“Do not let yourself be tainted with a barren skepticism” – Louis Pasteur
I’ll take a true believer over a skeptic any day. Skeptics are the dogs of the system. Now, I’m not thinking of “the system” as the facile, standard “oppression of the white man” or “amoral liberal agenda”. The system is the same one in place that’s been extant since primates started organizing themselves into hierarchical troops. The system is the way in which we have organized ourselves that make health and well-being dependent on eating and not dying of some horrific disease through the good graces of those in power, the system that demands the elusive concept of productivity as the measure of worth. Whether you are a wage-slave or a salaried manager, your value to society is measured in your ability to serve or to efficiently organize others in the name of service. At least the true believer is convinced that man is more than a mechanism, more than a tool – that he is capable of so much more, whereas the skeptic roots themselves in the conviction that society is the province of “just desserts”, masking their disdain for their fellow man (be it based on their education, employment, status, economic class, or logic) as a desire to help one’s fellow human, to save you from yourself and your Luddite, conspiracy-believing fantasies, your paranoia about the aggregation of power and capital among the few, the guild-like cordoning of knowledge and wisdom that only serves to make the rich richer, the poor poorer, the experts more expert.
In the wake of the 2016 United States presidential election, self-appointed skeptic luminaries have emerged, hard and fast, to decry the proletariat (a term they would be comfortable with were it not for its communist undertones) as reactionary morons, and equate the results of a vicious and vitriolic political season as the same thing that drives the opinions of people who believe in “fringe” history, ancient aliens, chemtrails, UFO cover-ups, and vaguely racist efforts to prove that Europeans are actually responsible for civilization itself. Meanwhile, the media scrambles to validate its own expertise despite the abysmal record of our incessant “news analysis” that has characterized our daily lives with the advent of 24-hour cable news stations, and the fact that they have been proven to lack any insight again and again. We are moving into a new age, and the political earthquakes we are observing are merely a symptom. And while the skeptics are furiously bemoaning the fact that they have been “shouting into the void” all these years, and it has brought us to this sad point in history, the sad truth is that they missed the point entirely and decided to reinforce their own expertise by attributing the calamity to their imagined non-intellectual antagonists.
These arguments are not new. The same angst accompanied the industrial revolution, thus we can only expect that the information age engenders the same sorts of conflicts, the major difference being that we are now facing the imminent prospect of “the end of work”. Smithsonian Magazine recently highlighted a Council of Economic Advisers report including a projection that “people making less than $20 an hour have an 83 percent chance of eventually losing their jobs to a robot. The odds for those earning up to $40 an hour are more than 30 percent”. We are facing an end to the traditional notions of “productivity”. There is no way in which this is not a good thing, unless your power or prestige are vested in your ability to manage others, organize work, and accrue huge amounts of capital to be spent in (1) accumulating more capital and (2) aggrandizing yourself or your specific beliefs.
For the first time in human history, we can see the horizon. Automation and technology may finally put an end to the need for the traditional organization of human labor to achieve a reasonable standard of living for the majority. The question becomes, what does humanity wish to be when it has the option to do nothing? Behind skepticism lies a crypto-fascism that believes a select few are privileged with the logical capacity, the brains, and the discernment to save us from ourselves, from our wishes, dreams, and desires, yet couched in a neo-liberal attitude that “facts” (narrowly construed to adhere to a physicalist ontology) are all that matter, and the unwashed masses are simply pawns, to be duped by the maniacal or educated by the altruistic. Oh, how the skeptic would celebrate a scientific technocracy where those idiots who promulgate bizarre viewpoints could be thrown in camps to rot. Don’t kid yourself. The purpose isn’t to educate us. The purpose, as always, is to establish the boundaries of power – who can have it, and who can’t. These things are always couched in terms of what is “self-evident” vs. what is “delusional”.
In a society wealthier than ever before in human history, with technological capacity that looks like magic, and that can essentially put an end to millennia of labor designed simply to keep us alive, why are we not seriously discussing Universal Basic Income and Universal Healthcare as if that is not the obvious next step? The professionalized skeptic may feel themselves to be liberal humanitarians, but they decry man’s innate abilities, convinced that if left to our own devices, the common fellow would believe all manner of strange things, and they must save us. This is the same principle that says if we were to guarantee universal income and healthcare, that those lazy masses would waste away their time on drugs and entertainment. We might even believe in UFOs.