The latest instalment in the long-lasting and widespread ‘Skepchicks should STFU’ campaign [content note: criticism of “jokes” about corrective rape] has been the final straw for me in terms of identifying as a Skeptic. I’m still a Secular Humanist and Freethinker though.
I’ve just changed the name of an information page on this blog which used to be titled “Skepticism”. It’s now titled “Critical Thinking” and is in the Special Interests subsection of the About section. The content of the page hasn’t changed, just the name, because the name has become tarnished. Of course the skeptical process underlying critical thinking is still an essential tool for cutting through the dross of received wisdom and propaganda, it’s just that what good in the end is being a “skeptic” or “freethinker” without applying those analytical tools to social structures?
the more Free Thought becomes just about debunking religion, the more it becomes useless. The practice does as much good in examining your relationship to credit card companies as it does in examining your relationship to Gawd, and I tend to wonder whether people that don’t see that have Thought sufficiently Freely. (Chris Clarke, commenting at Blue Collar Atheist)
The raison d’etre of the social justice movement is the application of skeptical analysis tools to existing social structures which disadvantage/demean/degrade/oppress marginalised groups in order to point out the possibilities (and potential benefits) of dismantling inequitable systems. The phenomenen of self-professed skeptical purists scrambling to present reactionary defences of the status quo when challenged by social justice advocates is unedifying to say the least, especially when the purists uncritically use the same arguments they rightly criticise when used against the advocates of atheism/vaccination/the reality of global climate change/etc.
Skepticism as a methodology remains crucial to baloney detection, but one doesn’t have to call oneself a Skeptic as a primary identifier to use it as a tool. Skepticism without humanist principles becomes a sterile exercise in abstract intellectualisations, and skepticism focussing on “I should be able to do/say whatever I want whenever I want” is repellently puerile. Neither offers a way forward for a better future than just more of the same toxic existing social structures, while improving society at least is the shared goal of Secular Humanists.