Jan 122012

I asked Roger Knights for permission to reprint this letter he submitted to Fate Magazine. His letter was printed in the September, 2005 issue. Knights had coined the word “scoftic” some years earlier and had used it on the internet, but I believe the Fate magazine article was its first use in print. I’d forgotten about the zinger of the “rational shell containing an inner nut.” Ha!

Roger Knights

During every vigorous and prolonged controversy each side invents nicknames for its opponents to indicate their errors, wrong-headedness, and bad faith. The best ones are so pointed and barbed that they “stick,” permanently damaging the public image of the other side. One such term is “woo,” another is “pseudoscience.” They effectively suggest the enemy’s rational “shell” conceals an inner “nut.” The further implication is that pseudoscientists are not only biased but untrustworthy. In thrall to their Inner Nut, they are prone to Believers’ Blather: exaggeration, omission, evasion, obfuscation, absurd reasoning, etc.

Our side’s comebacks have lacked its punch and pizzazz. Neither fundamentalist materialism nor pseudo-skepticism nor pathological skepticism nor sneer-quoted “skepticism” can match it as a Tenacious Taunting Tag. But my term, “scofticism,” fills the bill. It too implies its targets are posers: their posture of Rational Doubt (“Show me the evidence”) masks Die-Hard Denial (“I’ll see it when I believe it”). Its further implication is that scoftics are not only biased but untrustworthy. In thrall to their Inner Nut, they are prone to Slimy Scoftic Subterfuge: exaggeration, omission, evasion, obfuscation, dissimulation, etc. (Bills of particulars can be found on anti-scoftic websites. Start here and follow the links. My thumbnail definition of scofticism is “UNhealthy skepticism.” This is a play on the common phrase, “a healthy (dose of) skepticism.”

My coinage (which I’ve used since 8/13/03 on Bigfoot Forums. derives of course from scoffer and skeptic, hence the spelling (please retain!). It floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, so I urge its widespread adoption. However, it shouldn’t be applied to every disbeliever, only to those who are far from fair-minded, and who justify themselves by citing certain scoftical Doctrines of Denial. (An examination of which would require a longer article.)

You may (and should!) freely reproduce this article. [This line wasn’t printed in Fate.]

 Posted by on 01/12/2012 Culture

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