Skeptics’ burden

Over on Skepticblog in “Never Say Anything That Isn’t Correct,” Daniel Loxton examines the ethical responsibilities of those of us who doubt some of the beliefs common in human thinking. People who publicly express reservations about things ranging from overgeneralization to god, Mr. Loxton recommends, should exercise great care in avoiding the very errors in evidence and reason to which they are pointing and—sometimes politely, sometimes shrilly—calling “BS.”

That is to say: skeptics bear a heavy due diligence burden. The more we present skepticism as “the scientific perspective,” the heavier that burden becomes. People turn to us for reliable information and science-based analysis. That is exactly what they should get.

Nor is it only skeptical magazines who bear this burden. All public skeptics — TV celebrities, podcasters, and bloggers included — have an unrelenting ethical responsibility to do their homework, stay close to their expertise, and get the facts right.

To deal with that burden, here’s the simple rule I propose: No skeptic should ever say anything that isn’t correct.

Mr. Loxton’s rule presents a demanding standard—and, to be sure, it is a bit of an overstatement in itself. However, as he argues, the direction it takes skeptics is a good one. Read “Never Say Anything That Isn’t Correct.” Having read it, I’ll work on watching my words a bit more carefully.

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Filed under Atheism, Notes and comments, Science, Skepticism

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