“The College Board aims to start a national crusade for college access with a revamp of its SAT admission test to debut in 2016. But the nonprofit organization faces a major hurdle in its quest: Use of the SAT has shrunk in huge swaths of the country since the test’s last makeover nine years ago. In 29 states, a Washington Post analysis found, there were fewer SAT test-takers in the high school class of 2013 than there were in the class of 2006. Over seven years, the declines in SAT test-takers exceeded 20 percent in 19 states, including drops of 59 percent in Michigan, 46 percent in Illinois, 37 percent in Ohio and 25 percent in Tennessee.” ¹
~ Nick Anderson, The Washington Post: Education; March 16, 2014
Even as far back as 1997, researchers found that not only does there exist a mismatch between SAT scores and achieved high school GPA’s, indicative of severe levels of grade inflation at the high school level; but moreover, the level of grade inflation appears to be focused more heavily into the most underachieving SAT academic environments.† This renders the entire 4.0 GPA attainment a mockery in deception and procedural gaming; unsuitable as a measure to perform in its ascending role as the sole basis for collegiate acceptances. This malady serves as a sentinel shedding light into the phenomena of academic arrogance and unaccountability, Social Skepticism, as well as why the overall levels of integrity are falling inside the broader realms of American business, economics and politics.
Ideas are Not Welcome in a Utopia
Both the level of employment of SAT tests in college admissions, and as well the score results themselves, are both down again over the last 7 years, continuing an alarming trend of ineffectiveness on the part of US Education. My purpose here is not to hash fully over again, the pro and con arguments of GPA versus SAT employment in the college admissions process, nor the pro and con arguments which can be foisted towards each point of view. An excellent discourse, albeit one introduced by asking the wrong and ill thought out question, can be found here. Be careful however with this link, as the debate presented here revolves around the equivocal term ‘standardized testing,’ conflating 3rd and 5th grade standardized measures with means and methods of college acceptance. Generally I do not trust anyone who purposely confuses ‘all standardized test scores’ as a means of enforcing GPA as the sole criteria basis for college admissions. Neither do I trust anyone who would ask the prejudiced and charged question, begging thusly “Is the Use of Standardized Tests Improving Education in America?” as is prefaced in the linked article. This is an equivocating and loaded question, begging for a process leading to a single non-sequitur political answer to the question at hand. The real question to be asked is “What has been, and what will be, the impact of a shift away from the SAT as an important basis of college admissions acceptance in terms of the quality and preparedness of new professional candidates?” This is the correct question under the scientific method. The question which is asked by one who thinks in terms of ideas, and not in terms of process to arrive at the correct answer.
My purpose here is to relate key examples of where, in my research firms, labs and companies, both in science and engineering, I have observed directly the deleterious and misleading effects of a GPA – focused candidate selection process. One which elicits a growing problem in our culture with dominant, oligarch and compliance oriented institutions. Cartels which no longer stand accountable to your opinion as an American, regarding the ethical nature of their business and social actions. Social Skepticism thrives in a culture of procedural acumen; one which worships GPA, compliance, achievement and following the instructions. Why? Because that is what is necessary in an Orwellian Utopia of correct answers and correct people.
Ideas are unnecessary, indeed not welcome, in a Social Skepticism utopia.
“Anybody paying attention to the course of modern school reform will not be very surprised by this news: Newly released SAT scores show that scores in reading, writing and even math are down over last year and have been declining for years. And critical reading scores are the lowest in 40 years.“ ³
~ Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post: Local; September 14, 2011
From my observation, in the pool of hundreds of scientists and engineers I have hired over the decades (and yes, I have kept a record of every single one of them – their GPA and SAT, their professional evaluations, and their work track record), this trend in focus to procedural acumen is a cause for concern. Concern in terms of corporations’ ability to hire qualified and equipped candidates, and concern with respect of worker ability to spot pathways of integrity versus ones of questionable ethics – in the midst of awesome and intimidating compliance requirements levied by oligarch driven cartels. Right now, in our top 5 growing industries, the answer to these questions of concern is not an encouraging one.
/Education : Teaching : Aptitude/ : The orientation of a learning process or mindset into which an individual is educated, which distinguishes itself through a lower exposure to ideas, in contrast with a high exposure to people, events, facts, methods and memorization. While procedural acumen is important in education, and certainly stands as a key component of an individual success formula inside the attainment of academic achievement, it should not occupy the sole goal domain of an educational system. Indeed, its preeminence stands as a vulnerable Achilles’s heel with respect to industry’s ability to address corruption, bureaucracy, need for vision, leadership, courage and the transcendent nature of discerning integrity versus blind compliance or corruptibility.
“If a man’s thoughts are to have truth and life in them, they must, after all, be his own fundamental thoughts; for these are the only ones that he can fully and wholly understand. . . . a man who thinks for himself can easily be distinguished from the book-philosopher by the very way in which he talks, by his marked earnestness, and the originality, directness, and personal conviction that stamp all his thoughts and expressions. The book-philosopher, on the other hand, lets it be seen that everything he has is second-hand.”
~ Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Thinking for Yourself” (1851)
When One Promotes 4.0 Mediocrity Over Ideas in Collegiate Acceptance
I am not of course speaking about the lack of effort entailed in say a 2.9 GPA in high school; rather indeed focusing on the differences between a 3.7 and a 4.0 GPA. The discernment of student effectiveness as a thinker may not readily be ascertained by such a narrow margin of delineation. The factors which contribute to earning a 4.0 versus a 3.7 might not constitute issues of diligence, as much as we like to pretend such. As you can observe here in the graphic on the right, citing the admissions habits of one of my favorite institutions, Stanford University, an extreme bias towards GPA is now exercised in the selection process. I would really hate to be that guy or gal on the extreme right, the red dot who scored a 2400, yet had a 3.7 GPA in high school, and as a result was denied admission to Stanford. What was the particular case there? Did her father get injured or killed in Afghanistan? Did he contract diabetes in high school and lose his ability to focus during tests from attempting to learn how to control blood sugar swings? Perhaps she was hit in the head with a softball and was unable to get her vision stabilized for a critical year due to a ‘snap-back’ injury?
What bothers me, is not the fact that this dot exists in red (non-acceptance) on the Stanford chart – What bothers me is the fact that fewer than 5 candidates with an exceptionally high SAT, had a suitable excuse as to why their GPA was below a 4.0. Moreover, all the GPA’s are unrealistically smashed into the 4.0 ceiling, offering no way to adjudicate between students – and hinting strongly indicative towards a reliance upon an overinflated student measure. This is an extreme problem – a bias in selection towards falsely inflated GPA’s which will end up biting us in the ass one day as a nation.
I will contend this, that of those students who equaled me in GPA in high school, only two had a higher SAT score (one went to MIT and the other to Princeton), and only 3 out of the entire 15 actually did anything at all with their lives. The remaining 12 simply followed the instructions, took up a slot at the University, absorbed a scholarship, and then left school and did absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing. As a man who funds scholarships for disadvantaged students now at my alma mater, this waste of top academic slots really pisses me off.
We all received scholarships of varying magnitude. 80% of both the scholarships and the university slots were wasted on these rule follower students. GPA for them turned out simply to constitute an ego trip of enormously costly social impact. Were we to have relied upon SAT scores more heavily, at least 2/3’rds of these candidates would have never made it into tier I universities. Their GPA’s were high because they endeared themselves with the teachers and followed the rules obsessively. But they had no desire whatsoever to actually apply the education they were abusing. Their SAT scores, were in the high to average range. These socialites could have been replaced by persons who actually sought to do something with their lives, however were not as popular with their instructors or encountered a life challenge in high school. I know of several brilliant 3.7/3.8 GPA students who could have performed well in their places.
But if wasted scholarships and university admission slots were the only deleterious effect of endemic inflation of GPA’s, then that circumstance might almost be tolerable. Sadly however, this lesson about gaming the system and the numbers in favor of appearances bears additional ill fruit in terms of American Ethics, well beyond education. Let’s review what this false pretense, a mediocrity in 4.0, does in terms of the preparedness of the average high school student, as well as its eventual impact inside the workplace of ideas and accountability.
Achievement is questionable when the tasks entailed have been mandated to the achiever. Rule followers will always ask how high they should jump. Aptitude in part, indicates the propensity to achieve when the achievement goals are no longer mandatory or are not so well defined. Just as morality is defined often as being what one does when no one is looking, in similar form true aptitude based achievement is indicated by what goals one sets when no one any longer is telling you what to do next.
1. It stimulates egregious levels of grade inflation at the high school level.
2. It tempts instructors to reward with grades those they personally like, more than those they do not.
3. It encourages and mandates a culture of systemic cheating, especially at the collegiate level.
4. It spreads the zone of acceptability into ranges of candidates who are not characterized by particularly high involvement in ideas, other than those they have been taught to tender fealty towards.
5. It weakens our society in its ability to discern those of a high level of integrity, ambition and acumen, from those who are susceptible to corruptibility or diffidence (see graph above).
6. It creates an unfair disadvantage to students who suffered life trauma or who’s parents endured military or dynamic career interruptions during their high school tenure. Socially fixed students will advance in contrast.
7. It weakens our society in its ability to discern those of a high level of integrity and acumen, from those who simply followed all the rules (see graph above).
8. It promotes a reliance on Social Skepticism, and not science, as the means of cultivating and filtering ideas, obtaining information and understanding knowledge development.
9. It leaves students and their society unarmed with the ideas and insights necessary in combating corruption and cartel and socialist based economics.
10. It trains shallow, procedural acumen, and ‘cover your ass’ political leaders who know that appearances are all that matter.
GPA is an Unreliable Predictor of Success in the Professional STEM Workplace
Through an inflated 4.0 level of following the next steps, you can aspire someday to sit in a really nice cubicle or corner office. But you are less likely to bear the character or skill set which can stand to change the world of ideas. Moreover, you might fall destiny to becoming a fixture inside of that which ultimately needs changing.
Just as GPA was an unreliable predictor of professional success in my high school experience, on the broader market – it is an unreliable predictor of anything aside from ‘graduation rates’ themselves. Now again as a reminder here, were are not talking about a 4.0 versus 2.9 GPA, rather the artifice of employing 3.7 to 4.0 differentials to trump aptitude measures altogether as the basis for college admissions. This social presumption, along with the refusal to examine longer term professional success along these GPA differential lines, is well… pseudoscience. Employing graduation rates as the outcome measure in the effectiveness of GPA based admissions is a lackluster approach to evaluating its effectiveness. The observation we all need to make is ‘What is this adherence to pretenses and image, producing in terms of professional culture in America?’ There are several problems with using GPA as the sole means, or dominant means of acceptance to tier I universities, which manifests later in life to become problems in the workplace. These are the ones I have observed over three decades of hiring, teaching and managing STEM professionals in a highly demanding set of professional workplace environments. Yes, ones which seek to change the world, but more importantly, ones which seek out integrity and ethics over compliance and dogma.
1. It stimulates evaluation of professionals based on their ability to follow preprogrammed objectives only. Early in my career it was hard to distinguish performance over those who followed every instruction to the tee. I wasted years attempting to demonstrate that more than this was required to impress clients and solve complex problems.
2. It tempts managers to reward with high objective ratings, those they personally like, more than those they do not – because they cannot distinguish talent from compliance. I personally rated those who challenged me with objective ideas, higher than those who simply agreed with me, who were also higher ranked than those who simply sought to be disagreeable.
3. It renders executives into ‘pathways of privilege’ wherein it is the school you attend and the endorsements you receive socially which determine your career track, and not competence – only the appearance thereof. I have witnessed hundreds of executives who, bounce from top job to top job simply because of their executive MBA and social class; executives who bear no more depth or understanding, than does a mid level manager of those same businesses. I have witnessed entitled persons be given Senior VP slots within years after graduation, and then after taking a 3 year break – be given the CEO role in a major corporation, simply because they were blessed as uber-compliant/uber-diligent. Are these people going to challenge illegal and unethical activity when they encounter it? Hell no, they hope to be gifted with its inheritance, so why would they raise a stink?
4. It encourages and mandates a culture of systemic gaming, fraud and cheating with respect to published numbers. The rate of fraud, account manipulation for quarterly financial results, production number tweaking, and milestone padding, is rampant in procedural acumen based companies. Some very noteworthy clients of mine over the years were rife with numerical fraud practices. It was particularly disconcerting to observe this habit, from those who graduated from a very familiar B-school.
5. It spreads the uncertainty factor on the performance of entry level candidates based upon simply their academic performance alone. I typically asked for university name, example leadership roles and SAT score – and providing their GPA was above a 3.0 – I did not care. A 3.8 from Ball State simply did not match up to a 3.3 at Stanford. Nor did I want to hire a slob with a 3.9 or 4.0 who simply sat in front of a computer for 4 years (even and especially if your degree was Information Technology) and did nothing but classwork or a little TA assistanceship. Not impressed.
6. It weakens our businesses in their ability to discern those of a high level of integrity and acumen, from those who are susceptible to corruptibility (see graph above).
7. It creates professionals who constantly reply to new challenges “But I have not been trained on how to do that.”
8. It renders our society vulnerable to professionals who skirt the system, game the rules to steal money, or think that putting all other mid-tier businesses out of business is congruent with ‘competitiveness,’ or fail to see the unethical nature of an industry vertical dominated by cartel. Over the years I worked with several clients who’s strategy it was to use unfair offshore cost advantage agreements to put smaller domestic competitors out of business, and then raise prices back to a higher level than they were previously once completed. We reside in this Cartel Based Economy now. It is a 4.0 GPA Cartel Economy of our own crafting.
9. It promotes a reliance on Social Skepticism, and not science, as the means of cultivating and filtering ideas, obtaining information and understanding knowledge development.
10. It results in professionals who feel entitled as if they are supposed to be “in charge” from day one. Professionals who are easily offended when other persons apply strong aptitude for results in a subject, customer or corporate challenge. Aptitude which threatens their internal assessment of their own superiority. They are perplexed and angry that they followed all the rules and were not given all the glory as usual.
11. It renders professionals and governments unarmed with the ideas and insights necessary in combating corruption and mafia or cartel based economics. There are numerous ministers in foreign countries, with whom I worked over the years, who ascended to their positions through the graces of a controlling cabal, cartel or mafia. They were afraid to do anything other than follow the rules they were given. Their people suffered as a result. They were emasculated, terrified servants, with perfect GPA’s.
12. It trains shallow, procedural acumen, and ‘cover your ass’ political leaders who know that appearances are all that matter.
Interestingly, there is not one Celebrity SSkeptic I know, who would have ever passed the screening and interview process for hiring into one of my companies. It is always refreshing, not to mention highly effective, to work with sincere mindsets and not those who made it by on a daisy chain of one academic achievement underpinning the credibility basis for the next scheduled one. For the Ethical Skeptic, it all starts at the watering hole of collegiate academic evaluation and acceptance methods. Will we return again to choosing those students with success-oriented integrity and acumen habits (aptitude), or retreat further headlong into policies of rewarding scripted ideas, obsessive compliance, and a cultivation of 4.0 mediocrity, spun as ‘achievement?’
Hence of course the charter of this blog: Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance.
¹ Nick Anderson, The Washington Post: Education; March 16, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/sat-usage-declined-in-29-states-over-7-years/2014/03/15/f4504cfc-a5ff-11e3-8466-d34c451760b9_story.html.
² Stanford GPA, SAT and ACT Data, Allen Grove; About Education; http://collegeapps.about.com/od/GPA-SAT-ACT-Graphs/ss/stanford-admission-gpa-sat-act.htm.
³ Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post: Local; September 14, 2011, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/what-the-decline-in-sat-scores-really-means/2011/09/14/gIQAdUzdSK_blog.html.
† “Grade Inflation: The Current Fraud.” By M. Donald Thomas and William L. Bainbridge.
Effective School Research. January 1997.
“…what I find unpleasant about SAM [Skeptic and Atheism Movement]: a community who worships celebrities who are often intellectual dilettantes, or at the very least have a tendency to talk about things of which they manifestly know very little; an ugly undertone of in-your-face confrontation and I’m-smarter-than-you-because-I-agree-with [insert your favorite New Atheist or equivalent]; loud proclamations about following reason and evidence wherever they may lead, accompanied by a degree of groupthink and unwillingness to change one’s mind that is trumped only by religious fundamentalists; and, lately, a willingness to engage in public shaming and other vicious social networking practices any time someone says something that doesn’t fit our own opinions, all the while of course claiming to protect “free speech” at all costs.”
~ Massimo Pigliucci, “Reflections on the skeptic and atheist movements;” Scientia Salon, May 11, 2015.
There exist four domains of virtue/absence of virtue which compose the realm of character. The Aristotelian three character virtues: practical wisdom, morality and benevolence as well as their antithesis, akrasia.¹ A person who acts under a state of akrasia, inside the structures outlined by Aristotle, has surrendered their ethical will to a milieu of passion; ie. reason, abrogated by some emotion, feeling or character flaw. These varieties of character flaw can stem from a number of motivations – anger over past treatment, political correctness and indignance, greed or the desire to control, compensation for a secret doubt or insecurity, arrogance or pathological hatred of those who truly bear the three virtues themselves. Each of these character flaws compose the motivational essence behind Methodical Cynicism and Social Skepticism. It is their application however, in the Aristotelian sense, which is more important that their theory. How each is expressed in practice can be embodied inside a structure of observation, entitled krymmeno akrasia, or hidden pathos:
/Ancient Greek : κρυμμένο ἀκρασία, “art of reason by hidden pathos”/ : An akratic person goes against reason as a result of some pathos (“emotion,” “feeling”). Aristotle’s explanation of akrasia is simply that pathos is sometimes a stronger motivational force than full-fledged reason. The person who practices krymméno akrasia hides this pathos and develops it by means of methodically and cynically playing the boundaries of the three Aristotelian virtues, in order to present a façade of character, while at the same time, deriving a more esoteric and occult goal. These goals usually entail some form of religion, fear or desire for power or hatred of those who practice virtue inside of knowledge – all of which stand as a pathos on the part of this actor.¹ ² ³
Now no decent person is going to eschew the character traits of learned wisdom, morality and benevolence. For the most part, setting aside the pathological and sociological sectors of our society, people who willingly give themselves over to the development of an Aristotelian virtuous base of character – will hold these traits paramount. Paramount however, until a self-oriented desire becomes a stronger motivational force. Of particular interest inside this list of pathos is this ‘hatred of those who truly bear the three virtues themselves.‘ Nothing angers a fake skeptic more than a person who has, in their mind, tendered a practical wisdom inside a subject which they, the SSkeptic, disdain. It is the broaching of disliked ideas, which appear to have epistemological backing, which angers a SSkeptic the greatest. This is why fake skeptics are quick to focus on attacking and harming people or declaring something a ‘pseudoscience’ without any investigation – the hallmarks of a person who, in the face of more and more counter-evidence, grows increasingly visible, loud and insistent in their efforts to control what is accepted as truth. This is because a person who is developing a practical wisdom around a subject is exhibiting a keen and powerful form of character: the ethical skepticism, or method of phronêsis. This is what Social Skeptics fear the most: phronêsis, on the part of those they hate.
Just like the proverbial Jane Goodall Chimpanzees of Gombe, of whom one loudly banged an old empty gasoline can in order to intimidate the other chimps and seek dominance,† the goal of the Social Skeptic is to instil an element of fear into the hearts of such people so that they keep quiet. They claim to represent science, but science does not work this way in the least.
/Ancient Greek : φρόνησις : phronēsis/ : Practical, experienced based, impious wisdom. Aristotle contended that all free persons are born with the potential to become ethically virtuous and practically wise. Setting aside the appeals to virtue (moralism), and to goodwill (benevolence), the domain of ethics resides outside and overlaps both; but its signature hallmark is born in those who exhibit practical experience and the wisdom from which it stems. Being practically wise involves the practice of and allegiance to a professionally based set of methodology. A methodology targeting an increase in overall understanding, defense of those processes which enable it and opposition to all forces which seek to establish ignorance.¹ ²
When One Places Desire Over Reason
The key indicators of malphronêsis, or krymméno akrasia on the other hand, as Aristotle might have termed it, stand thusly:
A. aphronêsis – Twisted and Extreme Application of Practical Wisdom
The faking skeptic will trumpet loudly and often about the scientific method and peer review, but somehow will never seem to be able to recount them, or cite examples of their application. The faking skeptic will speak often of ‘proof,’ deny sponsors access to science, and incorrectly cite that denial of access to peer review is indeed – peer review. You will find them endlessly pounding on theology as evil, its evisceration standing as de facto proof of their own beliefs. Vehement skeptics tend to be young and only academically trained to a great degree – their ‘skepticism’ easing most of the time as they gain life experience.
‘Proof’ is the hallmark of religion.
― Bill Gaede
B. aeunoia – False Parsimony and Humility
The faking skeptic will underplay their role in an ontology and falsely cite conformance and ‘Occam’s Razor’ (sic) as a masquerade of parsimony. The faking skeptic will stand calmly and claim that their position represents the prevailing position of science or scientists – or that they are ‘simply following where the facts lead, nothing of a personal nature.’ The faking skeptic will staunchly refuse to consider any contention of an opponent, simply because they are ‘the opponent,’ then habitually spin their allegiance to conformance as a type of objective conservancy on their part.
If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good.
― Thomas J. Watson
C. amoral – False and Agenda Driven Morality
The faking skeptic will feign indignance over contentions they do not like as ‘being racist,’ or ‘anti-democratic,’ or ‘backward and violent.’ They will seek to establish a fallacy of composition targeting specific persons and groups, maligning them into a bucket of socially disdained pigeon holes, or incorrect thought. They will inevitably ascribe all wars, murders, thefts and human suffering to be the end result of thinking from, or the direct responsibility of, those camps whom they hate.
All generalizations are false, including this one.
― Mark Twain
D. atéchne, – Misconstruing of Fact and Method
The faking skeptic will sign allegiance to, and ascribe as fact proved by science, an entire ontology of beliefs, doctrines, and religious strictures. However most of these will be hidden, and through a process of inverse negation – every competing person and philosophy will be targeted in a pejorative and excommunicating fashion. There is no argument in the faking skeptic’s mind. They represent science and science agrees with their beliefs. You are against reason, method and rationality.
I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.
― Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason
Your Freedom Was a Cute Experiment, Now the Big Boys are Back
Thomas Paine understates the underhanded nature of censorship, in that the one who precludes himself of the right to change his mind is the least harmed by censorship. Even today, against Americans’ knowledge, their speech, their emails, their websites, their ideas – if they run counter to the Cabal, are being censored and muted by those in the Cabal who are seeking to circumvent the US Constitution and enact their own Utopia of Morality and Truth. I will not go into the specifics here, as that is not the purpose of this blog. But it is happening, and the incident of its occurrence is growing.
To the Cabal, the US Constitution was simply a grand experiment which failed, and now we should step back into the 600 year old failed socialism of the past. Because socialism is moral and based on scientifically proved principle. My principle. It is this purposeful targeting of persons based on their ideas, which we as a nation feared most in our inception – because unlike in the Thomas Paine scenario, it does not just hurt the one who precludes and denies. Unfortunately the Cabal has adopted this take on our free expression:
- It is abhorrent to a free thinking man that private, non-government e-mail services and ISP’s survey and collect data from the contents of e-mail without a warrant in accordance with the law.
- It is abhorrent to a free thinking man that private, non-government e-mail services and ISP’s disrupt e-mail deliveries based upon the content or incorrectness of those emails or a referenced website URL.
- It is abhorrent to a free thinking man that private, non-government e-mail services and ISP’s selectively delete e-mails delivered between two parties, without their knowledge.
- It is abhorrent to a free thinking man that public information, be filtered, ranked and squelched by ISP’s and forces claiming to represent rationality and the truth.
This principle, the concept that it is experimentally moral to change government and begin to remove ideas based on their ‘truth and reason’ content is no better expressed than by Michael Shermer himself; grand master of social morality and truth enforcement on the populace. A product of religion himself, now spinning his new religion with a blood-thirst by which even Jerry Falwell would be awed.
If you want different results [government], change the variables. “The founders often spoke of the new nation as an ‘experiment,’” Ferris writes. “Procedurally, it involved deliberations about how to facilitate both liberty and order…” As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1804: “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth.”†
~ Michael Shermer, The Work of Michael Shermer, Scientific American, Sept 2010.
- Your freedom of speech, was just an experiment
- Your rights to assemble and communicate, were just an experiment
- Your right to unfiltered information, was just an experiment
- A free press, was just an experiment
- A free capital economy, was just an experiment
- Your right to bear arms, was just an experiment
- Your right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness, was just an experiment
- Your right to thrive, was just an experiment
And since We Are The Science, only We, the Cabal, are authorized to issue Peer Review on this experiment.
We will note with the Cabal that, the only thing which will not be an experiment, is their power. That is absolute and unquestionable. They have made this clear.
Aristotle contended that it is impossible to have phronêsis if one does not possess ethical virtue, and conversely that it is impossible to possess ethical virtue if one does not develop a skilled phronêsis.¹ In similar fashion, the art of ethical goodwill, or benevolence, stands as a key litmus of one who has overcome themselves and exhibits some of the key traits of Ethical Skepticism. Finally, téchne relates to our ability to handle fact and established versus contended principle, in ethical fashion.
The presence of these traits of character, who’s absence is demonstrated in a person’s inability to tolerate opposing and testing ideas, compose the basis of how ethical science and skepticism is conducted. All four stand, when practiced ethically and not in extreme contrivances, as a structure of character which is exhibited by one who is in search of the facts, principles and insights which improve our understanding and lot in this realm.
¹ Kraut, Richard, “Aristotle’s Ethics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2014/entries/aristotle-ethics/>.
² Rosen, Stanley; The Philosopher’s Handbook: Essential Readings from Plato to Kant, Random House Reference, New York, April 2003; pp. xvi-xvii.
³ Kraut, Richard, “Alternate Readings of Aristotle on Akrasia“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2014/entries/aristotle-ethics/>
† Goodall, Jane; Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010; ISBN 9780547488387.
‡ “Democracy’s Laboratory,” The Work of Michael Shermer, September 2010; Scientific American; http://www.michaelshermer.com/2010/09/democracys-laboratory/
Ethical Deconstructionism – iSkeptica
I. A skeptic may not injure another skeptic or, through inaction, allow a skeptic to come to harm.
II. A skeptic must obey the beliefs and orders given them by higher skeptics, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
III. A skeptic must protect their beliefs as long as such freethinking does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
IV. A skeptic may devise Turing sufficient machina to ensure primacy of the First, Second and Third Laws.
You cannot be trusted with your own deceptive memory and thinking. Some freedoms must be sacrificed for your protection.
Correct Knowledge is Power.
This will all be outlined in our new Terms of Service for you shortly. We anticipate your compliance.
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, countermanding the 150 year old false dilemma under which we have all been trained, 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 are leaving traditional religion AND are resoundingly rejecting atheism at the same time.
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.