So Leeds Skeptics in the Pub has uninvited Steve Moxon. Now they’re discussing the matter. There’s one crux that I think is interesting, and I think more clarity on it would help a lot of people who are disputing about it. It’s a crux we’ve discussed here at FTB, too, especially in last week’s hangout.
This is the crux:
Amy: There are some things that should be a given in any skeptical society, and the equality of its members in terms of gender, sexuality, race etc should be one of those things. Having Moxon speak just gives credibility to the idea that his wacky, bigoted views on women are worthy of debate.
Norman: Not sure how anything can be a ‘given’ in a skeptical society? Surely the point of a skeptical society is that all view points are subjected to a rigorous process of critical analysis, regardless of whether it agrees with our world view or not. One could argue that it is the very ‘givens’ of our own world views that require even more in depth challenging.
Here’s one way something can be a ‘given’ in a skeptical society: you can make a distinction between a view point, or, better, a truth claim, on the one hand, and a moral or political commitment on the other.
It’s perfectly possible for a skeptical society to have a basic commitment to equality, in fact one would rather hope that any skeptical society would have such a commitment, if only so that skepticism won’t be some kind of preserve for the people on top. That’s what Amy was talking about, and it needn’t be or imply dogmatism. It’s an ethical commitment, not an empirical claim. Ethical skepticism isn’t identical to empirical skepticism. It’s helpful to keep those distinctions in mind.
There are some ethical commitments that you don’t really want people challenging except in a philosophy seminar. “When you come right down to it, shouldn’t I just be grabbing whatever I can and the hell with everyone else?” “If you think about it, what’s the problem with beating people up whenever you get pissed off?” “All this bullshit about treating people as equals is just PC-Nazism and I say the hell with it.”
We’re allowed to have ethical commitments. We should have ethical commitments. Having ethical commitments is compatible with skepticism.