely accepted conclusion that is supported by a wide and deep body of evidence, and the advocate of that counterclaim rejects the consensus and the evidence, claiming to do so because of skepticism, you are very probably staring a hyperskeptic in the face. Of course, you could just as easily call this person a pseudo-skeptic, but I don’t think this term adequately conveys just how far from being skeptical such a person is.

  3. This article reminds me why I’d like to see more conservatives with some input in the skeptic community. I’m not conservative myself but liberal ideologies tend to dominate which is unhealthy. Thanks for the article

    • Thank you very much. Believe it or not, there’s lot’s of people similar to me but are afraid to say they are conservative due to the potential blowback they might receive. I’m not. I find that most liberals I interact with online are really very open to other ideas. I believe there are a few that are completely unreceptive. But that’s not exclusive to liberals.

Leave a Reply