I recently had the pleasure of representing the Skeptics Society as a guest of the CFI Summit conference in Tacoma, Washington, hosted jointly by the Center for Inquiry, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. I was invited to contribute a 20-minute talk as part of the October 25, 2013 opening panel on the topic “Humanism and Skepticism: Separate or Joint Agendas?” with Ron Lindsay, Barry Kosmin, Ophelia Benson, Mark Hatcher, Ray Hyman, and Michael De Dora. Most of the panel argued that these two traditions either overlap very extensively, or can be usefully packaged together. As expected, Ray Hyman and I were the exceptions.
As a frequent critic of conflation between skepticism and parallel rationalist movements, I was asked to revisit some of my arguments regarding skepticism’s distinctiveness. Regular readers will recognize that the central portion of my speech was adapted from my two-chapter historical exploration “Why Is There a Skeptical Movement?” (PDF)—notably from a section which I have previously posted as a standalone blog post. Nonetheless, there is also much here which I have not said publicly in the past.
I present my remarks here as they were delivered:
I’d like to thank the folks here at the Center for Inquiry for inviting me to join you here today.
I work for Pat Linse and Michael Shermer over at the Skeptics Society, so in some sense I’m an outsider here. And yet I feel intimately connected to the history and work and people—connected to both of the distinct traditions—that are represented at this event.