Is skepticism a “movement” or is it not?
When I read PZ’s post saying goodbye to skepticism yesterday I first thought no, it isn’t, but then thought of all those conferences and events and thought well ok maybe it is. But – I’ve now reverted to “no, it isn’t,” not in the sense that a “movement” is usually understood.
Massimo Pigliucci and Michael DeDora exchanged some tweets about it just now, in the wake of Massimo’s post on PZ’s post and the larger subject. They compared the Civil Rights Movement and the specificity of its goals.
Michael De Dora @mdedora
@mpigliucci Civil Rights Movement had specific and widely agreed upon social and political goals. Can same be said for skeptics?
Massimo Pigliucci @mpigliucci
@mdedora How is that different from the Civil Rights movement? A community, local groups, national leaders…
True, and that’s why yesterday I thought “well, maybe.” But the Civil Rights movement is a good choice to illustrate why skepticism isn’t really “a movement” as we usually understand it – no sit ins, no marches, no voter registration drives, no firehoses, no mass arrests.
Skepticism just isn’t a good fit with that kind of thing. Atheism is much more so, I think – witness the Reason Rally. (But, you cry, the Reason Rally could be seen as a skeptical event more than an atheist one – it wasn’t the Atheist Rally after all! Well it kind of was, though.)
Then again I’m being nitpicky, or I’m ignoring Wittgenstein and family resemblances and all that. Do cricket and chess belong in the same category? If they do, then surely skepticism can be a movement too.
I guess, but it feels a bit off. I think maybe it’s too much like “brave hero” – it’s too much like wrapping oneself in the flag of real, hazardous struggles when in fact all one is doing is typing. I said the other day – correcting one of the many falsehoods about me out there – that I never call myself an “activist.” Well that’s why. Hey, writing is a fine thing to do – but it’s not the same kind of thing as activism. Skepticism isn’t a very movementy movement.