Imagine if, from the time of Galileo and farther back, no one had ever questioned Creationism—the idea that a supernatural entity created the universe and everything in it in one “poof,” where nothingness disappeared and gave rise to everything tactile. Creationism skepticism—or at that time, skepticism of the Judeo-Christian, Bible-based Church doctrine—was important to arrive to our modern scientific world. It introduced a different method of approaching phenomena that was not part of the norm. And in the times of Galileo, it was dangerous to question the old premises.
The fact that creationists exist today is not an ill to society, but the opposite. We may question the sanity of those who hold these ancient beliefs, and might worry that the children who are raised under such old suppositions will not only not benefit themselves but society in general. And such might be the case in places where freedom of thought is curtailed by political policies or an overarching cultural mode of thinking.
But for those of us, in a free country, who still hold doubts on many fronts, to fall into the error of falling silent or not supporting the right to different points of view—often through the pressure of “experts” who do not shy away from shaming those who disagree—is the worst thing we can do. That is not moving forward. In fact, experts in some field or another ought to be happy to take on the challenge, and to improve their mode of communication.
Child rearing should give an example of what I mean. Many parents, when a child doesn’t understand a concept, don’t throw up their hands and give up. On the contrary, they think of different ways to approach the problem of understanding. In so doing, they improve, not only their children, but themselves, and in turn society. Once you have worked out a good way to drive a point across, you become an expert at communicating it, and people, beyond your own child, are more likely to understand it.
It seems that we have lost the patience on this front, and have become too arrogant, at least those of us who are not parents. I don’t mean to say that we ought to treat people as children, or to view them as such. Skeptics ought to sharpen our communication, rather than to cast us into a corner of silence where we will simply round up our eyes in the dark. As we sharpen our communication, and our way of teaching, we learn, and everybody else is better for it.
The danger of one thought fits all is evident. If one branch of a tree is trusted with all the wisdom in the world, we fall into the precipice of naiveté, and succumb to ignorance. Shamers are no different from parents who care only about what they think, and not how their children think. It is not what we know what is important, but how we know what we know.