Skepticblog’s Steven Novella has an interesting post up at Neurologica this morning, in which he addresses some issues of conflation between scientific skepticism and other movements or interests. Specifically, Novella discusses the very old (and demonstrably false) complaint that scientific skepticism refuses to “take on” religious claims, and the similarly perennial complaint that skeptics ought to get into the business of political claims.
On religion, he emphasizes once again the same point he has made throughout his career (a point on which I precisely agree, and which has for decades been the practical, time-tested, virtually universal position of scientific skepticism as a movement):
This one will simply not go away. No matter how many times I clarify and re-clarify my position on religion and skepticism the framing of the issue by those who think skepticism should address matters of faith does not change, which implies to me that they are not really listening. I know PZ is not specifically addressing me here, and there are true accommodationists out there (those who think religious thinking and scientific thinking are compatible and should be integrated), but since he is talking about prominent skeptics he should at least address what every prominent skeptic I know (Eugenie Scott, Massimo Pigliucci, Michael Shermer, Joe Nickell, and others) who shares my position has to say on this matter.
Here it is (again) – The issue is not with religion or religious-based claims. We address them all the time (creationism, miracles, faith healing, separation of church and state, secular moral philosophy, etc.) Really – we are right there shoulder to shoulder with organized atheists taking on every such issue. It is NOT that religious claims are untestable (some are, some aren’t), it is only that when claims (religious or otherwise) are framed as untestable then they are matters of faith and not science.