The essence of skepticism is carefully apportioning one’s beliefs to the available evidence. Minor claims require minimal proof. Bold and sweeping claims require solid, irrefutable evidence. Consider the following grand claims about the state of our culture here in North America:
“cultural Marxism,” . . . has gained great currency in the media, entertainment, academia, and politics. More and more, the political and media elite disparage the cultural values of the traditional working class.
…the Democratic Party increasingly reached out to minorities, and although this segment of the electorate was once small, new voters could be imported by way of mass immigration from the third world. To be expected, this development created a large pool of cheap labor as well as a deluge in new welfare recipients who were more inclined to vote for the Democratic Party insofar as it favored an expansion of government programs to help the poor.
…the political left now pushes social taboos, seeking to restrict expressions of heterosexuality for its alleged contribution to “rape culture.”
Some studies have arrived at figures as high as 20 to 25 percent of women will be sexually assaulted during their time in college… Instead of 20 to 25 percent, the real figure is barely more than half of one percent.
These quotes are all pulled from a laudatory, uncritical, and almost entirely unskeptical book review hosted at Skeptic.com, of all places.
Is it really true that mass immigration has recently caused a surge in welfare expenditures, here in the United States? I doubt it, but I’d be readily convinced by good data. Is it true that less than half of one percent of American college women experience sexual assault from matriculation through graduation? I doubt it, but I’d be readily convinced by good data. Is it true that mainstream American media have been striving to “disparage the cultural values of the traditional working class” increasingly over time? I doubt it, but I’d be readily convinced by good data. Is it true that the political left generally seeks to restrict ordinary (consensual) expressions of heterosexuality? I doubt it, but I’d be readily convinced by good data.
Perhaps Yiannopoulos presented persuasive data, perhaps not. Maybe his book is more than a collection of anecdotes, after all. If so, the reviewer at Skeptic magazine failed to make that clear to those of us who have yet to read the book. How can one expect self-identified skeptics to spend time and money on a book which makes bold and testable claims but doesn’t take the trouble to back them up?
I can only think of one word to describe this sort of epistemic recklessness: Dangerous.