Admirable goals of 'skepticism' as a movement:
- Promote critical thinking and freedom of speech and information, especially concerning access to reliable information on scientific (and other fields of) research.
- Work with the media to improve the quality of reporting, and exposing mistakes, misinterpretations and downright fabrications where necessary.
- Expose the techniques used to part the uninformed from their money.
- Campaign against the introduction of policies which are based on bogus reasoning or misinformation.
- Provide a welcoming environment and accessible platforms for the discussion of issues related to all of the above.
What 'skepticism' should not do:
- Form a closed community of like-minded people, in a way that appears intimidating to outsiders, either by automatically assuming that everyone present will agree with your position, or by assuming too much prior knowledge in your audience (not a problem I've noticed so far, but something we should always be on guard against).
- Indulge in blanket attacks on a whole aspect of society simply because it is not based in rationality. Better to target individual instances of bad reasoning or potentially damaging policies. For example, there's no point decrying the fact that the Catholic Church's policies on contraception are based on rules whose origin cannot be conclusively traced back to a supreme being. Nobody needs to be told that. There are other, evidence-based ways of proving that such policies are damaging to society.
- Give in to the temptation to insult or make fun of people and groups purely to ease our own frustration. Humour is useful if it helps an audience to see a situation in a different light, and to attract people to what could otherwise be a fairly dry and sombre field. On the other hand, it also serves to polarise the debate and to ostracise portions of the target audience.
As I said, this is a very personal mission statement, and I'm not going to hassle people into conforming to it. One of the best things about the movement is that there is no prescriptive set of rules, or a PR push to present a united front on all issues. Debate and diversity of opinion are what drive us on, and if you'll allow me to rip off Groucho Marx slightly: I don't care to belong to a club that only accepts people exactly like me as members.