Three random thoughts about skepticism

I

Astrology is dumb: it is not consistent, can’t discriminate between its varieties, has been demonstrated to not work, and has no mechanism by which it could work. (Not that you need to know a mechanism, but when you have neither “this works” nor “this might work something”, there’s nothing left!)

People that believe astrology works are either gullible, incurious, un- or miseducated, some other similarly negative condition… or then just dumb. But “dumb” is a minority condition here, unless one defines it to include those others.

A lot of things are dumb; people, not so much.

II

I really do think skeptics are superior to gullible/incurious/uneducated believers: we’re right, or at least open to rightness should it come by, while they are wrong, or then clinging to a particular opinion for fairly awful reasons.

A proponent of healing herb Z might be correct about its potency, while a skeptic wavers; but as long as herb Z hasn’t gone under the grinder of scientific testing the fact remains one of them is correct, and the other thinks correctly. As time goes by, the second is a lot more important, because it will imply the first, and a lot more; but the converse is not true.

III

It is sometimes accused that some join the skeptic ranks just to get to feel superior. If so, well, the misguided dicks! One should join to become superior. Not in any fuzzy Ubermensch way, but better in thought and deed. Which hopefully includes being more just with one’s compassion, more effective in one’s charity, more willing to strive together for a better world and better people in it… not just being better in contrast to others, but also in connection to others.

And skepticism is a good road for self-betterment like this, because merely wanting to “be good” or “do good” is never enough; merely that is a terrible thing, one to fuel endless pyres, to fill prisons and shed tears without end; “do compassion” or “do the good thing” are horribly mistaken commands unless one is also inclined to think what “good” is, and whether one’s seeing the world as it is. The witch-burners were, I think, for a large part sincerely compassionate men — they didn’t want the poor women to go to Hell, so they settled for the real lesser evil instead of the imaginary bigger one. Seeing how the world actually is, and where they went wrong, well, that’s where skeptical humanism shines.

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