The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

A Statistical Profiling of Celebrity Wannabe ‘Scientific Skeptics’

Yeah yeah… We know, you are a skeptic. Yawn. But what else have you done, aside from foist your name inside a list of dead scientists, among whom you would otherwise never merit inclusion? Is your ego that fragile and desperate? A sweep through some analytics regarding social skeptics reveals some startling, yet not totally unexpected results. Psychologists who have inchoate activated the fragile and angry – a thunder chamber of sycophants dictating to everyone else what we all should think.

Remember the old game show called Hollywood Squares? The tic-tac-toe styled game set after which the show was themed, was staffed by a rotating/regular cast of celebrities who would answer questions on behalf of the game show participants. These celebrities were people who were supposedly famous, but for the life of us, no one back then who watched the show could recall why they were famous. These celebrities were famous simply for being famous. I always suspected that some of the ‘celebrity’ participants were in fact no-name citizens who had been inserted into the group of actually famous people, and were presumed to be themselves famous from then on.

Well that model bears curious utility inside the skeptic movement. Skeptics today stand upon a perch of celebrity that is derived simply from pretending to be skeptics in the first place – and a habit of promoting themselves opportunistically inside rosters of names which include personages of true brilliance, accomplishment and renown. However unlike Hollywood Squares, many of those personages are now deceased, fully unable to object over such abuse of their legacies.

Wikipedia maintains a suitably comprehensive listing of America’s most noteworthy (notorious) social skeptics (Wikipedia: List of scientific skeptics).1 Given the reality that Wikipedia allows social skeptics to run amok inside the bowels of its editing and practices of dissenting editor abuse, I feel fairly confident that all the acceptable Who’s-Who of social skepticism are therefore listed therein. Skeptics who are not listed in this tally have committed a misstep in some regard, as viewed by the Cabal – violated the Ministry of Truth’s policy on compliance in some way which has prompted their exclusion from the club. They have failed in their mandatory Schapiro Utterances. With the exception of those who earned their notoriety by actually accomplishing something of merit in their careers, something besides just declaring themselves to be a skeptic, I think we have the right listing inside the Wikipedia lineup (see footnote 1 above).

Were I a prominent physicist or mathematician, I would not want to be included within this group.

This is a cache of persons so desperate to get their names inscribed into a science hall of fame, alongside the likes of Brian Cox, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Feynman, that they would literally do and say anything, attack anyone, and push any form of half baked science – sell their very integrity – in order to be counted among such company. I never really completely grasped what was occurring in the minds of these poseurs, until this last decade of philosophical study. After decades of watching social skeptics and how they behave, I have come to the conclusion: It is all about the celebrity. Not one issue of advocacy entails an actual improvement in the lot of mankind. Feckless meaningless targets foisted to provide a theater stage, upon which they can show their wares – that seething miasma of the wont to be the smartest person in the room. They bear such a need to be right – that they must be identified with science, even if it costs every friend or ounce of self-respect they can bear forfeit.

No. It’s not by arguing with “kindness & care” that you break academic mafias, criminal organizations,
impostors (psychologists) & lobbying groups. It is by exposing them, making their lives miserable & targeting their audience. ~Nassim Taleb

So I thought I would take a quick walk through some of the statistics with regard to the profiles these pretenders have published on Wikipedia, just to see if some of my experience-based, yet nonetheless preconceived notions about the makeup of American skeptics, panned out. I was not disappointed. It was actually worse than I had thought.

Seven Inferential Breakouts Concerning Celebrity Wannabe ‘Scientific’ Skeptics

Light Representation of Relevant Degrees or Fields of Study

I am not sure whether to laugh or cry when I examine this first listing. Of the 81 celebrity wannabe and deceased skeptics inside the Wikipedia lineup, the largest contingent by far is represented by those who possess no degree, and have never served in any actual function which involves science, in their entire lives. The second largest, and first real professional group comprises psychologists, behavioral scientists and psychiatrists. This is followed by (refreshingly) physicists, philosophers and medical skeptics, tailed finally by a scant smattering of other science discipline representations.

That is a rather precipitous drop-off after ‘psychology’ and ‘none’. Should not this familiar Pareto bias concern those in the Cabal, at least a little?

Not simply over the matter of lack of qualification, but moreover concerning the propensity for establishing conclusion through the ease of ad hoc and pseudo-theory claims based upon the notion, ‘your mind created this’. A non-testable conclusion which explains everything, anything and nothing, all at the same time. A cadre of psychologists and magicians do not make for good investigators – as they both are experts in abductive inference – which is weak in its bootstrap, methodical and probative strengths.2

What one should note with grave concern, is that those professional groups in red, those who conduct real Karl Popper science based upon authentic disciplines of deduction, probative study and hypothesis, these compose a mere 15 individuals among the 81 skeptics listed. Of even more importance, half (7) of those individuals are also dead! A single engineer and a single mathematician? – yet 35 people who have not set foot in a university or a lab? C’mon guys, you have to do better than this. Does the idea even ever cross your mind to apply skepticism to yourselves?

Notoriety Attained through Invalid Thunder Chamber Promotion

Exhibit 1 to the right, demonstrates the breakout of the celebrity wannabe skeptic lineup in terms of how they attained their current notoriety. 11% of the listed members were inserted into the tally because they actually did something with their lives, of noteworthy accomplishment besides being a skeptic. Only 11%. Let that sink in, and you begin to understand inside this first graph that this is a peer pressure club. A club which foisted its approved names upon an important Wikipedia page, and then inserted the likes of Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov, without their permission, in order to assuage their enormous egos. Of this thin margin 11% however, many of the accomplished scientists who employed skepticism as a part of science (how it is supposed to be employed), are now deceased – no longer able to stand up and say ‘No, this is not what I meant by being a skeptic. We were not trying to establish another religion, nor another persecutor of science.’

The notoriety of the skeptics who have inserted themselves into this charade in reality stems merely from active promotion by their club. This club of pretenders composes 86% of the entire listing. The lineup actually includes 70 out of 81 persons who belong to science enthusiast activist congregations like The Skeptics Society, Center for Inquiry or Skeptics in the Pub. An abysmal set of surreptitious contrivances – the epitome of not simply echo chamber, rather of appeal to authority thunder chamber.

Thunder Chamber – an appeal to authority version of echo chamber, much more imperious in its insistence and intimidating in its effect. A club of science communicators – catalyseurs seeking conflict between laypersons and scientists, to enable furtherment of their power as a furtive liaison therein.

This is how they obtained the visibility implied by the Wikipedia lineup – through club authority and intimidation.  It is transparently unethical.

Little Relevant Qualification or History of Professional Accountability

Exhibit 2 outlines the portion of the members listed in the tally, who actually attained a degree or have done work inside a discipline which might even be considered as science. A mere 57% of this group of skeptics maintain a career or background which would allow them to be trained in skepticism or the scientific method in the first place.

43% of this group bears no scientific qualification other than ‘self-identified skeptic’. If you remove the deceased scientists from the qualified group, this number of non-science trained ‘scientific skeptics’ jumps to 49% of the living total roster of ‘science skeptics’. Half of those determining the scientific skeptic worldview, the most vocal half – bear no scientific credential whatsoever.

A full 35 members or 43% of the list (both living and deceased), as you can see in the ‘Relevant Field or Degree’ graphic above right, possess no degree, background nor experience in any professional or social task which would serve to hold them accountable as to their ability to apply skepticism or science. This ‘being held accountable’ in a professional context is a critical qualification when one is evaluating their candidate celebrity skeptic. People who have performed in a career wherein they are regularly held to accountability (skin in the game), tend to act in completely different fashion from people who began their career as performers or celebrities, or have rarely ever had to produce anything other than ‘critiques’ of others. In a social context, one can get away with pretty much anything; much like in high school. Perhaps then it is no coincidence that high school style bullying often becomes a praxis, best method and club milieu of science skeptics.

Hold no Peer Accountability and Tend to Think Like a Stage Performer

Eighteen members of the Exhibit 3 group, or 22% of the entire tally, were stage or even professional magicians or illusionists. Another 21 were podcast hosts or convention organizers. People who get a charge out of manipulative influence tend to nurture a deception game running as a background theme – as this is their life blood. Even if their primary act is to put on a display of magic – under the context of ‘this is an illusion’; make no mistake, a magician craves the heady rush of a deception – and this foible does not end at the stage exit. The more deep and pervasive the fake, the more satisfying the ploy. I am a fan of the ‘It takes one to know one’ method of expertise validation; however all such deliberations are executed inside the context of complete transparency/accountability. In skeptic clubs, and in situations where only unaccountable critique is exercised, these individuals can claim no such congruence with an ‘it takes one to know one’ ethic.  Yes, ‘It Takes a Thief’ – but we do not then appoint that thief, chief of police nor head of the FBI. Heck, even those roles stand under accountability as to their performance. Skeptics are never held to account.

An epistemic commitment to exposing fraud, when executed under the desire to profit, ridicule and sway public opinion by means of publicity stunts, comes commensurate with a bias for self-aggrandizement and hyperbole. Attracting attention to self is not the same thing as marketing, and plays a key role in all such pathologizing of the supposed credulous and woo believer.

It is not a coincidence that nearly half of the celebrity wannabe skeptics in the analysis turned out also to be stage magicians and podcast hosts. This summation did not include those who merely attended or presented at skeptic media events. Take this as a curious warning. The ability to unaccountably control what large numbers of people perceive and believe, is an intoxicating and addictive opiate indeed. If your primary goal is to derive money/attention from such activity, you may make no claim to scientific or skeptical elevation over those you mock or deride.

Are Getting Old as a Group: Either Deceased or Average of 61 Years Age

21% of our tally of famous and wannabe famous skeptics are already dead – as is shown by Exhibit 4 to the right. The rest of the group of 64 are inching closer to their own Kuhn-Planck Paradigm shift event each year. Tick-tock, tick-tock. There are very few individuals in the tally, four to be exact, who are below the age of 35. Of those who are young in the tally few are individuals whom, without enormous social backing, would be desirous to carry forward the torch of the 1972 Skeptic’s Handbook. There are no new Michael Shermer’s and Carl Sagan’s budding within this group of attention-seekers. Most skeptics in the younger group tend to be angry, punk and Goth accentuated podcast hosts – devoid of any qualification; being more concerned about who it is they hate than any particular cause of suffering and enlightenment on the part of mankind.  In my best estimate, zero of these four people will continue inside the formal skeptical movement after the current Cabal dies off.

This does not bode well for social skepticism. Sixteen years left, for your critical thinking fantasy to play out. Each year you can feel your Cabal’s control on the mind of the American public slipping away from your pretend science, corporate apologizing and ignorance cultivating hands.

Few Have Been Involved in Any Actual Science

81% of the list is composed of poseurs who are called in ethical skepticism, Jamais l’a Fait. They have never done science- never been held to account regarding their dispensation of poorly crafted skepticism. This was supposed to be a ‘list of scientific skeptics’ – yet the vast majority of those in the list are not professionally skilled in such a task at all.

Jamais l’a Fait – Never been there. Never done that. Someone pretending to the role of designer, manager or policy maker – when in fact they have never actually done the thing they are pretending to legislate, decide upon or design.. A skeptic who teaches skepticism, but has never made a scientific discovery, nor produced an original thought for them self. Interest rate policy bureaucrats who have never themselves borrowed money to start a business nor been involved in anything but banks and policymaking. User manuals done by third parties, tax laws crafted by people who disfavor people unlike themselves more heavily, hotel rooms designed by people who do not travel much, cars designed by people who have never used bluetooth or a mobile device, etc.

Exhibit 5 shows this most distressing statistic in the entire analytical results set. Inside social skepticism, few of the living members have actually done any real science.

Too Heavily Represented by Psychology and Soft Sciences

Finally, Exhibit 6 shows that the majority (67%) of those in the more valid professional subset of the Wikipedia skeptic lineup, work inside the softer sciences of psychology, medicine and philosophy. If however, you add to this soft science group, those 35 individuals who bear absolutely no science experience whatsoever, you end up with 82% of the entire tally representing persons lacking in deductive and objective scientific experience.

Psychologists who have inchoate activated angry promotion-minded sycophants – bent on telling everyone what to think, under the guise of ‘critical thinking’.

Psychology functions off of inductive and subjective inference and evidence sets. It is not that these disciplines are unimportant or inappropriate, rather simply that – if a group is going to foist a claim to scientific and technological prowess – especially claims of absence, or conclusion that all observations are MiHoDeAL (Misidentifications, Hoaxes, Delusions, Anecdote and Lies) in nature – exorcised inside a context of supposed hard nosed epistemology – deduction and objective science. Then perhaps they should select a membership which is more representative of disciplines which function upon those value sets.

All this cast of Cabal characters is going to do, is to foment conflict between the public and science.
After all, this is what serves to both obscure them from being held accountable,
and as well serves to legitimize their methods and purpose in the eyes of a duped science and lay public.

Inside ethical skepticism, we believe that the appropriate discipline skills, as well as depth of experience, need be brought to bear inside any claim to represent science or the philosophy of science, skepticism. When you excise the legitimate 11% of this Wikipedia celebrity tally, those who actually made a difference in the world before they were ever considered skeptics, the remaining 89% compose a pitiful Cabal, a cast of characters which falls substantially short of what humanity demands from such an important social-scientific entity.

Skeptics, we demand better. You have 16 years left in which to ply your fake wares. You need to up your game.

     How to MLA cite this article:

The Ethical Skeptic, “A Statistical Profiling of Celebrity Wannabe ‘Scientific Skeptics’”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 2 July 2019; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-a12

  1. Wikipedia: List of scientific skeptics; web, extracted 2 July 2019; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientific_skeptics. It should be noted that one on the list was excluded since they were listed as merely a Podcast Cohost with the included skeptic. However, if this person is included each of the below inference sets draws an incrementally more stark version of the same picture.
  2. The Ethical Skeptic, “The Map of Inference”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 4 Mar 2019; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-9r6

July 2, 2019 - Posted by | Social Disdain | ,

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