Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thoughts on Heavy Company.

Recently in an entry called "Heavy Company" I posted here about Michael Shermer and his magazine. Although I consider it factually correct, and a point of view worth sharing, it came out angrier than I wished. I tend to be an angry person, but it's not a trait in myself that I find particularly desirable. And, to be honest, the topic of organized skepticism does make me very angry. I started out quite enthused, put a lot of time, energy and emotional investment into it and came out very bitter and upset.

One of the reasons, I entered writing, journalism and media pursuits in general was a desire to spread the truth, expose hypocrisy and abuse, and make the world a better place. I gravitated towards skepticism because it, too, claims to work for these things.

However, the deeper one gets into organized skepticism, the less important people seem to consider such things as truth and working to spread truth and expose hypocrisy. The deeper the hypocrisies and lies within skepticism seem to become. And Shermer is just one example of this.

I am also, in a minor way, a fiction writer and although my success has been minimal, I have put much time and energy into learning that craft. Several years ago, I had the chance to attend an excellent writing workshop put on by Robert Sawyer, the award winning science fiction writer. Sawyer is an excellent teacher. At one point he said that the key to achieving commercial success as a science ficton writer does not lie in winning over people who dislike your writings. Instead the key to financial success as a science fiction writer is to gain a following of people who like what you do and keep them satisfied so they will seek out what you produce.

I think skepticism works the same way, although it does not, to the best of my knowledge, admit it. Although it promises to work to educate the general public and promote science education and critical thinking, in fact, I do not think this is a true priority for the bulk of organized skeptics. Instead, I think, they are following the model that Robert Sawyer suggested for science fiction writers. Shermer, and other prominent skeptics, have achieved a following and are working to entertain and satisfy them, telling them what they wish to hear whether it be accurate or not. The public and public education comes second.

Therefore, because the organizations and their leaders generally claim to be working for one thing, while in fact working for another, there is an inevitably high degree of hypocrisy and misrepresenation in many of their actions.

Because lack of tolerance for hypocrisy and misrepresentation was one of the reasons I entered the field of skepticism, if not writing itself, yet the field is rife with hypocrisy and misrepresentation, inevitably contact with organized skepticism leaves me feeling angry and upset.

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