Three things happened on this blog this week that got me thinking. That’s not really unusual. The posts on Skepchick get me thinking just about every day. But this week, the things that got me thinking were about me.
- A commenter said this to me: “You know, Donna, I alternate between thinking you are a brilliant breath of fresh air to thinking you are bat-shit insane.” I took this as a compliment.
- Someone misinterpreted one of my posts and accused me of supporting genocide. I took this as an insult and considered whether I might need to take more time to edit my posts before publishing them.
- A reader wrote in and suggested that Skepchick puts forth an anti-religious stance. Since I write most about religion, I took this personally.
So, who am I, anyway? And what the heck am I doing writing for this blog?
I don’t really consider myself a skeptic. There are two ways to define “skeptic.” One is using the dictionary definition and the other is using the definition of the skeptic subculture. Here are both:
SkepÂ·tic also scepÂ·tic
1. One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.
2. One inclined to skepticism in religious matters.
a. often Skeptic An adherent of a school of skepticism.
b. Skeptic A member of an ancient Greek school of skepticism, especially that of Pyrrho of Elis (360?-272? b.c.).
The Skeptic magazine site has a very long discussion about this.Â Here are a few points that I find pertinent:
Modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, that involves gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. A claim becomes factual when it is confirmed to such an extent it would be reasonable to offer temporary agreement. But all facts in science are provisional and subject to challenge, and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions.
While I do agree with this basic definition, it’s the nit-picky attitude of many skeptics, the tendency to turn every discussion into a debate, and the way many skeptics have to be “right” that makes me uncomfortable attaching myself to the name or the subculture. I am more interested in exploring how to think than I am in being told what to think — even about religion, homeopathy, psychics, and other topics that seem to enthrall many skeptics.
I try to base my opinions on data and evidence, and I try to do as much research as I have time for before coming to a conclusion on any specific issue. But I am a human being and I know that my ideas are often laden with emotional baggage. That’s OK with me. I wouldn’t want to live a life where I couldn’t be passionate about things, and my passion comes from my personal experiences which are seeped in emotion. I don’t feel that I need aÂ Ph.D.Â in a given topic to voice my opinion on an issue. I like using personal stories and anecdote to communicate my ideas.Â I believe this is often much more effective than vomiting up facts onto the page, especially when speaking to people outside of the skeptical community.Â I get really tired of people telling me to “be more skeptical” as if I pull my opinions out of my ass with no consideration for facts.Â
I consider myself an unbeliever. I actually prefer the term bright to the term atheist. Not because of any negative connotations surrounding the term atheist, but because bright has a wider meaning. Calling myself an atheist simply says that I don’t believe in God or gods. Calling myself a bright says that I have a naturalistic world view, that I don’t believe in the supernatural at all. Unfortunately, the Brights experiment wasÂ seems to be a dismal failure (I’m checking into this further due to the comments) and it’s basically a waste of breath to call oneself a bright today. I guess I could call myself a materialist, but too many people get that confused with materialism, as in Madonna’s Matierial GirlÂ (embedded here in case you’re not old enough to remember).Â
So why am I writing on Skepchick? Because a few years ago, Rebecca asked me to. First I wrote a few articles for the magazine before the blog was started, and then I started the book discussions. After other bloggers came on board, I started slipping in more personal posts as well. But mainly I write here because I want to be part of something that encourages people to think for themselves, that brings women into a community that is often dominated by men, and that gives a voice to unbelievers, particularly in America where society is dominated by religion in general and Christianity specifically.
In a way, I enjoyed writing the articles more than I enjoy blogging because I only submitted once a month, and I was able to put a lot more time into each piece. On the other hand, I enjoy being able to throw subjects out there on the blog for discussion without having to take weeks to fine-tune my prose or even to decide what I think about the issue before posting. It’s fun to toss an idea out to the blogosphere and see what people have to add.
I hope that many of you enjoy my posts and that I can add to the discussions about skepticism, religion, and many other topics. I would like to think of myself as a skeptic and become more involved in the skeptical community, and maybe some of you can help me figure out if that’s appropriate for a bat-shit insane woman such as myself.