Saturday, July 3, 2010

Why are skeptics so often misanthropic?

Why are skeptics so often misanthropic?

I would bet that most, if not all, of my skeptic/atheist type friends would consider themselves on some level misanthropic. I know I say it a lot, I hate people and I really do mean it. People as a group are stupid, they don’t react to anything rationally or even accomplish anything good as far as I can tell.

I do have friends, I interact with people all the time and mostly its not that bad. There will always be certain people that I could live without, but the people that I spend most of my time with I really do like. I enjoy our drinking skeptically and spending time with other skeptical people. Most of the skeptics I know are genuinely nice people. They truly care about people and want the best for them. They are helpful and generous and generally fun to be around.

Hanging around our skeptics group you would never know that all of us hate people in general and have probably spent more time reading than hanging out with people (and prefer it that way). So why is this? Its obvious that we aren’t just evil people that can’t stand the sight of another human being, so what makes us dislike the human race so much?

There are easy answers to this of course. People act like sheep and don’t act rationally. Many people you meet (especially in middle school and high school) are just plain mean and tend to pick on the smart kids who tend to grow up to be skeptics. But is there something more to it? Is there something inherent in being a skeptic that makes us dislike or distrust other people? Or is there something inherent in people that only those skeptical of the world pick up on?

Are skeptics really as misanthropic as they would like to think? Why would Skeptics in the Pub be so popular if they were truly misanthropic? Skeptics is an international organization that provides skeptics a way to socialize with people. Skeptics also have things like TAM (the amazing meeting) and skepticamp. So what makes us think that we are misanthropic when obviously we aren’t (at least toward certain kinds of people).

I think its that we distrust those people that do not think for themselves and since for most of our lives, few people around us actually have thought for themselves, we tend to assume that everyone is like these people. People by their nature dislike the things they do not trust and so we as skeptics decide that we dislike people. I propose that we do not dislike people, we dislike people’s thoughts and actions but if they were able to change those and prove to us that they were thinking and acting rationally, we would like them as much as we like the other skeptics we have found. I know that as soon as too many people start agreeing with an idea, I start to question it immediately and distance myself from that group until I know more about the idea.

I know that to my non-skeptical friends I come off as not friendly and rather closed off to the world, but to my skeptical friends (as far as I know) I am a very friendly and open person. I know that skeptics in general have this problem as well, so how do we make ourselves seem more friendly and open to people and their ideas? This group started because a certain “skeptic” decided that she knew everything about everything and wouldn’t let any other idea survive. She came off as almost “religious” in her skepticism because she had decided that her ideas were right before even considering other’s opinions or sources of knowledge. So how can we prevent ourselves from coming off as “religious” while still finding certain ideas and opinions to be more worthy of merit than others? And how can we teach others that we are not trying to disprove everything another person says, but that we are trying to learn from them where the idea came from, why they hold that idea, and if the idea stands to logic and reason?

On that note, I will end with a quote from my favorite author Douglas Adams:

Well, in history, even though the understanding of events, of cause and effect, is a matter of interpretation, and even though interpretation is in many ways a matter of opinion, nevertheless those opinions and interpretations are honed to within an inch of their lives in the withering crossfire of argument and counterargument, and those that are still standing are then subjected to a whole new round of challenges of fact and logic from the next generation of historians - and so on. All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others. (as found at

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