The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

Parents’ Basement Skepticism

Six questions which to ask your skeptic, all revolve around their ability to demonstrate inside their lives, the very mettle about which they so often preach. Thinking disciplines, hard work and open mindedness are positive traits which result in particular quality of life flags. The skeptic which lacks these signature life results, most likely also lacks the meritorious qualities which serve to produce them.

Parents’ Basement Skepticism has taken over from armchair skepticism. Armchair skepticism was a form of quasi-academic, cynical denial; a redeployment of the fear which religion created, inside a person who had rejected religion, but not its motivations of dogmatic denial. These were the people who insisted for instance, that the the gestures of Koko the gorilla, were mere imitations of her trainers, and not indeed a ‘vocabulary’.1 The religion was gone, but the fear based denial still resided in their core. These individuals were typically lazy, prone to pontification, angry and stuck in some form of academic cul-de-sac.

The new form of armchair skepticism, Parents’ Basement Skepticism, consists of social media fueled angry trolls; some of whom are compensated by industry front groups. Political and social activists who knew everything they needed to know, at age 17 – and may or may not have added a PhD in order to place an exclamation point behind it. They are often filled with hate (albeit demonstrated through virtue signaling), lacking adeptness at science and maths, struggling with their relationship or role inside academia, or pretty much failed at everything, seeking to punish those who they blame for their predicament.2 3

The Six Questions to Ask Your Internet Skeptic

There are six questions to ask this type of ‘skeptic’ when encountered inside issue advocacy or over social media.

1.  First question to ask a social skeptic:

Have you moved out of your parents’ basement yet?

2.  Second question to ask a social skeptic:

Does your quality of life reflect the critical thought, order and discipline which you so imperiously enforce upon others?

(having made some money, does not count – your household, love, career, children and charitable works should all exhibit a quality of leadership and character)

3.  Third question to ask a social skeptic:

How many trips into the field or direct studies have you personally funded or provided the work for?

(arm’s length statistical studies or ‘research articles’ do not count)

4.  Fourth question to ask a social skeptic:

What dissent from your club’s talking doctrine have you ever offered up to them for their consideration?

(‘dissenting’ but keeping quiet about it, does not count)

5.  Fifth question to ask a social skeptic:

What major contribution, groundbreaking original idea, or change to the world have you ever personally crafted or helped to deploy? And what did you do in response to the nay-sayers?

(deploying skepticism or critical thinking itself does not count. Having published an article or book does not count – in fact if one has more articles or books, than funded studies or trips into the field – that is a warning flag that they are a glorified Parents’ Basement Skeptic. And if you did not have any nay-sayers, ‘cuz everything you did was correct’, then you have not done anything)

6.  Sixth question to ask a social skeptic”

Have you ever changed your adult or professional point of view, based upon novel evidence?

(having ‘discovered science’ which changed your childhood indoctrinated mind about God, critical thinking or pseudo-science, and then never having had it changed thereafter, does not count)

For example, if one were in a discussion with Dr. Michael Shermer – one would find that he is a well regarded professional, with a disciplined lifestyle academically and personally, has made numerous trips to investigate anomalous activity, has chastised his skeptic cabal at times for their proclivities, and has made some major contributions to skepticism and philosophy. Finally, he has begun to change his mind on the methods of skepticism in recent years; ‘softening a bit’ as he puts it. All laudable characteristics and positive personal history flags. He has earned the right to stand on the stage of skepticism.

I disagree with his conclusions, and am wont to point out that he sometimes lets the indicators of a priori club bias and conclusion-mindedness slip through the smokescreen of sophistry, which belie his claims to suspension of judgement and desire to see the evidence first. But I now listen to Michael with an open mind because he has passed my question qualifications.

But there are several social skeptics, money-minded authors who churn out books with regularity, bearing titles like ‘Conspiracy Theory Refutations’ and ‘Critical Review of The Paranormal and Pseudoscience’ on hundreds of topics inside which they could not possibly have developed any expertise, nor to which they have contributed any actual field work. These fakers I count as Parents’ Basement Skeptics too.

The gist of these questions (discounting the first one of course) is – don’t talk to me a lot about skepticism and science.  Show me where you have really applied it in your life.

epoché vanguards gnosis


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June 21, 2018 Posted by | Agenda Propaganda | , | 1 Comment

No You Are Not a Scientist

Society struggles today with a problem of people pretending to be scientists. A PhD is not a holier-than-thou instrument through which one can claim authority inside every subject one desires. Such an appeal to authority outside one’s body of current and active professional research – is bullying, no matter how politely it is posed. This type of activity is now pandemic: authority-baiting risky science in order to protect profits, at the ignored peril of American citizens.

I do not claim to be a scientist. I would not claim the moniker of skeptic either, were it not for the necessity of how ethical skepticism is presented inside this blog. As a strategy advisor to trade groups, nations and companies I have a deep and varied experience base, ranging from being president of a research lab making groundbreaking discovery, to a director in intelligence, to designing some of the most complex operations on the planet, all the way to helping determine brand strategy for several familiar corporations. All things which demand intense research development and novel conjecture at risk, and under accountability. No, the average professional does not typically gain exposure to such a variety of expertise sets, but once a company finds a good strategic resource with a long successful track record – they will ask them to step in and address a variety of challenges. My client tenures are long, and my business repeat rate is one of the highest in the industry. These are things called ‘accountability measures’ – something with which typical PhD’s, with possible exception of the need to publish, are wholly unfamiliar.

Today social media struggles under not only the burden of fake news and fake skeptics, but also under a throng of apparatchiks posing as scientists. Those catalyseurs whose artifice is to foment conflict between actual science and the public. Those who wish to categorize 97% of society as doltish and ignorant, for observing that their families are suffering, considering forbidden ideas or witnessing forbidden things, and not bowing down to their insistent social doctrines – those who abuse ‘science’ as their civilian and innocent shield inside their illegitimate war on the American public.

A preemptive attack on the only entity with the authority to hold their cronies accountable. Create conflict between the public and science – declare the public anti-science and irrational – proceed with the corporate profit plan which places them and their families at high risk.

The Science Council defines a scientist in this manner:1

A scientist is someone who systematically gathers and uses research and evidence, making a hypothesis and testing it, to gain and share understanding and knowledge.

A scientist can be further defined by:

  • how they go about this, for instance by use of statistics (Statisticians) or data (Data scientists)
  • what they’re seeking understanding of, for instance the elements in the universe (Chemists, Geologists etc), or the stars in the sky (Astronomers)
  • where they apply their science, for instance in the food industry (Food Scientist)

However all scientists are united by their relentless curiosity and systematic approach to assuaging it.

Even though I might fall under the definition of scientist, by means of the Science Council framework, there are specific reasons why I would seldom if ever claim such a role. I might be a scientist inside certain issues of trade and operations, but I do not hold a PhD – as that tends to pigeon-hole professionals in my industry. I have hired many scientists and bear a great deal of respect for them, and what they have taught me over the decades. However, as you will notice in the definition above, neither is a PhD the qualification of what makes a scientist. Instead, there are several elements which are requisite before one can claim to be a scientist under a specific topic. These include:

    Who IS a Scientist

  • Current primary paid employment inside the sub-category of research, under independent registration or charter, or
  • A background of having studied a significant percentage of the body of research material covering the sub-category of research under discussion, and
  • A set of recent publications or a postdoctoral fellowship specifically focused upon incremental testing-based conjecture inside the sub-category of research under discussion, and
  • A body of research data which your team/lab/self has developed from direct study, and not science journalism sources, or
  • A well experienced PhD who has undertaken solely a teaching role or professorship in their area of discipline, or
  • A society or journal recognized role active in peer review inside the sub-category of research under discussion, and
  • A professional meeting the above criteria who has taken sabbatical, time to write a book, family leave or recent retirement.

However, over the years I have witnessed agenda heavy science conclusions published by the following cast of nefarious characters, who typically do not understand the related evidence, exaggerate scant statistical studies tallying absences of observation into proof of an absence, nor grasp the critical path of logic required to assemble a conjecture. Those who conflate possession of an intimidating word or phrase, with adeptness inside great ideas:

    What IS NOT a Scientist

  • Anyone who lacks curiosity or regards an issue of Ockham’s Razor plurality as ‘settled science’
  • A PhD, especially if in a semi or non-related field
  • A person who knows a great deal of irrelevancy (ingens vanitatum) and likes to demonstrate this as a method of intimidation
  • A person who uses forms of semi-truth or one of the six mechanisms of professional lying (see: The Tower of Wrong: The Art of the Professional Lie)
  • Someone who establishes a research corporation only to conduct one study for its funding corporation, and then retires
  • Someone who used to work in science and is still touting their PhD or history while now pursuing a new home/career activity
  • Anyone who beats you over the head with the ‘scientific method’ and subsequently violates it in the very next utterance
  • Anyone who (outside classroom or professional context) insists on being called ‘Doctor’
  • A member of the Association for the Advancement of Science
  • A fellow at CSICOP or JREF or…
  • Someone who has read The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe
  • Anyone whose ass sits in a pub, never goes into the field, and chronically pontificates about critical thinking
  • One who abuses their status as scientist to underpin their political or social advocacy
  • Someone who declares them self to be a ‘skeptic’
  • Anyone who displays a lack of integrity or exploits convenient ambiguity to push final conclusions
  • A science enthusiast
  • A critical thinker
  • Anyone who has never authored a single patent application nor research study
  • A science journalist or communicator, even with a PhD
  • A science journalist summarizing other studies by means of a ‘research article’
  • Anyone who counts a journalistic summary article as one of a body of ‘studies’
  • A corporate technology social media or media apologist
  • A lab technician conducting tests and filing testing assays/reports
  • A clinical technician or diagnostician
  • Someone who possesses a list of studies
  • A person fresh out of dissertation, or who has not worked professionally in that field since degree was conferred
  • Anyone who regurgitates a social apothegm, cannot identify the critical logic of their claim and how it is supported by the salient field research, or falsely appeals to their own authority (outside of philosophy)
  • One who feigns politeness in an effort to create and demean opponents by means of a well advertised status or history in science (not only a bully, but dishonest as well)
  • Anyone who bullies others by means of implied qualifications (including if they met the qualification of scientist above) – as this betrays an extreme bias of disqualification.

Society struggles, especially in these most recent decades of imperious oligarch technology profit, with people pretending to be scientists. This body of pretenders includes scientists themselves at times. A PhD is not a holier-than-thou instrument through which one can claim authority. An appeal to authority is nothing but that, an informal fallacy which brings one’s objectivity and integrity into question. But an appeal to authority outside one’s body of current and active expertise – is bullying, no matter how politely it is posed. This type of activity, pushing risky science in order to protect oligarch profits at the peril of American citizens, is pandemic.  It is an extreme mental pathology called Dunning-Kruger Projection:

Dunning-Kruger Projection (aka Plaiting)

/philosophy : bias : methodology/ : the condition in which an expert, scientist or PhD in one discipline over-confidently or ignorantly fails to realize that they are not competent to speak in another discipline, or attempts to pass authority ‘as a scientist’ inside an expertise set to which they are only mildly competent at best. Any attempt to use the identity of ‘scientist’ to underpin authority, bully, seek worship or conduct self-deception regarding an array of subjects inside of which they in actuality know very little.

This is a type of psychological vulnerability. A severe inferiority cover on the part of a person who must demean others in order to survive. And just as with fake skepticism, the ethical skeptic must constantly be on the alert for such catalyseurs, who seek to promote conflict between the public and what they interpret to be ‘the science’.

epoché vanguards gnosis


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June 15, 2018 Posted by | Agenda Propaganda, Argument Fallacies | , , | 3 Comments

The Nature of Elegance

One should draw hint in observing that a lie is often both simple to craft and complicated to defend at the same time. One should not fear complexity, rather complicated-ness and over simplicity; as these are descriptives of systems which lack elegance. Elegance is scientific parsimony in design; often breathtaking to behold, not because of its complexity, but rather because of its reach.
Elegance can sometimes be hard to discern if one is merely an administrator or blind recipient of its benefit. The ethical skeptic therefore always strives to determine the why, and not simply the how. To seek complexity when necessary and straightforwardness when not.

I have always been a why-man, and not a how-man. This tended to piss off my instructors in undergraduate school. But I have found the trait to be of enormous advantage ever since. Accordingly, I was examining my new espresso maker a couple months back and noticed an interesting little feature, which at first perplexed me as to why it was included in the coffee maker’s design. You see, if you press any of two buttons on the espresso maker’s unit control, then both the espresso and lungo lights flash simultaneously, until the unit has heated up, whereupon they both burn solid fluorescent green – and then the unit does absolutely nothing. Upon my first use of the maker, I paused for a moment at this inactivity, and wondered why the buttons just did not function under an ‘on’ and ‘off’ philosophy. Just press the button and as soon as the heating element heats up, the unit starts pumping water into the espresso glass. Such simplicity! Until 3 days later, when I did not have an espresso glass under the dispenser. That scramble to get a glass quickly under the spigot taught me what I needed to know. The why. What I realized through using the unit for a couple days, is that there are three steps to this particular espresso making process: 1. Heating the element, 2. Positioning the espresso glass and 3. Starting the heated water flow/pour. And since the heating of the element in step 1 took some time, what the two step button procedure afforded me was a chance to fill the unit with water, place the espresso capsule inside the machine and finally set the glass under the spigot before I then pressed the solid green button a second time, to start the aromatic flow of espresso. More complex for sure as a process, but also elegant.

The process I had gone through was what is called in industry, a ‘learning curve’. I had accomplished two goals in my learning curve. First I had discovered how to operate the machine correctly and, second and most importantly, why it was designed to operate in a particular fashion. The knowing of why, not just how, is the key which differentiates a designer from an administrator. My administrative assistant, ‘M’ as I call her, would have tackled this challenge much more quickly than did I. She, would have simply read the instructions for the maker and then just followed them. But I bear this nasty penchant for wanting to understand why the starting element for the espresso maker was designed the way it was. I wanted a period of discovery, not just instruction. I wanted to own the machine, and not have the machine own me. I was not an administrator by heart, but am an excellent researcher. M kept me out of trouble for years and years of administrative tasks which I did not accomplish with efficient skill.

Now I once used this penchant for discovery as a young officer in the Navy. Not satisfied with merely knowing how to operate my missile fire control system, I spent a night researching its configuration protocols and reviewing the algorithms used for a launch, so that I could understand the nuances of targeting and engagement. Why? I don’t know. I just felt it important that I understand more than simply the sequence of buttons one needed to push in order to get the missile to lock on, and launch. As a lark in curiosity therefore, I pulled out the engagement protocols and programmed them into my Hewlett Packard 15C programmable calculator, so that I could run through them back in my officer’s stateroom. I forgot about the program stored in my HP-15C’s memory until two days later, when we were ordered by our scene commander to simulate a missile engagement strike. Unfortunately, the missile fire control computer had malfunctioned just hours before the exercise was called – and the fire control team found that they could not calculate a solution for launch, which to successfully feed back to the scene commander. There would be hell to pay for this. So, I offered up to the senior tactical action officer “Sir, I have the launch protocols of the fire control computer programmed into my calculator.” To which he replied “Bullshit!” “No sir, I have all the input variables, output variables and protocols replicated exactly as the fire control system executes them, in my calculator. “Why the hell would you do something like that?” I shrugged and did not pretend an answer.  So we loaded the inputs into the HP-15C and plotted the telemetry and settings for a simultaneous time on top engagement solution. The scene commander replied to our launch report with the hoped-for response, “Roger, out.” Those two confirmatory words over the radio tendered permission for the entire combat team to breathe a sigh of relief. The senior tactical action officer just looked over at me and shook his head, grinned and then walked off. Two months later, I received orders to be discharged from my Persian Gulf billet and take a senior Intelligence Officer role in Washington, D.C. A place where why-men rise to the top, and how-men sit in cubicles assembling reports.

Knowing Why – What Differentiates the Straightforward from the Simple & the Complex from the Complicated

Over the years since, I have designed over 150 million square feet of industrial operating space, some of the most elegant, successful or even award-winning designs in the world. I have developed numerous information systems and novel information technology applications, and even led the crafting of entire national trading markets. This penchant for wanting to know the why – has served its purpose. Knowing why something works the way it does – or should work the way in which it will – this is essential for a systems designer. The systems designer relies upon an important early and foundational study effort, prior to designing anything, called a Requirements Definition. And whether one is designing a missile fire control system, an operational facility for a major corporation or a trade market between the nations of the planet, all such mechanisms hinge upon the important thought processes wound up inside the Requirements Definition phase. What one learns, what one gathers through the learning curve involved in applying Requirements Definitions to effect actual systems designs, is the distinction between a design which is complex, and a design which is straightforward; and hope to avoid systems feature simplicity or complicated-ness. A systems design principle known as ‘elegance’. Elegance, in science, does not mean fancy or highminded, rather it means:


/philosophy : science : systems design/ : the expression of parsimony in design. A descriptive which identifies the inherent trait of a design or process, wherein it comprehensively and completely accomplishes all goals of its crafting in the fewest stacked set of entities possible, and not one entity less.

The two design features indicating elegance (green in the graph above):

1.  Straightforwardness

2. Complexity (plural entities) – when critically necessary

Elegant systems are often breathtaking to behold, not because of their complexity, but rather because of their reach.

The simple translation for those who are Social Skeptics:

Complex –               Good 🙂       =  The goal is understanding

Complicated –         Bad   🙁       =  The goal is rent-seeking or money

Straightforward –    Good 🙂       =  The goal is effectiveness

Simple –                   Bad   🙁       =  The goal is promoting a sales job or lie

To understand why ‘simple’ can be a misleading principle, please read here: When Simple is Just Simply Wrong.

Elegant systems are often breathtaking to behold, not because of their complexity, but rather because of their reach (in effectiveness and extent). Straightforwardness can be breathtaking in its reach just as easily as can complexity. But these types of systems sometimes can be hard to discern if one is merely an administrator or blind recipient of its output/benefit.

As an ethical skeptic, always strive to infer or determine the ‘why’ of a system, and not simply its ‘how’.

In such a context, our common use of the terms ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ reveal an inadequacy at describing elements of professional systems design. Just as ‘rest’ is not synonymous with dreaded ‘idleness’; we fear complexity when we should not. What we should fear is ineffectiveness and bureaucracy. What is in slang described as being ‘complex’, is in actuality rather, complicated; and what is often described as being simple, is in actuality, straightforward. Simple and Complicated serve to damage mislead and destroy. Straightforward and Complex, are signature descriptives of designs involving elegance.

The Axis of a Lie: Simple to Issue – Complicated to Defend

The astute ethical skeptic should take note that a lie is often both simple and complicated at the same time. A lie is simple in its crafting, as the tip of an iceberg is simple, and often thrives inside an ocean of lack of information or complex understanding:

“A lie can travel half way around the world while truth is still putting its pants on.”  ~ Winston Churchill

But a lie is also complicated thereafter in terms of the level of effort needed to then protect it. Religions thrive on simple concepts of god, and thousands of years of apologetics and countless philosophers and reformations necessary in explaining why this simple model constantly fails to make any sense. A simple, yet complicated lie.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave …when first we practice to deceive.”  ~ Sir Walter Scott, Marmion

Both ‘Simple’ and ‘Complicated’ are errors in a system requirements design. Errors which must then be concealed through even more non-elegant tom foolery to in order to protect them.

In contrast to system designs which feature elegance, are those systems or ideas which have reduced entities to the point where the system no longer accomplishes its goals.  Such ‘simple’ systems may function, yet take a long time to betray their flaws to those who hold skin in the game inside their stakeholder base. They end up blowing up on their victims and causing sometimes enormous damage through being crafted in too simple a fashion.  Thereafter, since the liar is often in power and someone has benefited from this damage, the lie must be defended at all costs, and through enormous complicated-ness.

Take note, that complicated-ness often exists in the form of a woven matting of explanations, arising from the liar being in chronic reaction mode in exhaustive defense of the simple lie. Note this about the club of skepticism as well.

Some examples might include these evolutions of simpleton science, which now reside in the complicated defense stage of the lie:

Vaccine Safety Science – the ‘cost benefit analysis’ and followup protocol which served to justify a 49 event US vaccine schedule was – SIMPLE

Agricultural Technology – the impact studies on glyphosate which justified its over employment and ubiquitous presence in our food, came from studies which were – SIMPLE

CICO Weight Paradigm – the prevailing focus on calorie metrics as the sole source of obesity, diabetes and chronic inflammation are the results of dietary study which was – SIMPLE

In compliment to simplicity-lacking-elegance, is the condition of a system which is designed with too plural a set of entities, more than is required to ‘comprehensively and completely accomplish all the goals of its crafting’. This condition is known as Complicated-ness. Complicated-lacking-elegance. When a system is designed to be overly complicated, this is typically done in order to protect the parties benefiting from such complication. Banks, governments, money supplies – all complicated so that the system managers or the system itself benefits from its weakness in design. Some examples of this condition might include:

National Tax Codes/Governance – the government bureaucracies and codes managing the confiscation of assets from private citizens are purposely – COMPLICATED

Monetary Transfer and Banking System – the means of SWIFT and bank to bank transfers of large sums of money are designed to exploit the delay of fund transfers due to processes which are – COMPLICATED

Collegiate and Post Graduate Educational Systems – the paucity of lessons learned and actual knowledge imparted by colleges and universities is designed so as to extract the maximum amount of money possible from citizens, pamper academicians and create a labyrinth of activity necessary in obtaining a degree from a process which is overly – COMPLICATED

The amount of damage imparted through these six simple and complicated systems alone is immeasurable. But we as stakeholders, those who know the ‘why’ of these systems, do not hold the power to influence their design by the how-men. This is backasswards. As you can see, simple and complicated are facets of design – where the process does not involve serving the stakeholders inside a design’s impact; rather serving its operators instead. An issue of ethics.

Something in which we at The Ethical Skeptic are highly interested.

epoché vanguards gnosis


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The Ethical Skeptic, “The Nature of Elegance” The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 8 Jun 2018; Web,

June 8, 2018 Posted by | Ethical Skepticism | , , , | Leave a comment

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