Do I place a higher value on reason, critical thinking, and skepticism or on the interpretation of feelings as accurate indicators of truth (e.g., if I feel harassed, I was harassed), arguments from experience, and the uncritical acceptance of third wave feminist ideology?
Some tendentious derpwad on the internet
All claims require evidence, whether they are extraordinary or not. And a claim, in and of itself, is not, by definition, evidence.
Some other derpwad on the internet
I don’t know what it is, but some skeptics have adopted this calcified attitude towards what constitutes reasonable evidence and reasonable claims. It seems to me that these are nothing but excuses contrived to justify denying reality, and that they are actually toxic to any kind of functional, societally useful version of skepticism; this is the skepticism of the status quo.
What if people actually operated as these advocates for purblind skepticism suggest? So I paid a call on SkepticDoc, M.D., the very acme of this form of skepticism. Here is how the visit went.
PZ: Doctor, lately I’ve been experiencing shortness of breath and an ache in my left shoulder when I exert myself…
SkepticDoc: Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down! See the name on the shingle? It’s SkepticDoc. Do you have anything other than your feelings to justify wasting my time here?
PZ: What? I’m telling you my symptoms…
SkepticDoc: Yeah, yeah, your feelings. Do you have some physical evidence that you felt pain? Some independent corroboration that you felt this remarkable “ache”? So far, this is just gossip.
PZ: It prompted me to come here, pay money, face some physical discomfort, and apparently have my condition mocked and dismissed. But what you’re supposed to do now is test me, find evidence of the cause of the problem and help me get better.
SkepticDoc: Right. Sure. But why should I bother? Look, people live to be about 70 years old on average, that’s over 25,000 days without dying of heart disease. The odds that you’re actually experiencing these symptoms is really, really low, so it’s a waste of my time to take you seriously. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
PZ: But I’m a 57 year old man with a family history of heart disease and a prior incident that required hospitalization! This isn’t extraordinary!
SkepticDoc: A professional victim, eh? Your kind are always in here giving me your sob story. Well, boo hoo hoo. Look at all the people who aren’t having trouble with heart attacks, and try to be like them. They aren’t in here taking up my office hours.
PZ: So you aren’t even going to examine me?
SkepticDoc: Oh, all right. I’ll take a look at your chart.
Says you’re a college teacher, right? Made these same complaints a couple of years ago, same time of the year…right before classes start? Interesting.
Your job is a little stressful? You think another couple of cushy weeks in a bed with pretty nurses waiting on you hand and foot is looking pretty good right now? Yeah, I’ve seen your type.
PZ: Getting stuck in a hospital isn’t a vacation! And I like my work!
Wait, what are you doing? You’re supposed to be interpreting my medical history, not trying to psychoanalyze me. Yes, I have a history of heart disease. That’s why I’m being careful and coming to you now.
SkepticDoc: Aha, you admit it!
PZ: I admit what?
SkepticDoc: That this is your personal problem, and that you’re expecting someone else to help you. It seems to me we have a little problem with personal responsibility here. Grow a spine!
PZ: But…but…you’re a doctor. This is your job.
SkepticDoc: That’s right. I’m in charge. But my first job here is to find a reason and place the blame. By the way, I notice you’re a bit overweight.
SkepticDoc: Stop it. Just stop eating. When someone comes by with a cookie or a hamburger or a carrot or something, just don’t eat it. If you find it hard to say no to a second helping, just leave some food on your plate. It really is that easy.
PZ: OK, mea culpa. I’ll watch the diet more closely. But this is a problem right now, I’m worried and I need your help.
SkepticDoc: What problem? I just checked the heart transplant registry, and your name isn’t on it. If this were a really serious problem, you’d have gone all the way to applying for a transplant immediately, so I think the fact that you’re taking a lesser step means your problem can’t possibly be that bad.
PZ: Huh? Are you suggesting I need a heart transplant? You haven’t even looked at me! I’ve detected symptoms of an onset of a possible problem, and I’m here taking an appropriate first step to diagnosis and treatment.
SkepticDoc: I don’t know. You look fine to me — you don’t seem to be having a heart attack now, your color’s good, if a little flushed, all the observable evidence says you’re not in need of any kind of medical attention. Why are you bothering me?
PZ: I told you! Chest pains!
SkepticDoc: And I told you, I don’t believe this personal testimony nonsense. And hey, didn’t you earlier say the pain was in your shoulder? Now you claim it’s your chest? You’re not very credible, liar.
PZ: <storms out>
A few minutes later…
Nurse: Dr. SkepticDoc! Dr. SkepticDoc! That man who just left your office … he has collapsed by his car, his face is turning purple, I think he’s having a heart attack!
SkepticDoc: You say. Do you have any evidence to back up that unusual claim?
This story has been entirely fictional. There is no SkepticDoc, M.D. in my town, and no humane and responsible doctor would express the kind of absurdly hyperskeptical attitude we see in the cited derpwads. Also, I’m in fine health and am not experiencing any chest pains…I mean, shoulder aches!