Levels of skepticism
I just finished listening to a recent episode of Skepticality where Reed Esau was discussing the “long tail” of skepticism. They were saying how there appears to be few people in the skeptical movement who are active contributors, while most are simple observers. This got me to wondering about the different levels of skeptic activism. No, I am not talking about something akin to a World of Warcraft character levels. Although a level 37 Skeptic does have a nice ring to it. What I am really focusing on is the level of skeptical principles, commitment, and contribution.
I firmly believe that skepticism is the best way to look at the world. Skepticism allows one to “shred off” preconceived notions, magical thinking, and human fallacies leading to a true view of reality. Living strictly through faith or through willful suspension of disbelief does not lead to the betterment of anyone. In fact, as the website, What’s The Harm?, nicely points out, being unskeptical can have dire consequences.
Below I have listed four levels of skepticism as I see them. I don’t want this post to insult anyone, but to hopefully inspire people to try to get to that next level. Society as a whole will benefit.
Level 1 skepticism
The first level of skeptic is someone who believes they are a skeptic, but may still have some unskeptical aspects of themselves that surface from time to time or that they have allowed a special sanctuary from critical evaluation. Maybe they are still holding out on one particular pseudoscience or they believe that anecdotal evidence is equal to a well controlled scientific study. These people will benefit from an examination of logical fallacies and on the basic principles of reliable evidence, but everyone has to start somewhere, right?
Level 2 skepticism
The second level would be someone who is fully skeptical as far as it is humanly possible. They rarely commit logical fallacies and they consistently strive to fact check everything they hear. Maybe they even attend skeptical group meetings. Hopefully they even spread critical thinking skills to their family and friends.
Level 3 skepticism
The third level of skepticism is someone who contributes some particular skill or knowledge base for the betterment of other skeptics and society. Perhaps they run a blog or a podcast, or organize a local meeting of fellow skeptics. Maybe they watch over online discussion forums and comment section in order to vanquish any sign of pseudoscience or unskeptical thought.
Level 4 skepticism
The fourth and final level of skepticism is something that very few skeptics will ever achieve. People at this level are essentially the heroes of the skeptical movement. These are the people that are heads of national skeptical organizations, appear on television shows, and are known outside the skeptical community. These are people like Michael Shermer and James Randi.
Up next: levels of pseudoskepticism