Anti-Science 'Skeptics' Are Not Skeptics. They Are Incredibly Willing to Believe BS.
Being a "skeptic" is in. Doubtless, a great many "skeptics" of manmade climate change, vaccines, and 9/11 fancy themselves as brave, stalwart holdouts, standing tall against a tide of opposition, like Davy Crockett at the Battle of the Alamo.
But they aren't.
They are, however, incredibly willing to believe alternative, pie-in-the-sky explanations. Put it another way: They're not skeptical; they're extremely gullible.
Many climate skeptics contend that the massive scientific consensus on climate change is instead a conspiratorial hoax. Some vaccine refusers believe that health officials knowingly or unknowingly permit vaccine manufacturers to inoculate us with dangerous chemicals. 9/11 truthers argue that the attacks on the World Trade Center may have been orchestrated by our own government and covered up by the media. There is no convincing evidence to support any of these theories, but there is quite a lot that debunks them. In short, while these "skeptics" are incredulous to facts, they are incredibly credulous to fairy tales. This makes them some of the least skeptical people on Earth. Blinded by their ingrained, ideological worldviews, all they're doing is fooling themselves, and denying reality.
"They tell themselves that they’re the ones who see the lies, and the rest of us are sheep. But believing that everybody’s lying is just another kind of gullibility,” Slate's William Saletan eloquently stated.
For a great example of a "skeptic" who is blinded by his beliefs, look no further than comedian Bill Maher, who regularly (and rightly) lambasts Republicans for denying the overwhelming evidence on climate change, while at the same time ignoring even more overwhelming evidence on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Ideology, not evidence, governs his stances.
With the term "skeptic" being thrown around so haphazardly these days, it's worth mentioning what it really means to be a true skeptic. Few people know that better than the Fellows of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, an organization founded in part by Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov to promote "objective and impartial inquiry." In December, they announced their concern that "skeptic" was being confused with "denier," making it clear that the two terms are not the same:
Proper skepticism promotes scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims. It is foundational to the scientific method. Denial, on the other hand, is the a priori rejection of ideas without objective consideration.
A true skeptic never dismisses an idea out of hand. A true skeptic is willing to be wrong, and recognizes an echelon of evidence that will change their mindset. And most importantly, a true skeptic doesn't only question the beliefs of others, he also questions his own. Because skepticism isn't just about doubting things you disagree with, it's about keeping yourself honest, open, thoughtful, and true.
If "skeptics" of climate change, GMOs, and vaccines, can embrace those standards, then they may call themselves true skeptics. If not, then they are simply deniers of science.