There are some valid points in his article for the sceptical skeptic, but as is often the case with polemic writing there is a lot of cherry-picking, generalisation and reliance on ecological fallacy.
He makes the point that most Muslim women don’t wear burkhas, but he then misses the point that any community is shaped by all of its members, not just a handful of highly visible (or visibly invisible) individuals. This applies to skeptics as well – the famous, loud and/or obnoxious are more visible, but they do not represent the whole.
I did toy with the idea of dissociating myself with skepticism a year or so ago, for several of the reasons stated by Stephen. Fortunately I discussed this with my friend and colleague James and we decided to do something a bit more positive, which led to us setting up PubSci and later Hackney Skeptics with Alice. These events are more focussed on science and socialising than bashing people we don’t agree with.
I think it’s a shame that Stephen has embraced the typical polemic style adopted by skeptics for his piece, as I think that style is one of the most damaging tools used in modern skepticism. It lacks nuance and is fundamentally unhelpful when trying to encourage consideration of a different perspective and it can alienate those with more moderate views.
In my opinion, polemic needs to be dropped if skepticism is to avoid becoming an echo chamber populated by a smug and mouthy minority.
I know Christmas has been and gone, so this post is far from breaking news, but I’ve been meaning to write it ever since I saw this advertisement on a local bus stop:
Now although I’m an atheist, I really don’t have a problem with the advertisement for any reason beyond the utter banality of the message. It’s a bit like saying this:
For both there is an etymological root linking a supernatural figure to the name of a day – it’s very common, just think of other supernatural figures that lend their names to days, like Tiw, Wodin and Freyja. I wonder if we should also remember these deities on their appropriate days? That seems to be the logical implication of the Christian advert.
But then, what should be done about Easter? Maintaining the logic of the Christian advertising around Christmas, it would seem that we should remember that Easter is named for the pagan goddess Ēostre. This seems doubly reasonable since there is hardly any difference between the Christian celebration and the Pagan fertility festival, with all it’s rampant rabbits and eggy delights.
The fact is that by following the logic of the advertising we should either be utterly ignoring the etymological root of Christmas, as we do for Easter and Tuesday, or we should be acknowledging the etymological root for all days named after supernatural beings.
I’ve decided to make sure I remember that Christmas is about Christ, Easter is about Ēostre and Thursday is most definitely about Thor, which is presumably what constitutes hammer time: