Over at Skepchick, Amy Davis Roth has a post up putting the entire skeptic movement on blast. Here is the basic takeaway, in a nutshell:
Skeptics are all awful people because if you think that the biggest problems one faces in life is whether or not there is a bigfoot or if someone thinks they are psychic, you’re actually a huge asshole. There are much bigger problems in society. Ignoring those bigger issues to pick on people who you think you are smarter than makes you a terrible person who is blind to the real problems in the world.
That is a paraphrase of an unnamed correspondent, but Roth ultimately concludes that she was correct on all points. There are at least three things glaringly wrong with this analysis. Most obviously, skeptics do not generally insist that scientifically examining the claims of cryptozoologists and psychics (among many other testable claims) are among the biggest problems one is likely to face. Indeed, I challenge anyone to find a single skeptic of any notoriety who has ever said anything remotely like that.
Secondly, skeptics do not claim we must ignore social issues in order to do work on scientific skepticism. One need not look far on Skeptic Ink to find us writing about social issues such as economic inequality, gun control, abortion, racism, mass incarceration, gay rights, along with a whole host of others.
Finally, this analysis invokes the fallacy of relative privation (aka “Dear Muslima”) which often serves to delegitimize working on a small local problem by invoking some vastly worse problem elsewhere in the world. In this case, the author really should know better, having been on the bad end of that bad argument before.
Roth goes on to characterize the skeptic movement as a load of rich white men sipping scotch:
The only issues that were acceptable, were issues that rich white men could joke about over an expensive scotch. Wage gaps, gun control, healthcare for women, the school to prison pipeline or police violence in black communities were not something that skeptics could be bothered with. Theirs is a game of Bigfoot and blaming religion which comfortably allows them to slip back into making fun of people they think they are smarter than. Skepticism is for white men.
I’m not about to apologize for my skin color or my love of expensive scotch. As to the various issues listed above, most of them do not fall under the remit of scientific skepticism (described here) simply because we aren’t generally dealing with scientifically testable claims, but values claims. (A few exceptions may apply here, such as when we are using science education and critical thinking to refute typical anti-choice arguments.)
Even if none of the social and scientific facts on the ground were in any dispute, we would still have social struggles such as wage gaps, access to healthcare, mass incarceration, and so forth. As moral agents, humanists, and voters we have a duty to address these issues, but we need not reconceptualize or divorce skepticism in order to do so.