A Manifesto

I am a skeptic. This is because skepticism is what I do, it’s the tool set I use to evaluate reality. My default position in regard to any claim is disbelief and the provisional acceptance of the null hypothesis, a position which can be revised based on quality evidence (or, in the case of subjective issues, sound arguments). I use this basic approach to most aspects of my life, from science to politics to ethics.

I am a scientific skeptic. This is because science is my passion, and centuries of progress and improving knowledge have demonstrated that science is the most reliable method we have of learning true things about reality.

I am an atheist. This is a position I hold regarding belief in gods. Disbelief is the default position, and so far I have seen no evidence to overturn the null hypothesis for any but the most trivial definitions of “god.” Consequently, I lack belief in gods.

I am a “strong atheist” or “antitheist” regarding some definitions of god. In short, for some gods, I am willing to make the claim that those gods do not exist. I feel that this claim is justified (depending on the god claim) by specific evidence against those gods’ existence or lack of evidence when evidence would be expected. I do not hold this (or any position) with absolute certainty, and I am willing to revise it based on new evidence.

I am a materialist. I reject the supernatural, mostly on the basis of the null hypothesis and Occam’s Razor. I see no reason to invent a category of “things that exist but do not interact with reality”–as far as I’m concerned, “interacting with reality” is a major component of the definition of “exist.” I am willing to revise this position, but I suspect that any phenomenon currently described as “supernatural” were actually discovered, it would have to be incorporated into the natural universe. So far, though, I have yet to hear of any supposedly supernatural phenomenon which was not easily explained by natural causes.

I am an advocate of open, vocal, harsh criticism of just about everything. I don’t think organizations or people or claims or ideas should get any kind of free pass or special kid-glove treatment by virtue of their prestige or popularity or other such considerations. I would like to see a society where people expected their claims, beliefs, and actions to receive widespread reasoned criticism, and didn’t find such a thing impolite or inappropriate or unconventional. I certainly think one should pick his or her battles wisely, but I also think people shouldn’t be thin-skinned scrota when challenged on their bullshit.

I suppose I am a member of the “skeptical movement.” I am a skeptic, I’m a blogger and apparently a public speaker, and I’m actively involved in some skeptical outreach events. I started blogging here because I wanted to talk about politics and religion; I found blogs by like-minded people who I enjoyed reading, and we formed a moderate little online community. I didn’t join any big skeptical organizations until fairly recently in this game, and I certainly haven’t agreed to make anyone into an authority over my conduct or content here. Any “movement” I’m part of is the emergent property of a large number of different people working with some similar methods towards some similar goals. It’s nice, and I hope it grows, but I have a hard time accepting it as some sort of monolithic, unified thing that can be harmed by differences in opinion over tact and tactics among its members. If being part of the movement means omitting certain topics from my skeptical purview, focusing my efforts on one subject, eliminating useful or entertaining methods from my arsenal, or treating certain groups of people with vaguely dishonest condescension out of fear of hurting or alienating them, then I’ll move on my own, thanks.

I am, I’m sure, often wrong, often stubborn, often overly verbose, and often an asshole. And I am dead tired of arguing against other skeptics over what they think I should and shouldn’t do for the good of the group.

I am going to continue doing this, writing about whatever I feel like, and doing it all from a skeptical, scientific point of view, until I decide otherwise. If you don’t like it, the little red X is in the corner.

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5 Responses to A Manifesto

  1. Akusai says:

    I agree entirely. Is there any way I can pay you and just do whatever you say I should do to be a good skeptic?

  2. GDad says:

    Do you seriously get crap from people who don't like what you write on your own blog?

  3. vjack says:

    rAmen! I agree completely!

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