Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Brief Thought on Skepticism

Generally, I think of myself as a skeptic. (Cf "Some Thoughts About a Specific Conspiracy Theory, or Maybe Two", "GMO Revisited - As Well as Hormones, Soy, Phytoestrogens, and a Host of Other Food Scares", "The Gadarene Swine Fallacy", "The Appeal of Conspiracy Theories", "Backwards Thinking and the Number of the Beast", "Ritual Abuse, Backwards Logic and Conspiracy Theories","False Flag Theories and 9/11", "Backwards Logic", "Maybe Obama Was Born in Gulf Breeze, Florida", "Can Hawaiians Travel Overseas?", "Conspiracies Vs. Conspiracy Theories", "Sleight of Hand", "Self-Sustaining Beliefs", "Mumia, the DaVinci Code, Full Body Scans, and Loose Change - How Conspiracy Theories Arise"and "Conspiracy Theories".) I deny the validity of Birther claims (though initially I gave a fair hearing to claims about the birth certificate, but quickly dismissed them, and never accepted the rest.). I believe Oswald shot Kennedy, and Ruby shot Oswald, all of their own volition for reasons they alone know for sure, but none involving any sort of conspiracies. I believe vaccinations are good. GMOs are safe. 9/11 was carried out by 19 men sponsored by al Qaida, and so on. However, when I look at self-described "skeptic" sites, I begin to wonder. First, the rampant atheism worries me. Not because individual skeptics are atheist, or even personally espouse atheism, but because they seem to set it forth as the only acceptable position, while I thought the question of religious faith was, in philosophical terms, unfalsifiable, and hence not open to scientific inquiry. I have no problem objecting to, say, creationism, young earth theories and so on, but to simply advocate atheism seems outside the remit of proper skepticism.(Cf "Is The Flying Spaghetti Monster From Canada?", "A Bit Disappointed in CSICOP - The Difference Between God and UFOs" and "Atheism's Circular Reasoning".)

But that is small potatoes compared to the other issue. Why are skeptics so quick to assume liberal political belief is "rational"? It started to come to my attention when so many skeptics accepted the disputed "hockey stick" graph and talked about climate change "deniers" as conspiracy theorists. Now, I grant, there are some who find a conspiracy in anything,but to simply question why the IPCC relies on a chart which does not show the historically documented warm and cool periods over the past 1000 years, or models which fail when run over historical data hardly puts one in the category of truthers or those promoting Bilderberger plans for world domination. (See "Why "Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst" is Bad Policy".)

And it gets worse. Just check out the supposed "rational" wiki and look up neoconservative or Dennis Prager and see the venting of liberal bile. And no, I am not saying Prager is correct, or a paragon of truth, but note the same treatment is not accorded, for example, the much less reliable Michael Moore. It seem their skepticism is limited to those who espouse limited government. (And they also seem to equate this with war mongering and all manner of other ills. Buying into a "conspiracy theory" of their own making.)

I could go on, but I realize writing when I am annoyed makes for bad text. So, let me just ask one question: Liberalism is based upon the premise that the state must protect us. However, if we are too incompetent to fend for ourselves as individuals, why do we suddenly gain the ability to make correct decisions when acting as a group? And why are those too incompetent to decide for themselves as private citizens suddenly competent to wield power when elected to office or appointed to a bureaucracy? How is belief in such a mystical transformation from endlessly incompetent to "the magic bureaucrat" a skeptical position? (Cf "Common Sense,Philosopher Kings, Arbitrary Law and Dictatorship", "Socialism, Communism, Democracy, Authoritarianism and Freedom - Is It Possible to Have a Non-Authoritarian Socialism?" and "The Problem of Established Perspectives".)


To be completely honest, I suppose I believe a second "conspiracy" theory. I accept reports of shells filled with ricin and other agents as proof Saddam did have WMDs, even thought they were "old". I also think his dual use pipes and other items were intended for a nuclear program. I don't think he actually had the technical know-how to pull it off, but I think he believed he did. And, I do not accept Foggy Bottom claims he was not intending such, as the same people told us Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program, at least until they admitted they did. People who drop the ball on something that large are not the best guides, especially when they have engaged in rather partisan leaks and the like. So, guess I am a "conspiracy theorist". Then again, the "skeptics" believe in "neocon warmongering", which I find absurd. No one wants war, some of us just recognize it is not the ultimate evil, there are worse outcomes than war.

Beyond this belief in WMDs and my "climate change denial", the only other conspiracy theories I ever entertained were (1) I accepted the idea that FDR may have manipulated us into Pearl harbor, though I was 17 at the time, and a liberal, and decided it was nonsense after a few hours of thought (and even then was only convinced, and only slightly, by my grandfather's tales of unsuccessful evacuation drills in Pearl Harbor during the 1930s) and (2) I agreed with a very limited bit of Holy Blood, Holy Grail (again, when 17 or 18), but only to the extent that I accepted Jesus may have intended the "King of the Jews" bit literally, not figuratively, but even that I accepted only as possible, not certain, and I never bought the rest of the whole "blood line of Jesus/Priory of Sion/everything else Dan Brown ripped off" nonsense. Beyond that, I have a hard time thinking of any conspiracies I have accepted. Though, apparently, being a conservative is buying into an irrational belief, so paint me a conspiracist, I guess.

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