Recently, I was criticizing a ridiculous interview of John Edward by Sean Hannity. I made small fun of FoxNews, which caused a few commenters to accuse me of hypocrisy and being a “lib,” whatever that is. Some went so far as to suggest that I and the JREF had a deeply liberal agenda.
To quote Sherman T. Potter: horse hockey.
First, to be clear, the JREF has no political stance whatsoever. We will criticize those that ignore scientific inquiry and praise those who embrace it, regardless of party. As a non-profit, we’re not permitted to endorse particular candidates or parties, and we have not done so. In the past few weeks, I have been critical of many media sources, including MSNBC, ABCNews, and yes, FoxNews.
Anyone investigating my personal political contributions on the Internet, will discover that I donated money to the campaign of Hal Bidlack, a friend of mine for some years now. I gave him a donation because I know him to be a man of honor, and I feel there are far too few of them in our government. I would have donated the money to his campaign regardless of his party, though he happens to be a Democrat. When I lived in Virginia, I registered as a Republican to support the campaign of James Burton, another man I believe would improve our government.
I am a political independent, and I don’t know what party affiliations other JREF employees have, if any. I vote based on the issues of the day, and I care not for party. That disclosed, I have a more important message to convey: skepticism is not compatible with politics. What I mean is, there is no political party that “all good skeptics” should embrace. In fact, the idea is the opposite of skepticism.
I’m well aware that prominent skeptics including Michael Shermer and Penn & Teller espouse Libertarianism. I have no issue with this, however I have been told by some that all skeptics should be Libertarians. I vehemently disagree.
To choose a party may be politically expedient. It may get things done, effect change, and make things better for all. Good things… but not skeptical things. To be a skeptic is to embark on an endless quest for the truth. To be a member of a political party is to stand firm with other like-minded people, regardless of any differences you might have on specific issues.
To misapply Stephen Jay Gould, politics and skepticism are different magisteria. Politics has a social agenda. Skepticism cannot. Skepticism must ever question, must only draw provisional conclusions, and must always be willing to change conclusions in the face of new evidence. Politics cannot and must not be practiced in the same way.
So there it is, my take on skepticism and politics. Undoubtedly you have your own, and that’s as it should be.