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Official skeptics imploding

The "official" skeptics movement is imploding, reports the Daily Grail blog.

For many years on this site I've critiqued the demagogic tendencies of a number of the 'leaders' of the modern skeptical movement (see the bottom of this post for some links). I've often faced resistance (and sometimes hostility) from card-carrying skeptics for pointing out the foibles of these so-called champions of science, and the dangers of having such people as figureheads of a movement dedicated to truth and reason - but I had no inkling that in the space of just a few short years the reputations of a number of them would begin coming undone at their own hands.

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Reader Comments (31)

What on Earth is the "modern skeptical movement"!

A completely delusional blog, presumably the contributers wear tin foil hats to stop evil people reading their thoughts.

Aug 11, 2013 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

I was disappointed to find that BH was not on the list.

Aug 11, 2013 at 2:29 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

This guy's from Planet Zog, right?
I have actually heard of Dawkins and Randi but I'd never associated either with "official skepticism".
On the other hand he never appears to have heard of Anthony Watts, Joanne Nova, Andrew Montford, Donna Laframboise, Bob Tisdale, Lucy Skywalker, Ben Pile ... and that's before I really start to think.
Then there's the Pielkes and Judith Curry and McIntyre and several (dozen) others who wouldn't actually regard themselves as sceptics but more like mainstream realists.
Perhaps lying down in a dark room with a wet towel round his head would help!

Aug 11, 2013 at 2:39 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Official skeptics were always going to be an oxymoron.

These groups have always ended up being as bad as the groups they were criticizing.

Aug 11, 2013 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterredc

I have never heard of any of the people he's talking about. Come to think of it I have never heard of his blog before either. Nor have about 70 million other people in the UK I imagine.

Aug 11, 2013 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterdisko Troop

Serves them right for trusting a Holier Than Thou figure such as PZ Myers.

Other worrying signs: Shermer going to an atheist conference (atheism being even more philosophically untenable than religious belief; Randi beaten up by Plait for being CAGW skeptical; a Mann Cult developing in the ranks, including mindlessly espousing cretin mass Twitter blocking.

Aug 11, 2013 at 2:53 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Ah, generalist skeptics as opposed to agw/cc/ew skeptics. I did not read any evidence of implosion. I remain generally skeptical.

Aug 11, 2013 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Norman

I'm just glad this guy was able to find work after that nasty business in Iraq; too funny to be missed.

Aug 11, 2013 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveA

I don't think this person is talking about climate scepticism. As there's no sceptical 'movement' as such it's hard to think the author of the blog is making much sense. Dawkins is sceptical of religion and Randi is sceptical of magical powers, both of which have mainstream appeal. Myers is sceptical of language without swearing in it.

Aug 11, 2013 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I ain't never heard of none of those dudes bar Dawkins......and he's not a climate sceptic. More a religious sceptic. And his 'crime' was to have an argument and make a disobliging remark about Islam???? WTF has that got to do with climate?

Scraping the barrel.

Aug 11, 2013 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

It sounds almost as bad as the Royal Society.

I'm skeptical in my own time, on my own account, without any "official" movement with "leaders." I'll try and pay attention to the sensible arguments, not the personalities.

Aug 11, 2013 at 3:53 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Somewhere along the line someone has got the wrong end of the stick. I'm pretty sure Randi et al are the 'Skeptics Society' type of sceptic ( ) - not the CAGW sceptic type.

Aug 11, 2013 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJ Calvert N

From that page there is this link that outlines and comments on a blog by Randi who is playing down AGW versus other issues that should be addressed. Seems that Randi blog distressed some causing them to attack Randi for being a denier. However, many comments at the Daily Grail link also have little regard for the AGW consensus and say so vermently. So much so, the author subsequently adds in his own defence that his Randi article is not attacking AGW skeptics.

Aug 11, 2013 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterMick J

I believe many of the commenters are confusing the modern skeptical movement with climate skeptics. The modern skeptical movement is an loosely-knit atheist organization that serves the new god of "science" and strongly advocates that the masses follow the dictates of the self-appointed scientific experts (think skeptical science). As one would expect, the puts them solidly in the warmist camp, they are certainly not "climate skeptics". They view critically thinking libertarian-minded individuals as a threat.

As the linked article points out, they also have a nasty streak and aren't above using underhanded tactics to further their agenda.

Aug 11, 2013 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff C

Jeff C,

"I believe many of the commenters are confusing the modern skeptical movement with climate skeptics..."

But understanding that would have required reading the links, five seconds thought and a couple of google searches.

I found it all fascinating. Though I would have read it anyway as my Daily Grail RSS feed is right next to my Bishop Hill RSS feed. Catholic tastes, perhaps.

Aug 11, 2013 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

P.S. Want to know how I first arrived at Bishop Hill those few years ago? The Daily Grail broke the story of Climategate to me via their RSS feed. True story.

Aug 11, 2013 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

AS Jeff C says, "skeptic" in this sense, through the way society works at the moment, actually comes close to meaning the opposite of "skeptic" in the sense of climate.

As for the article itself, it may be off-topic if my general loathing of political correctness isn't appropriate on a scientific site like this, but it seems me that Dawkins was the adored poster-boy of the left-leaning, "scientific" atheist movement exactly up to the point where he had the temerity to criticise Islam. It seems he didn't realise that the rules are you only attack the easy targets.

Aug 11, 2013 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan


Aug 11, 2013 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

As a side note, the modern skeptical movement would make an interesting case study of cognitive dissonance on a grand scale. The very things that the skeptics claim to abhor about religion such acceptance of beliefs without critical examination, unquestioned obedience to authority, mental illness of unbelievers, etc. are exactly the approach they take toward the masses that aren't part of their elitist clique. Shows how little human nature has changed over the last few thousand years.

Aug 11, 2013 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff C

It's referring largely to psi sceptics: there have been a number of scandals recently. Just Google "sceptic sex scandal".

Aug 11, 2013 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Larkin

PZ Myers had a brain fart a few years ago he wanted atheism to stand for something so he decided he wanted atheists to start championing progressive political causes

So what we have here is a train wreck of atheists who think they qualify as genuine skeptics because they've figured out god doesn't exist, they champion evolution, feminism, gay rights, LGBT issues, social justice causes including support of CAGW theory.

Members of the so called movement can be found at [ironically named] FreeThoughtBlog

Aug 11, 2013 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterjustintempler

A handful of people in the skeptic/atheist community reaping what they have sown is not evidence of that movement imploding.

Bear in mind their measure of skepticism puts Michael Mann in the 'champions of science' camp. He was a speaker at The Amazing Meeting 2013 I believe.

Aug 11, 2013 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

If you want a real laugh go back and read some of his other posts. It took me ten minutes to pick myself up off the floor after reading a few of them. Sad really.........

Aug 11, 2013 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterR. Hughes

On a personal note, I can't be doing with Dawkins' idea of atheism. A large part of my disbelief is an unwillingness to spend time thinking about religion. Dawkins and his followers seem to do little else. That's not atheism it's negative religion. My hope is that if enough people will ignore it, it will eventually go away.

Aug 11, 2013 at 11:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I read the blog post by "Greg" and, perhaps unsurprisingly, could not find any scientific discredit. Did I miss something? I mean a guy's partners had a visa issue 30 years ago? Who cares.

Aug 12, 2013 at 1:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

"Members of the so called movement..." --justintempler

Oh, it's a movement, all right.

Aug 12, 2013 at 1:59 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

There certainly is an official, card-carrying, demagogic and - although he forgot to mention it - embarrassingly well funded moment.

The deluded, innumerate catastrophe shill movement.

Aug 12, 2013 at 2:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterY. U. B.Trippin'

Irrespective of the merits or not of the original tweet, I can't take seriously anyone who believes that "(if you want to understand why it was a stupid tweet, swap 'Islam' for 'women' in the tweet and his later 'reflections' on the matter)" is some form of refutation.

Aug 12, 2013 at 8:48 AM | Unregistered Commenteralleagra

After a brief flurtation with the "official" skeptical movement, I was quickly disabused of any admiration for that bunch of geek wannabees.

Theirs is pretty much a toe-the-line institution, which is now held captive by extremist atheists, climate alarmists who pursue any non-compliant thoughts with a military zeal.

PZ Myers, Phil Platt and Ben Goldacre are poster boys for their increasingly irrational and non-skeptical behaviour.

James Randi felt the wrath of Plait when he dared to say he wasn't sure about dangerous AGW. Tey were relatively gentle with him though, opting for a re-education camp rather than the Gulag proper.

Does anyone remember the treatment meted out to Hall at the UK "Skeptics" Society meeting. After he was booed off stage the comedian Daragh O'Briain used his professional advantage as a polished public performer to publically ridicule a man who voiced an opinion at a meeting supposedly populated by "skeptics". It was crass and has coloured my views of O'Briain and the "official " skeptic movement ever since.

God save us from those people.

Aug 12, 2013 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Oops that was Johny Ball suffering the wrath of the mob.

Aug 12, 2013 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

R. Hughes,

"It took me ten minutes to pick myself up off the floor after reading a few of them."

That didn't actually happen though, did it? Truth much?

Aug 12, 2013 at 6:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

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