On the one hand, to increase diversity in a movement, you must make sure that the focus isn't only on the concerns of middle class white men.
Jamila adds that if we care about the state of everyone, we need to be outspoken about police brutality, the drug war, and crime. [...] We need to offer some social programs. We love hard facts and evidence, but we also need to understand that the people who need us may not be drawn in just by meeting Neil deGrasse Tyson (as crazy as that sounds to us).On the other hand, broadening the focus constitutes mission creep, and may reduce the diversity of views allowed under the same tent.
This empirical focus has allowed the skeptical community—old and white and bearded as it may have been—to enjoy other kinds of diversity. If political ideology is not a topic for our movement, then anarchists, libertarians, liberals, and conservatives can happily share the same big tent. If science-based skepticism is neutral about nonscientific moral values, then the community can embrace people who hold a wide range of perspectives on values issues—on the environment, on public schools, on nuclear power, on same-sex marriage, on taxation, gun control, the military, veganism, or so on. It’s a sort of paradox: the wider the scope of skepticism, the less diverse its community becomes.I'm not sure what to think of this; I agree with both sides, but it's clear they contradict.
--Daniel Loxton, in his recap of the panel
First things first. My blog, though it is about a variety of topics, is not an attempt to widen the scope of skepticism. I consider my blog to be a skeptical blog that very frequently goes outside the scope of skepticism. Practically all the time, in fact. This is okay because I'm an individual, not a skeptical organization.
But come to think of it, there is no single "scope of skepticism." There is the scope of large skeptical organizations. The scope of small student organizations. The scope of skeptical blogs. The scope of things we agree on, and the scope of things we disagree on (but like to talk about). Perhaps a call for a broader focus should be taken as a call for widening the scope of skeptical chatter, but not of skeptical organizations.
An alternative path to reconciling the two sides is to note that even non-skeptical topics have skeptical questions embedded within them.
As [Greta Christina] argued, there are testable, empirical, pseudoscientific claims embedded within the arenas of social values, political discourse, and yes, religion as well. The forest may be out of scope, but some of the trees are not. (D.J. offered the example of harmful pseudoscience within gay rights debates.)This would, of course, rule out Jamila's suggestion of social programs. Actually, if I wanted to volunteer with social programs, I would simply do that and not bother with "skeptical" social programs. But I would be perfectly happy with skeptical assessments of police brutality, the drug war, and crime issues, if there are any skeptics qualified to give such assessments.
However, I think there are some topics that skeptical organizations must tackle even if there are no embedded empirical claims. If, for instance, the skeptical community gets overrun with people who think same-sex sex is morally wrong (this is in no danger of happening), that would be a problem regardless of whether they made any empirical claims. If skeptical men are hitting on skeptical women in elevators, that is a problem regardless of any statistics on elevator rape. If skeptical conferences indirectly push away women by failing to provide child care, that is a problem.
Skeptical organizations must talk about these things not because they are skeptical but because they are organizations. Organizations must deal with people in all their variety. It's one thing to be pushed away from a group because it's outside your realm of interest, or because you disagree with its positions. It's another to be pushed away because the environment is totally unfriendly. Sometimes this means weighing one kind of diversity vs another (eg would we rather be inclusive of queers or homophobes?). Luckily I think skeptical organizations like JREF already understand this point, perhaps better than I do.