Science and our understanding of how nature works has always been an evolving process over the centuries. Even with the frustrations of paradigm science and the attempts to drag orthodoxy begrudgingly along to adopt new solid discoveries & theories, progress is eventually made.
As we humans continue to seek and discover newfound knowledge, there is always a blockade to progress presented by those who call themselves Skeptics but actuality are Pseudoskeptics These enforcers of the status quo are like crusading zealots protecting every element of their orthodox world view.
In any proper scientific inquiry those working in a specific field do indeed need to practice a degree of skepticism; what I call True Skepticism. What we find, instead, is there are dogmatic believers who defend the faith and therefore really practice Pseudoskepticism. These Pseudoskeptics many times aren’t even the scientists protecting their own professional turf. Oftentimes these Dogma Disciples (TM) are individuals who actually conduct no science, produce no data, and perform no research. They’re an army of “scientism” defenders who debate online, attacking and ridiculing anyone who presents theories they feel threaten orthodox paradigms. Their goal is to shut down meaningful conversation and debate.
True Skeptics? Pseudoskeptics? How to tell the difference? It’s really pretty easy. Let’s uncover the differences and operating modes of both.
Identifying Characteristics of Each
True Skeptics . . .
Practice Sincere Doubt, Genuine Curiosity & Question Everything
- genuinely doubts all claims whether from orthodoxy or heterodoxy (academic, religious or otherwise) and scrutinizes validity of presented evidence & proof; doesn’t default to denial
- take on a mask of ignorance – “we do not know“
- are Socratic allies and zetetics who seek truth and reality by questioning all assertions and beliefs
- are skeptical of his/her own beliefs and positions as well as others
- are ready to establish a degree of certainty to claims with valid evidence, no matter if it goes against established orthodox dogma
- take an agnostic position (a claim is not proved – rather than disproved)
- have an unquenchable thirst for objective knowledge (regardless of its origin) & sincerely wishes to uncover objective truth/reality.
- practice a high level of intellectual integrity to avoid prejudice & bias with regards to prior beliefs/assumptions
- understand the process of science is subject to researcher bias, paradigm owner ego-/career-investment, funding conflicts of interest, publishing & fraud pressures – all of which can distort the path to truth and reality
- understand that all scientific knowledge is provisional – everything science “knows” is subject to reexamination as new information comes in (even if the paradigm owners refuse)
- see anomalies not merely as challenges but as opportunities
- question everything
Pseudoskeptics . . .
Practice Dogmatic Assurance, Blind Belief & Question Nothing
- have an unquestioning belief in orthodox dogma – refusing to consider any anomalous evidence challenging those ideologies – never questioning the theories passed on to them by their “educators”
- are like religious zealots for their dogma; religious use of confirmation bias – no matter how well-reasoned the counter-argument.
- dismiss, deny and disbelieve any claims without a fair hearing if it’s outside their cherished paradigm (a priori belief barrier); are scoffers/debunkers rather than critical thinkers; are blinded by their prejudices & biases; only see what they want to see
- take the negative rather than agnostic position with a closed-minded and cynical attitude
- ignore and ridicule observations outside the circle of “science” (scientism) – since science is “settled” and already knows everything ; shut down debate & block honest inquiry
- project an unjustified image of scientific authority; pass judgment based on scientific expertise they don’t have; act as de rigueur experts – boasting they represent consensus opinion of scientists (scientific iron curtain / mob rule); claim they are the science and you are not
- don’t really do their own research – they’re simply mouth puppets (shill research)
- [and my favorite and the most telling idiocies] – – – employ flawed argument tactics:
- refuse to address facts & evidence, instead default to ad hominem attacks/mockery/slander/character-assassination to demean the challenger (e.g. – crank, crackpot, incompetent, charlatan, fraud, delusional, pseudoscientist, primitive/child-like thinking, etc.)
- double-standards: demand extraordinary evidence (standards beyond what orthodoxy is held to) then raise the bar (move the goalposts) when the criteria for evidence is met
- dismiss all evidence by classifying it as anecdotal/unreplicable/uncontrolled
- assert big lies (make shit up as they go along)
- grossly exaggerate and distort trivial mistakes
- misuse Occam’s Razor
- shift the burden of proof
- abandon rational inquiry & form clever rationalizations
True Skeptics respect intellectual integrity. They pursue the path of facts and reality regardless of predominant theories, in the face of unassailable “settled” science, or facing mob opinion/sentiment/beliefs. They do this in an ethical manner and consider claims based on actual objective evidence.
A True Skeptic should equally apply critical thinking to all claims – including those of science wherein the current paradigm does not meet proper critical evaluation in the face of anomalous evidence.
Their ultimate goal is to discover truth and reality in their fields of interest – a truth seeker. They are true knowledge adventurers. Inquiry and doubt are the driving determinants to their seeking. True Skeptics seek to be constructive – to advance science and understanding – rather than destructively block inquiry.
In Conclusion . . .
Based on the comparison table above it’s pretty easy to quickly ascertain which type of skeptic you’re dealing with.
>>>> If they flippantly blow off objective evidence; if they defend the orthodox paradigm/ideology at all costs; if they attack and character assassinate the purveyor of anomalous evidence – – – – – they’re without a doubt a Pseudoskeptic.
>>>> If they’re willing to consider the objective evidence and discuss/debate with an intent towards honest inquiry & discovery; if they’re willing to have their assumed ideologies up-ended; if they’re willing to be open-minded and inquire beyond dogma – they’re a True Skeptic.
It’s as simple as that.
Unfortunately, it’s fruitless to engage in debate with a Pseudoskeptic. Their mind is made up even before the evidence is presented. They’re blinded by orthodoxy and they’ve abandoned rational critical thinking. They won’t change – unless they determine at some point that they want to change. It’s all up to the individual.
In the meantime, I believe it’s best to fraternize with other True Skeptics and form splinter groups for objective/true discovery. As Kuhn & Planck noted, eventually the block-headed opposition dies away and those willing to expand true discovery can move forward.
Carpe diem fellow Knowledge Adventurers!
Some related sources:
- Wikipedia – Skepticism
- Wikipedia – Pseudoskepticism
- Zetetic Ruminations on Skepticism and Anomalies in Science
- The Anomalist
- The Ethical Skeptic
- Myths of Skepticism
- Stupid Skeptic Tricks