About a year and a half ago I created a group on Facebook called The Science Enthusiasts with the intent to be a place for a few of my friends to gather and talk about science, skepticism, atheism, and other relevant topics. There were about 100 to 200 people in the group for a while, and we didn’t have any long-term goals other than to be a place for us to be a bit more candid than we could be on our personal Facebook pages.
Today, we just admitted our 20,000th member.
This tells me that there are so many people out there who value science, skepticism, rational thought, and reason who want a place to feel comfortable sharing those views. The group is decidedly “not a science group,” but that was never the intent or goal. The goal was to create a space for skeptics to gather and share ideas, science related or not.
We do this because it’s important for us as skeptics to know that we are not alone.
It’s important to have a place where skeptics and those who value science can come together and form a community, be it in my group, a community like r/Skeptic, or otherwise. The skeptic community is unlike the anti-GMO, anti-vaccine, or religious communities. They often have just a single common goal in mind: eliminate GMOs, make preventable diseases great again, or to turn the United States into a theocracy. These groups have historically been more successful than skeptics at their activism because they not only have a common goal, but they have a community to rally behind.
Churches have always been a place for people to gather as a community, which is why so many atheists still attend church despite knowing that there are no gods. Whether they’re aware of it or not, churches rely a great deal on having a sense of community and togetherness to survive. But the anti-GMO and anti-vaccine movements are religions as well. Their views are not based in facts and evidence. Rather, their beliefs are based on some sort of grandiose conspiracy theory involving tens of thousands of scientists around the world. Like religion, they manufacture a narrative then go back to cherry pick the parts that suit their desired outcome. That’s not how science works – that’s religion.
The skeptic community has a wide variety of interests and priorities. Some of us are passionately pro-GMO and defend it until we can’t breathe anymore. Others are incessantly refuting false claims about vaccines being ineffective or deadly. Others see religion creeping into legislation in the US as a threat to freedom given to us in the First Amendment, not just for atheists, but for skeptics as a whole.
All of these are very valid and necessary battles. But as a result of having a wide variety of interests, skeptics often don’t agree with the tactics of other skeptics, or feel that their particular area of interest is more important to defend than another. For that reason, people often refer to organizing the skepticism movement as trying to herd cats.
Everybody wants to feel like they belong somewhere – event those of us in the skepticism community. But for skeptics, we are often (read: always) worried about tribalism. We don’t like the idea of belonging to a particular group and dislike the idea of the baggage that may come with being associated with it. After all, we criticize those who sequester themselves in echo chambers. But that’s not what being part of the skepticism community is.
Regardless of your views on what the most important issue skeptics should be dealing with is, or even the sometimes aggressive tactics employed by other skeptics, it’s important for us to have a community. Having a community not only helps you feel that you belong somewhere, but also helps to keep you in check if you have doubts. It only becomes tribalism when we stop using science, evidence, and logic to form opinions and views on things.
When you have one specific goal in mind, it’s easy to accomplish your goals. I believe the goal of my page, this group, and the skepticism community as a whole is not to “force” GMOs/vaccines on everyone and not to “force” atheism on the devout. Instead, our goal is to spread rational thought, tolerance, and critical thinking.
And I think that’s the most important goal for us to address.
If you’re not yet a member of The Science Enthusiasts, feel free to join! There are no membership requirements, and opposing viewpoints are always welcome. If you enjoy the group, check out our Patreon at patreon.com/tSEgroup for access to our patron-only VIP version of the group, too!