This is such a good exploration by Frank Furedi of scepticism and the necessity of freedom of speech. Extracts below.
….The moral devaluation of the sceptic
Historically, calls for censorship were justified on the grounds that a text was either politically subversive or morally corrupting. This justification is now a key part of anti-scepticism dogma…Of course, today’s sceptics are not accused of obscenity or moral corruption. No, they are accused of ‘denialism’. This is their evil deed, their heresy. By categorising scepticism as denialism, one is attributing malign intent to the exercise of scepticism. The sceptic is therefore not questioning or interrogating an establishment position; rather, he or she is denying the truth of the establishment position.
…What is scepticism?
As a philosophical outlook, scepticism has been around since the Ancient Greeks. ‘All I know is that I know nothing’, said Socrates. His point was that ignorance is the point of departure for a rigorous search for the truth. This characterises the defining attitude of the sceptic: the suspension of judgment. A sceptic is someone, therefore, who has not decided, or is not in a position to decide, what is true, right or good.
This suspension of judgement does not necessarily entail a refusal to judge. It can mean the postponement of judgment while the sceptic continues to inquire into the problem at hand. Unlike doubt, which involves a negative judgement on truth, scepticism represents a form of pre-judgement. It stands opposed to dogma and an attitude of unquestioned certainty. In some cases, of course, the suspension of judgment can be an act of evasion. But the suspension of judgment can also be a prelude to a commitment to explore further in pursuit of clarity and truth….
…This potential for developing knowledge, without claiming certainty or to have discovered The Truth, is vital in today’s distinctly uncertain world. This is important not just for the development of science, but also for the flourishing of a democratic public life. There can be no freedom of thought without the right to be sceptical. Which is why the demonisation of the sceptic today – as a denier, a corrupter, a moral inferior – does not simply reflect polemical excess on the part of those supporting the establishment; it is also an attack on human inquiry itself.
…Society needs scepticism to develop. Scepticism encourages society to question the assumptions and taken-for-granted ‘facts’ that otherwise might ossify and become dogma. It allows our intellectual life to yield to new experience. In short, it is the antidote to an excess of certainty. “