Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Skeptic Stumbles: Preaching, But Not Always Practicing

© Copyright 2007 Ray X

Shouldn’t a skeptic be – well, skeptical? I mean, shouldn’t a skeptic not accept anything at face value when there’s an opportunity to check the facts? After all, skeptics usually criticize “true believers” for accepting only those opinions or viewpoints that reinforce their beliefs.

A questioning attitude is important because – as skeptics will point out – someone may be sincere but they still can be wrong. Or they could just be lying.

Case in point: Michael Shermer, the man behind The Skeptic Magazine and its online little brother, eSkeptic. Back on January 10th eSkeptic published an article that used information provided by PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility). It was claimed that the Bush administration through its appointees was pressuring federal park employees to be “geological agnostic.” Kowtowing to the creationists, rangers were told never to give out any estimates of the Grand Canyon’s age.

As Shermer discovered later, this wasn’t true. In the January 17th eSkeptic Shermer explained how he was duped. Credit must be given to him for admitting that he made a mistake.

As he explains in his mea culpa titled “Fact Checking 101,” he didn’t call either the National Park Service or the Grand Canyon National Park to check out the claims made by PEER. Apparently, Shermer surmised, PEER felt justified in playing with the truth as a reaction to the pro-Christian conservative push of the Bush administration.

Shermer observed: “PEER is an anti-Bush, anti-religion liberal activist watchdog group in search of demons to exorcise and dragons to slay.” He added that while the Hegelian process might work for talk radio, it isn’t appropriate for journalism and scholarly studies.

OK, I can understand how someone could be duped by disinformation – but not when that someone is a skeptic. If Shermer stayed true to the creed he preaches, I wouldn’t be writing about this matter.

After all, shouldn’t skeptics be held to higher standards than “UFO crazies” or “Bigfoot nuts?”

1 comment:

Doug said...

Standards?! Didn't those go out of style with button shoes?

I hate to seem to blithely go along with it, but we are in the age of "truthiness"...