While the skeptic movement has been growing the last ten years, there has been a desire by some to push skepticism out into more “social justice” type of work. Notice I said “work” and not “claims”. Skepticism, of course, can be used within “social justice” movements and this has been said and accepted for at least the last thirty years. The skeptic movement, in short hand, is a movement dedicated to critical thinking and examining claims. It does not inherently point one toward a set of social or political values. The results of skepticism, though, should inform people and help them develop their own values. I’m probably butchering something here, but I think the gist comes across.
As any movement, the skeptic movement is made up of actual people (lately this fact seems to get lost) with different opinions, value systems, and experiences. I have always thought of the skeptic movement as a group of people who want to know more and muddle along as best we can as humans to advance knowledge. Mistakes are made, lessons are learned, and people grow. It is hard for people to not take their values and somehow try and shoehorn them into skepticism the movement. Whether it’s feminism, liberalism, libertarianism, or even my own veganism, some people have a hard time separating them from the skeptic movement. I speak as a previous offender from a time when I was positive skepticism would lead one to be a vegan.
I have learned and become more interested in learning as much about skepticism as I can, and I’ve let my political (libertarian) views, my views on animals, and even my atheism out of it. Skepticism helps inform my other views, not the other way around.
Lately, there is an annoying, often insulting meme where some people denigrate others as “Bigfoot Skeptics”. If this was ten years ago, I would have just assume “Bigfoot Skeptics” were just people who research the Bigfoot phenomena from a skeptical point of view. These days, though, it’s an epithet used to disparage those whose skeptical pursuits aren’t judged worthy enough by those would like skepticism to take on liberal progressive values. It’s pretty childish, a total ad hominem, and frankly, a little bit of lazy thinking.
Skepticism should be a big tent, I think we’re ready to handle that. There are so many things you can apply skepticism to, I doubt skeptical conferences will ever run out of things to present. There should be plenty of room for “Bigfoot Skeptics”, “UFO Skeptics”, “Homeopathic Skeptics”, “Government Skeptics” (not truthers), etc. The length of the list is only limited by my lack of imagination. So, while “Bigfoot Skeptics” are being insulted by some, I wanted to take this as an opportunity to praise and thank the “Bigfoot Skeptics”.
When I was eight years old I wanted to read everything I could about Bigfoot. I wasn’t old enough to understand minimum wage, abortion rights, or gay marriage, but I could understand Bigfoot, that maybe it was real and a monster, or maybe it was a myth. Back when I was eight I didn’t have ready access to the skeptical side of Bigfoot, but oh, I wish I did and I’m jealous that eight year olds now have that easy access. So many kids will be exposed to skepticism through Bigfoot, far more than during my youth when I was stuck with a small local library, no computer system, and finding non-pro-Bigfoot books proved impossible.So thank you to people like Joe Nickell, Ben Radford, Sharon Hill, Torkel Ødegård, Matt Crowley, Blake Smith, and Darren Naish who I call approvingly call “Bigfoot Skeptics” for their work in investigations, news reporting and promotion of science. The world is so much better off with their contributions than without them and they and their work deserve total respect.