Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Asshole Skepticism - Definition 2.0

Way back, four months ago, when I started down the road of publically exploring the ideas I had around asshole skepticism, one of my earliest posts took a swipe at outlining what exactly it is I am working towards.

Much or most of what I talked about in that post still applies, but as far as a simple definition, it fails.

Tonight I was on my way home from Pub Quiz night (we were kicking asses and taking names until the last four questions) and thinking about content for a new post idea I had.  It has been a while since I last addressed the mandate, so I was thinking about an aspect of that, when out of the blue... I don't recall precisely where (did I mention the pub?)  I found myself all but blurting out what strikes me as the core of asshole skepticism.  It's not that anything else I have said is wrong, but somehow I just don't think I've ever before managed to put my finger on my precise intent.

So I am hereby casting my other post aside - though it shall follow soon - and taking this opportunity to state my intention in as specific terms as I have thus far identified. 


Asshole skepticism is the effort to state and in so doing spread the essence, sub-components and outcomes of the process of skepticism in the most forceful manner possible without a net loss of outreach.

Uh, yeah.  There it is.

So shall I state that again in slightly less condensed, but possibly easier to follow terms?

"Asshole skepticism is the effort to state and in so doing spread..."

I think that that is fairly straight forward, but:  The intent of asshole skepticism is to spread the gospel of skepticism... perhaps I shouldn't use the word 'gospel', but it make me laugh - and laughter is a good medium for outreach.

"...the essence, sub-components and out comes of the process of skepticism..."

Pretty much trying to encompass everything skeptical in that.  "The Essence" being just about anything that any skeptic has zeroed in on as their own personal definition of what skepticism is - there are many versions and I haven't got a definitive one of my own yet.  The "sub-components" being virtually any of our tools and concepts of process - be they Occam's Razor, logical fallacies, the failures of perception and memory or the scientific method.  (Feel free to add to that list as necessary.)  The "Out comes" being any of the conclusions of skepticism be they obvious to most - I.E. The Sasquatch is a figment of true believers' desire; or in the realm of PSAs - I.E. For Pete's sake quit listening to Jenny McCarthy and go get vaccinated.

"...In the most forceful manner possible without a net loss of outreach."

That may be the most tricky part to follow. 

I believe that we should be stating our beliefs, understandings, and goals as stridently as possible - with the caveat that there is a point at which we start alienating people.  But I fimly believe that far too many of our numbers severely overstate the fragility of the situation.  We can and should promote our goals in the strongest manner we can, under the understanding that we will lose some people and in the spirit of triage must afford to lose some in order to help the greatest number.

Were I to invoke logic, however, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few.
                                                                                 - Mr. Spock.
Yeah.  Had to go there.  Geek on.

It is true.  Many skeptics take too much pain in trying to not offend anyone and miss the point that in so doing we are letting many people slip through the cracks in a weakly stated message.  It's a tenuous position.  We can't slip into a place where we are failing to present the truth.  We must always promote/direct people towards accurate information and towards a state of being able to identify reality as we best understand it as a race.  And that is a narrow tightrope to walk.

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