BEING A SKEPTIC, AND NICE

 

One of the things you may have noticed about this blog is that it’s fairly disorganised and random. That I’ll post on anything and just about everything. Although I’m a skeptic and a scientist, this blog doesn’t fall neatly into either category, and why is that? I’m a real person and I write about real things that affect me. Things I see in the news, things that happen in my life, projects that I work on. And it’s worth noting that I am a genuine human being – just because I’m a skeptic and a scientist, it doesn’t mean that I can’t be nice.  This blog doesn’t have a theme because it’s just… a day in my life.

The skeptic movement has got a bit of a bad rep, of being cold, unfeeling, distant, rude, and lacking empathy. Sometimes I do think these opinions are understandable (but not justified) – there are instances when these accusations appear to be proven correct: infighting, personal attacks, inflexibility. Not all critical thinkers are like that, and you can find examples of bad behaviour in all spheres of belief. I’m just an ordinary person, doing well for myself but not anything remarkable, trying to make sense of the one life that we have. And I don’t think I’m any of those awful things. Outspoken yes, but civil also. And sometimes I do feel let down when I hear about some dumb thing that a prominent atheist has said. I guess none of us are immune to crassness.

It is really difficult to argue a point effectively with someone who is a less experienced debater, or who has based their opinion on strongly held beliefs not backed up by evidence.  Sometimes that person may think their beliefs are sacred and so when they’re challenged they react badly and accuse the person doing the questioning of insensitivity.  I guess that’s one reason why skeptics are sometimes portrayed as being a bit mean.

The problem here perhaps lies in the interpretation of the question, and the way the question is asked.  It’s really important to scrutinise the idea rather than attack the person (although some people do see the questioning of their beliefs as a personal attack).  And it’s also important to carefully consider the question and not over-react.   What is the question really asking and why is it being asked?  Don’t forget that the skeptic may be asked an uncomfortable question too, and the same rules apply – be considered in the response and don’t see it as an affront to one’s self.  And make sure your arguments are solid or you’re going to look like a right idiot (nice or not).

 

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