Skeptical movement

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Clarification of terms

The term "skeptical movement" (British spelling: sceptical movement) or "skeptic" (Bristish: sceptic) is falsely used by a group of materialist fanatics to make a connection to the philosophical movement of skepticism and to science. The self-designation of certain organized groups of detractors of alternative and natural medicine as “sceptics” is factually wrong, it displays philosophical ignorance and it is presumptuous.
Philosophical scepticism has a long tradition in the west and denotes a way of thinking that is challenging itself all the time. True sceptics make doubt their most important tool, meaning doubt about their own position, which is thus clarified in a kind of hermeneutic circle to approach truth more and more.
Doubting only someone else’s position has nothing in common with scepticism but is pure dogmatism. Those who try to present themselves as “sceptics” in our context are in reality no more than dogmatics of a fundamentalist scientism. Therefore it would make sense to put the term in quotation marks or talk of "pseudo-sceptics" or "fake-sceptics" to avoid a confusion with the real scietific attitude.

Real scepticism is a philosophical tradition which is following the principle to doubt established dogmas and doctrines of their own theoretical layout. Scepticism is an important part of the enlightenment era and gave us a large part of the freedom of thought that we are now used to. True philosophy will always carry a good deal of scepticism as long as it understands itself as part of the sokratic way of thinking and questioning.


The following section is based on the article "Skeptikerbewegung"" from Wikipedia, read on 9.8.2018, and is licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported (short version). In the Wikipedia a list of authors is available on this page. Text adaptations and changes are possible and in part became necessary because the presentation in Wikipedia did not serve information but the distribution of certain opinions and/or the content was incomplete, tendentious or distorted.

The historian Peter Lamont sees the origins of the so called "skeptic movement" in the controversies surrounding Uri Geller in the 1970s. A group of critics, including several psychologists and magicians, rejected Geller's supernatural abilities and offered mechanistic explanations for his performances. However, the efforts of the new movement, claiming to disprove paranormal abilities, went beyond Geller and mainly concerned Astrology. In 1976, the conference 'The New Irrationalisms: Antiscience and Pseudoscience' at the University at Buffalo finally led to the founding of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, CSICOP, the current Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, CSI. In the 1980s, various local "skeptics" groups were formed; in addition to the USA, also in Germany, Australia, Canada, France, Mexico and Great Britain. In 1996, on the 20th anniversary of the founding of CSICOP, associations of so-called "sceptics" existed in more than 20 countries. The first World Skeptics Congress, in the same year in New York, had over 1200 participants from 24 countries. In 2001, there were about 100 such organizations in 38 countries worldwide, including Argentina, Kazakhstan, Korea and Norway. Numerous websites, internet forums and magazines appeared. CSI and its journal 'Skeptical Inquirer', however, continue to form the center of the "skeptics "movement.[1]


Critical debate

 The following paragraph is quoted from a blog entry about fake-skeptics. It has still to be adapted to an encyclopedic format. 

Those organisations of critics of alternative and natural medicine that adorn themselves with the title of “sceptics”, are but the direct opposite. They are not doubting the established doctrines or their own beloved dogmas, but the beliefs of others that they can’t (under)stand. But to doubt the ideas of your opponent has nothing in common with the art and requirements of Scepticism. Deeming your own opinion to be the only possible truth and that of your opponent to be false and out of question, is fundamentalism in the best case and populism in the worst. True sceptics don’t point their sword of critical questioning against others but against themselves. (Example: a christian sceptic is one who doubts christian doctrines to clarify their own convictions, but not one who doubts the ideas of islam or buddhism.)

As far as the well organized groups of detractors of natural medicine calling themselves “sceptics” are concerned, they are rather fundamentalist ideologists pretending exclusive validity of their version of a naïve positivism and trying to enforce it in the whole of our society. This kind of belief system is also called scientistic (as opposed to scientific) and it is no science. This scientistic belief system rests on some scientific paradigms of the 19thcentury and the idea which was common in some circles those days that the world could be thoroughly explained that way. 20thcentury science has overcome such mindsets long ago even though this notion has not yet arrived in all schoolbooks. It is the task of science to explain or calculate phenomena with the help of their well defined methods and tools. It is not part of their task to state which phenomena can be real and which cannot. The existance of a phenomenon is a matter of observation and not of theory. In the history of science observations that are out of the ordinary range of the known and predictable, have always been the impulses for progress and changes of paradigm.

An interesting question is still open: What motivates these groups of “sceptics”? With so many grave and obvious problems in this world, it seems an extraordinary behaviour needing massive reasons to invest such a lot of personal lifetime, energy and money only to fight a medical method that is not strongly represented anyway and obviously harmless. The so-called “critics” have obviously never learned anything about the objects of their attacks, as it would be common for critics. A literary critic is one who has read literature and then talks about it sophisticatedly, and not one who is against literature in general and has never read anything. From this one can gather that their point is not a relevant and factual discussion. The only point seems to be the emotional fight against and exposure of something, that they don’t understand and would actually like to extinguish completely from the face of this world. Apart from staunch fundamentalists who have to fight for their scientistic belief system with all their energy, there are of course lots of free riders who hope to gain attention by copying an attitude that is becoming popular and is being hyped by the media. They are part of every popular trend and not specific for this issue, and a factual argument is not their thing of course.
It seems very likely that the public derogation of a healing method that is very popular, very cheap and very effective, and which does not fit within the established frames of technological and chemical medicine, will appeal to certain powerful pressure groups. If and by which means these pressure groups are making use of the fanaticism and fear of a few fundamentalists, or whether they make them look more important than they are, by financial or medial support, has not yet been fully researched. The results of some german watch-groups (see e.g. the work of Markus Fiedler) strongly point into that direction.

You find a brilliant debate about these pseudo-sceptic arguments here.

The following section is based on the article "Skeptikerbewegung"" from Wikipedia, read on 9.8.2018, and is licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported (short version). In the Wikipedia a list of authors is available on this page. Text adaptations and changes are possible and in part became necessary because the presentation in Wikipedia did not serve information but the distribution of certain opinions and/or the content was incomplete, tendentious or distorted.


See Wikipedia article:  List of skeptical organizations

In the German-speaking area the GWUP(Gesellschaft zur wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften)  founded in 1987, is the best-known organization of pseudo-sceptics. It is a founding member of the European Council of Skeptical Organisations (ECSO), an umbrella organisation for European so-called "skeptics" associations founded in 1994.

Guerrilla scepticism on Wikipedia

In 2010, Susan Gerbic launched the Guerrilla scepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW), a "project to improve sceptical content on Wikipedia".[2] In 2017, Gerbic was named a companion of the "Committee for Sceptical Investigation".[3] You and your GSoW team have received an award from the James Randi Educational Foundation, which is given to "the person or organization that best represents the spirit of the Foundation by promoting critical questions and seeking unbiased, factual answers. We are pleased to recognize Susan's efforts to attract and train a team of editors to continuously improve Wikipedia as a public resource for rationality and scientific thinking."[4] (Randi himself is a prominent member of the pseudo-sceptic organization, so the award can be considered an internal commendation.)

In July 2018, Wired magazine reported that the GSoW team had grown to more than 120 volunteer editors from around the world and that they were jointly responsible for "creating or improving some of Wikipedia's best-selling articles on sceptical topics. By July 2018, GSoW has created or completely rewritten more than 630 Wikipedia articles in many languages that have collected over 28 million page views.[5]

Internal Controversies

According to Carl Sagan, the "skeptic" organization CSICOP, of which he was a member from the beginning, has an important social function. It is a kind of counterbalance to the "pseudo-scientific gullibility" of many media. Nevertheless, he saw the main weakness of the "skeptic" movement in its polarization. The idea of having a monopoly on truth and seeing other people as unreasonable morons is not constructive. This behavior condemns the "skeptics" to a permanent minority status. According to this, "a sensitive interaction with one another that accepts the human aspect of pseudoscience and superstition right from the start" could meet with greater acceptance.[6]

The founding member of CSICOP, Marcello Truzzi, who left the organization due to differences in content, defines a "real skeptic" as someone who takes an agnostic position and makes no claims himself. A thesis cannot be "refuted", but only "not proven". The so called "skeptics," Truzzi calls "pseudo-sceptics," who argue that there is evidence against an assertion, and who in turn have to bear the burden of proof. However, such negative claims are sometimes quite extraordinary and often based more on plausibility explanations than on empirical evidence. As an example, Truzzi cites a PSI test in which the subject has the possibility of cheating. Although this considerably reduced the evidence value of the experiment, it was not sufficient to refute the assertion investigated. Science can determine what is empirically unlikely, but not what is empirically impossible.[7] In the course of an internal dispute within the GWUP the co-founder and editor at that time of their publication organ Skeptiker Edgar Wunder left the "Skeptic" organization in 1999. According to Wunder, a structural feature of the so called "skeptic" movement is a discrepancy between claim and reality. So for instance many GWUP members would lead a world view fight without sufficient technical knowledge and argue selectively and unobjectively. They are only interested in scientific studies of parascience insofar as "their results could provide'cannon fodder' for public campaigns."[8]



  1. Peter Lamont, Extraordinary Beliefs: A Historical Approach to a Psychological Problem, Cambridge University Press 2013, p.229 ff.
  2.; March 8, 2015
  3. http:/
  4.; accessdate=27 March 2018
  5.; access-date=July 25, 2018
  6. Carl Sagan, Der Drache in meiner Garage or die Kunst der Wissenschaft, Nonsense entlarven, Droemer Knaur 2000, ISBN 3-426-77474-7 p.363 f
  7. Marcello Truzzi: About pseudo-scepticism
  8. Edgar Wunder: Das Skeptiker-Syndrom