I’ve obviously spent a lot of time on this subject and this will be a much shorter post. I’m simply going to categorize, for clarity, the different types of skeptical theists. I’ve named them after individuals who all self-identify as both skeptic and theist (some as a specific subtype, like Christian) and as skeptics.
The “Lee Strobel”
This individual is convinced that the proper application of skeptical principle actually confirms their theistic beliefs.
The “Pamela Gay”
This individual is convinced that their theistic beliefs are beyond the critical eye of skeptical principles, often asserting that skepticism only applies to testable claims.
The “Martin Gardner”
This individual acknowledges that they’re not being skeptical of their theistic beliefs and that they have some emotional reason for believing. Often they’ll acknowledge that their beliefs most probably would not hold up under the critical evaluation of skepticism.
I’ve covered the difference between the “Pamela Gay” and “Martin Gardner” types in previous posts. In short, neither is applying skepticism to their theistic beliefs and one is claiming that it shouldn’t apply. The assertion that skepticism can say nothing about untestable claims is one that I think is demonstrably absurd.
But what about the “Lee Strobel” type?
I’m pretty sure that if we polled skeptics at a convention like TAM (and I think we should), an extraordinarily high percentage would claim that the “Lee Strobel”-type is simply not a very good skeptic. Some of them, might even flatly claim that the “Lee Strobel”-type simply isn’t a skeptic, despite using the label.
Is Lee Strobel a skeptic? How about Kent Hovind or Duane Gish or Ken Ham or Deepak Chopra or Sylvia Brown? I’d be willing to bet that most of them would self-identify as a skeptic because most of them think that they have evidence (or perhaps pretend that they think they have evidence, if they’re simply dishonest) and that the evidence confirms their beliefs. They, like most people, recognize the value of evidence in understanding reality and I’d bet that most of them (hell, most anyone) would say, “Yes, I’m a skeptic and I value skepticism” once they’ve had it explained to them.
(The explanation, by the way, could simply be: a skeptic is a person who strives to accurately understand reality by accepting only those things that are supported by the evidence.)
But are they really a skeptic, just because they call themselves one? Would you consider them to be a good skeptic? Is their usage of skeptic consistent with your own…is it consistent with the larger skeptical community? If any of those people were invited to speak on behalf of skepticism, would you object?
Let’s not pretend that legitimate, skeptical questions about this subject can be answered by accusations of a “no true Scotsman” fallacy if we’re really trying to determine whether or not someone is conveying accurate information about Scotland.
Let’s not pretend that we’re somehow rude for questioning or correcting misinformation or that there’s no problem with letting some misinformation slip by.
If we wouldn’t pretend that the “Lee Strobel”-type has any more knowledge about Scotland than one might obtain after watching a special on the Loch Ness monster…then let’s not pretend – at all.