Trials of a Teenage Skeptic (part 3: the struggle continues…)

Sadly, my hopes for a general trend toward reason and critical thinking weren’t validated in the years following high school. Being a skeptic isn’t any more popular among grown-ups. Because they’re seen to undermine at times what appear to be really fun ideas, people see skeptics as boring or uninspired, or that they stifle the imagination (which as a writer of fantasy I can say is completely unfounded — see Part 1 of this post).

Others will say that skepticism goes against the cherished principle of open-mindedness, forgetting the fact that being open-minded is merely the willingness to consider evidence, not the willingness to accept claims without any. In the most extreme cases, anything goes, and you get instances (as I once heard to my horror!) of university professors — in the spirit of fairness and open-mindedness — upholding even the possibility of mermaids living in the world’s oceans.


to say nothing about this guy…

And let’s not kid ourselves that this systemic lack of critical thinking culminates with a membership surge in the Flat Earth Society and a few bad documentaries on the Discovery Channel. It’s far more insidious and destructive, ultimately leading to where we are now: in an endless sea of scams, fake news, and “alternative facts”, where critical thinking is abandoned for anti-intellectualism, reason swapped for fantasy, fact for feelings. Ultimately, and most disconcerting of all, it ends with an uncritical public electing ignorant leaders who dictate uninformed and reactionary public policy. [Read Kurt Anderson’s excellent article How America Went Haywire for a detailed history of this process.]

Yes, it’s a hard time to be a skeptic, and we’ve never needed them more.

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