World

Word of the week: Sceptic

23 January 2021

7:55 PM

23 January 2021

7:55 PM

Definition: A person who questions the beliefs of others

Lord Sumption, is a sceptic. The former Supreme Court judge has questioned the government’s lockdown policies and raised uncomfortable questions: ‘are we punishing too many for the greater good?’; ‘is the life of my grandchildren worth more than my own, because they have much more of it ahead?’ These are moral questions about the value that we place on each life, as well as the price that we are prepared to pay to prevent death. There are no easy answers.

But now is not the time for debate. The enlightenment spawned an array of critical thinkers, sceptics and dissenters. By testing theories, challenging hypotheses and questioning orthodoxies, societies became dynamic fulcrums of innovation and progress.However, times have changed. Questions are a luxury that we can no longer afford. They undermine the simple message of ‘stay at home’. It is harmful to consider the possibility that lockdowns are doing more harm than good. Critical thinking could critically undermine our national resolve.

In former times, schools were a place where children learnt to think sceptically, ask questions and expand their intellectual horizons. Now the essential purpose of a school is to stay closed. That way, children will not spread disease and adults, who have already been to school, will stay healthy. Many teachers agree that it is better for children to stay at home; they have shown a sudden and grave concern for public health. Thus adults are kept safe through the timely health interventions of teachers.


Following the huge success of the slogan that assisted memory-deficient adults to leave their house successfully each day: ‘Phone, Wallet, Keys’, the government introduced a simple slogan to keep people in their houses: ‘Stay at home’. It has proved surprisingly popular. Abiding by this simple code of conduct not only halts the virus in its tracks by the power of tea and Netflix it also prevents a person from being labelled a sceptic. To ask whether individuals are in the best position to decide how to protect their loved ones is to become a reckless vector of the virus. It is only right that any individual found expressing these views becomes an object of public scorn.

If a person finds themselves experiencing a sceptical thought there are several measures that can be taken.

1. Turn on the TV

2. Switch to the channel ‘Frightening Data Charts On Loop’, previously known as ‘The News’

3. Watch an episode of ‘There Is No Alternative’, also known as ‘The Downing Street Daily Briefing’

4. Feel the fear and accept your fate

5. Thrust a lateral flow test swab repeatedly up your nose until the feeling passes

If, like Lord Sumption, it is difficult to characterise a sceptic as mad, it is possible to cast doubt on their motivation. Perhaps they are bad? In the past, heretics, who were under the devil’s spell, were cast out and sometimes killed. Nowadays, we are far more civilised: apostates only suffer reputational damage, loss of livelihood and exclusion from public life.Scepticism may have once performed a useful role, but there is a time and a place for raising difficult questions. Now is not the time to think.

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