The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

The Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy

I doubt, therefore I am (superior)

I'm a Skeptic Karfunkle terrified byMost of the time, an Appeal to Skepticism is employed when no real data is possessed and no real research has been conducted on the part of the challenging claimant; instances where the integrity of a prima facia counter-claim could be called into question (e.g. attempting to deny an observation made by a third party, without direct evidence).  It is in its essence, simultaneously an intellectually lazy boast, a pretense of self promotion to that status equivalent to a scientist (a form of ‘social peer review’ when one does not hold the qualifications) and finally an implicit or explicit disparagement of a targeted disliked party. The Appeal to Skepticism is often also a Richeliean Appeal, progressive and destructive in nature; employed as a method to circumvent the conventions of evidence, block the methods of science and to attempt to establish immediate unjustified credibility on the part of an arguer who must win at all costs.

We initiate our first step into examining the pitfalls of skepticism, by observing those who treat skepticism as a personal identity and goal unto itself; as opposed to its true application as a tool inside science method. Therefore, Ethical Skepticism can be viewed as a personal practice set which seeks to avoid the pitfalls portrayed inside application variants of Neuhaus’ and Goodhart’s Laws:

Neuhaus’s Law

/philosophy : skepticism : fallacies/ : where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.

Therefore, by this principle, we see how skepticism, as a goal in and of itself will always escalate to extremism. Because anything which can be encompassed inside a halo of ‘doubt’ will eventually be ‘debunked’ by default, whether or not research is done inside the subject at all. All it takes is a bit of club self-delusion and a little shove of doubt. This is encompassed then as an outcome of Goodhart’s Law:

Goodhart’s Law (of Skepticism)

/philosophy : skepticism : fallacies/ : when skepticism itself becomes the goal, it ceases to be skepticism.

Both of these principles become favorable leverage angles for the adept forces seeking to conduct Bernaysian social engineering. The social skeptics they target to participate in this ploy are smart enough to support the agenda, but not smart enough to spot the methods of counter-intelligence and the role they play therein. Nassim Taleb’s ‘Intellectual Yet Idiot‘ class of smartest people in the room.

Therefore, The Appeal to Skepticism is the ethical skeptic’s way of discerning actions and people who are pushing agendas, through a fallacy of self-identity:

The Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy (Informal)

Ergo Sum Veritas Fallacy (of Irrelevance)

1a.  The contention, implication or inference that one’s own ideas or the ideas of others hold authoritative or evidence based veracity simply because their proponent has declared themselves to be a ‘skeptic.’

1b.  The assumption, implication or inference that an organization bearing a form of title regarding skepticism immediately holds de facto unquestionable factual or ideological credibility over any other entity having conducted an equivalent level of research into a matter at hand.

1c.  The assumption, implication or inference that an organization or individual bearing a form of title regarding skepticism, adheres to a higher level of professionalism, ethics or morality than does the general population.

1′ (strong).  The assumption that because one or one’s organization is acting in the name of skepticism or science, that such a self claimed position affords that organization and/or its members exemption from defamation, business tampering, fraud, privacy, stalking, harassment and tortious interference laws.

Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy (of Irrelevance)

2a.  The declaration, assumption or implication that a consensus skeptical position on a topic is congruent with the consensus opinion of scientists on that topic.

2b.  The argument assumption or implication that an opinion possesses authoritative veracity or a proponent possesses intellectual high ground simply through allegiance to a consensus skeptical position on a topic.

3.   The presumption or contention that taking a denial based or default dubious stance on a set of evidence or topic is somehow indicative of application of the scientific method on one’s part, or constitutes a position of superior intellect, or represents a superior critical or rational position on a topic at hand.

Richeliean Appeal to Skepticism

4. /Appeal to Skepticism : coercion/ – an inflation of personal gravitas, celebrity or influence by means of implicit or explicit threats of coercive tactics which can harm or seek to embarrass a victim one wishes to be silenced. Coercive tactics include threats to harm family, contact employers, ridicule, tamper with businesses, employment of celebrity status to conduct defamation activities or actions to defraud, or otherwise cause harm to persons, reputation or property. This includes the circumstance where a Richeliean skeptic encourages and enjoys a form of ‘social peer review,’ empowered via politics or a set of sycophants who are willing to enact harm to a level which the Richeliean power holder himself would not personally stoop.

Inverse Negation Fallacy (of Presumption)

5a.   The asymmetrical strategy of promoting an idea through negation of all its antithetical concepts. A method of undermining any study, proponent, media byte, article, construct, data, observation, effort or idea which does not fit one’s favored model, in a surreptitious effort to promote that favored model, along with its implicit but not acknowledged underpinning claims, without tendering the appearance of doing so; nor undertaking the risk of exposing that favored model or claims set to the scientific method or to risky critical scrutiny.

5b.  Omega Hypothesis (HΩ) – the argument which is foisted to end all argument, period. An argument which has become more important to protect, than science itself. An invalid null hypothesis or a preferred idea inside a social epistemology. A hypothesis which is defined to end deliberation without due scientific rigor, alternative study consensus or is afforded unmerited protection or assignment as the null. The surreptitiously held and promoted idea or the hypothesis protected by an Inverse Negation Fallacy. Often one which is promoted as true by default, with the knowledge in mind that falsification will be very hard or next to impossible to achieve.

predatory doubt

Truzzi Fallacy (of Argument)

6.   The presumption that a position of skepticism or plausible conformance on a specific issue affords the skeptical apologist tacit exemption from having to provide authoritative outsider recitation or evidence to support a contended claim or counter-claim.

Pseudo-Skeptics: Critics who assert negative claims, but who mistakenly call themselves ‘skeptics,’ often act as though they have no burden of proof placed on them at all. A result of this is that many critics seem to feel it is only necessary to present a case for their counter-claims based upon plausibility rather than empirical evidence.”  – Marcello Truzzi (Founding Co-chairman of CSICOP)

These two general forms of The Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy eventually produce an habituation in individuals with compromised integrity, whereby they will begin to see denial as a mindset or reward reinforced mental state. Whether or not this condition is a strategic goal of Social Skepticism; regardless, the observed prevalence of this effect is undeniable. In addition, this habituation may be rewarded by the heady nature of power which comes through a Richeliean Appeal to Skepticism. In this final state, it is the reward of celebrity and power which is the goal of Social Skepticism, and not the status of science or correctness of the conclusions touted by the SSkeptic.

Negare Attentio Effect

/cognitive bias – unconscious self positioning/ – the unconscious habituation of a person seeking publicity or attention in which they will gravitate more and more to stances of denial, skepticism and doubting inside issues of debate, as their principal method of communication or public contention. This condition is subconsciously reinforced because they are rewarded with immediate greater credence when tendering a position of doubt, or find the effort involved easier and presume that counter-claims don’t require any evidence, work or research.

Explanation of The General Forms

An Appeal to Skepticism is an Irrelevant Appeal which in one of three ways, cedes control of an argument high ground artificially to the person attempting leverage by deception or means other than the evidentiary base.  Negations and Denials are control mechanisms, and in their truest sense, can be used to control the direction of science; however, when this control is ceded into individuals, it can be abused.  The Appeal to Skepticism is the implicit or explicit boast by the claimant that simply through the act of doubting, I have assumed a superior argument position, all things being equal.  This allows for a claim of default victory in undetermined pluralistic arguments, where there legitimately is no suitable basis of authority from which to declare such.  The focus by the claimant is typically on winning arguments, not in deriving clarity or value.  There are two general forms of this Fallacy of Relevancy.

Declaring Myself As A Skeptic Defaults Me Unearned and Unassailable Credibility

Whether I use my self-awarded moniker as ‘skeptic’ to attempt to drive home a political goal, or squelch a subject I dislike, or improve my standing and notoriety, self developed claims to skepticism are designed to serve exactly that: self.  Most commonly, self appointed skeptics are only skeptical about the set of data and ideas they do NOT believe, and tender their favorite subjects a coddling and shallow appearance of scientific veracity.  In similar fashion to the Texas Barn Logic Fallacy, where one shoots at the barn wall and then draws the target bullseye around the bullet holes, the faker skeptic will challenge every subject EXCEPT those which they surreptitiously are promoting.  So rather than taking the ethical pathway of developing hypothesis and methodical testing of their favored claims, the faker skeptic shoots at everything except their favored claim.  The only thing left standing, is that which they wished to promote in the first place.  This is called the Inverse Negation Fallacy approach to agenda sponsorship, and is a method of deception; and when used in this context by SSkeptics, is Deskeption.


(1) Astronomer Phil Plait is a skeptic, by his own admission.
(2) Astronomer Phil Plait should be published as an authority on a variety of subjects aside from Astronomy, such as issues of health practices, gun control, and bigfoot.

Assuming A Position of Doubt Affords Me Immediate Rational Gravitas

It is a damaging and deceptive tactic to create un-level argument playing fields simply for the benefit of personal victory and ego.  It is fallacious to presume that taking a denial based or default dubious stance on a set of evidence or topic is somehow indicative of application of the scientific method on one’s part.  Yes science uses doubt as a lever.  But science also understands when data has produced a sufficient threshold of plurality.  SSkeptics do not grasp this, as understanding was not the goal in the first place.  Inside the notorious Climate Change denial antics, those who defended Climate Change data – were quick to disallow “Deniers” the high ground of being called ‘skeptics’, as they knew the deceptiveness wound up in this moniker tactic well.  Taking a position of denial or cynicism does not guarantee one a position of superior intellectual approach, nor does it represent a superior rational position on a topic at hand.  As with most arguments, the mere presence of plurality, the fact that science has not yet definitively answered or addressed the question, means that ‘doubt’ can unethically be used as a battering ram, just as easily as it can be used to enforce an ethical falsification hierarchy under the scientific method.


(1) Evidence has been purportedly gathered that ulcers are caused by a bacterium, helicopter pylori.  I am in an association which represents antacid manufacturer interests.
(2) Denial of this claim as false, implies that there is a current understanding of what causes ulcers, which has evidence, and will tender our stalling the appearance of being a legitimate facet of ethical science.

This argument is fallacious because it only serves to aggrandize the person making the appeal to skepticism, and tenders the false appearance of science.  It suffers from the diminishing gains failure problem in that:

When the one making the Appeal to Skepticism is correct:  There is no added Value or Clarity gain (goals of Ethical Skepticism)     OUTCOME = ZERO SUM GAIN

When the one making the Appeal to Skepticism is incorrect:  Damage is done through obfuscation   OUTCOME = LOSS

This is why, on average, skepticism should be used as a technique which aids in good science.  But to take on the identity of being a skeptic, to chest-pound, dominate discourse and to begin to wield such self declaration as a political or argument position basis, causes no net benefit to mankind and science; only loss.

TES Signature

April 14, 2014 - Posted by | Argument Fallacies | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. […] It is not a method of evaluating claims – only science does that. This is an example of the appeal to skepticism […]

    Pingback by GMO Safety, Organic Farming, & Veterinary Discussion Blog | January 22, 2017 | Reply

  2. Please research the historical record.
    History is to politics what data is to
    physics. It is the empirical evidence writ
    large. You will find the very fallacious
    hollow claims, the automatic unthinking
    presumption of the intellectual high ground
    in the progressive era. This is merely the
    latest manifestation of the totalitarian
    ideology first,conceived in the 19th century.
    I can assure you that familiarity with this
    worldview and its history will yield predicative value. (They will be proned to infighting, should start happening within ten years or so.)The,scientism of which you speak was present in both communist and fascist thought. This is all there. Note: though these progressive tendencies usually stem from the left, this is not an endorsement of right wing politics as there exists a leftwing faction in democratic socialism that seems to avoid these problematic outcomes if history is any judge. Not advising you to adhere to any given worldview but only to read the available data should you choose. Rousseau and the French revolution through to Marxism in Russia to Mao, Rosenberg and NS etc. It explains all of this. Compliments on your insights.

    Comment by murderous machiavel | November 6, 2015 | Reply

    • Yes, you will find that I have some competent development along these lines in my posts: ‘What is Social Skepticism?”, “The Social Lie Called ‘Privilege’,” and “The Richeliean Appeal to Skepticism.” The Social Skepticism movement is totalitarian in nature, and political at its core. It has nothing to do with science. This is only a costume it wears. Once they are in power, history shows that they will kill any ‘scientists’ who dare to think differently than them.

      Thanks for the compliments.

      Comment by The Ethical Skeptic | November 6, 2015 | Reply

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