Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Skeptic or jerk? What’s the difference?



Eternal Damnation by Stephen L. Cloud used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Last week I tweeted the question “When did skeptic become synonymous with a**hole?” (except without the asterisks because I’m much more brazen on twitter). Something I’ve been noticing a lot lately is that people seem to be using their self-proclaimed skeptic status as justification for being condescending and rude to other people. If you know me at all, you know that I don’t suffer fools gladly. It’s damn hard to bite your tongue in the face of ignorance and stupidity. However, I don’t understand why it’s become acceptable (especially on social media) to be patently rude to other people just because they have different opinions or beliefs than you do. And those are people that you’re attacking; not avatars, not bots. You’re not advancing your cause by insulting those who disagree with you.

The definition of skeptic (according to google) is: “a person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions.” I consider myself a skeptic. I question most things. I tend not to believe anything until I see evidence. That’s skepticism to me. It would appear that skepticism to many skeptics is belittling or insulting those who don’t hold the same values as themselves. Interestingly, most of those I’m seeing lately are not questioning accepted opinions, only tearing down those who dare to question the status quo. I’m pro science. That doesn’t mean that I unquestioningly accept every piece of scientific research and discredit every unproven theory. There is a plethora of terrible scientific research out there. Loads of poorly designed and biased studies are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. We also haven’t done all of the science that there is to science so there’s always the possibility that unproven theories will one day be proved. Being a skeptic means questioning everything, not just the non-science, and not just the beliefs held by others. We need to hold ourselves and our beliefs up to the same level of scrutiny as all others.

Insulting other people doesn’t make you a skeptic. It just makes you a jerk.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

5 thoughts on “Skeptic or jerk? What’s the difference?

  1. Well said Diana. I agree with all of it. I am a skeptic in the same way and I’m only a jerk when I get out of bed in the morning. ;-)


  2. Heard a scientist on The Current this morning criticizing Dr Oz and Food Babe, and also saying that as time goes by we learn more so that things that might have been recommended 20 years ago (taking Vitamin E supplements was an example he gave) are no longer promoted. I was nodding my head and listening to him and agreeing until he started talking about glyphosate. He said glyphosate was extremely well tested. He did not mention that it is not only used to control weeds on “Round Up Ready” crops but also applied as a just before harvest dessicant on crops such as wheat. And I realized how confused I felt because I have heard another scientist (formerly as a Canadian government employee doing research on genetic modification) who has been speaking out strongly that not nearly enough independent research has been done on glyphosate in North America, and such research as has been done in Europe shows some very disturbing results. So on one hand this interviewee was promoting skepticism, and on the other showing his own lack of healthy skepticism.


  3. ::sigh:: on a specific thread (and I KNOW YOU KNOW which one I’m referring to!!) there has been a LOT of this.

    A ‘certain person’ having the audacity to refer to himself as a “Doctor” but NEVER using his title or full name, then offering what he thinks of as “Medical Advice” on a product, while name calling those who either disagree with him or share differing opinions. AND OPINION is what I think of his posts as… FACTS require hard evidence to support them… information, such as quantifiable data, collected over time, reviewed by neutral parties, that has been proven to be factual.

    Skeptics and @$$holes? not equal… it’s always good to exhibit healthy skepticism about things that haven’t been demonstrated to be true, to your satisfaction.

    And me? Well, I prefer to think of people who exhibit rudeness to others in a public setting on social media as @$$hats, @$$clowns, @ssMasters to @$$holes. =)


  4. This is very true and hasn’t been brought up enough. Most prominent sceptics don’t have any scientific qualifications yet they disparage others for not agreeing with a field they have no qualified understanding of –

    Don’t self proclaimed rationalists and sceptics understand that they are making their own objective harder by trying to make out anyone who doesn’t agree with their worldview is an imbecile? They are the most condescending and arrogant people.


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