The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

What a Fool Believes He Sees

The wise man has the power to reason away.

My friend Kevin is an Atheist; or so he explained to me in the dark midst of a mission many years ago while we were both serving as officers in the Military.  I responded reflectfully in that same night’s conversation, outlining my frustration at not being able to derive a definitive conclusion about the nature of the universe, both understood and otherwise.  I surmised that this would place me solidly in the agnostic camp in most minds (although I understand it as ignosticism now).  He agreed.  And though we were both fugitives from a forced Catholic upbringing, for a moment on that watch we shared a partially common vision – albeit mine not seated under the same presumption of certainty as was his.

The Origin of Fanaticism and Correctness – an erosion of ethics:

Not knowing is just as valid a state of intellectual ethics as is the state of knowing, as long as the not knowing is not the result of cultivated ignorance.  The Ethical Skeptic avoids cultivating ignorance by resisting the temptation to filter and deny data.  He is perceptive enough to observe that the heart of one who practices such ignorance subconsciously perceives its own inner hypocrisy; its betrayal compensated for through fanatic methodical doubting and authoritative correctness.

Indeed, it is the integrity and rigor of rational thought which compels a person to not filter out data nor adopt unproven conclusions nor pretend that their science has everything already solved.  These are the disciplines of regarding data dispassionately along several possible constructs, a habit which is the signature of true intellect.  Even if that data shatters the longstanding paradigms of the erstwhile belief holder.  Especially if repeated data threatens to shatter old untested paradigms.  The Ethical Skeptic heeds such alert flags.

Black Vapor Man …thing

hatmanOf this nature was the dilemma faced by my friend Kevin when he called me from his office 19 years later.  Not a believer in paranormal phenomenon, Kevin was confronted with a ghostly mutiny of sorts inside his household. His daughter, son and wife all staunchly refused to live in the home any longer – until something was done about the ‘black vapor man.’  It seems his pragmatic, honors student daughter would, upon coming home from school while both parents were working and his son was at football, apparently see a man in a 40’s style trench coat and hat walk out from a bedroom down the hallway and down the front stairs.  It happened to her once, then again.  This second time was her limit, as she saw the man clearly, who at once turned to look at her while embarking on the first step down to the lower level.  She screamed, gathered her courage and ran down the stairs and out the door to a neighbor’s house.  The daughter refused to come back in the house for 3 days, staying with a neighbor girlfriend.

Again, poor Kevin was faced with this perplexity in that his son, practicing his martial arts moves, came face to face with a man in a trench coat and hat in the middle of the hallway.  A man who subsequently dissolved into a black shadow of his former self, and finally into a black growling mass of anomalous vapor.  Kevin Jr., a strong and fearless disciplined young man, stood his ground and watched as the vapor then moved away and disappeared.  His level headed concurrence with his sister, almost swung Kevin into realms of consideration into which he had never once ventured.  Kevin asked the family to meet downstairs that evening.  In the family meeting, his wife revealed that she had seen the black vapor a number of times, and had kept it to herself thinking once revealed, she would be regarded (knowing her husband’s vehement past proclamations of skepticism) as the credulist dunce of the family thereafter.  Kevin was a C-level executive of a Washington DC systems development and integration firm.  There was not an academic or intellectual slouch to be had anywhere in his household.

Eyewitness testimony is the lowest form of evidence in science. Which is sad, because it’s the highest form of evidence in the court of law.” – Neil degrasse Tyson

Arrant Bullshit… (see Margold’s Law). Someone please stop Neil before he hurts himself.

So it was after that fateful set of days, that Kevin placed his call.  “This is upsetting my whole realm TES.  My entire family is demanding that we move. This house cost a fortune, we just moved in, and I do not want to move out now simply because of some black vapor man, …thing.  So, you and I are friends and you are the only person, other than my family, with whom I have ever discussed such a topic.  What do I do?”

“Become a skeptic” I replied.

“What?  Become a skeptic?  You know good and well that I am a skeptic already.  I subscribe to the Skeptical Inquirer you know that.  I don’t believe in any of this stuff.”

“Listen to your family. Do not dismiss what they say, out of hand.  That’s the problem Kev, you adopted a spoon fed conclusion before you ever had any evidence.  That is not being a skeptic.  The time has come to be a REAL skeptic, and question the beliefs you adopted at age 15, as you know I did too, in a reaction to the Church.  Open your mind to more than ONE possibility.  Make no conclusion, seek to prove nothing.  Just because a bunch of academics say something, that does not make it true.  For me, denying the data so that everything fits what I was taught by cynics, means that when I left the church – I was simply switching religions – not really becoming a skeptic.  Ponder the possibilities fearlessly.  You do not have to research everything, nor do you have to believe anything.  Just do not filter data when it comes from good sources, like your entire family.  Even if you do not like the data, pursue it as sincerely as your favored data.  Take it to its end and keep your mind open. That is real skepticism.”

Kevin hired a psychic medium.  He does not speak now about what happened thereafter; had it been a Social Skeptic Authorized outcome – I would have heard far and loud about it.  They moved within six months.

I leave him be, until such day that he is open to discussing it again.

TES Signature

 

January 1, 2012 - Posted by | Agenda Propaganda, Social Disdain | , , , , , , , ,

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