scientific Studies

Anomalistic Psychology, Quantum Theory, Environmental, Biological and the like.
How science and the paranormal interact.

Skepticism & Atheism: Are They One & The Same?

Posted by Atticus & Tressa on Sunday, July 18, 2010 Under: Skepticism

Skepticism is something that the RiPA brand has been accused of many times.

Is this because we apply CTS to submitted evidence?
There has been countless footage of alleged paranormal phenomena passed on to RiPA but the result is usually the same. RiPA highlights the flaws or the illogical facts of the back-story. Thats when, on the rare occassion, there is a backstory.

Now does this make RiPA Skeptics?
I think not. RiPA applies Critical Thinking Skills to everything they do. Each photo, footage, sound and story all goes through a rigourous process.
Now this is not to catch people out or make them look foolish. Its more to educate and help them on their way so that, maybe one day, they too can be more critical in the evidence they gain.

As you look around the RiPA site, You may find some articles aguing against creationism and critisizing religion.
Also the odd article will go into detail explaining the likes of ghosts, aliens and the like, away.
Does this make RiPA a band of non-believers in anything? A band of Athiests perhaps?

No, it does not. Again, as I stated earlier, RiPA like to apply the CTS to everything and give everything a fair balance. If you talk to a RiPA and your argument is strong, then we will listen and take on board what you say. However, if a RiPA notices flaws in your case, then they will highlight them. You may still defend your corner, but RiPA will then ask for strong evidence to back up your case. RiPA would do like-wise if you were not to take on board our explanations. Its a system of mutual belief.

The point of this article is can Skepticism work hand in hand with Atheism. RiPA would like to think yes.
So would Tressa Le Breen who is a known Skeptologist.

Skepticism is Atheism like one’s car is one’s house.

Oxford Dictionary Of Current English 4th edition 2006 definitions in total:
Atheism: disbelief in the existence of a god or gods, Greek atheos, without god,
Sceptical: not easily convinced, having doubts.

(RiPA cant afford to pay the fund for a subscription to Oxford Dictionary so we were unable to check it, but as Penn Jillette noted about online dictionaries during The Amazing Meeting 3: “this is off the internet so that means some 12 year old on heroin could’ve written it”.)

So for now we will be using a dictionary for baseline definitions because dictionaries have been endowed with the responsibility of keeping track of the meanings of words as they are right now and the general population as a whole, of which the Skeptical community (I am using this term in the loosest most inclusive possible way) is a part, has given it’s consent to as to it being an authority on the meanings of words.

We are not using a dictionary to bolster our poinst because it probably has meanings carved in the cosmos and is forever unchanging and is at the “forefront of the Skeptical Movement” (yes, Tressa was actually accused of all that when she brought up the dictionary definitions during a conversation; she never thought she’d have to explain what a dictionary was used for, at least not to someone who was also old enough to know the proper way to use a fork).

If there wasn’t some kind of general consensus on the meanings of words no one would be able to understand anyone as everyone could alter or change the meanings of words per their personal desires (with the exception of Prince, who can turn a derogatory curse word into a term of endearment at the drop of a music note).

As far as we know, there is no evidence that dictionary companies are changing meanings due to bribery or whims (of the rich or aliens or rich aliens) so there is no reason to denounce their work.

Obviously this does not mean that the meanings of words cannot be changed. If definition changes should come to pass while we are alive we shall have to use the words as they are properly defined at that time.

Just as Skepticism and Atheism should be used at this time as they are properly defined right now.

Its been said that Atheism is a search for truth, a process, just like skepticism, and that most Atheists are Atheists because there is no good evidence of god but as soon as there is evidence they will change, and leaving their minds open in this regard is synonymous to a process and thus a search for truth.

Atheism simply and literally means “disbelief in the existence of a god or gods; without god”. No process there. That’s a conclusion one can come to after looking at evidence therefore calling oneself an Atheist is a conclusion, a destination (like a house), a lack of belief held due to the perusal of evidence on the subject of the possible existence of deities.

Leaving one’s mind open to new evidence that conflicts with one’s already held beliefs is an act of skepticism. An Atheist keeping an open mind about their Atheism is them using their Skepticism not their Atheism.

Skepticism is like a car as it’s what takes one on a journey, a process of discovery on a topic. It also has built in self correction (oh if only actual cars had that function as well).

If Atheism, via proper evidence, is proven wrong, an Atheist can choose to no longer be an Atheist but they will still be a Skeptic.

It is our understanding there is no one individual or group that all Skeptics can go to for a list of what Skepticism does or does not believe in or what a person must or must not believe in to be a Skeptic. No Authority or even a President of Skepticism (and thankfully no Great Dictator of Skepticism; Big Smile! Big Smile!).
RiPA will never try to change your belief or convert you. We'll just explain it in a simple way then leave the final outcome for you to decide.

This may not be just because getting the majority of Skeptics to organize is akin to herding cats but also because Skepticism is a process not a specific belief, or specific disbelief for that matter.

There is no test to be a skeptic and there probably should not be as skepticism is relative to the information we currently hold (Google “giant squid” for an example).

It seems that saying “you can’t be a Skeptic if you are not an Atheist” is the No True Scotsman logical fallacy as it sets up the speaker to be the judge of what is real and true regarding both Skepticism and Atheism.

It also seems that saying “you can’t be a Skeptic if you are not an Atheist” is an Argument From Personal Incredulity logical fallacy (variation of Argument from Ignorance) as well: “I can’t imagine how, due to the lack of evidence for any kind of deity, anyone could not be an Atheist if they are a Skeptic, therefore, Atheism and Skepticism are one and the same.”

It would appear that people like Hal Bidlack and the late Martin Gardner put this one to rest.

Just as not all Skeptics are Atheists so are not all Atheists Skeptics. One can be an Atheist and believe in Reincarnation for instance, which doesn’t necessarily need a deity or supernatural after death realm, yet Reincarnation is as highly unlikely as a deity due to the current lack of evidence for it.

Only a couple of times have we come across the term True Skeptic. The first was “you are not a True Skeptic if you are not an Atheist” said to Tressa during the very heated conversation mentioned earlier. The other was in an article that stated, in part, “There are no ‘True Skeptics’. There is no code of belief, no catechism and no creed. You are a skeptic if you TRY (emphasis mine) to base your beliefs on evidence and are willing to reconsider them based on new evidence. That’s it. We should expect to disagree with one another often".

The term True Skeptic, used in an “A True Skeptic believes/doesn’t believe...” context sounds, to us, like Argument From Personal Incredulity mixed with No True Scotsman and a dash of Pomposity.

It also smacks of a form of exclusion: “If someone doesn’t agree with what skepticism has led me to and why, they can leave their Skeptic Light Saber and Utility Belt by the door on their way out of the Skeptical community!”

In our opinion, this attitude is not a characteristic of a healthy ego and pride one can take in choosing to practice skeptical thinking; it is immature arrogance that borders on “Rectal Cranial Inversion Syndrome” and is poison for an individual or a community (not to mention the risk of asphyxiation via methane gas).

People who would like to change the definitions of Skepticism and Atheism to make them the same should take a good look at how the word “theory” having two meanings has worked out so far...Theory Of Evolution anyone?

The Skeptical community stresses giving people the tools to find their own way through life and all the subjects and issues faced therein, by getting the word out about critical thinking and teaching people how to think, not what to think or where being skeptical “should” lead a person on any particular subject.
This is a great ethos to regard RiPA by.

Having Skepticism be interchangeable with any conclusion would be detrimental to teaching critical thinking as a whole. Right or wrong, no one likes to be told what to think or what they should be (yes, I know, “duh”). Doing so could very well alienate the people Skepticism is trying so hard to communicate with before they’ve gotten past “hello”.

As the definitions stand now, they work in favor of Skepticism and Atheism and the advancement of both into the general public. There are no two meanings to cause confusion between two groups such as the word “theory” between the Science community and the general public.

By no means are we suggesting that all Skeptics and Atheists and non-Atheists now join hands and sing Cat Steven songs.

If individual Skeptics who happen to also be Atheists don’t like or agree with individual Skeptics who happen to not be Atheists, don’t hang out with them (somehow we don’t think those who are not Atheists will be sending out invites either). The Skeptical community may be small but it’s still large enough to not have to have dinner with everyone.

Full Disclosure & Getting Even More Personal:

So, we agreed with the dictionary definitions of Atheism and Skepticism, and maybe some of you, and us, even knew what they were before we highlighted them. Yes, OK; big surprise. There was no need to note this outright because our personal agreement or disagreement with them won’t change them any more than if we didn’t believe in gravity we’d be able to throw ourselves at the ground and miss.

Up until recently everything we have read and heard on Skepticism and Atheism suggested the process/destination difference, to the point that it is understandable to be quite shocked when first heard someone say they believe the two were the same.

We were, as most of you will be, guilty of the Argument From Personal Incredulity logical fallacy when it comes to Skepticism and Atheism: We have no clue how a person or group who looks at the evidence, or lack thereof, for any kind of deity skeptically can not be an Atheist, at least not without committing some kind of emotional “special pleading” logical fallacy, or in extreme cases, like that, in Tessa's opinion, “prat in the hat” the Pope, using belief as a tool of power.

An aside, given recent events: anyone who harbors a pedophile, whether they’re the head of a church or the head of a skeptical organization, should be jailed. Why they did it, or what system was in play to help them do it, is secondary to justice being carried out swiftly. That is not to say that any system that allows for the harboring of pedophiles isn’t important to take down but, again, the definitions of Skepticism and Atheism would not change them.

Teaching skeptical thinking would erode existing institutions of that kind, and help stop the creation of future ones. Maybe thats too harsh, but considering the state of play today, Im sure most of you will agree.

Do we think that people, who have a belief in a god, or belief in the possibility of a god, are mentally ill? No. Not at all. It’s more of a learned cultural bias, the result of childhood brainwashing, or brainwashing that takes place when one is emotionally or mentally vulnerable.

Do we think that a belief in a god and said god’s dogma can become so consuming that it may lead to violence and or mental illness? Yes. This is why we feel that a wide divide between any sort of personal belief system and the running of society as a whole must be firm and unyielding.

Do we feel that people, who have a belief in a god, or a belief in the possibility of a god, are being intellectually dishonest? In general no; in some cases yes. we do not think, due to the built in cultural bias to belief in our society (Western world), that it is an either/or situation but an individual by individual point. For example, Tessa hopes there is a huge difference between her grandmother, a self professed lapsed Catholic, and Sylvia Browne, a self professed psychic and creator of her own belief system.

We cannot stress enough that the teaching of skeptical thinking would be a stronger weapon against the negativity, government sanctioning, violence and downright crimes that can and have been committed in the name of some religion than the terms mental illness, intellectual dishonesty and True Skeptic being served up as the Peanut Butter, Jam & Marmalade on White or brown of either Atheism or Skepticism.

A person has the right to choose to believe that the moon is made out of cheese but they do not have the right to our respect for that belief, anymore than they should expect us to believe anything other than their belief that what the moon is made of is nothing more than their cheese that has slipped off their cracker.

In other words, we could not care less what a person chooses to believe personally as long as that belief stays exactly that, personal, and they only expect their right to choose to be respected not what they have chosen to believe.

In closing (yes, I know, if there were a god you’d be thanking him right now), Skepticism and Atheism have more important battles to be fought than making Skepticism and Atheism the same thing and the use of Occam’s Razor on this issue would behoove both Skeptics and Atheists, help to foster a more fact based run society and, ironically, probably lead to the quicker creation of more Skeptics and Atheists. Ok, maybe not as fun as the usual way of creation but we're all for exploring inter species mating rituals!!

In : Skepticism 


Tags: skepticism  athiest skeptic  atheism  cts  crtical thinking skills  religion  teaching  creationism  evidence  god  disillusion  tam 
blog comments powered by Disqus