The abuse of the Skeptics as “arrogant, narrow-minded bigots” by defenders of Consumer is annoying, but it doesn’t yet surpass an art teacher who wrote an article for a Wellington paper in 1986. Overseas — or rather underseas — skeptics, he warned, had once tried to disprove ESP by going down in two submarines. In one, skeptics rushed baby rabbits to death, while in the other submarine skeptics measured the reactions of their mother to see if she was getting the terrible psychic vibes. Despite her pathetic shudders, delivered on cue, those awful skeptics still wouldn’t believe in ESP!

This malicious little fabrication might inure skeptics to other accusations. But it still comes as a shock — even for arrogant, bigoted, narrow-minded baby rabbit crushers — to be capped politically correct. Carl Wyant suggests it (see p. 15), claiming that our failure to attack religion betrays a politically correct solicitude for the sensitivities of other cultures. Okay, we give in. If Carl can supply the Teheran postal address of the Hashemi Rafsanjani, I’ll send the good cleric the next Skeptic, along with Carl’s address if the fellow has any further questions or lines of enquity. And thanks for the suggestion, Carl.

A second blast comes from Frank Haden (see p. 13), who left the Wellington conference feeling that “the group is in grave danger of being subverted by believers.” Maori-bashers and gay-bashers were subject to ridicule, he writes, along with the Round Table and Treasury incompetents. That there are no Skeptic defenders of Maori or gay-bashing is hardly disturbing, but Haden’s charge of political bias does have some basis, given what both Jack Shallcrass and Brian Easton had to say in Wellington. Their talks were political, though this was unusual for a Skeptics conference.

A more important point of clarification for Frank Haden. The Skeptics are not interested in “universal disbelief,” as he call it. Radical Pyrrhonian skepticism is pointless, except to bait believers. Skeptics accept the intellectual credibility of modern science, not because they’re by temperament obedient, but because of all the human enterprises of the last millenium, science is among the most successful. Skeptics tend to be what philosophic parlance calls pragmatists and “scientific realists”: they view the world as existing independently of our beliefs and desires, having its own intractable nature. We’re right about it, or wrong, but the world itself must determine that. We don’t construct reality, we discover it. The Skeptics’ call is not for disbelief, but for evidence.

To the contrary, it’s one of the delusions of extremist political correctness that it can freely alter reality by relabeling it. It’s not nice to be crippled, so we make it better by calling it “disabled,” and when that seems tired we go on to “physically challenged.” The names change but, alas, the condition does not, and you’d have to be optically challenged not to see it. An interesting foyer argument developed at the conference with Frank on the one side and Hugh Young and Vicki Hyde on the other, but I cannot see that politically correct language has much bearing on the mission of the Skeptics.

Still, if there are Skeptics worried about political correctness, they will be happy to know that our new leader, Vicki Hyde is (1) a woman of (2) Maori descent (Ngati Maniapoto). She’s never crushed a rabbit, but watch out bunnies — she (3) owns a ferret, and he’s said to be a dedicated skeptic.

Recommended Posts