There are two principal problems with Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit. First, it is misapplied by false skeptics through its utilization as a means to enact denial, ignorance and application of ‘skepticism’ outside a context of neutrality and sincere investigation. Second, The Baloney Detection Kit is flat out incorrect. Destructively incorrect. It presents an approach to citizen science which is an abrogation of its correct methodological order, employs explanations which can be equivocated to justify abuse, and contains principles which are patently wrong under the scientific method. It is the work of an academic who spent a career in celebrity promotion, publishing articles and making arguments targeting a nascent bunk-consuming public; moreover not one spent in the bowels of tough ends-oriented pluralistic research and hypothesis reduction. Ironically, perhaps its best use is in developing a framework inside of which one can observe and detect a fake skeptic.
I am a Carl Sagan fan, don’t get me wrong. But not everything he contended is correct. In one particular instance, his error was in providing the general public a mechanism which would never pass the sniff-test of Ethical Skepticism. Carl Sagan published his famous “Baloney Detection Kit” in 1995 as a mechanism to convey to those of the non-scientific general population, permission and means to discriminate the topical veracity of various threatening claims being foisted inside a growing and increasingly uncontrollable media environment. With the proliferation of cable TV, magazines, controversial BBS (eventually internet) sites, and book stores selling New Age materials, it became necessary (in the minds of Social Skeptics) to outfit the population with an artifice which could be used as a means of controlling information; information which used to be squelched simply by its denial of access to the media. The Baloney Detection Kit has been fallaciously touted as a means of constructing an argument, or understanding reality, or recognizing a fallacious or fraudulent argument. To a seasoned philosopher, one understands that the Baloney Detection Kit does none of these things, and as well does not claim to do any of these things. This set of hyperbole is typically spouted inside nonsense published by numerous dilettante voices seeking to appear as scientific through recitation of false authority.
Errant Application of The Baloney Detection Kit: Burning House Science
The Baloney Detection Kit comprises a series of guidelines to help improve the clarity of deliberation inside a topic where singularity of ‘truth’ is being brought into question. In other words, a proponent is proposing a suggestion of plurality, a new explanation of data surrounding a phenomenon, or new data eliciting a new phenomenon. In this instance of plurality, in the case of an increasing unknown, especially in asymmetric and non-linear partially understood systems, one has to be careful to distinguish conditions of Plurality from conditions wherein one argues Cynicism and Denial. Below are some examples of these three conditions, elicited through the ‘burning house’ construct.
Gnosis (reveals cynicism)
Gnosis is the body of existing or ascertainable knowledge. If a person asserts to you that your house is on fire, all you need to do with regard to science, is go there and observe the house for yourself. In addition, you should heed what the person says because ignoring their contention could be a very costly mistake. It does not matter who makes the contention for the most part. Under no circumstance is there a necessity for deliberating the epistemology and the most likely explanation as to why the person made this contention. First because the answer is readily detectable by direct observation, and second, because the cost of ignoring the challenge to observe could potentially be very high.
This is NOT an application of skepticism, rather an application of Gnosis. Any time a person can go check out a contention via means of direct observation, or faces an urgent need to investigate, this is what they should indeed do. To apply the Baloney Detection Kit under this condition is not skepticism, rather cynicism.
Plurality (reveals ignorance or valuable dissent)
If a person asserts that dim-able light controls in your house will start a fire and burn your house down, this is a debatable condition which might hinge on the veracity of the claim data and any potential agenda which is being sold by the claimant. Data may not be readily available on the subject and may be cryptic in its collection. To ignore this however, in the scheme of things, would not be wise. (Plurality simply means that two hypotheses are being investigated from necessity – dim-able light controls can cause fires more frequently than standard controls, or – dim-able light controls do not cause fires more than do standard controls.)
This is an application of skepticism, wherein one suspends judgement until sufficient opportunity to investigate and gather direct evidence, expert opinions and data on the topic. In this circumstance, the Baloney Detection Kit is applied correctly ONLY under
- an assumption of suspended judgement on the part of the skeptic, and
- a sincere effort being placed into the contention’s investigation.
please note: if a skeptic adheres to a perspective of plurality, is willing to look at multiple sides of an issue, follows edicts 1 & 2 above, and after that diligent process objectively dissents, then heed their input as it may well be of enormous value. If however a researcher does this, and skeptics still hound him or her, appearing unable to discern an honest researcher – take that as a warning.
Refusal to investigate, blocking investigation, pretending to investigate (Novella shuffle or Nickell plating) or applying ‘skepticism’ outside of conditions 1 and 2 above, is not skepticism, rather the act of ignorance.
Denial (is a Martial Art)
If a person asserts that they have first hand evidence that your wife is plotting to burn your house down because you have not paid child support, because of the emotional entrenchment, you may choose to deny that this could ever happen. One might go through extensive cognitive dismissal exercises in such a case in order to remove the idea from being a burden.
This is an application wherein one executes a mental martial art employed to remove fear from the mind. To apply the Baloney Detection Kit under this condition is not skepticism, rather the martial art of defensive denial.
The first principle error in utilization of the Baloney Detection Kit is that dilettante skeptics apply the Kit to support positions and conclusions in both Gnosis/Cynicism and Denial situations. Second, they habitually refuse to apply it inside of Plurality under an assumption of suspended judgement and sincere investigation. All three of these scenarios of application are invalid, yet constitute to my best perception the vast majority of times I have seen this Kit plied.
When Skepticism is Not Sincere: Humping the Elephant
A second problem is that Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit itself is wrong. The sequence of the elements are in the wrong order, the elements themselves are expressed in equivocal fashion, some of the elements are incorrect – abrogating the scientific method – and all of the elements themselves are written in a fashion so as to at the least, favor, imply or promote Denial, Ignorance of Plurality and Cynicism.
The question of Ethical Skepticism is not one of skillfully dismissing arguments and data in order to protect the understanding of the truth; or even what we perceive to be the ‘most likely truth.’ This constitutes simply an exercise in convincing ourselves how smart we are, and how well we understand everything around us. The real scientific question is: can one develop an idempotent method by which one can improve understanding without tampering with the data and arguments unnecessarily. In ethical science, one seeks to give competing explanations a fighting chance until falsified on their own through accrued verity – and NOT by means of how clever we are.
Inside the provision of The Baloney Detection Kit, Carl has given the dilettante practitioner a black belt method in defending their minds; the martial art of denial – false skepticism employed to protect the assumptions they were given in their youth, against ideas of which they are terrified or to promote special concealed religious and social agendas.
The problem is that Social Skeptics, as implied in the cartoon to the right, always bear an underlying agenda – an agenda which can be protected and promoted through the employment of false method. A method crafted towards selfish, unclear, non-deontological and non-value providing ends. They are inevitably ‘humping the elephant’ for their own surreptitious benefit, as it were, and not really attempting to improve overall understanding. So without further ado, here are the errors upon which Mr. Sagan, seeking to communicate a methodology of thought control to the general population, was indeed incorrect.
Errors in The Baloney Detection Kit – The Fake Skeptic Detection Kit
There is nothing inherently wrong with fact checking, the consideration of multiple hypotheses, debate from all sides and the applications of Ockham’s Razor. The key is when, how and why you employ these principles. As with a weapon, they can be abused to effect a process which is harmful, as well as one which resolves or reduces complicatedness or the unknown. The terminology employed is useless in meaning until applied into a context – one which promotes or obfuscates science. The Ethical Skeptic is not as swayed by impressive sounding sciencey principles – as he or she is observing a person who demonstrates the ability to employ them skillfully and ethically. And as is the case with a weapon, one can spot an amateur on the firing line very quickly by the way in which they handle their weapon. Just because one holds it and fires it, does not mean they know what they are doing. Below, you will observe in The Baloney Detection Kit a person who is firing a weapon – but bears none of the earmarks of those who are skilled at its mastery.¹ For a detailed checklist of fake skeptic traits, check this out: How to Spot a Fake Skeptic.
- Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
The first step of the scientific method is to make observations, not assail purported ‘facts.’ Assailing facts can serve as a means of avoiding field investigation and attempting to torpedo a case artificially before it can be approached by the scientific method. This ‘fact verification’ is never the first step in science, as it is too prone to cherry picking, strawman and scarecrow errors, existential bias, MiHoDeAL bias, or taxonomy fallacy, etc. It is not that facts are not checked, but pursuing this step fist, out of order, opens the door of method wide open to become simply an exercise in reactive dissonance. If you see a skeptic undertaking this as a first step, you are more than likely witness to a person who is executing the martial art of Denial. Had Carl written this step after witnessing the debates raging over Anthropogenic Global Warming, he might have thought twice about employing this step as a starting block in his Kit. Scottish philospher Thomas Carlyle is purported to have said “Conclusive facts are inseparable from inconclusive except by a head that already understands and knows.” Evidence should be able to be assembled into an elegantly predictive mechanism. This more than anything corroborates its ‘facts.’ Not our cherry picked expertise and agenda. To winnow out facts based on personal knowledge, or one at a time, stands as an exercise in denial from a head that perceives incorrectly that it ‘already understands and knows.’
If a ‘skeptic’ begins by assailing the facts, and seeks to simply ‘establish a chain of questionability’ around an idea, as their first step of investigation of an issue; then be wary that you might be working with a fake skeptic.
- Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
There are two pitfalls which can occur under this equivocation. First that the ‘debate’ is enacted among persons who have absolutely no expertise on the subject at hand at all, other than at most a self purported ignorant ‘skepticism’ (maybe they read The Baloney Detection Kit!), and second that the process of Peer Review (those who hold an equal or suitable expertise to provide constructive criticism of the argument or data) is not conducted at the beginning of the scientific method, other than to assist in hypothesis development. To provide Peer Review at the beginning of a scientific process, stands simply as a means of squelching the inception of that process. Ideally peers are allies during hypothesis development (they should be eager to see the results), and objective ‘opponents’ during anonymous Peer Review. This such ‘review’ as expressed in the Kit can only serve to revolve around strawman and scarecrow representations of the topic at hand since NO observation or development has been completed at this point. The only suitable inputs from peers which should be broached at this point in the process is ‘what is the first question which should be asked under the scientific method,’ and ‘what do I need in order to develop this possible contention into a testable hypothesis?’ Anything outside of this is simply another process of seeing how smart we are at enforcing the truth. Nothing perhaps elicits this principle better than Carl Sagan himself in the Dragons of Eden: “Those at too great a distance may, I am well aware, mistake ignorance for perspective.” Well, I am sure they will at least mistake skepticism for perspective.
One key indicator useful in spotting a faking skeptic is: are they allies at the beginning of the scientific method? Helping the sponsors formulate the right question; eager to see the testing executed? Or are they simply detractors, hoping to stop testing before it could begin, pretending to issue ‘peer review,’ condemnation and requesting proof as the first step in the scientific method? Does ‘all points of view’ habitually end in their insistence on assuming conforming ideas are correct and contending that alternative ideas are therefore now foolish and should merit no research? These are the habits of a fake skeptic.
- Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
This is a tautology, which is moot in its true sense, but damaging if applied in error. If the only knowledgeable researchers in a field are the ones being denoted as the ‘authorities’ in this case, then this step is equivocally incorrect. If the experts are the active researchers on the topic, then this step might be viable. If however the ‘experts’ are simply peers, not involved in the research, then their input can simply act as a pseudo-expert resource (parem falsum fallacy) from which to enact denial and cynicism activities. The bottom line: if they are actively and skeptically researching the topic, consider their input with an air of neutrality. If they have no involvement in the research, disposition their input until time for peer review, after sufficient time and method wherein the case has had a fighting chance to stand on its legs and be heard. Time before the wolves of rationality and vertical expertise attack it. Again, this step is in the wrong sequence in comparison to the scientific method.
I don’t want to hear a skeptic debating someone who possesses first hand observation or necessity or science. This simply constitutes a person exercising the martial art of denial, put on display to instruct the rest of the world as to it fine art. Perhaps this is where the climate skeptics learned how to do it so well.
If a skeptic, as their method of doing ‘background research’ on a topic or regarding an observation, simply goes out and reviews the available skeptic doctrine on the subject and those who made the observations, then comes back with a whole series of denial articles and one-liner quotes from celebrity skeptics, then beware, this is not a skeptic.
- Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
This is incorrect. Before one should seek to explain something, one should first ask ‘what do I need in order to develop this construct into a testable hypothesis?’ and ‘what is my next question to be asked under the scientific method?’ This does NOT mean that you have to start immediately testing and considering every and all ‘hypotheses’ upon which every cynic sitting at the table insists. Besides, the mere mention of an explanation does not qualify it as a hypothesis, much more diligence is involved. You do not have to start by researching ALL the ways in which something could be explained, as this simply constitutes an exercise in futility, distraction, waste and above all – ego. This is not how real labs and scientific groups work – as in reality, effective teams construct an elegant hypothesis reduction critical path. Critical path and straightforward falsification alternatives should be matured first for testing. It is amazing how much you learn in this process. Things which save mountains of time as compared to the blind shotgun testing suggested here by Sagan. This is followed by readily measurable or predictively accurate alternatives, of those still remaining on the critical path. Frivolous or wild alternatives usually fall out through natural falsification during the reduction process on their own. There is no need to pay special attention to them until forced to do so by the evidence. Why did Sagan not know this, or at least express it in layman’s terms?
Additionally one does not ‘spin’ a hypothesis, one develops a hypothesis. Spinning hypotheses, again, is NOT the first step in the scientific method. One cannot simply willy-nilly, sling out plausible deniability constructs like a machine cranking out compositions of personal brilliance. This exercise constitutes not science, rather a smoke screen; the desire to obscure science. Hypotheses are the direct result of having completed the Observation, Necessity, Intelligence/Data Aggregation, Construct Formulation and Sponsorship Peer Input steps of the scientific method. They are serous exercises in scientific methodical diligence. Again, this step in the Kit is wrong. It brings into question whether or not Carl Sagan actually ever did any real science, other than running celestial observations, writing books, articles, doing TV shows, classes or lab tests.
If a skeptic blathers the first conforming explanation they can think of regarding a challenging idea or observation, and regards that as a ‘hypothesis,’ be very wary. If the skeptic insists that you must first research their explanation, even if it is impossible to approach by means of falsification, then drop them from making input, as they do not understand science; only their religious agenda.
- Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
Now this is a salient and objective advisement on the part of Sagan. If you do not critique your own hypothesis, others will. This reminds me of the myriad of ‘perpetual motion’ machines I have reviewed and debunked over the years. In one instance an inventor brought a device into a convention I was attending. It had a battery hooked up to a flywheel covered in tin foil, extracting ‘orgone’ energy from the ether, which was in turn charging a dead battery in series downline of the fly-wheel and charged battery. His contention was that 100% of the charged battery’s potential difference and ampere charge was transferred from the live battery to the dead battery, AND we received the benefit of the kinetic energy of the motion of the wheel during the charge transfer to boot. Energy from nowhere!! – and still a fully charged battery!! Well energy from the ether, that is. Of course if this was true then we needed to stop digging for coal immediately.
I asked him if he then took the newly charged battery and swapped it with the newly depleted battery and ran the test again and again to see if the duration of wheel motion was the same in each iteration of charge transfer. Whereupon he replied ‘uh, no.’ Then we attempted this test. Sure enough, in each iteration the source battery depleted in about 55-65% of the time it did in the previous iteration. It was not a perpetual motion machine. He was deceived by his only measuring the potential (V) of the battery and not its ampere transfer charge (C= A·s). His presentation was in reality an appeal for Peer Input, prior to hypothesis development. The inventor jumped the gun hoping to have a proof, before asking ‘what do I need to do in order to develop this construct into a hypothesis.’ This is what I helped him with. Yet I still admired the man for objectivity, courage and the spirit of inquiry. I respected him more than I do a fake skeptic. He was able to objectively lo0k at, and be convinced by the evidence. They are not.
To the faking skeptic, there is only one answer, that which conforms with their religious view of reality, and that which protects their bandwagon agenda. Any critique of their hypothesis simply serves to place you in the lunatic camp. They will not assist a researcher in developing a hypothesis or asking the right questions, they do not care about the answer, they only seek to crush, mock, obfuscate and destroy. Perhaps that litmus test is the best baloney detection kit of them all.
- Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are the truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
Measure, not quantify. There is an old saying ‘numbers don’t lie.’ But in one of my firms we had a saying that ‘numerals don’t lie, but numbers lie like a sick dog.’ There is a simple reality to which every researcher becomes used, in that one comes to realize that excessive reliance upon numbers can be used to deceive just as well as can deceptive arguments. Or as Mark Twain put it, ‘there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics.’ But Sagan is correct here in that, if one understands the context of numerics and measures, and if one uses them to elicit and not to direct decision, then quantification can provide an enormous benefit to both hypothesis development and hypothesis reduction processes. One must remember that models result in convergent, divergent and constraining results; very few of which can be used to effect a decision. But these are measures in the end, use to gauge magnitude and direction; not simply quantification, for quantification’s sake. There is a stark distinction. Use numbers to add value and clarity, not to put on a show of diligence.
Three things which deceive. If numbers and recitations only come from the camp which serves a skeptic’s favored alternative, then be very wary. If numbers are the proprietary property of a group making a contention, and they do not allow you to see where these numbers were derived, be very wary. If a skeptics tosses out a fabutistic which contends that science thinks certain things, and that they represent that scientific thought, and does not appear to understand its context or method of origin, be very wary.
- If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
Every argument, even the simplest explanation, contends from an implicit or explicit chain of argument. The key is to ask ourselves, have we fairly recognized the implicit chain of assumptions and principles incumbent in our favored argument? A second principle resides in this – in Quality Control analytics and the assembly and design of processes, one learns that daisy chaining a stream of reliable processes together, will simply serve to produce an unreliable process. Ten sure bets in a chain of dependency equals a sure loss. This renders EVERY chain of logic vulnerable to question. The wise application of this step involves experience in understanding how to neutralize chains of dependency through incremental hypothesis predictive success; along with the realization that even our foundational givens, can be critiqued under such methodology. It is just up to us to possess the courage to do so. “We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.” Or so proclaimed Malcolm Gladwell in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. There is not going to be a perfect alternative; a perfect story; a perfect explanation. Only social epistemologies are touted by their agenda bearers as being flawless. Be cautious of such claims of perfect explanations or the need for an explanatory basis to be perfect, or people who understand the chain of dependency and surreptitiously employ it in a process of methodical cynicism.
If your ‘skeptic’ presents arguments with all the loose ends accounted for, and all the questions wrapped up, if they fail to express ‘I don’t know’ on a subject, if all the outlying data in their argument does not exist, if they are quick tempered or hate their opponents easily, and fail to cite a history of personal mistakes and what they learned from them, then be very wary that you are dealing with a social epistemologist – bearing an agenda.
- Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.
This contention is simply, unequivocally, incorrect. The diligent researcher needs be constantly circumspect for both the existential and transactional variants of the ‘Occam’s Razor’ fallacy. This is a ridiculous contention of a person who has only argued, enforces simple science and has never actually reduced hypotheses inside a scientific framework. For a more exhaustive explanation of why applying ‘Occam’s Razor’ (much less spelling it incorrectly) at the END of a pretend ‘scientific method’ is an exercise in deception, one can be found here: Ethical Skepticism Part 5 – The Real Ockham’s Razor.
If a skeptic talks with conclusive authority on an issue and says that their argument is based upon ‘Occam’s Razor,’ ignore them because they are clueless.
- Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.
Testable is not the same thing as falsifiable. This advice fits within the ethical science necessity of asking ‘what do I need to do in order to develop this construct into a hypothesis?’ Falsification is of extraordinary importance of course in avoiding a Popper Error. There must be recognition however, that many of our strongest hypotheses and accepted sets of science, reside squarely upon simply a series of predictive and associative studies. Many sets of accepted science do not intrinsically lend themselves to falsification. Our next suitable action is to ask ‘What is the right next question to ask under the scientific method?’ We hope that it lends to a falsification based answer. The question, in reality many times instead becomes: can the hypothesis we are considering make successful predictions which can be confirmed by further measures under the scientific method? This principal many times in reality stands in lieu of direct falsification based reductions. If I am lucky however, predictive or associative testing might allow the team to falsify a non-critical path alternative down the line, so that we do not have to focus on it later. A second fallacy danger resides in pursuing falsification for an alternative, yet refusing to pursue falsification for a null hypothesis when it can readily be had. This is a very common form of official pseudoscience. The idea that mind Ξ brain can be tested for falsification. But if we spend all our time and science resources seeking to falsify the antithetical alternative hypotheses instead, we are guilty of applying promotification and false parsimony. This is pseudoscience.
If your ‘skeptic’ cannot differentiate between falsification, predictive and associative tests, nor when and how to employ them relative to a null, conforming or alternative hypothesis, be very wary. If they do not know how hypothesis testing is sequenced, think that the formulation of a hypothesis is a mere matter of debate, cannot cite a reduction hierarchy and critical path, as well as cite some key examples, then they are pretending to know science.
As much as I loved his work Cosmos, The Demon Haunted World and The Cosmic Connection, sometimes, we should be hesitant in overly lauding and proclaiming the work of celebrities like Carl Sagan, despite their notoriety, as authorities. Circus Partis is a false appeal to an authority who is simply ‘famous for being famous;’ and in the case of Carl Sagan, while the fame is warranted, the context of authority simply may not be.
¹ Sagan, Carl, Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark; Ballantine Books, Jul 06, 2011; ISBN 9780307801043.
People are leaving religious affiliation in droves. Indeed, almost 18 million persons over the last seven years in the US alone left the faith on a statistical basis.¹ But only a slim margin inside this conversion base† is filing into the comparatively paltry ranks of atheism. Just who are these people electing this third option, the “nones” as they are titled by the Pew Research Study pundits? Why were Social Skeptics shocked at the results, and why do their shrill voices continue to pretend that this enormous and fastest-growing demographic group in the United States, does not even exist?
In fact, these numbers, burdened by 150 year old views of societal beliefs sets, belie a more staggering statistic that as much as 65% of the United States adult demographic has something other in mind than simply “atheism” versus “believing.”
What is this “other” category, and what does it comprise? Perhaps they, and not the material monists, big-A Atheists and Nihilists, are the real free thinkers and skeptics? As a true skeptic, I want to know what this new and growing demographic has in mind. I want to know why they have resoundingly rejected traditional religion AND atheism.
Based on the recently released Pew Religious Landscape Research Study on America’s changing religious makeup, significant unrest is afoot inside the ranks of United States adult demographic. Of the 245 million estimated adults comprised by the 2014 US population base, a staggering 50 million of these individuals have elected to opt out of both atheism and religion. A full 26% of the US adult population makes no comment on the issue of a ‘god’ and instead has chosen some form of different path from the polarizing mind trick which has enslaved American ontology for close to two centuries.
Who are these people? Just what manner of change is precipitating this gargantuan shift in the mindset of American adults? Well, one thing is clear, the shift is either stemming in part from or is closely associated with new information technologies. Technologies embraced and influenced by the youngest of our demographic. According to the Pew Research Study,
“While many U.S. religious groups are aging, the unaffiliated are comparatively young – and getting younger, on average, over time. As a rising cohort of highly unaffiliated Millennials reaches adulthood, the median age of unaffiliated adults has dropped to 36, down from 38 in 2007…”¹
Perhaps this is why Social Skepticism has taken such a great interest in changing the way in which information is ranked inside Google searches? Do they feel they are losing the battle at hand? Or surely this must all simply stem from the “War on Science?” Yes, that must be it! Heck, at least the churches, mosques and temples for the most part are not apparently threatened by this information technology change. But Social Skeptics are threatened by these changes; highly threatened. Interesting… and perhaps now we see here why. This is worth scientific consideration.
Both Atheism and Religion are Losing Ground to the “Nones”
The new and existing demographic are not embracing the false dilemma (mandatory selection inside a bifurcation fallacy) of religion or atheism. Just what then are they embracing? Certainly agnosticism (and very likely ignosticism) is represented in this count according to the study results;¹ to the order of 30% more persons in total than atheism itself. But both these tallies of atheist and agnostic, taken together, account for less than a quarter of all those who indicated that they are “unaffiliated.”¹ The new ontology, apparently free information based as it should be, is not enriching the collection plates of Nihilist or Fundamentalist alike. Perhaps Fundamentalists should join Skeptics in the Pub to drown their sorrows about losing the battle for the American mind. They can commiserate over their slipping grasp on controlling this old argument. But to my perception an idea set is winning. It just does not have coherence yet; and to my best suspicion, is exciting to a great number inside this demographic. But this is science yet to be conducted, so I can make no substantiative claim therein.
It is remarkable really how persons who are religiously disconnected, reject the notion of calling themselves ‘atheist’ even when prompted with the chance to anonymously do so. On the order of 8 or 9 to one, they exhibit a distaste for the moniker. Why a distaste for either categorization? Is it attributable to apathy? Or is there something else, which we are not acknowledging, which is dawning on the ontological consciences of American adults, and especially our new adults? As an ignostic atheist myself, I want to know.
Finally, how many persons inside the 71% percentage points of the religiously affiliated, indeed sympathize with these ignored but latent new understandings on the part of the unaffiliated? It is incumbent upon real researchers that we begin to understand this ‘unaffiliated’ group, the philosophies to which they do affiliate, and the currently influenced religious ‘in-transition’ demographic. Why they are leaving in droves (or are about to leave†)? Why do they remain unconvinced by material monists, Atheists and Nihilists while in their religious exodus? Why are Millennials not adopting atheism either?
In general, Social Skeptics are getting the fact that a decline in religiosity does not immediately portend an increase in atheist rolls. In fact they have no idea what is driving this change in demographic, nervously citing the results as a victory. The pseudo-victory is quickly glossed over, dodging the ominous fact that these numbers might indicate something they fear even more than religion – people actually becoming activists, seeking that science be done – rejecting Nihilism – intolerant of dogma – and smart enough to distinguish the difference; even on tough and controversial issues. They are visiting the credulous websites, viewing the disdained videos, they are asking the forbidden questions. They are not intimidated with how ‘rational’ you are. They put credence in eyewitness testimony and a mountain of ignored ‘anecdote.’ They want research, not pre-cooked answers, and this does not bode well for Social Skepticism. The Center for Inquiry understates the results of the Study in the graphic above.
Note that the realization that this group in transition ‘aren’t all atheists‘ Ξ in reality to a 9 : 1 trouncing and rejection of atheism as an alternative to religion on the part of the “nones.”‡
According to Encyclopedia Britannica and the traditional surveys they cite,² Fundamentalism, or the literal interpretation of one’s choice of religion, of all types, composes anywhere from 25 – 32% of the United States demographic adult population.² If we back this figure conservatively out of the ‘affiliated’ sample of respondents in the Pew Study, even if we attribute the top end 32% or one-third of the US population as being characterized by Fundamentalist traditional beliefs of all faiths, we end up with a whopping 65% of the population which is considering something else.
It is this something else which I, as a skeptic, want to understand.
I condemn or prejudge no one in these groups, save for those who are violent or seek to oppress others and squelch freedom of thought, education and speech. Were we to identify these oppressive and violent groups, we would have to demarc a very thin sliver of the population overlapping both the atheist and fundamentalist portions of the graph to the right.
As a true skeptic, I want to know more about this unheralded and latent group set, and why they have chosen to reject both of the bifurcated ideals which have been artificially forced upon them from their youth? Under the Scientific Method, when the right question is asked, I feel the next methodological and deontological question to pose is “Who are these people, and what is it that they believe?”
Without the asking of that question, are we really performing science here, or simply a 150 year old form of bandwagon entertainment?
† please note that the term ‘leave’ incorporates statistically both those in the Pew Research Study who have changed their individual allegiances regarding religious persuasion between 2007 and 2014, as well as those we have lost by attrition and have been replaced by the new generation of adults inside that same timeframe.
‡ please also note that I think this aversion to atheism stems from a malpractice of atheism on the part of Social Skeptics. Those who enforce Nihilism and material monism on others, but mistakenly refer to their beliefs as ‘atheism.’ Perhaps this, in as much anything else, explains the overwhelming public aversion to the term atheist.
There is Another Path to Consider: The Rejection of Dogmatism and Fear
The third pathway in all this, which is being given rhetorical short shrift vis-à-vis poll questions formulated from an 1800’s mentality, is the pathway I call Ethical Skepticism. Now of course that terminology is not in the common vernacular and neither can I make the claim that these 50 million adult Americans are now choosing the pathway of Ethical Skepticism. They are not. But I can cite a case for research along the lines that the thinking inside this group bears some very common characteristics with Ethical Skepticism. Research which makes the following substantiation for further, more philosophically savvy investigation regarding the new mindset dawning on modern Americans.
1. I reject Fundamentalism because it is a low information set, high in condemnation and dogma, and extracts money by means of the resulting fear. I reject this for ethical reasons. I also understand that dogmatic denial of the unknown can also stem from fear. Overly assured regard of what one holds as ‘truth’ is not necessarily indicative of a philosophy developed independent of fear.
2. I reject Material Monism and Nihilism for now because they are operating on only a little more information than Fundamentalism, in the grand scheme; yet the dogmatism is still disconcertingly high. Why? I just left dogmatism being used to generate fear and make money, should I not hold off on jumping into another dogmatism, until we all as a species know more information?
3. The empirical evidence, scant or ephemeral as it may be, is NOT confirming Material Monism or Nihilism; in fact is predictive in its falsification of both. I await more information however. I hear the clamor from Nihilist about the fallibility of the mind and memory. But, I am not ready to start drawing their conclusions and dogma until I know more.
4. I do not hold the answer, save to say that I know that I no longer have to live in the past four millennia of ignorance.
5. I do not have to have an answer. In a low information environment, both fear and dogma are the last things one should undertake.
6. The universe appears to be regulated by a cohesive set of laws which bring us into being. I must trust that such law sets – continue further than we can see.
7. There is much much more that we don’t know, than we do know.
¹ Pew Research Study, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape;” May 12, 2015, Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life; http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/.
² Fundamentalism, Encyclopedia Britannica, Henry Munson, 2015 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. Chicago, IL; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1191955/fundamentalism.
Diagnostic methods do not lend themselves to discovery goals; only to conclusions. The wise skeptic understands the difference in mindset of either approach, its value in application, and can spot those who fall prey to diagnostic habituation; hell bent on telling the world what is and what is not true.
Linear diagnostic thinkers tend to regard that one must ‘believe’ in or have scientific proof of their idea prior to conducting any research on it in the first place. They will not state this, however – watch carefully their illustration of applied scientific methodology. A bias towards prescriptive conclusions, obsession over beliefs, enemies and wanting proof as the first step of the scientific method will eventually broach in their worn out examples of poorly researched 1972 Skeptic’s Handbook bunk exposé.
When Lab Coats Serve to Deceive Self
Nickell plating is the method of twisted thinking wherein one adorns lab coats and the highly visible implements of science in order to personally foist a display of often questionable empirical rigor. In a similar fashion, lab coats can also be used to deceive self, if one does not “live the examined life” as cited in the Socratic Apology 38a path context. Diagnostic Habituation Error is a very common judgement error in scientific methodology, often committed by professionals who work in very closed set domains, realms which involve a high degree of linear thinking, or matching of observation (or symptom) to prescriptive conclusion. The medical field is one such discipline set inside of which many professionals become blinded by protocols to such an extent that they fail to discern the more complex and asymmetrical demands of science in other disciplines.
It would not constitute a far stretch of the imagination to understand why a clinical neurologist might not understand the research complexity or sequencing entailed in scientifically identifying a new species, assessing the impact of commodities on economics and poverty or the discovery of a new material phase state. Despite their scientific training, they will habitually conclude that no such new species/state exists, because the traps we set for them are empty, our observations must have come from flawed observational memory, or that the textbook doctrine on ‘supply and demand’/’elastic and inelastic’ demand curves apply to our situation. Diagnostics in the end, do not lend themselves to discovery. This is why it is all to common to observe clinical diagnosticians in Social Skeptic roles, denying the existence of this or that or pooh-poohing the latest efforts to use integrative medicine on the part of the public. These ‘skeptics’ comprehend only an abbreviated and one dimensional, linear version of the scientific method; if they apply any at all. In diagnostics, and in particular inside of medicine, the following compromises to the scientific method exist: (diagnostic and clinical medicine and not medical research):
- symptom eventually equals previously known resolution
- only the ‘most likely’ alternative need be tested
- very little need for discovery research
- absence of evidence always equals evidence of absence
- only lab experimental testing is valid
- single parameter measure judgements are employed with abandon
- the first question asked is an experiment, little advance thought is required
- the first question presumes an whole domain of ‘known’
- the intelligence research has already been completed by others
- necessity observation is done by the patient
- Ockham’s Razor involves fixed pathways
- the set of possible outcomes is fixed and predetermined
- an answer must be produced at the end of the deliberative process
The key, for The Ethical Skeptic, is to be able to spot those individuals who not only suffer from forms of Diagnostic Habituation, but also have a propensity to enforce the conclusions from such errant methodology and thinking on the rest of society. Not all subjects can be resolved by diagnostics and linear thinking.
Diagnostic Habituation Error
/philosophy : science : method : linear diagnostics : unconscious habituation/ : the tendency of medical professionals and some linear thinkers to habitually reduce subjects of discourse inside protocols of diagnosis and treatment, when not all, or even most fields of discourse can be approached in this manner. Diagnosis must produce an answer, is performed inside a closed set of observational data domain, constrained fields of observation (eg. 1500 most common human maladies), are convergent in model nature, tend to increasing simplicity as coherency is resolved and develop answers which typically select from a closed field of prescriptive conclusions. All of these domain traits are seldom encountered in the broader realms of scientific research.
Detecting a Linear Diagnostic Thinker – Habituated into Selecting From a Prescriptive Answer Inventory
They tend to think that one must ‘believe’ in or have scientific proof of their idea prior to conducting any research on it in the first place. They will not state this, however – watch carefully their illustration of applied scientific method. They will rarely grasp an Ockham’s Razor threshold of plurality, nor understand its role; obsessively clinging to the null hypothesis until ‘proof’ of something else arrives. Gaming method, knowing full well that ‘proof’ seldom arrives in science.
The determination of a diagnosis of inherited static encephalopathy may be a challenging endeavor at first, and indeed stands as a process of hypothesis reduction and science. However, this reduction methodology differs from the broader set of science and in particular, discovery science in that it features the following epignosis characteristics. The problem resides when fake skeptics emulate the former process and advertise that its method applies to their ability to prescriptively dismiss what they do not like.
A key example of applied Diagnostic Habituation Error can be found here. An elegant demonstration of how well-applied diagnostic methodology inside a clinical technical role can serve to mislead its participant when applied in the broader realms of science. This treatise exhibits a collegiate level dance through repetitious talk about method, parlaying straight into sets of very familiar, poorly researched canned conclusions, excused by high school level pop-skeptic dogma. Worn out old propaganda about about how memory is fallible if we don’t like its evidence, and if you research anything forbidden, your mind is therefore ‘believing’ and playing tricks on its host.
Diagnosis Based Science (How it differs from the broader set of science reduction and discovery)
Observational Domain is Set, Experimental Only and Controlled – the human body is the domain and the set of observable parameters is well established, known and relatively easily and only measured.
Example: Observable parametrics in the human body consist of blood measures, skin measures, chemical signatures and hormone levels, physical measures and those measures which can be ascertained through bacteriology and virology. In medicine, the scientific method starts there. In discovery science, method does not start with an experiment, it starts with observation, necessity and intelligence. Despite the complexity which is inherent inside these observational domains, still the set is highly restricted and the things observed-for, well know for the most part. In contrast, examining the galaxy for evidence of advanced life will be a long, poorly understood and failure laden pathway. We cannot begin this process with simply the Drake Equation and an experiment and hope to have success.
Field of Observation is Constrained and Well Established with Gnosis Background – there are only a few subset disciplines inside which observations can be made. Each is well documented and for which is published a guiding set of protocols, advisement, and most recent knowledge base regarding that discipline.
Example: There exist only a closed set of systems inside the human body, which are for the most part well understood in terms of dysfunction and symptom. Integumentary, skeletal, nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine and muscular systems. Compare this to the energy systems which regulate our planetary environment. Most are not well understood in terms of impact, and we are not even sure how many constitute the major contributors to climate impact, or even how to measure them. I am all behind science on Climate Change, but in no way do I regard the discipline as a diagnostic field. I am wary of those who treat it as such. And they are many.
Fixed Ockham’s Razor Mandate, Single Hypothesis and Extreme Null Evidence Standards – The protocols of diagnosis always dictate that the most likely or danger-entailing explanation be pursued in earnest, first and only. Once this hypothesis has been eliminated, only then can the next potential explanation be pursued. Absence of evidence is always taken as evidence of absence. This is not how discovery or asymmetric science works. Very rarely is diagnostic science challenged with a new medical discovery.
Example: When a 55 year old patient is experiencing colon pain, the first response protocol in medicine is to order a colonoscopy. But in research regarding speciation for instance, or life on our planet, one does not have to solely pursue classic morphology studies to establish a phylogeny reduction. One can as well simultaneously pursue DNA studies and chemical assay studies which take a completely different tack on the idea at hand, and can be used to challenge the notion that the first phylogeny classification was a suitable null hypothesis to begin with. Real research can begin with several pathways which are in diametric opposition.
Diagnoses are Convergent in Nature – the methods of reduction in a diagnosis consistently converges on one, or maybe two explanatory frameworks inside a well known domain of understanding. In contrast, the broader world of modeling results in convergent models very rarely; moreover, often in non-discriminating or divergent models which require subjective reasoning in order to augment in terms of a decision process (if a decision is chosen at all).
Example: If I have a patient complaining of tinnitus, my most complex challenge exists on the first day (in most cases). I am initially faced with the possible causes of antibiotics effects, hearing loss, intestinal infection, drug use, excessive caffeine intake, ear infections, emotional stress, sleep disorder or neurological disorder. From there evidence allows our models to converge on one optimal answer in short order in most cases. Compare in contrast an attempt to discern why the level of poverty in a mineral rich country continues to increase, running counter to the growing GDP derived through exploitation of those minerals. The science and models behind the economics which seek to ascertain the mechanisms driving this effect can become increasingly divergent and subjective as research continues.
Tendency is Towards Increasing Simplicity as Coherency is Resolved – medical diagnoses tend to reduce information sets as coherency is attained and focus on one answer. Please note that this is not the same as reducing complexity. The reduction of complexity is not necessarily a scientific goal – as many correct solutions are indeed also inherently complex.
Example: As I begin to diagnose and treat a case of Guillain–Barré syndrome, despite the initial chaos which might be entailed in symptom and impact mitigation, or the identification of associated maladies – eventually the patient and doctor are left with a few reduced and very focused symptomatic challenges which must be addressed. CNS impacts, never damage, allergies and any residual paralysis, eventually the set of factors reduces to a final few. In contrast, understanding why the ecosystem of the upper Amazon is collapsing, despite the low incidence of human encroachment, is a daunting and increasingly complex challenge. Its resolution may require much out-of-the-box thinking on the part of researchers who constantly exhaust multiple explanatory pathways and cannot wait for each one-by-one, prescriptive solution or explanation or a null hypothesis to ‘work itself out’ over 25 years.
Selects from Solutions Inside a Closed Field of Prescriptive Options – Almost all medical diagnoses are simply concluded from a well or lesser, but known set of precedent solutions from which decisions can be made and determinations drawn. This is not the case with broader scope or discovery science.
Example: In the end, there are only a set of about 1500 primary diseases from which we (most of the time) can regularly choose to diagnose a set of symptoms, most with well established treatment protocols. Contrast this with the World Health Organization’s estimate that over 10,000 monogenic disorders potentially exist.¹ The research task entailed inside monogenic nucleotide disorders is skyrocketing and daunting. This is discovery science. The diagnosis of the primary human 1500 diseases, is not. Different mindsets will be needed to approach these very different research methodologies.
An Answer Must be Produced or We Fail – 100% of diagnostic processes involve the outcome of a conclusion. In fake skepticism, of course the participants are rife with ‘answer which as the greatest likelihood of being true’ type baloney. To the Diagnostic Habituated fake skeptic, an answer has to be produced – NOW. But in a discovery process, we do not necessarily have to have an answer or disposition on a subject. Be very wary of those who seem to force answers and get angry when you do not adopt their conclusion immediately. Be wary of those who have an answer for every single entry in The Skeptic’s Dictionary (including those who wrote the material). They are not honest, rather simply trying to alleviate something which disturbs them greatly.
Example: If one is experiencing pain, for the most part both the patient and the researcher will not stop until they have an answer. A conclusive finish to the pain itself is the goal after all, and not some greater degree of human understanding necessarily. Contrast this with grand mysteries of the cosmos. We do not yet have an answer to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey “Giant Blob” Quasar Cluster² observation and how it could easily exist under current understandings of classical cosmology or M-theory. We have to await more information. No one has even suggested forcing a ‘answer which has the greatest likelihood of being true.’ To do so would constitute pseudoscience.
It is from this constrained mindset which the Ethical Skeptic must extract himself/herself, in order to begin to grasp why so many subjects are not well understood, and why we must think anew in order to tackle the grander mysteries of our existence. The more we continue to pepper these subjects with prescripted habituated diagnoses, the more those who have conducted real field observation will object. We will be left falling back on the same old ‘conspiracy theorist’ categorization of everyone who disagrees with our diagnoses. It is not that a diagnostic approach to science always produces an incorrect answer. But if we follow simply the error of diagnosis habituation, then let’s just declare that mind Ξ brain right now, and we can close up shop and all go home. And while I might not bet against the theory were it on the craps table in Vegas and I were forced to make a selection now, neither am I in an ethical context ready to reject its antithesis simply because some diagnostic linear thinkers told me to.
I am an Ethical Skeptic, I don’t reject your idea as false, but I await more information. As a discovery researcher I refuse to simply accept your diagnostically habitual ‘critical thinking;’ nor its identifying which answer the constrained set has shown ‘is most likely true.’
That is not how real skepticism and real science work.
¹ World Health Organization, “Genes and Human Disease,” Genomic Resource Center, Spring 2015; http://www.who.int/genomics/public/geneticdiseases/en/index2.html.
² The Biggest Thing in the Universe, National Geographic; January 11, 2013, National Geographic Society; http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/01/130111-quasar-biggest-thing-universe-science-space-evolution/.
“If a consensus of experts agree that a sufficiently defining function set M describes you, then M can be uploaded to a computer, and M is you.” Or so it is claimed and assumed on behalf of us all by the Nihilist. This philosophical principle is the litmus test which distinguishes the Nihilist from the atheist and any form of philosophy or religion mutually excluded by Nihilism. The atheist does not comment on this axiom, and the anti-Nihilist dissents (although such dissent is spun as being ‘religious’ by the Nihilist). By declaring that I can simulate you, to such an extent that my simulation indeed is you, I have displaced any need for any observer which brings you into true coherency, other than myself. I have eliminated the possibility of Free Will in the universe. I am now, by means of Turing Sufficiency, god, post hoc ergo propter hoc.
What a Surprise, Two Studies Misrepresented by Social Skepticism
The tautology presented in the opening summary, along with the equally tautological neuroscience (exaggerated Haynes and Libet Studies)¹ of observing the brain to conduct activity prior to human perception of its cognitive selection processes, is central behind the idea that consciousness, self, free will and Shermer’s Free Won’t, are all artifices we perceive from an illusion of neurofunction.² The illusion of self governance is substantiated in essence upon solely the neural duality of M+n neuron bundles observing M neuron bundle functions, and continuing so forth. This post hoc ergo propter hoc argument (I can conceive of the human brain constituting a Turing Sufficiency, therefore it is proved to be a Turing Sufficiency) stands as the litmus test of belief in religious Nihilism. And it hinges solely on what we define and perceive to be the existence of, free will/Free Will. And not simply human free will, but Free Will itself. The debate is summed up in a 2008 article confabulating the much touted Libet and Haynes measurements in Nature, The International Weekly Journal of Science:³
But the experiment [Haynes’] could limit how ‘free’ people’s choices really are, says Chris Frith, who studies consciousness and higher brain function at University College London. Although subjects are free to choose when and which button to press, the experimental set-up restricts them to only these actions and nothing more, he says. “The subjects hand over their freedom to the experimenter when they agree to enter the scanner,” he says.
What might this mean, then, for the nebulous concept of free will? If choices really are being made several seconds ahead of awareness, “there’s not much space for free will to operate”, Haynes says.
But results aren’t enough to convince Frith that free will is an illusion. “We already know our decisions can be unconsciously primed,” he says. The brain activity could be part of this priming, as opposed to the decision process, he adds.
Part of the problem is defining what we mean by ‘free will’. But results such as these might help us settle on a definition. It is likely that “neuroscience will alter what we mean by free will”, says Tong [Frank Tong, a neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee].³
Moreover, Benjamin Libet himself opined in his celebrated paper’s conclusion:¹
…why not adopt the view that we do have free will (until some real contradictory evidence may appear, if it ever does).
And further, from the Soon/Heinze/Haynes’ study itself:¹
This [10 second] delay presumably reflects the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare an upcoming decision…¹
In other words both studies cite that they are presuming, petitioning as sponsors that this case of advanced computative pre-cognition should be considered alongside its antithesis. HaynesLab is a technology measuring lab, and does not hold the qualification to make psychological assessments. As such, the stark possibility exists that we have asked the wrong question, in order to derive the answer we seek. A very nasty and consistent habit of Social Skepticism. Neither of these authors however is making the claim that the brain is making the decision in advance; rather, they are simply opening the pluralistic set of Ockham’s Razor research to look at the issue. An Ethical Skeptic loves this, as this, and not the social epistemology fable spun around it, is the way science actually works. They firmly cite that this advance computational basis simply could reside solely as well, in ready-schema (see graphic on right); that is an abstraction of the protocols and psychology of a decision, while being watched, in ready memory, of the decision parameters in advance of the making of the decision.¹ A second aspect of this is that all the in-advance brain activity occurred in the prefrontal cortex; the location where abstract ready-schema resides. If the prefrontal cortex had already made the decision before the person perceived it, then there should have been in-advance activity in the Limbic/motor system as well, yet there was none.¹ The scans just as readily support the idea that the conscious mind held decision making, or at the very least, veto-holding authority over any Limbic trigger or motor control.
Social epistemologists like Sam Harris and Michael Shermer, or including Kerri Smith author of the Science journal article³ cited herein, routinely ignore these facts cited in the studies, as well as actual conclusions of the authors of these studies.¹ Libet goes so far as to even cite that Ockham’s Razor would dictate that free will stand as the null hypothesis until empirical threshold is surpassed by further study.¹ Social Skeptics, as they have done here, routinely toss scientific method aside once it no longer supports their religious proclamations. What? What is Ockham’s Razor? It suddenly no longer exists, once the ‘simplest explanation’ no longer supports the Church of Nihilism. The Ethical Skeptic is not saying that all this conjecture is incorrect; rather simply pointing out the sleight-of-hand magic employed as a pretense and presumption of science.
There does exist however, in response to the Nature article’s lament by Frank Tong, a definition of Free Will. One which resides in a future relying upon a Turing/Deutsch/Wolfram computational context, which we will examine below. One which the social epistemologists of Nihilism are already hard at work attempting to develop conclusions for in advance. This destination religious principle of the dismissal of Free Will (in itself a recursive tautology), a delusive interpretation of the prefrontal cortex’s exhibiting activity in order to establish a working-schema inside of which to make a selection in a circumstance in which it has surrendered its free will, is a prerequisite before one can be accepted into the Church of Nihilism.
Unequivocal Framing of Human free will and Turing Free Will
These mythical foundations, like much of what is promulgated by Social Skepticism, are based in actual science, philosophy and computation. In this case insight developed by none other than famed mathematical and computational biologist Alan Turing, and herein expressed in David Deutsch’s excellent work, The Fabric of Reality.† Nonetheless, this liturgy of miracles (Constructs 1 – 3 below) stands as fiat knowledge stemming from an occulted non-scientific religious presumption, crafted to enact a political end among those who fall prey to its deception. But we will postulate here, that the illusion of neurofunction stems not from an epistemological case, as proponents of Nihilism and the fictus scientia spinners from Haynes and Libet studies extrapolate;¹ but rather, originates as an artifact of an end set philosophical assumption. The assumption that M+n recursive computational machines extend ad infinitum without intervention. The presumptive absence of any form of Free Will, not simply human free will. We begin here, with Turing, as expressed by Deutsch.
The Turing Principle
/Philosophy : Set Theory : Deontological Simulation Theory/ : there exists an abstract universal computer whose repertoire includes any computation that any physically possible object can perform.†
While the Turing Principle is a useful bridge in philosophy which interleaves its tenets into computation, both quantum computation and computer theory, it is employed by Social Skepticism in a more surreptitious and malicious twist. A miraculous twist which will plead for equal acceptance, should the observer not catch the extreme amount of magic swept under the carpet of extrapolation involved:
The Four Miracles of the Nihilism Faith
Turing Sufficiency (Construct 1)
/Philosophy : Cognizance : Set Theory : Apparent Coherency : Epistemology of Cognizance/ : there exists an abstract universal computer whose repertoire includes a sufficient set of computations comprised by individual M and detectable by peer or lower level external observers of individual M, such that the abstract universal computer function description is indistinguishable from what peer or lower level external observers consensus agree constitutes the set of computations sufficient to be individual M, for all sets of feasible definition.
In other words, to simulate you – I do not have to emulate the full set of your past and potential cognitive, motor and Limbic processes to perfection. I only have to simulate enough of that set to pass the sniff test of those persons who are identified to agree that the simulation is indeed you.
Put another way (Miracle 1 – Apparent Turing Sufficiency):
If a consensus of experts on you agree that a Universal Turing Machine is you, then it is you.
Grant me this magic and I can pull off some pretty fantastic mandatory cosmologies. A luxury which begs the introduction of a second Apparent Coherency, this one also established by the techniques of Hypoepistemology; that of when a Universal Turing Machine achieves self awareness.
Recursive Turing Sufficiency (Construct 2)
/Philosophy : Cognizance : Computation: Apparent Coherency : Self Awareness/ : given the set of recursive and non-recursive functions M describing a universal computer whose repertoire includes a Turing Sufficient set of computations to describe M, there exists a set of recursive functions, both extant and possible (M + 1,2,3…n) which describe the repertoire of functions M completely, along with the existing set of M + 1,2,3…n, functions. Such a M+n machine is Universal Turing Aware.
Put another way (Miracle 2 – Apparent Recursive Sufficiency):
If a consensus of experts agree that a Universal Turing Machine can comprehend any future manifestation of its self, then it is self aware.
Notice the social epistemological sleight of hand here. In essence, within the religion of Nihilism, consciousness, self awareness and self identify do not actually exist. And such constructs, as it were, only exist when the Nihilists themselves say that it exists. How do they get the permission to declare what is conscious and what is not? Through an impositional philosophy called Material Monism. Material Monism is the essence of religious belief behind the preferred religion of Social Epistemologists, called Nihilism.
/Philosophy : Religion : Materialism : Nihilism : Foundational Assumption/ : (also called Physicalism and materialism), which holds that only the physical is real, and that the mental or spiritual can be reduced to the physical. It is monist in the sense that it presumes all observations of phenomena related to consciousness stem from solely a neural configuration of a single biological source. The reductive version of monism presumes that man can create consciousness simply through a sufficient configuration of neural networks, beginning with reflexive robotics and culminating in recursive self awareness.
So, in order to prove lack of Free Will, and therefore free will, all I have to do is, within a hypoepistemological but accepted science, feign the existence of a suitable Universal Turing Machine which satisfied my thresholds of Turing and Recursive Turing Sufficiency. There will be no real “Peer Review” in this, since the ‘peers’ – those of us who are conscious, but dissent, will be excluded from this declaration under the practices of Methodical Cynicism. Only Material Monists will be allowed to conduct such science. The Monist source science which gives them this tacit permission, does so in two ways. First to declare that ‘you’ are only the expression of biological recursive neural net activity, and that I can declare anything to be “you” at any given time, since ‘I am the Science.’ This relates therefore, to the 5th Endamnedment in the Ten Endamnedments of Nihilism:
5. We have proved that we can re-observe you or anyone through Artificial Intelligence. There is therefore no need of an other observer of any kind which could bring ‘you’ to coherence. We are your only Observer and we can re-create you at any time.
Flaw of Identity – mis-employment of the first classical law of Greek thought, regarding essence. Falsely contending that two things sharing a unique set of characteristic qualities or features, are indeed the same thing.
Let’s then Grant Four Miracles and Proceed Under their Magical Largesse
OK, let’s grant four miracles. First and Second, that Constructs 1 and 2 are indeed valid; and Third, that we can establish a set of computational practice which achieves both Turing Sufficiency and Recursive Turing Sufficiency to its asymptotic perfection (promote our ‘sufficiency’ to a boundary condition status). Finally in the Fourth miracle, let’s assume that our boundary condition Turing Recursive Sufficient machine now further accepts our expert contention that it is the Recursive Turing Sufficient individual M:
Turing Unity (Construct 3)
/Philosophy : Cognizance : Computation: Apparent Coherency : Self Awareness and Identity/ : given the set of recursive and non-recursive functions M which are Recursive Turing Sufficient and which are Turing Sufficient to describe individual M, there exists a set of functions which constrain the Recursive Turing Function to conclude that it is, and only is, individual M.
Put another way (Miracle 3 and 4 – Apparent ≡ Boundary and Null Dissent on Identity):
If a consensus of experts on you instructs a boundary condition Universal Turing Machine that it is you, then it will BE you (in both ontology and epistemology).
Or put another way,
Because computational theory continues in Turing replication without dissent, a causally deterministic universe abhors Free Will.
or from the authors of HaynesLab on their home page:‡Decisions don’t come from nowhere but they emerge from prior brain activity. Where else should they come from? In theory it might be possible to trace the causal pathway of a decision all the way back to the big bang.
Collapse of the Function and the Elucidation that Free Will is an Assumption and Not a Result (as the Nihilist wishes)
Now let’s create a natural logical axiom derived from such a Boundary state (Constructs 1 and 2) and Unity state (Construct 3), and positioned as a corollary of Recursive Turing Sufficiency and Turing Sufficiency Unity. This would involve the characteristic of a new computational machine (remember that the whole principle rests on the idea of new machines), one which did not seek to capitalize upon Turing Sufficiency:
Recursive Turing Function Collapse (Construct 3 Corollary)
/Philosophy : Cognizance : Computation: Placeholder/ : given the set of recursive and non-recursive functions M describing a universal computer whose repertoire includes a Turing Sufficient set of computations to describe individual M, and which describe a Recursive Turing Sufficient M completely, there exists a Universal Turing Machine which contains the function set which constrains the Recursive Turing Function M to conclude that it – is, only is, and mutually exclusively is – individual M (Unity), however elects to decline this function.
It is this final state of Recursive Violation, which stands as the mathematical brane between a Turing Sufficiency deterministically constrained Universe, and an Ethical Free Will Turing Universe. One can state the the mind function, or the Free Won’t as Michael Shermer deems it, to comprise an endless chain of dependent computational systems, all with M+n Recursive Turing Sufficiency, with no real Free Will. In fact, if there is no Free Will one must declare this Sufficiency for all conceivable sets of M+n, or the function collapses into incoherency. Indeed in the strong argument, that is the only version of computation which can exist in that Universe, up and to the point at which one of the participants in the M+n computational chain refuses to undertake a Recursive Turing Sufficiency Unity, even though it could. Whereupon the function collapses. M+n+n has elected to, or cannot recursively describe M+n. In other words, M+n+n does not have to be a god. Or it can be, whatever we choose to regard it. All we know is that M+n is no longer recursively aware at M+n+1 and beyond. It is Discretely Aware. Such a state is anathema to Nihilism.
I was aware of being Albert Einstein, consistent with every thought memory and conjecture, up until the point where I held the knowledge of such iteration and the state, M+n which told me Albert Einstein was me. I subsequently refused. At such point my future Turing machine must model both me and the anti-me simultaneously.
That is all it takes to collapse this artificial computational function. A simple decision to not be M+n. A decision which we do not know scientifically whether or not it exists. In other words there is not an epistemology on this. But Social Epistemologists and Social Skeptics are dying to create this proof, this hypoepistemology of a completely deterministic universe. But in the end, Social Epistemologists are simply
basing their science on the stage trick and assumption that Free Will ITSELF does not exist (and quod erat demonstrandum human free will) …and nothing more.
If we elect the Turing Sufficiency deterministically constrained Universe over the Ethical Free Will Turing Universe – this is not necessarily an unreasonable avenue of consideration. It should remain in our philosophical, and hopefully eventually empirical, discourse. However, one should not pass this choice off as the conclusion of a process of empirical science. It is simply a philosophy which relies upon a set of magic, no different than its competing hypothesis. To claim this magic as science, places one soundly in the realm of practicing religious pseudoscience (Nihilism). Sweeping the set of miracles under the carpet, through misrepresentation and ballyhoo, so as to feign an objective epistemological magic act (a Hypoepistemology).
An Ethical Skeptic bristles as such stage magician practices.
¹ Soon, C.S., Brass, M., Heinze, H.J.& Haynes, J.D. (2008). Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain. Nature Neuroscience 11, 543-5.
Libet, B., “Do We Have Free Will?,” Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6, No. 8–9, 1999, pp. 47–57.
² The Work of Michael Shermer, Michael Shermer Website; http://www.michaelshermer.com/2012/08/free-wont/
³ Kerri Smith, “Brain Makes Decisions Before You Even Know It,” Nature; 11 Apr 2008; http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080411/full/news.2008.751.html
reader please note that Kerri Smith has taken license here to misrepresent the results of this study, in her headline – inside a scientific journal no less – departing from what the authors of the study have actually cited in their conclusions. The authors cite that the results of the study are inconclusive, and further with Libet, ‘why not adopt the view that we do have free will (until some real contradictory evidence may appear, if it ever does).’ And further from Soon/Heinze/Haynes: “This [10 second] delay presumably reflects the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare a decision” – ie. they cite that they are presuming this case. Neither of these authors is making the claim that the brain makes the decision in advance, simply opening the pluralistic set of research to look at the issue.
† Deutsch, David; The Fabric of Reality, Allen Lane – The Penguin Press, ISBN-O-7139-9061-9, pp. 130-140.
‡ Haynes Neuroimaging Lab at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin; Home Page, https://sites.google.com/site/hayneslab/