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.