Edinburgh Skeptics is very loosely part of a world-wide community which takes a science- and evidence-based approach to a variety of issues. You can find locally established Skeptics in the Pub groups putting on talks and events all over the world, and there are many Skeptical podcasts and even more Skeptical bloggers and people on twitter.
Skepticism is not an organised movement (the collective noun should probably be “an argument of Skeptics”) but groups do keep in touch and do sometimes work together, and this collaboration is made much easier by the internet.
Skeptics’ societies, bloggers and pod-casters have emerged from the grass-roots; there is no centrally organised, centrally funded Skeptics organisation in the UK.
Ethos and Mission
Our strapline is Science, Reason and Critical Thinking. We are also all about the evidence-base, and recent talks include topics like people’s use of the internet, and the advertising industry, as well as traditional skeptical fare like parapsychology and alternative medicine.
Edinburgh Skeptics is not an Atheist society because atheism is a position and skepticism is a method. We do cover topics such as the teaching of creationism in schools and of course many of our regulars are atheists or agnostics. Being explicitly not an atheist group makes us unusual among Skeptics’ societies (in the US in particular, Skepticism and Atheism seem to go hand in hand). Edinburgh is well served by groups with a more explicitly atheist remit such as the Humanists, and the various Secular Societies.
Why do we spell Skeptics the American way?
It’s because Skepticism as movement started in the US where they have important public battles to fight in terms of creationism being taught in schools, maintaining the separation of church and state, and so on. The first group outside the US to use the K was Skeptics in the Pub in Brisbane, and perhaps if they had spelt it the Australian / British English way then maybe we’d be Edinburgh Sceptics. However, it does help being able to use the US spelling to distinguish Skepticism as a movement from scepticism as an approach to understanding problems. Although Skepticism is not an organised movement, some of the American groups are more structured than groups in the rest of the world, simply because of the scale of the challenges they are rising to and because of the American habit of creating funded foundations.
We capitalise Skeptics when we are referring to people who self-identify as part of the Skeptical movement, and we capitalise Skepticism to acknowledge that Skepticism is a community and not just an attitude of mind or a method of finding out about the world, though it is certainly both of those things too.
The water is slightly muddied with regard to climate change – “Skeptics” think that the evidence suggests climate change is due to human factors while “climate sceptics” argue the opposite view.
So are you militant atheists?
Edinburgh Skeptics Society is not an atheist group because atheism is a position and Skepticism is a method. It’s true that most of our regulars are atheists or agnostics but not all of them are, and this is separate from their involvement with Edinburgh Skeptics. We may be unusual though: many Skeptics Societies seem to be explicitly atheist, and in the US, Skepticism and Atheism seem to go hand in hand, presumably because of how politicised religion and atheism have become there and the scale of the issues to be tackled.