(Introduction: I wrote this piece more than two years ago, before anyone ever heard of Covid-19. I didn’t publish it then because I didn’t want to broach the vaccine issue. I just didn’t have a dog in that race. Funny how some things change. Skeptics haven’t changed though. This loose association of intellectual bullies still spews the same pin-headed reductionist thinking laced with the same prejudices and privileged perspective that they’ve been spewing for years, so the piece remains relevant, regardless of how you feel about vaccines in general or the experimental new Covid-19 “vaccine.”)
Be careful of people who identify themselves as “Skeptics.” In the same way that the long history of religious violence spawned atheism, a movement which killed God in reaction to the undeniable corruption of the Church. The explosion of online disinformation has given rise to a reactionary movement known as “Skepticism” which views objective science as the ultimate authority on everything, including all of the stuff scientists know nothing about. The Skeptics movement presumes that objective science can, and will, lead to our complete understanding of the Universe, not to mention a technological utopia for all humanity. For all that scientists, especially biologists and ecologists refute this, “Skeptics” have bought into the “logic” of objective science and the predictability of physics and extrapolated them into a universal belief system.
Our culture reveres science and technology because of the everyday miracles they perform in our lives. From microwave ovens to smart phones, we give science and technology credit for all of the toys and tools that we use everyday, but have no idea how they work. Ever since Einstein foretold the invention of the nuclear bomb, we treat scientists, especially physicists (aka “rocket scientists”), as the ultimate authority on everything from the origin of the Universe to the mysteries of perception and the human mind. Many scientists eagerly embrace this view as well, which is why we see so many physicists, like Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Michio Kaku getting into showbiz to propagate this notion among people who would never take, let alone pass, the science courses they teach. As a result, we have elevated objective science from a method of inquiry, to a kind of religion.
Skeptics have become the Spanish Inquisition of this new Church of Sciencism, a religion that worships technology. In general, Skeptics believe in science more than they understand science, so they assume that scientists know more than they do, and they assume that what scientists believe, is true, even though most of what scientists believe, is their own assumptions. Skeptics believe they know more than they do, and of course, they always think they know more than you.
Skeptics used to tell us that environmentalists were just being emotional and alarmist when they warned of the consequences of climate disruption, not because they doubted the science of global warming, but because of their blind faith in, and love of, technology. As it turns out, climate disruption is even worse, and happening faster, than even those environmentalists predicted, driven by the technological innovations that Skeptics are so enamored with.
Now Skeptics tell us that if it weren’t for those emotional and alarmist environmentalists, we could build safe, new, nuclear power plants that would solve our carbon emission problem. Isn’t it funny how the same people who call you an idiot for visiting an acupuncturist, taking a homeopathic remedy, or reading a horoscope, somehow believe in the magic of a foolproof nuclear power plant, with immunity to natural disaster and impenetrable defenses against military attack, and have complete faith in our ability to safely store tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste for at least a quarter-of-a-million years, despite all of the evidence to the contrary.
Skeptics love science, except when it reminds them that in our militaristic culture, we use science and technology to kill people, enslave them and make the planet uninhabitable. To Skeptics, this is a small price to pay in their ever-elusive quest for the complete understanding of the universe. They think it’s great to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for bigger and better atom-smashers, but scoff at mega-churches and their super-rich preachers. They revere people in lab-coats rather than clerical robes and say their prayers to Elon Musk’s rocket in lieu of a deity, but think you quaint for your archaic religious beliefs.
As an innocent word in the English language, “skepticism” denotes a good thing. Everyone says “Never look a gift horse in the mouth,” but if anyone ever gives you a horse, say “thank you,” lead it away to someplace private, and take a damn good look inside that horses mouth before you take it back to the farm. That’s a healthy kind of skepticism. The Skeptics Movement on the other hand, promotes a very misguided brand of fundamentalism quite at odds with the evidence and the best science. As a movement, Skeptics differ little from flat-earthers in their zeal to oversimplify the universe.
In the same way that the Catholic Church empowered small vile men to indulge their sadistic tendencies on poor peasant women who practiced herbal medicine, showed a reverence for nature, or rejected church doctrine, the Skeptics movement empowers eggheads with a superiority complex to bully women who reject western medicine and ridicule them for refusing to vaccinate their children. Skeptics don’t lead the charge to stop the excessive use of antibiotics on livestock, which scientists tell us, breeds drug-resistant super-bugs that threaten us all, nor do Skeptics make noise about corporate ag practices that lead to widespread food contamination. In reality, kids today face a greater threat from their school lunches than they do from their unvaccinated classmates, but Skeptics, like the Inquisition, choose their victims for their vulnerability.
Whether it’s high-level nuclear waste, persistent bio-accumulative pesticides, microplastics or fracking fluids, Skeptics have never met a toxic pollutant they didn’t like, as long as it is “safely contained” or “below a certain threshold.” They are perfectly willing to accept human casualties, lots of them, in the pursuit of technological innovation, or as an “unexpected consequence” of it, but something must be done about these heretical women who refuse to submit to the authority of Science.
Beware of Skeptics. Skeptics believe themselves wise and capable of navigating our technological society through the current climate crisis, or any other cataclysm their unbridled technocracy may unleash, were they not hindered in their efforts by the large number of superstitious savages who surround them. In reality, that unfounded, and unwarranted belief in their own wisdom created the climate crisis, and the extinction crisis, not to mention the gross inequality we see in our technological society.
For Skeptics, human casualties are just statistics, and your life, merely anecdotal evidence. Skeptics enjoy this kind of separation from the hazards of a technological society, primarily by virtue of their privileged position within it. Skeptics are mostly white, middle-class, college-educated people, and as such, can use their economic clout to limit their exposure to environmental toxins and avoid the worst industrial hazards, while they marvel at the achievements of unbridled human ingenuity and enjoy all of the new toys technology has made available.
Capital “S” Skepticism reeks of chauvinism and white supremacy. Skeptics dismiss the collective wisdom of indigenous humanity as “superstition and folklore,” but they share the blind arrogance of privilege ,and the prejudices of a culture that denigrates nature, and they mistake that belligerent blindness, for intelligence. They ignore the grim consequences of our high-tech civilization, while they embrace a completely imaginary, sci-fi vision of a future technological utopia. Capital “S” Skepticism simply cloaks the overt racism of white supremacy behind a thin veil of “nature and nurture” intellectualism.
There’s no horror they can’t justify and no atrocity they can’t rationalize in their misguided quest to misunderstand the universe, because understanding nature was never the intention of science. The intention of science has always been to rule nature, including human nature, with technology. Skeptics expect to have power over others, and they expect to have a very abstract relationship to the consequences of their decisions. That’s why Skeptics feel so comfortable making decisions for other people based on their own, emotionally detached, logic. Skeptics expect to rule the world by virtue of their intellectual superiority, which, in their minds, is always beyond question. We need to be very careful of people who think like that.