James McWilliams has an excellent short post up today about the conundrum of scholarly and scientific skepticism. On the one hand, it's a powerful tool, arguably the most powerful one humans have ever invented when it comes to ferreting-out truth claims. But on the other hand, it can be a straightjacket when it's employed in the service of defending bias rather than undermining it.
The whole point of skepticism is to whittle away all your biases and become able to see what the evidence is really telling you, rather than what you wish it was telling you. McWilliams's case study here is a sad textbook example of what happens when bias trumps skepticism: two scholars confronted with overwhelming evidence that their traditional, mechanistic view of animals is completely wrong. They seem to accept this evidence at face value, but then, suddenly, retreat into bias and tradition without any compelling counter-evidence of their own, claiming they are skeptical. But this is not skepticism at all: looking the mountain of evidence confirming animal sentience in the face and refusing to follow where it leads is self-interested, speciesist denial, and nothing more.
Denial of animal sentience is denial of evolution, plain and simple. It is intellectually equivalent to creationism.