Real Skeptics vs fake skeptics

Today’s Uk Telegraph has what can be best described as a rant from James Delingpole. Just to give you an idea of what I’m on about, here are a few choice snippits from it …

The aspect of it which I have particularly enjoyed is the sanctimonious and hypocritical rage of a vociferous lobby group of self-styled “skeptics.” (See here, here and here.) Though mostly based in Britain, they spell themselves in the American style to distinguish themselves from “sceptics” like me. That’s because, unlike proper sceptics they – get this! – are card-carrying members of the Church of Climate Change.

Now least you wonder, buried in that rant among the Ad-Hominem is his delusional belief that a “true” skeptic is somebody who is a climate-change skeptic. Little things like reality and scientific fact don’t count. Note the use of the term “Church” in a vain attempt to label climate change as a religious belief.

If curious, and you are prepared to tolerate a considerable degree of utter stupidity, then you can read his full rant here.

His main theme is that these “fake” skeptics have committed the horrendous crime of not agreeing with him … gasp, what a shock.

OK, so what is being a skeptic all about?

Its nothing to do with holding a specific view or belief, but rather is simply about putting critical thinking into practise. There are many weird and wonderful beliefs out there, and also lots of folks trying to sell you fake magic cures, but instead of simply accepting them all, each can be examined and questioned to determine if its a valid claim or is simply nonsense.

  • When you smell bullshit, then you declare it to be what it is

But a skeptic is also prepared to accept new information. If the information presented was incorrect and new better information comes to light, a skeptic will change their view.

Another way of looking at this is to label it “Evidence” based thinking, or perhaps even “empirical” based thinking. However, like many other terms, the word “skeptic” also suffers from gross abuse. For example consider the term  “Climate Change Skeptic”, I would argue thats an abuse of the term. Why? Well because the scientific consensus on climate change is, “that climate is changing and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities.”. To deny that reality puts you into the kook category (unless of course you have actual debatable evidence and can offer a credible alternative to explain what is happening), but no, most climate change deniers simply tout ideas that have already been debunked and dismissed … and doing that is not being skeptical at all, instead it’s just being nuts.

So what should you do when faced with kooks such as Mr Delingpole attempting to hijack the term “skeptic”? Easy, just be skeptical.

3 thoughts on “Real Skeptics vs fake skeptics”

  1. “Its nothing to do with holding a specific view or belief”


    “When you smell bullshit, then you declare it to be what it is”

    The former belies the latter. Which is it? (Hint: philosophy cannot be used to ‘declare bullshit’, only science can do that. Philosophy employed to preemptively render science moot, is known by another name: pseudoscience)

  2. I have a suspicion that anyone claiming to be a ‘skeptic’, has very strong,almost religious beliefs, they are trying to hold up with their skepticism. Real skeptics don’t need to claim to be skeptics, they are seen and judged by others to be skeptics without any need to claim.

  3. I guess in his head it’s atrocious to disagree with him. As his byline states “James Delingpole is a writer, journalist and broadcaster who is right about everything.”


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