The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

Exploiting Our Elitist Delusion Over Procedural Acumen

Procedure is the script which allows the commonly intelligent man to pretend among the truly brilliant. Researchers are slowly finding that it is not solely the prospect of money which prompts persons to dishonesty, rather it is how they are trained inside the rules of process.
Dr. EvilIn the end, it is not the diabolical but brilliant Lex Luthor’s and Dr. Evil’s of cultural mythology whom we must fear. Rather we must fear the cabals of cheating B students who inhabit the executive suites of the oligopolies and the institutions which dominate us. These are the ones who can justify evil by institutionalizing it as an aspect of the rules of process. No manner of comic book super hero, gadget or super power can overcome this force which threatens us.

PracticesSome people think that knowledge of this, constitutes musical acumen and talent:

GrandStaffExampleBach:

It does not.

Some people think that knowledge of this, constitutes academic acumen and adeptness:

laplace transform

It does not.

Some people think that knowledge of this, is indicative of one’s business acumen and prowess:

business acumen

It is not.

Some people think that knowledge of this, is indicative of scientific acumen and rationality:

experiment

It is not.

Do They Really Understand? Or is Their Proficiency Simply an Act?

cheating b studentsOne of the essentials to successfully leading a corporation of any significant size, is the vital ability to discern people; an ability learned through many years of fighting in the trenches in a successful multi-faceted and multidisciplinary career. That discernment resides around understanding the difference between those who brilliantly wield their subject, and those who must follow procedure, quotes, others’ opinions, buzzwords, articles, word, cheats, social inertia, catch phrases and propaganda in order to get by. The truly skilled, act as thought leaders inside their respective disciplines.  They re-invent their subject, sometimes single handedly. They perform in their discipline as does a virtuoso playing his instrument.

Social Skeptics on the other hand, are the method dependent B-students, the script followers, of the scientific realm. They know what a grand staff is, but have never written a song, they know what a Laplace Transform is, but have never reduced an actual systemic taper curve, they know the scientific method, yet have never generated even one original groundbreaking idea in their entire lives.

All through our academic lives, we are instructed as to the importance of process and procedure. Indeed, process and procedure are of utmost importance. The standards by which we develop our technology, our taxation and finance systems, our medical understanding and scientific knowledge are rightfully procedurally driven. Early in the learning process, one needs to follow rote protocol to aid in workplace safety, or to act as the foundation inside of which to understand a profession or trade skill. Setting this agreed reality aside for a moment, as with many things when pushed as panacea, scripts and guides can also become onerous, counterproductive influences and can serve as a tool employed to undertake misdeed. In our modern education, we are not instructed so much as to how to execute specific procedures, as much as we are taught the importance of following protocols and instructions to begin with. There is no doubt that our entire lives are imbued with the overarching lesson that we must follow the rules in order to be deemed acceptable.

But why is it important to be able to distinguish those who can grasp the essence of understanding, from those who are simply good at following instructions?

The Symbiotic Nature of Procedure and Cheating: Procedure masques ignorance, provides a playground for greed

pj o'rourkeBut what if this strength of standards, also resides as our most abject vulnerability? There are very few procedures I was taught in 8 years of undergraduate and grad school, which I actually can recall and recite, save for the fact that two things were paramount, or I would face a grade of C, or worse – Follow the Instruction – Master the Procedure. If these two things were not dutifully pursued, one would fail the exam, paper, test, course.

As a result, my eight years of undergrad and grad school were the LEAST educational years of my life.  Save for lessons in how to date, how to drink and how to compete academically with students who cheated, and how to handle TA’s or professors who abused their newfound taste for power over others. The contacts I made with those who would become friends and associates were probably more beneficial than were any of the academic principles.

The most difficult classes, the ones which everyone dreaded, those where the instructor challenged students to observe, think, theorize, solve and create, were my best classes. These instructors could care less about what you memorized the night before. They sought to ascertain your ability to truly comprehend, learn, and apply. Fraternity word, old test copies, instructor hacks, cellphone images from the previous morning’s exam, none of this would assist those who cheated, if the instructor were truly brilliant. The rote classes, fraught with mathematical reduction methods, course notes/textbook trivia bingo, memorization, principle regurgitation, or classes which were “word” driven – old copies of instructor exams passed around in libraries at fraternities and in some study clubs and hack websites, – these were my worst classes.  The latter constituting a completely useless waste of everyone’s time. Serious students studying extra hours in order to compete with the grade inflation brought on by those who sat in class like lumps on logs, and obtained the requisite ‘B’ by cheating. In other words, they followed the procedure.

Grades would consistently break out thusly:

A – The procedurally diligent

B – Smart procedurally minded students who applied methods of cheating

C – Smart procedurally minded students who did not have access to methods of cheating

A/B/C – The truly brilliant, who could care less about things which waste their focus

Drop – Smart students, who did not care

college professorBy some estimates, and according to the Education Portal, as much as 75% or more of college students reside in the Cheating B-student category above. This indeed was what I experienced, particularly in undergraduate school. Of interest to note for me, was the fact that in my experience, instructors were less displeased about the B-students who cheated, than they were about the truly brilliant A/B/C students, who just did not care to waste time on frivolous busy work. There existed a tacit turn of the back to the deeds of the cheating student, contrasted by a seething disdain for those who refused to play the game. It was not the ethics of the grade after all, which they were instructing; rather conformance to the adoption of process. One could cheat, but you had to participate in the way directed. The lack of student compliance thereof is what angered instructors even more than cheating. A conformance to protocol, not the love or ethic of knowledge, was the lesson.

In other words, procedure and protocol are fertile ground for those who cheat. They are a way of feigning knowledge of the subject, allowing those who wish to manipulate processes to hold a script which enables them to pretend to their position. A malady of ignorance which provides opportunism for those who seek a loophole or control.

An Honest Mind Trained for Dishonesty

But while students might cheat in their own industry, academia, studies show that they do not however cheat in another person’s industry, say banking. In other words, people are not inherently dishonest, they are trained to be that way by process. A recent study by Researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Zurich recruited 128 bank employees from a large international bank to anonymously cite the results of a coin toss. Obviously, given enough tosses the chaos of this binomial iterative should bring its observed mean to 50/50 balance between heads and tails.  What the researchers did was split the group into two, a control and a measure group. The control group was asked genetic questions before the coin toss and the measure group asked detailed questions about their career in banking (both groups being the same bankers).  They were both then instructed that the procedure would be to self-report the number of heads which came up in a series of coin tosses, and that they would received $20 for each head which they flipped. What the researchers found was that those who had been asked questions about their banking profession prior to the coin toss, even though these persons came from the same profession source pool, reported a 58.2% rate of heads, versus a report average of 51.6% from similar professionals who were not put into the mindset of ‘thinking in the mindset of their job.’

To further confirm their findings, the researchers compared the bank employees tested to a group of 222 university students, who completed this same coin-tossing test. The students in their case as well were asked either control questions or questions related to banking (e.g. naming tasks a bank employee might perform) at the start of the study.

“The primed students showed no higher level of dishonesty than the control students, suggesting that being in the banking industry, and not simply the thought of money, changes behavior.” †

In other words, it is not solely the prospect of money which prompts persons to cheat, rather the rules of process.  Much like in banking. This reality of the procedurally minded cheating B-student, portends ill winds inside of society, commerce, media, government, business and finance. We have just suffered through The Greatest Theft of Wealth in History¹ during the 2007/8 collapse, wherein $1 trillion was stolen from US citizens and passed into Elite Oligarch hands and employed for bailouts.¹ This process was undertaken by persons who should have never been in the positions to which they ascended in the first place. A key example of the damage caused by venerating following the rules and playing the game, in lieu of the ethical application of true talent. These individuals were, contrary to the popular McLean and Elkind Enron scandal book moniker and premise, not “The Smartest Guys in the Room.” These thieves simply had the best grades.

Myth – People who flout the rules, and live a life of diabolical creativity, constitute the majority of economic fraud.

Reality – The majority of economic fraud is perpetrated by cabals who have been trained to know, observe and game the rules; enacted by those who only understand the compartmented process they are directed/taught to execute.

Compartmentalization and procedure are the modern version of the National Socialist Workers Party plea “I was only following orders.”

In similar fashion, Social Skeptics are the Cheating B-students, of science. They are the pawn rules gamers, speaking of it often; nonetheless the abusers of process. Not fully comprehending, but memorizing the right things to say, targeting ill gotten gains. Conducting a masquerade of self indulgence in celebrity, self aggrandizement and power, foisted in lieu of the love of the subject.

The Two Misuses of Procedure

1.  As a means for scripting the cheat.

Our Tax Codes are procedurally driven.  Procedures allow for cheating. The more detailed the procedure, the more iron clad is the cheat.  It is estimated that $3.09 Billion has been lost through tax evasion which takes advantage of a cheater’s ability to follow the script, to avoid paying taxes.² I have been offered avenues of this nature numerous times in business, and I have refused to participate. I am not here to maximize a number. I am here to contribute what I can to the betterment of mankind and our common plight on this planet.

2. As a means of squelching undesired input or results.

The fact that there exists a list of a priori disposition on specific subjects, embargoed from being addressed or researched by science, is an indictment of the Social Skeptic agenda. I do not believe any of these subjects in particular, but my skeptic hackles are nonetheless raised, whenever someone pretends to be competent to dictate to me in advance of any research, what is considered to be ‘true,’ and ‘untrue.’³ This is epistemological fraud, and even if 99% correct, stems nonetheless from the procedural mind of those who exploit process; for the bedazzlement of others and cultivation of ignorance and personal power. It is process sleight-of-hand, taught and approved by the systems which encourage it.


¹ “The Greatest Heist in History,” Tilsen, Whitney; Business Insider, Jan 20, 2009; Business Insider, Inc., New York, NY.

² Tax Evasion: The Real Costs, April 11, 2011, Our Fiscal Security, US Government: (http://www.ourfiscalsecurity.org/taxes-matter/2011/4/15/tax-evasion-the-real-costs.html).

³ The Skeptic’s Dictionary (http://skepdic.com/).

† Bethany Hubbard, Bankers’ Bad Behavior Is Driven By Workplace Culture, Discover Magazine, Blogs, Nov 19, 2014.

July 9, 2014 - Posted by | Institutional Mandates, Tradecraft SSkepticism | , , ,

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