In the wake of recent controversies surrounding the Pope and priestly paedophilia, leading skeptics have been torn as to how they should respond to the allegations. Leading ‘new atheists’ like P.Z. Myers have (surprise!) said that the rest of the skeptical movement need to man (or woman) up, saying the Catholic Church should be “on every skeptic’s hit list.” Others, such as Phil ‘Bad Astronomy’ Plait, have suggested that the Pope’s (alleged) complicity in paedophilia attacks are not the domain of skepticism:
I don’t know if this is specifically a skeptical issue. It’s more a human issue, and a criminal issue. If the Pope had said that the Bible says it’s OK to molest children, then yeah, critical thinking and skepticism come into play. But if he was trying to protect the Church and was breaking laws (moral or civil) to do it, then see my comment above re: resignation and indictment. That’s something anyone should understand, whether or not they are a skeptic.
Skepticism deals with issues of the paranormal, issues with faith, issues where scientific evidence can be used to test a claim. In this case, I don’t see skeptics needing to be involved more than any other interest group.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Skepticism is just about doubting things, and employing evidence to assist you in reaching conclusions. Not just “scientific evidence”. Not just “issues of the paranormal”. But Phil Plait here is just reiterating what most of us already know – that the modern “skeptical” movement is largely a grouping of people who fear that supernatural thinking will somehow blow out the candle of rationalism. They are as ideological as any other faith-based group.
Just as interesting was some of the rationalisation for skepticism not to get involved with the Catholic controversy:
A ham-fisted attack on religion and the Pope will probably not make you any friends, no matter how evil a deed they’ve done…charging in with guns blazing is not a good idea.
Really? Does Phil just reserve this protection for Catholicism, given they way he ham-fistedly attacks ufology based on little or no research of his own? Or Randi, who ham-fistedly attacks parapsychologists when it seems as if he hasn’t even read their research? Guess what guys – you’re *not* making any friends. You might like to heed your own words if you’re truly trying to educate people…
Skepticism is simply about questioning everything, thinking critically about *any* topic. It’s a wonderful tool in the quest for knowledge…I just wish more ‘skeptics’ would try it out.