Ethical Skepticism – Part 7 – The Unexpected Virtue of Allow-For Thinking
Did your husband really chase a flying refrigerator doing Mach 8 and 15 G’s in his F/A-18 and get it filmed on his gun cam? Did your trustworthy neighbor really see a 2 foot tall man in a green suit and derby wander through his backyard yesterday? As long as we constrain to parsimonious coherency of definition, that which has been reliably observed, the ethical skeptic allows for potentialities and refuses to participate in the unwise dogmatic actions of denial and belief. He neither accepts nor rejects, but instead relies on the acute discriminating virtue of the Allow-For.
What is the Allow-For?
The Allow-For is the neutral zone of tolerance practiced inside the spectrum of disposition regarded by an ethical skeptic.¹ Put more simply – it is that set of subjects for which you have not decided either way, to dismiss or to accept. The Allow-For is the practice limit which keeps the open mind of the ethical skeptic from wandering into either methodical cynicism (the black box) or methodical clinging to belief (the blue box) as both are depicted in the graphic to the right. The practice of Allow-For thinking is not tantamount to a confirming belief nor a denial belief on the part of the ethical skeptic. It is not a belief at all, nor is it either simply synonymous with a ‘lack of belief.’ Rather, it is a practical allegiance to science, a pledge to allow a matter of coherently observed plurality its day in the court of science; no matter what methods our personal prejudices, provisional knowledge, bunk intolerance, and social pressures might tempt us to bias.
The Allow-For is an idempotent (processed but not altered in the processing) discipline which allows the ethical skeptic to maintain a field of coherent and possibly observed phenomena to exist as plausibility. It is a realm of scientific consideration, however not necessarily scientific investigation; as investigating everything in the Allow-For is simply not feasible. To a detective, the Allow-For would equate to the group of suspects in a murder. They are not guilty, they are not innocent. But filtering any person into the Lack of Allow-For and Acceptance domains too hastily is most often not a wise practice. Murders fall into two groups: Crimes of passion, and Crimes of deception. ‘Occam’s Razor’ is not a best practice in the latter. Yes, a suspension of belief is certainly in order, but even more importantly a tolerance of the Allow-For is critical in the mind of the ethical investigator. This mental discipline as well allows-for the consideration of multiple pathways of explanatory construct, in absence of a setting involving personal prejudice, belief or bias. It is encompassed, rather than by provisional stacks of favored explanations which are often then spun into truth or the null hypothesis, instead, a plural set of explanatory constructs which are given sufficient accommodation to be examined for merit, simultaneously. This is anathema to the fake skeptic, who favors the former practice over the latter. This ability to hold several explanatory construct in mind at the same time is embodied in the expression per hoc aditum:
Per Hoc Aditum
/philosophy : logic : ethics : alternative reasoning/ : according to this approach. The ethical skepticism version of provisional or stacked arguments, which allow for the examination of a postulate, construct or theory in an unbiased pathway of consideration; often as one of a plural set of explanatory approaches. The ability to hold more than one explanatory pathway in mind and fairly consider the strengths, shortfalls and ramifications of each without a priori based beliefs or prejudices unduly influencing the ability to discern the core argument/application at hand.
Nor is the Allow-For tantamount to Michael Shermer’s ‘whimsy;’ as there should really exist no fantasy, ethereal-speak, gonzo-terminology or incoherent babble inside the Allow-For. It is not a skeet shooting range where we entertain ourselves by seeing how smart we are in shooting down ideas presented to us on a proof-on-silver-platter we have demanded. This is the folly of the fake skeptic – the Methodical Cynic who proudly dwells inside the black box on the upper left, and makes sure that he gets lots of attention in doing so. Instead, those issues which contain a material subject, bearing a coherent definition and/or an observation base – even sometimes without a fully matured, at least nascent coherent definition; these are the elements of consideration which exist in the ethical skeptic’s domain of Allow-For.
What the Allow-For is Not
The Allow-For is not
- Gullibility/Stupidity/Credulity/Lack of Scientific Literacy
- Immediate acceptance of a conspiracy theory
- Immediate acceptance of anything
- Whimsy (Shermer)
- A provisional knowledge set
- A committed pathway of conclusion
- A practice outside of the methods science
- The Lack of Allow-For
- The same thing as a Lack of Belief*
Its Contrast with the ‘Lack of Belief’ Boast
Notice the last bullet point. The Allow-For practice is neither a belief, but more importantly for the ethical skeptic, nor is it solely a lack of belief – rather it is a species of lack of belief. Everyone claims to lack belief, except those who claim the belief itself. At least they are being honest. Not everyone on the ‘lack of belief’ side is being honest however. This is an important point which distinguishes the mind of the ethical skeptic from that of those who have arrived at Acceptance and those who practice denial based Cynicism.
There are several phenotypes of ‘lack of belief.’ Occulting your motive/agenda by gaming this equivocal domain slack is not a practice of ethical skepticism.
If you do not comprehend what the sentence above is saying, you are probably already participating in it (see Slack Exploitation (Ambiguity)). The virtue of the Allow-For requires a clear mind, and self-circumspect discipline. The species of lack of belief are outlined below, using the artifices of belief in God and the backyard leprechaun your neighbor saw yesterday, as examples of application in each case, where appropriate.
The Methodical Cynicism Disposition – the methodical cynic claims a lack of belief, however in reality actually possesses a belief and extreme commitment to a particular antithetical construct. He hints at this epistemic commitment through his disdain and intolerance for every other thought domain inside the argument at hand. This can be best exemplified by contrasting the Atheist, agnostic atheist and ignostic atheist.
Nihilist Atheist – claims to possess a lack of belief, however in practice dwells inside the realm of methodical denial, an apologetic crafted to defend a set of beliefs antithetical to the belief dogmatist. A lack of belief can dwell anywhere on the chart to the above right. So its claim is a distinction without a real discriminating definition. An apologetic which exploits philosophical slack, used to masque and defend a residence in the black box of denial. They know what a deity is defined as, and know that science has actively found no evidence for such thing through physical measures. They employ the ‘lack of belief’ moniker, and while correct, enjoy the perception luxury of equivocation, amphibology and apparent epistemic neutrality it affords them.
Note: By Margold’s Law, how one handles the material argument around deities is also how one will handle material arguments of deontological science. Take note ethical skeptic.
Backyard Leprechaun – as a skeptic and a person who regards physical measures and repeatability as the standard by which we arrive at conclusions, the Methodical Cynic is bound into a method which will never allow anything other than his dogmatic set of beliefs to ever rise to the surface. He rejects the little man in the green suit and derby sighting by his neighbor as a ‘sincere but deluded’ contention. Science has never found existence for leprechauns, therefore they do not exist (Wittgenstein Error or Appeal to Ignorance). He filters this information along with millions of other data which threaten his inner-peace, by means then of Occam’s Razor.
He gets upset with those who do not bear his antithetical belief set and practice. They are beneath him philosophically and intellectually. He softens over time into the appearance of instructing the scientifically illiterate. He sells himself as a ‘science enthusiast.’ He campaigns on Twitter and forums to decry these opponents who may be operating in a realm of ethic he does not fully grasp. He scratches his head at Ethical Skepticism and concludes that it must surely be an opponent in disguise!
He claims to lack belief, but does not possess the self-circumspection and Allow-For discipline which would enable him to observe the dogmatic set of beliefs he is promoting.
95% of Twitter and forum fights over ‘science’ occur between Cynics and Dogmatists pretending to represent science; indeed rather defending one set of antithetical belief, and another idea which is belief. An ethical skeptic student or journeyman should be armed with its philosophy so as to quickly and easily spot this condition before they enter any fray.
Ethical Skepticism and the Allow-For Virtue
The Acceptance Disposition – the scientist who has arrived at Acceptance, lacks belief because he is basing his gnosis on falsification or a preponderance of science. Popperian science standards. No belief is entailed at all, at any time in his processes or thinking. Were the accepted issue to be falsified tomorrow, he would not bear such epistemic commitment as to drive himself across the dotted red line and into dogma or cynicism. Acceptance disposition is a hard fought, non-celebrated litmus of parsimony and discipline on the part of the ethical skeptic. I have many constructs I have disfavored, which now reside solidly in the Acceptance disposition in my mind. Two things qualify a material issue into the Acceptance domain:
1. A consilience of evidence and successful record of theory prediction success underpin the material contention.
2. A reasonable set of plausible alternative explanations have all been falsified.
Backyard Leprechaun – the Acceptance professional begins with the ethical skepticism Allow-For, conducts science looking only for 2ft tall men in green suit and derby at the neighbor’s house and then arrives at his acceptance through a Popperian standard of consilience and falsification. He is a scientist. He finds small shoe footprints in his neighbor’s backyard mud. He finds it interesting, he accepts what his neighbor has contended, but he takes it no further from there – and awaits more opportunity to investigate.
The Allow-For Disposition
Agnostic atheist – does indeed possess a lack of belief and to his credit innocently struggles for the ethical comfort zone of the Allow-For domain. He does not know or not-know. He has simply fallen for the sleight-of-hand promoted by the Nihilist Atheist and the Dogmatist, that we have a coherent definition for what is a deity.
Backyard Leprechaun – since my neighbor was not drunk, is always highly trustworthy, and this was an observation in broad daylight and fairly close up – I tender him the benefit of a doubt and idempotently catalog this piece of information. I Allow-For his observation. I do not allow for a kingdom of leprechauns and a nearby pot-o-gold. But incrementally I allow for the potentiality entailed in this observation until more evidence arrives.
The Lack of Allow-For Disposition – the Lack of Allow-For disposition is a hard fought, non-celebrated litmus of parsimony and discipline on the part of the ethical skeptic. I have many constructs I have favored, which now sadly reside in the Lack of Allow-For disposition in my mind. Two things qualify a material issue in the Lack of Allow-For domain:
1. The matter has been falsified by a sufficient Popperian level of scientific method
2. The matter possesses no coherent definition and/or observational basis.
Ignostic atheist – lacks an Allow-For disposition for ‘God’ or ‘deity’ because the term bears no coherent meaning or epistemically observable base. They are gonzo terminologies, falsely implying meaning and often used to intimidate. The perception that the term god or deity has a definition, is only an apparent coherency delivered to us by society. The ignostic atheist does not deny deities or actively campaign against specific beliefs, he simply lacks the Allow-For, for god. He considers the babble of both the Cynic and the Dogmatist about ‘God’ to be irrelevant and not the (salient, sequitur, constraining, advancing) next step of scientific inquiry.
Backyard Leprechaun – since my neighbor was not drunk, is always highly trustworthy, and this was an observation in broad daylight and fairly close up – I tender him the benefit of a doubt and idempotently catalog this piece of information. I Allow-For his observation. I do not allow for a kingdom of leprechauns and a nearby pot-o-gold. But incrementally I allow for the potentiality entailed in this observation until more evidence arrives. Subsequently another neighbor is laughing at a party about their two year-old running through the street in their last year’s Halloween costume, a leprechaun outfit. I therefore then arrive at the Lack of Allow-For, that a real leprechaun strolled through my neighbor’s yard. I inform him of what I found out, and let him know that I did not take his observation lightly – I trusted him.
This is how science and ethical skepticism are done.
¹ Please note that when The Ethical Skeptic employs the initial caps version of the moniker, he is speaking of himself. When the lower case instance of the expression is employed, he is speaking of any student, journeyman or master ethical skeptic – those who bear an allegiance to a standard of practice.
And as a reminder, ethical skepticism is not a boast of morality, goodness or superiority. An ethical skeptic is critical of own thinking, almost to a fault. An ethical skeptic regards the fair treatment of others to be of utmost regard inside his ethic, save for those who are actively conducting or screening defense of human/planetary harm and suffering. Rather it is simply a blend of those facets of skeptical science and philosophical skepticism which can be brought to productive (and not intellectual self aggrandizing) mutual benefit for all mankind, inside the domain of one’s personal and social life. It is crafted to displace the current form of invalid social skepticism which is taught by agenda-bearing parties.
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