The Failure Of Skeptics

A thought that’s been stewing away in my mind these past fortnight, one of many that I keep thinking I need to flesh out into something bigger, something with more sinew to it, is that for all the talk of the United States being a post-truth state, there’s a community that hypothetically at least cares about, and wants to do something about, a culture embracing false things.

The Skeptic movement is one that at least as a stated principle, wants to believe as few false things as it possibly can. Right now, the United States, United Kingdom and Australia – three countries with skeptic movement voices – are all grappling with culture-wide embraces of totally false things. Except they’re not the false thing that the skeptic movement seems to want to care about.

Straight up, a lot of skeptics want to be really islamaphobic. It says a lot when your ‘pro science activism’ mostly incarnates as searching for brown people on twitter to call rapists. That’s crap-ass behaviour just because it’s really rude. Not ‘oh you’re offending their religion’ rude, just – like, how do you expect to convince anyone of anything if that’s your angle of approach?

Meanwhile, the erosion of history and the complexities around sociology and journalism, they were simply washed away underneath us, because we siad we cared about What We Were Pretty Comfortable Saying Was Just Science. We wanted the argument to happen on the grounds that didn’t force us to confront our own biases. I more or less checked out of trying to be a component of the skeptic movement around Elevatorgate, because the sheer volume of argument about it dazed me. She didn’t want to be bothered, she made it very clear not to bother her, and someone bothered her, I thought. How the fuck are people arguing that she was in the wrong on this.

At least I’m pretty sure that’s what I thought. Memory is plastic.

Either way, the point is, we chose to focus our efforts on, it seems, dismissing feminism, sneering at strangers, and now your average American is pretty likely to believe the world is probably about six thousand years old, that the nation is a totally new thing out of nowhere, that history pretty much only matters twenty years or two hundred years ago, and that the Civil War was over States’ Rights. Even now we’re watching the next wave of it – that Hillary Clinton’s emails showed What A Crook She Was, and that’s why she lost.

We let people down a lot these past few years. Hitchens wanted war in Iraq, Harris actively prefers Islamaphobic leaders, and Dawkins is petty about teenagers’ clocks. Skeptics picked a battleground based on what could make them feel good, not about the places people believed the most false things.

Oh well.