For those of you who do not know, some months ago Elizabeth Liddle started the website known as The Skeptical Zone (TSZ). The site has a sort of symbiotic relationship with UD, because many, if not most, of the posts there key off our posts here.
Not only does TSZ have a name that invokes a skeptical turn of mind, it also has a motto apparently intended to bolster that attitude: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.” The motto is taken from Oliver Cromwell’s August 5, 1650 letter to the synod of the Church of Scotland urging them to break their alliance with royalist forces.
Now with a name and a motto like that, one might think the site is home to iconoclastic non-conformists bent on disrupting the status quo. But you would be wrong. I just finished pursuing the articles that have been posted at TSZ during the last six months. Among the regular posters there I found not a single article that even mildly criticized (far less expressed skepticism toward) a single dogma one would expect to be held by the denizens of the faculty lounge at a typical university.
Atheism. It’s true
Neo-Darwinian Synthesis. Fact beyond the slightest doubt
Philosophical materialism. Check
It seems that the regular posters at TSZ are skeptical of everything but the received wisdom, accepted conventions and cherished dogmas of the academic left. Perhaps they should change the name of the site ever so slightly to The “Skeptical” Zone. The irony quotes would make the name more honest.
Here’s a clue to the TSZ posters: If you want to be a real skeptic, perhaps you should challenge the beliefs of the secular elite that dominate our universities instead of marching in lockstep with them. The true skeptics of the early twenty-first century are those willing to take on the dogmas of the academic elite, people like Bill Dembski, Michael Behe, and Jonathan Wells.
The posters at The Skeptical Zone are skeptical alright. They are skeptical of skeptics. As for their motto, they certainly think it is possible that someone might be mistaken – anyone who disagrees with them or questions their deeply held beliefs.
Why don’t the posters at TSZ see the glaringly obvious irony of their enterprise? I was thinking about this question when I ran across a post by Matt Emerson over at FT. Emerson writes about how the dogmas of secularism act as a type of “revelation” that boxes in thinking in a way secularist thinkers probably don’t even perceive at a conscious level. Emerson writes:
Even among those who declare no connection with God, reason operates under what amounts to a kind of revelation. These skeptics don’t conceive of revelation in the same way that I do as a Catholic, but for many, the ultimate source of an epistemological “guide” does not matter: Certain perceived facts, or certain foundational positions, hold the same thetical value for them as the Bible does for many Christians. For these men and women, as for the medievals, it might be technically possible to reason “outside” these givens, but why would they? To ask them to reason as if those givens were not true would be akin to asking a Christian to reason apart from the Incarnation. It just doesn’t make any sense.