Monday, March 5, 2012

Why skepticism is more important than atheism

A few days back, I got into a long, drawn out battle with a now-former Twitter follower over, of all things, aliens. It all started when I mocked that ancient aliens guy with the bad hair, and he responded. I got a torrent of hate, as is customary when celebrities publicly respond to their critics. Amongst the remarks pointing out I'm Canadian (as if that's an insult) and misspelled insults directed at my intelligence was one of my own followers. She claimed that atheism led her to believe in aliens because evolution was so unlikely. When I pointed out that there was no compelling evidence of extraterrestrial life forms existing, despite the high likelihood of there being life elsewhere in the universe. This is actually called the Fermi Paradox, and I even shared the Wikipedia link to it with her. She called it "skeptic bullshit" or something along those lines, and then said it wasn't worth it to talk to me.

The fact of the matter is, critical thinking is a much more important thing to promote than atheism. Yes, critical thinking, when applied to religion, should lead to atheism, but not all atheists come to atheism by thinking critically. In fact, far too often, those who claim to think critically are anything but critical thinkers. I've been told that, as a skeptic, I should reject the "official story" on 9/11, the Holocaust and other such things. This is, of course, because people mistake "critical thinking" with "cynicism". That is not the case by a long shot. Critical, or skeptical thinking simply means evaluating all information in a systematic, purposeful and efficient manner. It's the best way to find the truth, something you religious people should care about. After all, truth is the only god there is, the only thing worth worshiping. It's the only remedy for bullshit.

Now, not everyone who doesn't think critically will fall prey to such lunacy as conspiracy theories. What it does do is make you easy prey for scam artists. This includes religions, political parties on the left and the right, and practitioners of "alternative medicine" (who come in two flavours: the deludedwho are spreading their delusion and straight up con artists) as well as operators of pyramid schemes/multi-level marketing and other such scams. Not that anyone's perfect, of course. For example, noted skeptic Michael Shermer has fallen for the political cult known as American libertarianism, which isn't really that far from anarchism. However, it does make you more able to avoid such mental traps.

The bottom line is, if you read this blog or follow me on Twitter because of my atheism, do not be offended if I disagree with your other views. If you hold any views that cannot hold up to scrutiny, it's best to abandon them. If you're not quite sure how to properly think critically, and even if you are, you should click here to read an excellent guide to critical thinking.

7 comments:

  1. Spot on. Skepticism is far more important than atheism because it is a process and heuristic rather than a conclusion. I think it can also be sort of a gateway drug for religious people: when we recognize the flaws in human thinking, it becomes possible to apply that analytical thinking to religion, et voilĂ ! Atheism.

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  2. Libertarianism is NOTHING like anarchism, you idiot.

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    1. American Libertarianism is very much like anarchism, actually. Anarchism wants no government that isn't completely voluntary (a silly and completely unworkable idea, noble as it may seem). American libertarianism wants an extremely small government ("so small it can be drowned in a bathtub" is a common quote) which is extremely close to having no government.

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    2. If you really think wanting a small government (and therefore, a government that cannot infringe upon the rights of the people, as we've seen happen repeatedly under Bush AND Obama) is a bad thing, you're delusional.

      You remind me a lot of my father: an asshole who always thinks he's right and loves to belittle anyone who disagrees with him.

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    3. James, your options in this world are to have a world ruled by big business with no opposition or to have a world where governments can protect people from them. We can have some control over a democratically elected government. We have essentially no recourse against corporations when we have a government without power.
      I don't belittle without good reason.

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    4. No, I DON'T want a world ruled by big business. Where the hell did you even get that idea from?

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    5. You clearly do. The ONLY thing that's ever stopped big business from getting their way is government regulations, aka "Big Government". PERIOD. This is a fucking fact. Boycotts rarely, if ever, work, and even when they do it takes a very long time. The damage is generally done by the time a boycott gets big enough to make a difference. That's why we need the regulations that you libertarians so stupidly oppose.

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