The techniques of subception function analogous to canned basic moves performed by students of karate. The YMCA/Skeptical Inquirer novice version of skepticism comprises the great preponderance of supposed skills employed by critical thinkers. In reality this defense is not related to objectivity at all, but rather fear and enormous ego.
Subception is an unconscious perceptual defense, used to deflect stimulus which threatens one’s core vanity.
As part of my ongoing diet and exercise regimen I recently began an in-depth study on potassium and its dynamic with regard to overall health and wellbeing. In the past, I have committed the error of potassium and other critical nutrient starvation, unwittingly as part of my overall lifestyle discipline. If one exercises and maintains a calorie-restricted diet, I have determined through analysis and experience that nutrient supplementation is essential – finding out the hard way that one cannot get all the nutrient you need from a ‘typical Western diet’ – contrary to the reflexive propaganda promoted by celebrity skeptics and health authorities.1
Encountering folk and pseudo-skeptic wisdom, promulgated in lieu of actual vetted knowledge has become commonplace whenever I study a new concept, and my foray into the wonders of potassium did not disappoint in this regard. “Be careful or your heart will go into arrhythmia!”, was the first knee-jerk caution I was given. Such discourse frequently reminds me of the old Far Side cartoon entitled ‘Nerds in Hell’, where a nerd standing in line in hell turns to the person behind them and says, “Hot enough for ya?”
At the time, I was breaking ground on methods to sustain a dietary intake of 60% of the US Recommended Daily Allowance for potassium (USRDA is 3400 mg per day for my age and gender).2 This equates to nearly 4 baked potatoes (the highest potassium-content food) each and every day of one’s life, or a whopping 700 calories. Easily 40% of one’s total caloric allotment inside a disciplined diet. From the remaining 1050 calories you must derive 110 other nutrients, or face (sometimes dangerous) malnutrition. Take it from someone who has actually tested and falsified the folk, academic, and pseudo-skeptic wisdom – noisy anti-supplement experts have no idea what they are talking about. Paramount inside this lesson, was the realization that I should have been able to spot this deception earlier by means of the very practices which such persons employ.
Of key importance is how well this play-in-health exemplifies the deep entrenchment by which methods of subception centerpiece inside our daily lives. The natural mind is both vulnerable to, and as well trained to utilize common, folk, and pseudo-wisdom in lieu of actual rigorous and disciplined skepticism. Instead of going and looking, we habitually fall back on easy and pat apothegm. Sometimes we get lucky and folk wisdom bears out as correct. However, most of the time such fiat acumen results in harm to ourselves and more importantly those around us. A core principle of ethical skepticism involves nurturing the meta-awareness to know when such harm could be at play.
The Meta-Awareness of Ethical Skepticism:
If I was wrong, would I even know it?
If I was wrong, would I be imparting harm?
I did not know, I went and looked. Everything else was vanity.
What I found was that fake skeptics used a series of reflexive and canned techniques in order to screen information from their conscious perception. I did not know, so I went and looked for myself. It turned out that the supplement skeptics were wrong, and they could not detect this by means of their circular methods. As well, they were imparting harm to their innocent victims who trusted that they represented the opinion of science, and even worse just flat out did not care that they were doing so.
An Invalid Martial Art
American psychologist Carl Rogers defines subception as3
a perceptual defense that involves unconsciously applying strategies to prevent a troubling stimulus from entering consciousness.
People who are in denial, especially in the example cited above, those who have not suffered endocrine/microbiome/autoimmune injury, will cling to ideas through what I call the illegitimate martial art of subception. Subception constitutes a series of canned-reflexive moves which the belief-laden person employs to deflect incoming observations, study, experience, or knowledge which threaten to introduce cognitive dissonance to their consciousness.
The tactics and techniques of subception function analogously to yama-zuki or kokutso dachi techniques mastered by students of karate. Just as is common within the body of karate practitioners, the YMCA/Skeptical Inquirer novice version of skepticism comprises the great preponderance of skills used by critical thinkers. What is uncommon within such circles is the requisite meta-awareness regarding the discipline’s employment. A critical focus upon not simply the tools, but how-why-when not to apply them; the art of becoming first a philosopher, student of both self and mankind (karate: budō), before pretending to use (abuse) its implements. Wikipedia’s article on karate offers an excellent exegesis on this very principle:4
[Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate] interpreted the ‘kara’ of Karate-dō to mean “to purge oneself of selfish and evil thoughts … for only with a clear mind and conscience can the practitioner understand the knowledge which he receives.” He said that “Karate is properly applied only in those rare situations in which one really must either down another or be downed by him.” [Those who abuse] what they have learned bring dishonor upon themselves.
[However, Funakoshi also] promoted the character trait of personal conviction. In “time of grave public crisis, one must have the courage … to face a million and one opponents.”
Such embodies a portion of the philosophy behind ethical skepticism. Choose your battlefields wisely, however learn to know when to stand in the gap for those who cannot defend themselves when the time of such need arises. Know how and when to oppose agency, maliciousness, and oppression. The typical practitioner of skepticism in contrast falls prey to a shortcoming in this regard – in that they will attack anyone and any topic which has been targeted by their syndicate, as a means to self-aggrandizement and celebrity. There is no meta-awareness in their consciousness.
Tactics of subception employed by the fake skeptic fall into several species groupings as shown below. Subception is the poorly trained student, bullying those around him with his supposed skill, canned moves bereft of the true discipline. It is part of the ‘everything else was vanity’.
Subception: The Vanity of an Answer Looking for its Next Question
Rhetorical Argument – when you don’t want the question to be answered
Memorized Apothegm – when you had the answer already
Ignoratio Elenchi – when you don’t want the question to be asked
The Art of the Professional Lie – The Tower of Wrong – answering the question through imperious authority
As Funakoshi is purported to have said, karate practitioners must “never be easily drawn into a fight. It is understood that one blow from a real expert could mean death.” Today’s foolish fake skeptics, science enthusiast experts, ready for war on any club-targeted topic, are falling hard now in the public perception – precisely because ethical skeptics are standing in the gap for those who are being harmed through their celebrity, intransigence, bullying, and agency.
The Ethical Skeptic, “Subception – The Invalid Martial Art of Skepticism”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 5 Aug 2021; Web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/?p=52082
- The Ethical Skeptic, “Calorie-Diet Pseudoscience Proves False” The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 25 Aug 2017, Web; https://wp.me/p17q0e-6Hu
- National Institutes of Health; Potassium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals; https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/
- Rogers, Carl R, Lyon, Harold C., Tausch, Reinhard: (2013) On Becoming an Effective Teacher—Person-centered Teaching, Psychology, Philosophy, and Dialogues with Carl R. Rogers and Harold Lyon. London: Routledge
- Wikipedia: Karate; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karate