myself Picture credit: Deborah Conn

I am a skeptic, NOT a cynic.

A skeptic does not accept bald statements on the mere authority of any person, no matter how august, nor any book, no matter how holy. A skeptic requires that there be some available means of proving or refuting the information.
A cynic is a person who presumes that most people are untrustworthy.

I am an Environmentalist

For fourteen years, I risked life, limb, and epidermis using the most efficient known means of biofuelled transportation. I rode a bicycle to work seven miles away. As a way to save the planet, I can only recommend it when the bicyclist's route is entirely separate from automobiles (and worse). "Bike Lanes", four feet wide and painted on the asphalt roadway, interrupted at every crossing, are a delusion.

I subscribe to Albert Schweitzer's principle of "Respect for Life" . This means All living things, not just humans, not excluding predators, all the way down to the Ancient Mariner's slimy things that walked on legs upon a slimy sea. It also includes vegetable life, so that I regard the destruction of entire woodlands as worse than wearing fur. I consider the eradication of every wild green thing in Iowa, and all that lives on it, for the sake of growing corn, as biological genocide. In the old days, the farmers left hedges and woods around their fields, and some wild things had a place to live.

When the periodical cicadas come out, and I find one on its back in the roadway, I place my fingers where it can cling briefly to one or two, and I fling it into the air to fly to the party in the treetops. I feel towards these harmless clumsy insects, with their iridescent bodies and angelic transparent wings, as Burns felt towards the field mouse whose "wee bit housie" his plough had destroyed by accident. I also take delight as a mathematician in the fact that evolution has taught their gene-pool the advantage of the prime numbers 13 and 17, so that their lifetimes are not divisible by that of a predator that reproduces every 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 years (etc).

The worst threat to humans and other living things is just as the Rev. Thomas Malthus said. We have the choice of "restraint, vice, or misery." I differ from his classification of birth control among vices. I consider it a form of self-restraint. The self styled "Pro-Life" movement does not understand this. It generally refuses to apply any effective form of human population limiting. This makes disease, starvation, and war inevitable, and likewise destruction of the environment, so far as nearly all presently living species are concerned. There are two distinguished astrophysicists (Martin Rees and Stephen Hawking) who fear that civilisation will not survive the next fifty years and one thousand million more people. Micro-organisms will be the first to evolve a recovery.

Skepticism

I call myself a skeptic, in the sense of the archetypal man from Missouri. "Show me."
I believe some things quite confidently, most of them because they have survived the most stringent tests that my avid skepticism can devise.

Far too much of popular belief is caused by sloppy usage of words.
For instance, most Biblical scholars know that the Hebrew word in Isaiah for "young woman" was mistranslated in the Gospels to the Greek word for "virgin". Likewise, as I heard a certain Welsh student debater wittily put it, the word "maiden" in English can carry either the sense "puella" or the sense "virgo".
It is no good telling me that the loss of words like "whence", "whither", and "wherefore" is okay because language "evolves". It can also decay, and rot, and stink.
When the distinction between "chastise" and "chide" is forgotten, we have decay. Chastising, in the time of the KJV, meant a whipping. To say "chastise" when we mean "chide" or "rebuke" is loss of precision, which is decay.
Likewise, our own reporters, whether in print or broadcast media, (even PBS!), seem to have difficulty knowing that "suspect" is not a mere pusillanimous euphemism for "perpetrator" or "criminal". They persistently report that the "suspect" entered the shop and shot some person, or stole a felony's worth of goods. So when the police report catching a suspect for that crime, that person's right to a presumption of innocence has already been compromised by the press.
I have even seen recently a report of a horrible crime, in which they reported what the "suspect" did, and then reported that the police had caught the suspect. It should have been: what the criminal did, and that the police had a suspect in custody.
The BBC standard form for reporting a possible police suspect is that a person is "assisting the police in their enquiries".

On the other hand, there are some things that in the popular mind seem not to have been exposed to anything like the level of skepticism that a cautious person, such as the buyer of an automobile, should exercise. Any person who literally "believes in the Bible" just has not read it. It contradicts itself, and it reports Jesus as telling his followers that the third commandment did not go far enough.

He said
Swear not at all … ,
Let your yea be yea, and your nay be nay

I do however confess to the practical but unprovable view of Albert Schweitzer, of Faith in Humanity

It is practical in the sense of the advice reportedly given by Jesus of Nazareth, not to resist the evil that the Roman occupation forces would impose upon individual citizens. One might assume that a legionnaire, in peaceable conditions, might occasionally be disposed not to be a brute.

I am therefore a skeptic, but NOT a cynic, and the distinction is important.

It is worth noting that Faith in Humanity is the negation of the Christian doctrine of Original Sin.

I am also an Evangelical atheist.

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