by John Summerson
When I first enquired about the Campus Skeptics Society at the information desk in Syre, I was met with what would prove to be a consistent joke reserved for this particular club. That is, that those who were not actively part of it were skeptical of its very existence. While certainly funny, this joke illustrates a very common misconception with skepticism. Skepticism is often mistaken for cynicism, which it decidedly is not. Cynicism begins with a value judgement, and a negative one at that. Skepticism begins with open inquiry and questioning. It is the desire for more knowledge that defines skepticism. In the absence of knowledge, the skeptic will become skeptical of their own skepticism, thereby reducing themselves to a quivvering pile of goo that has decided that thinking is overrated and should be abolished immediately.
The goal of the Campus Skeptics Society is to explore trends and ideas from a rational and scientific point of view while giving opportunites for members to write, attend lectures and speak themselves. Essentially, this club offers the opportunity to hone academic skills through research, discussion, writing for the CSS website and exploring some of the most influential topics affecting the global community.
The subjects we would likely be discussing primarily revolve around history, science and religion. While these topics may incite some lively discussion, I would like to make it very clear that our intention is not to be bellicose or antagonistic to those with a different worldview. Instead, we propose to open an intelligent digression, a dialogue between interested parties that serves to inform and educate, not alienate. In other words, our goal is not necessarily to change minds, but certainly to expand them. Great changes in worldview must be intrinsic in an individual to have any lasting value – and this can only come from more knowledge. New knowledge is effectively processed in a state of intellectual honesty and open-mindedness, states that quickly dissipate when an individual feels attacked or berated for their beliefs.
The philosopher Bertrand Russell nicely outlines the qualifications for Campus Skeptics Society membership: “What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite.”
For more information, email us at email@example.com and check out our website at http://wccskeptics.blogspot.com.
Sceptical Essays, London: George Allen and Unwin; New York: W.W. Norton.