Skeptic - it's the new atheist and it's already a dirty word. A better word to describe me might be thinker. Skeptic seems to imply a person who questions without thought; it's the antithesis of believer and really just as bad.
Anyone else agree?
Dr. Meaden: I agree, I think this was an incredibly useful idea! I am leaning towards calling them arationalists, and then point out that any use of "faith" is irrational, so if they persist in just having faith that what they believe is true, then we can call them irrational, or arationalists.
I'll have to think more about this, but you've given us something really deep to think about. Thanks!
@ Dr. Meaden,
Thanks for your thought provoking post!
I personally dislike the label of "atheist" as it is a term that describes what I am not (theist). I've always liked the label of "PEARList" as it is a positive description of what I am. Perhaps it would be a good indeed to return the favor and to start calling theists in a similar manner.
I like the "arationalist" or "ascientific" labels best, but I doubt that people in the theist camp would feel this term fitting, some might find it incredibly offensive and demeaning. Then again, it's a label that I find fitting and descriptive of their philosophy.
How about calling them Ostriches for having their heads in the sand?
How about simply calling them the indoctrinated?
Astrophysicist Bernard Haisch who is a former editor of The Astrophysical Journal and The Journal of Scientific Exploration defined a true skeptic as:
“One who practices the method of suspended judgment, engages in rational and dispassionate reasoning as exemplified by the scientific method, shows willingness to consider alternative explanations without prejudice based on prior beliefs, and who seeks out evidence and carefully scrutinizes it validity.”
In this regard he uses the words, skeptic and thinker, synonymously. Unfortunately, some people glorify the word, skeptic, to the exclusion of the scientific method.
Askeptic is a habitual doubter, but not necessarily doubting without thought. In the context of relligion, skepticism is a step before agnotcism.
Dr. Meaden, I think we need to be mindful of those theist quarters that pride themselves on imparting scientific knowledge and education.
One example within Roman Catholicism would be the Jesuits. Many of their schools, notably Notre Dame Univ. offer rigorous scientific curricula.
The Mormons seek an advanced program in the sciences and mathematics through their degree programs at Brigham Young Univ.
Theists distinguish themselves for the dispensation of beliefs in existential reality that cannot be affirmed (and often contradict) by scientific method or other accepted epistemologies that examine and successfully process empirical data. These unverifiable beliefs may be in tandem and parallel to the affirmations of scientific conclusion, or they may be an alternative.
No. The opposite of skepticism is credulity - believing without evidence. A skeptic doesn't say "I don't believe you", he says "prove it". If you do prove your claim, the skeptic accepts it tentatively, but is always ready to change his mind if new evidence turns up. Credulous people don't change their minds, because they are emotionally invested in their beliefs. Indeed, the less rational evidence there is for that kind of belief, the more threatened the credulous feel and the more insistently they hang on to their beliefs. Skepticism is the foundation of all scientific knowledge, and should be applied to all claims, not just theistic ones. Another way of putting it: the opposite of a skeptic is a sucker.
I think it doesn't much matter. Either they don't know what the term means and you have a communication failure, or they do understand and thus attribute all the same traits to it that they associate with synonymous terms.
Smokey Robinson wrote a great poem criticizing the PC term-shifting from 'black' to 'African American'.
The same applies to 'atheist', 'skeptic' or whatever. Being label-shy misses the point, and if you pick one that no one understands, you may as well not be 'out' as an atheist at all.
Though there are conspiracy-theorists that call themselves 'skeptics', they no more own the term than the pseudomedicine quacks own the term 'energy' or the YECs own the term 'theory'.
I am an atheist because I am a skeptic. Without extraordinary evidence to back up extraordinary claims, the null hypothesis applies.