The role of those who identify as ‘skeptic’ is to act in lieu of science in tendering and rigorously and openly enforcing provisional personally preferred conclusions and beliefs. Bullshit.
The following is an amateurish and shallow attempt at defining skepticism, on the part of technician-masquerading-as-scientist-extraordinare, the Emperor himself, Steven Novella. It is actually a concise framing of methodical cynicism all adorned in its glorified ¡fact! dress, hoping that those who are not familiar with philosophy, nor possessing of a skeptical eye, nor having participated in any actual scientific discovery, will fall for its chicanery.
The following definition, is brought to you by the man who does not know what a p-value is, cannot correctly define correlation and habitually mis-frames the method of science so as to favor and dis-favor medical science according to his likes and dislikes. But we take his word on skepticism, in exemplary credulousness. Yes, celebrity ‘skeptic’ Steven Novella, pretty much sums up the whole fake skepticism movement below. His preferred definition’s reduction, as it contrasts with ethical (scientific) skepticism, follows thereafter.
A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own.
A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves.
Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.
First, an authentic skeptic does not identify themselves as ‘a skeptic.’ To do so raises the specter of bias and agenda before one even begins to survey the world around us all. Skepticism, is something an active researcher employs inside the method of science, it is not something you are. Why? Because of two very important laws of human nature, which those who apply real skepticism understand, and fake skeptics do not get:
/philosophy : skepticism : fallacies/ : where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed. Skepticism, as a goal in and of itself will always escalate to extremism.
Goodhart’s Law of Skepticism
/philosophy : skepticism : fallacies/ : when skepticism itself becomes the goal, it ceases to be skepticism.
is one who prefers
A person who practices skepticism does not prefer anything. A person who practices skepticism defends a knowledge development process which is consistent with the ethical practices of science. He or she does not prefer:
beliefs and conclusions
A person who practices skepticism does not hold beliefs and conclusions – rather they recognize the valid outcomes which have arisen as a result of sound scientific method. Nothing else. Beliefs and conclusions are for the religious among us. Those seeking to promote a pre-cooked cosmology and block the ethical actions of science one does not like.
that are reliable and valid
Reliability inside science only applies when a set of knowledge accomplishes one or both of two things: 1) helping to underpin further knowledge development, or 2) helping alleviate suffering (which includes ignorance as suffrage). Outside of this context, to start by declaring that one supports beliefs and conclusions which are reliable and valid is the same thing as saying “I believe only truth.” This is the exact same thing that religious fundamentalists declare. So far into this diatribe, no basis for this claim to truth-of-the-‘skeptic’ has been offered inside this definition framing.
to ones that are comforting or convenient
In this statement, the one who has identified them self as a ‘skeptic’ has made the claim that any attestation outside what they personally hold to be ‘reliable and valid,’ is the result of personal emotional or easy pathways of philosophy or verity. This is both a bifurcation (my way or the highway) and a rather extraordinary claim, implicit in this poorly crafted amphibious and equivocal sentence. Everyone besides me composes an entire realm of seething, mindless, moaning, religiously orgasmic protoplasm. How wonderful I am (you will notice that the promotion of self is key – inside fake skepticism)!
and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason
And there you have it: The job of skepticism is to act in lieu of science to tender and enforce personal provisional conclusions. Sophomoric and incorrect philosophy. Amazing that this person ever successfully pursued a dissertation.
Moreover, implicit inside this statement is the provision, wherein, if one does not want to go through the bother of using the methods of science in order to derive a conclusion, then the magic of ¡reason! can also be used (equally valid to scientific method). Therefore, one can also sit in their university office, or basement, or celebrity convention and completely fabricate their scientific conclusions, and this all still stands as valid – beliefs and conclusions from reason, acting in lieu of science! Will wonders never cease. Our entire knowledge base as humanity, derived at my keyboard, and shoved down the throats of anyone who is comforted or convenienced by even pondering anything different.
Rigorously, as cited here can mean – that one drives home a conclusion, even in absence of sufficient evidence to do so. Openly means, to declare your results on Twitter and in ‘science’ blogs to all the world; nay promulgate this to your malevolent minions, once you have reasoned your conclusion through the insufficient but ‘rigorous‘ evidence which allowed for its adoption.
So, far 100% bullshit – a moron’s definition of skepticism – but let’s continue.
to all empirical claims, especially their own.
Now here, a slip up of sanity encroaches on this fantasy of personal power and aggrandizement. Yes, skepticism is applied to ‘claims’ and not observations, not intelligence and data, not faith, not hopes, not art, not music and drama, not subjects and not persons. It is applied to the process of vetting hypotheses, asking procedural and contextual scientific questions and undertaking the scientific method, on the part of someone qualified inside the research at hand. If this is what Novella means by ‘empirical claims,’ or more accurately, claims to empiricism, then this is correct. The purpose of skepticism is not to prove that someone is right or wrong, or to prove or disprove religions, nor act as the whip of authority proffered by external observers, nor to settle arguments. These are the abuses of skepticism by the dilettante and malevolent.
If by ‘their own‘ he means: “First and foremost finds fulfillment through disciplined pursuit of an insatiable curiosity; scrutinizing and maintaining caution around his own assumptions, regardless of where they are obtained; discriminating with discipline, ontological and religious cosmologies from actual science.” Then he is correct on this point. If however, the contention that one examines their own claims, rises tantamount to an apologetic as to why one’s beliefs and conclusions are therefore correct through purported self-examination, then this is not what skepticism involves. Skepticism is never employed as a boast, and fake skeptics do not get this.
A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance
A skeptic does no such thing. A skeptic is averse to any such action. A skeptic may entertain some constructs as possible or likely, but they do not call those assessments conclusions nor do they accept them as science or skepticism – even provisionally. Such activity inevitably leads to large ‘simplest explanation’ houses of cards. These houses of cards further then becoming proscribed orthodoxy, under Neuhaus’s Law. This is the methodical process of a pretend skeptic.
to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence
Again, all the fake skeptic needs in his quiver under this framing, is to declare something logical, and to base a prematurely forced conclusion upon the ‘available evidence.’ This constitutes a Transactional Occam’s Razor fallacy. Its being ‘thorough‘ in no way excuses the pseudoscience entailed therein. The phrase is an amphibology crafted so as to excuse any mode of thought one or one’s club chooses (describing this as ‘fair‘), as qualifying to stand in lieu of science. This is institutionalized dishonesty plain and simple.
and studies the pitfalls of human reason
Aha! Finally some actual study! So far the definition framer has completely ignored the ‘researching and exploring several diametrically opposed constructs’ actual research work, the hallmark of real skepticism, and placed their sole effort in actual study – into the discipline of understanding why everyone else is so stupid besides themself. This is a game of pretense and malevolence. It is the hallmark of a spoiled and arrogant person.
and the mechanisms of deception
Whoops, they missed this definition.
so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves.
One does not avoid being deceived by ‘provisionally proportioning acceptance to beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid’ – this simply means that you are just another one of the con men yourself. Just with a different flim-flam pitch, called ‘skepticism.’ Fake skepticism: The best con job in the business. Con yourself first, con a club of con men, then con others.
The surest way to bring a con job into inception, is to begin to enforce it by means of an non-dissent-tolerant and punitive club.
In true skepticism, one avoids being deceived by holding pre-scientific dispositions in an attitude of suspended judgement, epoché. One meticulously avoids joining clubs of consensus. Hence the statement Epoché Vanguards Gnosis. Errant information will eventually step on its own dick and falsify itself, all you have to do is be patient. This is the process of skepticism, it does not involve prematurely adopting and shooting down things we choose as valid and invalid. It is not something you are, it is a discipline you practice. Its virtues are curiosity, intelligence, tolerance and patience.
Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.
Close, but no cigar. This is referential to methodical cynicism, not scientific method. True skepticism values qualified knowledge, ie. that which is effective at underpinning the further improvement of understanding or in alleviating suffering, and the scientific method. Over anything else. Even their own provisionally proportioned acceptance of beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid. What hogwash.
The definition framed here by Steven Novella is not what skepticism is at all. This is childishly obvious to a graduate level philosopher or anyone who has reduced a set of hypotheses to isolate an actual scientific discovery. Understandably, most people do not bear these qualifications, and fall easy prey to this errant pop-definition. But this is the fight we ethical skeptics must undertake. Changing the minds of those who have been media brainwashed. Allowing them see the farce for what it is, maybe for the first time.
The Emperor Wears No Clothes.
“Correlation does not prove causality.” You have heard the one-liner uttered by clueless social skeptics probably one thousand times or more. But real science rarely if ever starts with ‘proof.’ More often than not, neither does a process of science end in proof. Correlation was never crafted as an analytical means to proof. However this one-liner statement is most often employed as a means of implying proof of an antithetical idea. To refuse to conduct the scientific research behind such fingerprint signal conditions, especially when involving a risk exposure linkage, can demonstrate just plain ole malicious ignorance. It is not even stupid.
When a social skeptic makes the statement “Correlation does not prove causality,” they are making a correct statement. It is much akin to pointing out that a pretty girl smiling at you does not mean she wants to spend the week in Paris with you. It is a truism, most often employed to squelch an idea which is threatening to the statement maker. As if the statement maker were the boyfriend of the girl who smiled at you. Of course a person smiling at you does not mean they want to spend a week in Paris with you. Of course correlation does not prove causality. Nearly every single person bearing any semblance of rational mind understands this. But what the one who has uttered this statement does not grasp, while feeling all smart and skeptickey in its mention, is that they have in essence revealed a key insight into their own lack of scientific literacy. Specifically, when a person makes this statement, two particular forms of error most often arise. In particular, they do not comprehend, across an entire life of employing such a statement, that
1. Correlation is used as one element in a petition for ‘plurality’ and research, and is NOT tantamount to a claim to proof.
To attempt to shoot down an observation, by citing that it by itself does not rise tantamount to proof, is a form of Proof Gaming. It is a trick of trying to force the possible last step of the scientific method, and through strawman fallacy regarding a disliked observer, pretend that it is the first step in the scientific method. It is a logical fallacy, and a method of pseudoscience. Science establishes plurality first, seeks to develop a testable hypothesis, and then hopes, …only hopes, to get close to proof at a later time.
Your citing examples of correlation which fail the Risk Exposure Test, does not mean that my contention is proved weak.
… and yes, science does use correlation comparatives in order to establish plurality of argument, and consilience which can lead to consensus (in absence of abject proof). The correlation-causality statement, while mathematically true, is philosophically and scientifically illiterate.¹²³
2. What is being described as ‘correlation’ by scientific pretenders, is often a whole consilience (or fingerprint) of mutually reinforcing statistical inference well beyond the defined context of simple correlation.
Often when data shows a correlation, it also demonstrates other factors which may be elicited to demonstrate a relationship between two previously unrelated contributing variables or data measures. There are a number of other factors which science employs through the disciplines of modeling theory, probability and statistics which can be drawn from a data relationship. In addition these inferences can be used to mutually support one another, and exponentially increase the confidence of contentions around the data set in question.²³
Calling or downgrading the sum total of these inferences through the equivocal use of the term ‘correlation,’ not only is demonstrative of one’s mathematical and scientific illiteracy, but also demonstrates a penchant for the squelching of data through definition in a fraudulent manner. It is an effort on the part of a dishonest agent to prevent the plurality step of the scientific method.
None of this has anything whatsoever to do with ‘proof.’
A Fingerprint Signal is Not a ‘Correlation’
An example of this type of scientific illiteracy can be found here (Correlation Is Not Causation in Earth’s Dipole Contribution to Climate – Steven Novella). There is a well established covariance, coincidence, periodicity and tail sympathy; a long tight history of dynamic with respect to how climate relates to the strength of Earth’s magnetic dipole moment. This is a fingerprint signal. Steven Novella incorrectly calls this ‘correlation.’ A whole host of Earth’s climate phenomena move in concert with the strength of our magnetic field. This does not disprove anthropogenic contribution to current global warming. But to whip out a one liner and shoot at a well established facet of geoscience, all so as to protect standing ideas from facing the peer review of further research is not skepticism, it is pseudoscience. The matter merits investigation. This hyperepistemology one-liner does not even rise to the level of being stupid.
Perhaps We Need a New Name Besides Correlation for Such Robust Data Fit
Both of these errors exhibit fake skeptic scientific illiteracy. Correlation is simply a measure of the ‘fit’ of a linear trend inside the relationship between a two factor data set. It asks two questions (the third is simply a mathematical variation of the second):
- Can a linear inference be derived from cross indexing both data sets?, and
- How ‘close to linearity’ do these cross references of data come?
- How ‘close to curvinlinearity’ do these cross references of data come?
The answer to question number 2 is called an r-factor or correlation coefficient. Commonly, question number 3 is answered by means of a coefficient of determination and is expressed as an r² factor (r squared).³ Both are a measure of a paired-data set fit to linearity. That is all. In many instances pundits will use correlation to exhibit a preestablished relationship, such as the well known relationship between hours spent studying and academic grades. They are not establishing proof with a graph, rather simply showing a relationship which has already been well documented through several other previous means. However, in no way shape or form does that mean that persons who apply correlation as a basis of a theoretical construct are therefore then contending a case for proof. This is a relational form of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. This is a logical flaw, served up by the dilettante mind which confuses the former case, an exhibit, and conflates it with the later use, the instance of a petition for research.
Correlation Dismissal Error (Fingerprint Ignorance)
/philosophy : logic : evidence : fallacy/ : when employing the ‘correlation does not prove causality’ quip to terminally dismiss an observed correlation, when the observation is being used to underpin a construct or argument possessing consilience, is seeking plurality, constitutes direct fingerprint evidence and/or is not being touted as final conclusive proof in and of itself.
THIS is Correlation (Pearson’s PPMCC) It does not prove causality (duh…)¹²
This is a Fingerprint Signal and is Not Simply a Correlation³∋
There are a number of other methods of determining the potential relationship between two sets of data, many of which appear to the trained eye in the above graph. Each of the below relational features individually, and increasingly as they confirm one another, establish a case for plurality of explanation. The above graph is not “proving” that glyphosate aggravates diabetes rates. However, when this graph is taken against the exact same shape and relationship graphs for multiple myloma, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, bladder cancer, thyroid disease, pancreatic cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel syndrome, lupus, fibromyalgia, renal function diminishment, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s Disease, wheat/corn/canola/soy sensitivity, SIBO, dysbyosis, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, rosacea, gall bladder cancer, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, liver impairment and stress/fatty liver disease, … and for the first time in our history a RISE in the death rates of of middle aged Americans…
… and the fact that in the last 20 years our top ten disease prescription bases have changed 100%… ALL relating to the above conditions and ALL auto-immune and gut microbiome in origin. All this despite a decline in lethargy, smoking and alcohol consumption on average. All of this in populations younger than an aging trend can account for.
Then plurality has been argued. Fingerprint signal data has been well established. This is an example of consilience inside an established risk exposure relationship. To argue against plurality through the clueless statement “Correlation does not prove causality” is borderline criminal. It is scientifically illiterate, a shallow pretense which is substantiated by false rationality (social conformance) and a key shortfall in real intelligence.
Contextual Wittgenstein Error Example – Incorrect Rhetoric Depiction of Correlation
The cartoon to the left is a hypoepistemology which misses the entire substance of what constitutes fingerprint correlation. A fingerprint signal is derived when the bullet-pointed conditions exist – None of which exist in the cartoon invalid comparison to the left – this is a tampering with definition, enacted by a person who has no idea what correlation in this context, even means. A Wittgenstein Error. In other words: scientifically illiterate propaganda. Conditions which exist in a proper correlation, or more, condition:
- A constrained pre-domain and relevant range which differ in stark significance
- An ability to fit both data sets to curvinlinear or linear fit, with projection through golden section, regression or a series of other models
- A preexisting contributor risk exposure between one set of unconstrained variables and a dependent variable
- A consistent time displacement between independent and dependent variables
- A covariance in the dynamic nature of data set fluctuations
- A coincident period of commencement and timeframe of covariance
- A jointly shared arrival distribution profile
- Sympathetic long term convex or concave trends
- A risk exposure (see below) – the cartoon to the left fails the risk exposure test.
Rhetoric: An answer, looking for a question, targeting a victim
Fingerprint Elements: When One or More of These Risk Factor Conditions is Observed, A Compelling Case Should be Researched¹²³
Corresponding Data – not only can one series be fitted with a high linear coefficient, another independent series can also be fitted with a similar and higher coefficient which increases in coherence throughout a time series both before and during its domain of measure, and bears similar slope, period and magnitude. In this instance as well, a preexisting risk exposure has been established. This does not prove causality, however is a strong case for plurality especially if a question of risk is raised. To ignore this condition, is a circumstance where ignorance ranges into fraud.
Covariant Data – not only can one series be fitted with a high coefficient, another independent series can also be observed with a similar fit which increases in coherence as a time series both before and during its domain of measure, and bears similar period and magnitude. Adding additional confidence to this measure is the dx/dy covariance, Browning Covariance, or distance covariance, etc. measure which can be established between the two data series; that is, the change in x(1)…x(n) versus y(1)…y(n). In this instance as well, a preexisting risk exposure has been established. This does not prove causality, however is a very strong case for plurality especially if a question of risk is raised. To ignore this condition, is a circumstance where socially pushed skepticism ranges into fraud.
Co-incidence Data – two discrete measures coincide as a time series both before and during its domain of measure, and bear similar period and magnitude. Adding additional confidence to this measure magnitude consistency which can be established between the two data series; that is, the discrete change in x(1)…x(n) versus y(1)…y(n). In this instance as well, a preexisting risk exposure has been established. This does not prove causality, however is a moderately strong case for plurality especially if a question of risk is raised. To ignore this condition, is a circumstance where arrogant skepticism ranges into fraud.
Jointly Distributed Data – two independent data sets exhibit the same or common arrival distribution functions. Adding additional confidence to this measure magnitude consistency which can be established between the two data series; that is, the discrete change in x(1)…x(n) versus y(1)…y(n). In this instance as well, a preexisting risk exposure has been established. This does not prove causality, however is a moderately strong case for plurality especially if a question of risk is raised. To ignore this condition, is a circumstance where arrogant skepticism ranges into fraud.
Probability Function Match – two independent data sets exhibit a resulting probability density function of similar name/type/shape. Adding additional confidence to this measure magnitude consistency which can be established between the two data series; that is, the discrete change in x(1)…x(n) versus y(1)…y(n). In this instance as well, a preexisting risk exposure has been established. This does not prove causality, however is a moderately strong case for plurality especially if a question of risk is raised. To ignore this condition is not wise.
Marginal or Tail Condition Match – the tail or extreme regions of the data exhibit coincidence and covariance. Adding additional confidence to this measure magnitude consistency which can be established between the two data series when applied in the extreme or outlier condition; that is, the discrete change of these remote data in x(1)…x(n) versus y(1)…y(n). In this instance as well, a preexisting risk exposure has been established. This does not prove causality, however is a moderately strong case for plurality especially if a question of risk is raised. To ignore this condition, is a circumstance where even moderate skepticism ranges into fraud activity.
Sympathetic Long Term Shared Concave or Convex – long term trends match each other, but more importantly each is a departure from the previous history and occurred simultaneously, offset by a time displacement, are both convex or concave and co-vary across the risk period. Adding additional confidence to this measure magnitude consistency which can be established between the two data series; that is, the discrete change in x(1)…x(n) versus y(1)…y(n). In this instance as well, a preexisting risk exposure has been established. This does not prove causality, however is a compellingly strong case for plurality especially if a question of risk is raised. To ignore this condition, is a circumstance where even moderate skepticism ranges into fraud activity.
Discrete Measures Covariance – the mode, median or mean of discrete measures is shared in common and/or in coincidence, and also vary sympathetically over time. Adding additional confidence to this measure magnitude consistency which can be established between the two data series; that is, the discrete change in mode and mean over time. In this instance as well, a preexisting risk exposure has been established. This does not prove causality, however is a moderate case for plurality especially if a question of risk is raised. To ignore this condition is not wise.
Risk Exposure Chain/Test – two variables, if technical case were established that one indeed influenced the other, would indeed be able to influence one another. (In other words, if your kid WAS eating rat poison every Tuesday, he WOULD be sick on every Wednesday – but your kid eating rat poison would not make the city mayor sick on Wednesday). If this condition exists, along with one or more of the above conditions, a case for plurality has been achieved. To ignore this condition, is a circumstance where even moderate skepticism ranges into fraud activity.
These elements, when taken in concert by honest researchers, are called fingerprint data. When fake skeptics see an accelerating curve which matches another accelerating curve – completely (and purposely) missing the circumstance wherein any or ALL of these factors are more likely in play – to say “correlation” is what is being seen, demonstrates their scientific illiteracy. It is up to the ethical skeptic to raise their hand and say “Hold on, I am not ready to dismiss that data relationship so easily. Perhaps we should conduct studies which investigate this risk linkage and its surrounding statistics.”
To refuse to conduct the scientific research behind such conditions, especially if it involves something we are exposed to three times a day for life, constitutes just plain active ignorance and maliciousness. It is not even stupid.
¹ Madsen, Richard W., ” Statistical Concepts with Applications to Business and Economics,” Prentice-Hall, 1980; pp 604 – 610.
² Gorini, Catherine A., “Master Math Probability,” Course Technology, 2012; pp. 175-196, 252-274.
³ Levine, David M.; Stephan, David F., “Statistics and Analytics,” Pearson Education, 2015; pp. 137-275.
∋ Graphic employed for example purposes only. Courtesy of work of Dr. Stephanie Seneff, sulfates, glyphosates and gmo food; MIT, september 19, 2013.
A definition is a form of argument, which once successful, becomes a predicate assumption. And like an argument, a definition may be evaluated for its basis, quality, and outcome. These are handy guidelines which the ethical skeptic may employ to keep a close watch on his definitions, so as to improve the overall value and clarity of his delivery. Altering of definitions is a subtle but oft used tactic of those seeking to obscure information and control thought. Such flawed definitions can be called Irish Pennants. They highlight the difference between a well vetted versus a casually worn science, logic or philosophy.
When standing at attention during Plebe Summer at the United States Naval Academy (the grueling summer of initiation before commencement of your Freshman year), one quickly learns the difference between a uniform which is immaculate, and one which has received ‘gigs.’ Being gigged for uniform violations can result in a number of demerits of varying magnitude. Instances such as when your shirt and trouser lines are not aligned with your belt buckle edge (gig line), or your cover has smiles in it, or you have tiny threads hanging from the sewn seams of your pants or shirt, these things can get a Midshipman in hot water until he or she earns off the associated demerits. Of a particularly frustrating nature is the violation wherein one misses tiny little threads of material hanging from the seams in one’s uniform. These threads are known as ‘Irish Pennants.’ Nail clippers are useful in resolving these seam flaws. Moreover, if one is farsighted it is best to scour your uniform well with your glasses on, prior to any uniformed inspection. Irish Pennants are one of the telltale little indicators which reveal the difference between a well vetted and a casually worn uniform.
The casual wearing of science, logic and philosophy can be detected through a similar manner of silent diligent inspection.
Such diligence and discipline applies to the crafting of a logical calculus as well. It makes sense to keep watch over the means of persuasion, locution and argument one is making – but do we often carry such diligence into the definition coherence of our underlying terms? Social Skeptics appreciate a condition where the uniform of the recipient of authorized one-liner wisdom, is not vetted to the point where the listener can tell when they have been played by means of terminology. The making of an argument is a set of propositions expressed with the intent of persuading through reasoning. In an argument, a subset of propositions, called premises, constraints and predicates, provides support for some other proposition called the conclusion. One of the predicates to an argument is the definition basis for the terms which are employed in its locution. Failure to keep watch over your definitions can result in confusion or a whole host of even worse faulty portrayals of science, logic and philosophy.
A definition is an ‘argument which has been brought to concurrence.’ A definition allows two parties to rely upon a stable foundation of understanding and agreement, which allows knowledge development to continue (see Wittgenstein Error and Its Faithful Participants). A definition is a agreement among parties that the context, position, role, logical critical path and enlightening nature of the term has been revealed effectively in discussion. Social skeptics will willingly abrogate such tacit agreement, presuming that they are so smart that they are exempted from this level of integrity requirement. They will game lexicon, amphibology, equivocation and meaning in order to win an argument. This is the psychology of an arguer who has been taught that they must win at all costs.
Ethical skepticism demands that one watch for the characteristic traits which can improve or weaken an argument’s underpinning lexicon. This can be seen through the oft used analogy of a puzzle. When solving a classic die-cut puzzle, one is not solving one problem, rather three problems simultaneously. Three challenges which do not allow for coherence unless all three problem solutions agree independently on the final state of coherence, per below:
A puzzle (sans an available reference picture) consists of three layers of logic:
First, resolving the interlocking lexicon (fit) of piece shapes which one is trying to employ,
Second, ascertaining the overall single integral form (shape) that the pieces assemble into and
Third, realizing the argument or picture depicted on the puzzle pieces (image) which one is trying to bring into coherence.
A. If one does not care about the integrity of the first and second solution layers in a puzzle, then the third solution (the image) can be pretty much be a matter of arranging the puzzle pieces in any fashion we (or someone else) chooses, in order to depict any answer we desire.
B. If one is given a solution image in advance, then regardless of whether or not the advance-knowledge image is indeed correct or incorrect, the puzzle solver will tweak the interlocking portion of the puzzle pieces: definitions, persuasions, locutions and arguments, so as to effect that picture and no other (see The Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy).
Unless we can as an ethical skeptic, envision the disarray in the underlying structure of words and meaning and how to resolve such disarray, we may fall prey to the picture we have been given or have been trained to see. An example of just such a terminology misemployment in order to deceive, is shown below, in Irish Pennants 1a – 4e.
Arguments are built and are sustained on just such a platform of established coherence. Therefore, in order to corrupt the processes of science, without manifestly tampering with data, research freedom or the scientific method itself, all one has to undertake is a means by which one corrupts the shape or interlocking fit of the puzzle pieces which are used to assemble the image; that is to say the terminology which underpins the argument, the means by which a threatening or disfavored idea can be brought into coherence.
By tampering with terminology fit, one can render an argument obtuse, and thereby preempt disliked realizations.
This is enacted inside what is called a Descriptive Wittgenstein Error.
Wittgenstein Error (Descriptive)
Describable: I cannot observe it because I refuse to describe it.
Corruptible: Science cannot observe it because I have crafted language and definition so as to preclude its description.
/philosophy : knowledge development : symbolism and language/ – the contention or assumption that science has no evidence for or ability to measure a proposition or contention, when in fact it is only a flawed crafting of language and definition, limitation of language itself or lack of a cogent question or (willful) ignorance on the part of the participants which has limited science and not in reality science’s domain of observability.
“Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” ~Wittgenstein
However, there is another approach to pseudo-scientific control of thought, and that is the case where an agenda carrying agent realizes that a definition placeholder is mandatory and simply conducting Wittgenstein Descriptive blocking will not be seen as ethical or acceptable. In this case, the agenda carrying agent will attempt to isolate a threatening term as a neologism. Alternatively, if they cannot accomplish this, they will preemptively assign a false, correct-ish sounding version of the definition in advance of its term’s common employment. This is called an Irish Pennant error. It is a term which does not seem to fit the logic, structure or context of all the terms with which it is intended to interplay. Such a term is a pathway to equivocation and ambiguity – useful tools in the process of assembling propaganda.
In order to avoid an Irish Pennant error – to thwart obfuscation by means of terminology tampering – the ethical skeptic must examine the employment of a definition in terms of its integrity, along four characteristics of its effective employment: Context framed, Isolate in nature, Critical Path in role, and effective in Reducing complicated-ness.
/philosophy : knowledge development : symbolism and language/ – a term, language or definition which is non sequitur with, fails to reduce complicated-ness of, is equivocal in meaning inside or otherwise lacks integrity with either the philosophy or remaining set of definitions inside its contended context. A tattered, overlapping or incomplete definition which has been altered through the lens of an agenda, rendering it at least partly incoherent with broader philosophy, or leaving gaps in the Wittgenstein (Descriptive) sufficient understanding of a subject.
Keys to Avoiding an Irish Pennant Error¹ Example: The current pop-skeptic definition of the term “Pseudoscience”
1. Terminology Definition Context
a. Is its articulation in a colloquial or precise expression? Colloquial
b. Is it constrained to an accurate context to the discussion, observation or problem? True
c. Does it possess coherence inside the presented context? False
d. Is its non-applicability readily identified/identifiable? False
2. Terminology Definition Isolate Nature
a. Is it framed in objectively based terminology? False
b. Is it framed in employment by a knowledgeable but neutral party? False
c. Is it consistent with established understandings of equivalent context definitions? True
d. Does it fit as a puzzle piece inside a cohesive lexicon? Featuring:
i. a minimum of overlap with other terms. False
ii. a minimum of multiple contexts of application. False
iii. fulfills a role in philosophy, logic or science which is otherwise vacant. True
3. Terminology Definition Critical Path
a. Does it have integrity with its co-contended philosophy? False
b. Is it salient to the argument contended? Relevant but not Salient
c. Does it complete a logical calculus which underpins an argument? False
d. Does it allow others then to understand sufficiently so as to be equipped to replicate this logical calculus? False
4. Terminology Definition Reductive Nature
a. Does the term help frame a more clear argument? False
b. Does the term help improve the nature of a scientific observation? False
c. Does the term help improve the effectiveness and salience of a scientific question? False
d. Does its framing and employment improve understanding, or only seek to leverage control of a discussion? Seeks Control
e. Does its framing reduce an alternative set or complicated-ness of a scientific, logical or philosophical question? False
It behooves the ethical skeptic to constantly be on guard for employment of terms which can be used to deceive. People love easy reads. But easy reads can be used as a tool of propaganda. Be cognizant of Irish Pennant terms, plied inside of easy or ‘simple’ answers, and be alerted when this is used to excess. Question context, isolate nature, critical path of employment and the reductive effectiveness of each and every instance where a social skeptic has selected an imprecise term or weapon word in the process of condemning a subject they do not like.
Ignore the anger of the social skeptics. Integrity in your words, will lend to integrity in your method, which will end with integrity in your soul.
¹ These characteristics/features regarding definition stem from combining the input from a variety of resources too numerous to list and too convoluted to assign credit to one single source. The features are modified so that they all mutually reinforce each other, provide clarity and a commonality of language inside the contended definition framework. As such, these definitions are the work of The Ethical Skeptic, however may contain phrases common to similar definitions provided by other authors or resources. Therefore, as definitions in the public domain and in common use and understanding – they are not required to be reference sourced.
An argument may be evaluated for its basis, quality, type, and outcome. These are handy guidelines which the ethical skeptic may employ to keep a close watch on his propositions, so as to improve the overall value and clarity of his delivery.
The making of an argument is a set of propositions expressed with the intent of persuading through reasoning. In an argument, a subset of propositions, called premises, constraints and predicates, provides support for some other proposition called the conclusion. Ethical skepticism demands that one watch for the characteristic traits which can improve or weaken an argument. In bold in the graphic below, are the hallmark traits inside an argument which hint to me, the brilliance in its offing.
Proposition – statement that is either true or false, but not both. For example, tungsten has a larger atomic mass than does lithium.
Premise – a proposition that provides support to an argument’s conclusion. An argument may have one or more premises.
Primer – a review of past valid or strong arguments, or a summary of tenets, predicates or propositions which prepare and add clarity to the outlay of a successive argument or story.
Constraint – a predicate based parameter or assumption which serves to improve the quality of an argument or improve the value or clarity of an experiment.
Predicate – a datum, experiment or element of philosophy or logic which is established as true, and provides deductive support for a successive proposition. Almost exclusively predictive in its employment, a predicate may itself have been derived through falsification. A postulate or corollary relate to laws, but are sometimes used synonymous to predicate.
Salience – the nature of predicate, constraint or premise wherein it adds value, clarity or quality to an argument.
Relevance – the nature of a proposition such that it is consistent with an argument or adds to its value, clarity or quality.
Expertise – immediate, significant, research based, relevant and salient experience in the subject field inside which an argument pertains. This includes the impacted stakeholders in a decision or action.
Inexpertise – conditions of general familiarity with, political or agenda motivations toward or solely skepticism and/or experience in the making of arguments in the subject field inside which an argument pertains. Not all a negative, it is the adept recognition of personal, participant or industry lack of expertise in a particular subject or field which is the essence of skepticism.
Order – the structure and locution of an argument formulated in such a way as to provide a parsimonious deduction or induction critical path, which allows it to be followed or replicated by another party.
Clarity – the structure and locution of an argument formulated in such a way as to provide a relational path, which allows it to be followed or understood more easily by another party.
Completeness – the structure and locution of an argument formulated in such a way as to provide a parsimonious deduction or induction critical path, which precludes alternative deduction or induction critical paths along the same line of predicates and premises.
Consilience – this is the nature or characteristic of an argument wherein its underpinning premises or predicates provide for independent but mutual reinforcement of its conclusion. This is usually regarded as important in an argument which cannot be easily tested for falsification.
Consistency – this is the nature or characteristic of an argument wherein its conclusion or structure is in parallel with well-established premises or predicates. Also the instance where all portions of compound argument leverage to support each other.
Validity – an inductive argument is valid if its conclusion logically follows from its premises, and in parallel a deductive argument is valid if its predicates support its conclusions. Otherwise, an argument is said to be invalid. The descriptors valid and invalid apply only to arguments and not to propositions; which can be false, true or undetermined.
Structure – the logical formulation and relational structure of elements employed to array premises or predicates into a contention or extrapolation which is contended to be valid or sound.
Reducibility – the effectiveness of an argument’s completeness in such a manner as to falsify, or through consilience, render at least one other hypothesis along a critical path set as false or more highly unlikely and therefore no longer relevant.
Cogency – an inductive argument is cogent if it is high in quality and its premises provide swift consilience –that is, they all possess a common concordance with well-established truths and logic. Otherwise, it is said to be uncogent. Key inside such relation of consilience or alternately, deductive argument, is how efficiently it can be conveyed.
Falsifiability – an attribute of a proposition or argument that allows it to be refuted, or disproved, through observation or experiment. For example, the proposition, All crows are black, may be refuted by pointing to a crow that is not black. Falsifiability is a sign of an argument’s strength, rather than of its weakness.
Soundness – a deductive argument is sound if it is valid and its premises and predicates are true. If either of those conditions does not hold, then the argument is unsound. Truth is determined by looking at whether the argument’s premises, predicates and conclusions are in accordance with facts and logic in the real world.
Strength – an inductive argument is strong if in the case that its premises are true, then it is highly probable that its conclusion is also true or testable. Otherwise, if it is improbable or unknown/unknowable that its conclusion is true, then it is said to be weak. Inductive arguments are not truth-preserving; it is never the case that a true conclusion must follow from true premises.
Elegance – the effectiveness of an argument’s quality such that it accomplishes an outcome or multiple outcomes in the most propitious manner.
Deductive Argument – an argument in which if the premises are true and the relative quality or structure of logic is sound, then the conclusion must or should be true. The conclusion is contended to follow with logical necessity from the premises. For example, All men are mortal. Plato is a man. Therefore, Plato is mortal. A deductive argument is intended to be valid, but of course might not be.
Inductive Argument – an argument in which if the predicates are true and the relative quality or structure of logic is sound, then it is more probable that the conclusion will also be true. The conclusion therefore does not follow with logical necessity from the predicates, but rather with an increase in likelihood, hopefully converging to certainty. For example, every time we measure the speed of light in various media, it asymptotes to 3 × 108 m/s. Therefore, the speed of light in a medium-less vacuum is 3 × 108 m/s. Inductive arguments usually proceed from specific instances to the more general. In science, one usually proceeds inductively from data to laws to theories, hence induction is the foundation of much of science. Induction is typically taken to mean testing a proposition on a sample, or testing an idea on an established predicate, either because it would be impractical or impossible to do otherwise.
Logical Fallacy – an error in reasoning that results in an invalid argument. Errors are strictly to do with the reasoning used to transition from one proposition to the next, rather than with the facts. Put differently, an invalid argument for an issue does not necessarily mean that the issue is unreasonable. Logical fallacies are violations of one or more of the principles that make a good argument or deduction such as good structure, consistency, clarity, order, relevance and completeness.
Formal Fallacy – a logical fallacy whose form does not conform to the locution and rules of inference of a logical calculus. The argument’s validity can be determined just by analyzing its abstract structure without needing to evaluate its content.
Informal Fallacy – a logical fallacy that is due to its content and context rather than its form. The error in reasoning ought to be a commonly invoked one for the argument to be considered an informal fallacy.
Provisional Argument – a construct or a framework explanation not presented yet as true, rather which is contending for plurality based on salient and relevant evidence which does not yet complete a fully deductive or inductive chain of reason, or has not been fully confirmed by empirical observation. Often presented to lay claim to credit for an idea for further research before others craft similar thought, much as with a provisional patent.
Construct – a provisional argument which is not yet mature enough to be called a hypothesis; yet which has some suggestive evidence or ideas behind it.
Plausible Deniability – a provisional argument which is foisted solely for its outcome in blocking the introduction of an opposing explanation or theory. In practice this is often done with little or no suggestive evidence behind it and is validated or declared true simply based upon its plausibility rather than quality, structure or basis.
Rhetorical Argument – an argument which begins with an answer and seeks to target a victim person or idea through a process of opportunistic persuasion and locution, tactics applied to support the answer in arrears. It is the opposite of argument. May simply be executed to express a point, in which case the rhetorical argument is only regarded as a an alternative postulate.
Explanatory Argument – an argument which in which its postulates attempt to explain, provide analogy or try to show why or how something is or will be. May be confused with rhetoric due to it similar structure.
Poetry – an argument expressed inside the purity of art. The opposite of rhetoric. A passion which seeks alleviation of suffering and not the targeting of an opponent.
Value – the quality and relevancy of an argument such that it provides for improvement in clarity, understanding, agreement, focuses or constrains an experiment, reduces a hypothesis set, counters misinformation, or alleviates suffering or ignorance.
Relevancy –The quality of an argument such that it contains social value.
Reduction – a method of science wherein the process of induction or deduction is employed to falsify, or through consilience, render a hypothesis as false or more highly unlikely and therefore no longer salient or relevant.
Critical Path – the sequence of most highly effective argument tests which serve to falsify, eliminate, reduce or provide best consilience inside a set of plausible arguments.
Clarity – the ability of an argument to lend quality and locution capability to future critical path logic, and/or which allows such to be followed, replicated or understood more easily by another party.
Qualified Argument – a level of clarity and agreement which allows for a least set of differences, when full agreement is not achieved between expertise bearing parties.
Agreement – when two expertise bearing parties subsequent to an argument, agree on its basis, quality and outcomes.
¹ These characteristics/definitions regarding argument stem from combining the input from a variety of resources too numerous to list and too convoluted to assign credit to one single source. The definitions are modified so that they all mutually reinforce each other, provide clarity and a commonality of language inside the contended definition framework. As such, these definitions are the work of The Ethical Skeptic, however may contain phrases common to similar definitions provided by other authors or resources. Therefore, as definitions in the public domain and in common use and understanding – they are not required to be reference sourced.
² Please note that the outcomes of Ethical Skepticism are value and clarity (see Ethical Skepticism – Part II)
Below please find The Ethical Skeptic’s Argument Assessment Checklist. Every argument carries merit, even one eventually shown to be invalid, because of the intelligence or understanding which can be accrued. The key for the ethical skeptic is to be able to quickly asses the strength of an argument through its nature and structure. The checklist can be used to counter those seeking to squelch ideas and control what is regarded as science to their own liking. However, the checklist should never be used to bully or demean persons honestly seeking truth; rather, stand as a guide sheet by which you can come alongside and help develop their incomplete or foundering argument into a true next question under the scientific method. You might be shocked at what you did not know, that you did not know. And you might gain a friend in the process.