Not So Critical Thinking: I Accidentally All Of Skepticism

This is the most amazing exchange I’ve had on youtube.

A tale of how not to do skepticism and avoid looking like a complete imbecile in the process.

Often skeptics are accused of being close-minded, usually in error, and I subsequently dismissed those accusations as simply straw-manning the argument being made. Most if not all skeptics I know are throughly rational people, willing to hear the argument and making up their own mind afterwards.

We aren’t close-minded.

We don’t jump to conclusions.

We wouldn’t ever have a knee-jerk reaction to a harmless joke, right?

We would never ever dismiss presented evidence.

We would at least hear what someone has to say, right?

No, apparently we won’t and I finally understand the people that think we are close-minded if this is the general modus operandi of our community.

From the comments section:

I understand not getting the reference, I mean not everyone lives on the internet like I do. What makes this funny, is his ad-hoc dismissal of my link to the joke as “proof” for whatever he imagined I was trying to argue or say Yes, he assumes immediately that I am actually seriously defending aliens on the history channel, and that my link to knowyourmeme is somehow connected to an argument I never made.

See, for the uninitiated, on the internet we have something called “memes” or “image-macros”. Lolcats fall under that category,  its purely humorous and for entertainment. The know-your-meme website documents trending image-macros and memes, explaiing them and their origin. Its quite fun to read where a certain meme came from, I encourage everyone to have a look.

The point I’m trying to make with this is how not to approach skepticism. You can’t just go and ad-hoc dismissing things out of hand, this isn’t how it works. Even if I was serious with my comment about ancient aliens, thats not the way to address my comment, it leads down a path of confirmation-bias.

What if I had the evidence in that link that would convince you? What if you will dismiss the next argument that doesn’t conform with your world-view and be wrong to dismiss it?

Skepticism is a method, and the method relies on consistently evaluating evidence. Yes, sometimes you think you heard an argument for the 300 millionth time, nevertheless, you can’t just ad-hoc decide that its bullshit before it was even made. There is no excuse for behavior like this, its embarrassing.

The burning irony is also that the poster was commenting on a video of  The Atheist Experience hosted by Matt Dillahunty, who, as an atheist speaker, has held a lecture about (Un)safe assumptions addressing exactly this problem in communication.

We skeptics need to go back to the classroom for this, lest we transform into dogmatic preachers.


The poster has apologized.

Like I said, I understand the motivation behind the reaction, but I believe its the wrong approach. Its an honest mistake to be made, but we need to be careful not to become demagogues ourselves.


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