This essay is about a new term I have coined.

"Septicism" is a word I came up with in the course of an exchange of views on twitter. It describes a form of "scepticism" now seen far too often which lacks the c-factor of critical thinking. Septicism is indeed septic, it poisons debate, it is a sickness of the mind.

Many sceptics particularly in the US now style themselves as skeptics with a k, I suspect this is to indicate from the hard consonant that they are particularly hard-headed. This spelling is the standard form in the US, but has recently been imported to the UK.

Phonetic logic however suggests they should go the whole hog and become skeptiks, but maybe this is too reminiscent of sputniks, beatniks, and refuseniks, and suggests mindless followers of fashionable trends or ideologies.

Too many sceptics are inclined to be sceptical just for the sake of being sceptical. They think that scepticism is simply disbelieving anything that comes down from authority. If one chooses to disbelieve everything handed down from on high, on what basis does one assess the truth of anything?

In the absence of critical thinking, the c-factor, the answer must be that one relies on one's "gut feeling" or emotional reaction, or one goes along uncritically with the views of your colleagues, following the "herd instinct".

Septicism is reasonably easy to detect. It is shown by either lack of citation of evidence, or repeated citation of the same old outdated evidence that has long been debinked. It is shown by the use of emotive terms, such as "Frankenstein foods", and appeals to the "natural".

To be truly sceptical one has to be sceptical of one's own views, and those of your friends, as well as those from authority figures. It is easy to slip into septic thinking, where you are just reiterating your prejudices, without really examining the evidence or the logic behind them.

© G. P. Jelliss 2012