— ajackson (@antitheistangie) March 8, 2012
That’s a quote from a blogger named Angie Jackson, and it has been one of the most important quotes for me in my secular and ethical development. It really helps me consider how three important parts of my worldview interact: Atheism, Skepticism, and Humanism.
Atheism probably has the highest profile of any of these, with Atheist leaders regularly featured on cable news shows debating pundits and with attention-getting billboards from American Atheists every Christmas season. Humanism similarly has large national advocacy organizations, and also local groups like the Ethical Society of St. Louis, my Humanist congregation. But Skepticism isn’t discussed nearly as much in the broader community.
So, what is it?
Tim Farley, a blogger and activist, has defined Skepticism as “the intersection of science education and consumer protection. We help people learn from science to avoid spending their money on products and services that do not work.” That definition covers a lot of what the Skeptical movement does. But there’s more to it, too, as the focus on critical thinking leads the Skeptical movement to advocate for issues like Evolution, vaccines, science-based medicine, and GMO foods, and against religious frauds, Global Warming denialism, and pseudosciences like homeopathy and cryptozoology.
That’s a broad description, and fortunately people in the St. Louis region have two good upcoming opportunities to learn more about it, if you’re interested. On Sunday, August 23, the Ethical Society’s Leader, Kate Lovelady, will be continuing her 9:45 Forum series on Ethical Humanism by exploring the Ethical Culture movement’s relationship with Skepticism.
Additionally, to see the movement in action, go to the Ethical Society of St. Louis the day before, on August 22. The Skeptical Society of St. Louis will be hosting the third SkeptiCamp STL, starting at 9am. SkeptiCamp stands as a unique model for conferencing among skeptics – a model that focuses on providing each of us a rich avenue to gain proficiency in the skills and knowledge in the domains of critical thinking and science-based skepticism.
SkeptiCamp is free to attend—you ‘pay’ by becoming an engaged participant. Tearing down the barriers to events that can make us better skeptics is what SkeptiCamp is all about. Everyone from casual skeptics to experienced speakers participate, give talks, and get to know each other.
We’ll have a full day of talks on science, ethics, finances, religion, medicine, and lots of other topics from speakers in the St. Louis area and beyond. Specifically of interest to Grounded Parents might be a talk from Dr. Steven Hupp on “Child Development: What Every Parent Needs NOT to Know” and a talk from Chuck Collis on “Incorporating Skepticism/Critical Thinking into the Classroom.”
Note: This post is an adaptation of a short talk I gave at the Ethical Society of St. Louis on August 9, 2015 describing Skepticism and advertising Skepticamp STL.