The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

A Poem of Learning

 

In abrupt habit does fear congeal, as if winter’s precocious first frost
Whose facile merit may serve but to daunt and plague
Those drawn in quarters through muddy slough of the preliminary
Failing in abundance, taught doubt and blinded in ironic belied ardour.

Mute were it to be spoken and blind were it to be seen
Lessons mandate one know hither and believe not to be
Allons! Stand and examine – the field is not flat, the end line not set
Such contest is mastered in proving rules and not merely their let.

A word in wise offer seldom is match to one inward derived
For were I to excel in Plato, yet it remains, would he excel in me?
Myriad may arrive at the doorstep of song, swaying in their lament
Yet not one harmony have they issued of a familiar sought quaver.

Soft grasses caress bare feet, while supple lips send heroes seaward
Yet still does measure of the world scatter madly at its bound
The formulaic grows insoluble as the question increases in import
The maid quivers most for that man she can have not.

For our purpose hardens her brick and our love gives bind to her mortar
Not one celestial dancer dares even spiral save for its admiring onlooker,
She is adorned in elegant sequined starlight dress, woven of persistent fabric
Visible not for her bars, heard not for her warden’s call; Calypso is she.

While guards of our expectation adorn many an evanescent mask
They encircle us and presume we know not their game
Curiously their feet stumble, their hands fail in the grasping
For the envious inveigle whom they despise and the needful pursue gain.

Pull back its veil of mischief, her debility reclines within as a virgin lover
Cajole me no more, and wail amuck at the striking of your blush veneer
My heart and its loves are your privation no longer, not of pride but promise –
Its steelblade flash reflecting amidst the clinkshales where shackles lay shattered.

  

 

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April 22, 2019 Posted by | Ethical Skepticism | , | 2 Comments

Torfuscation – Gaming Study Design to Effect an Outcome

As important as is the mode of inference one employs commensurate with study completion, is the design of the study itself. Before one begins to attempt to reduce and analyze a body of observational resource, the ethical scientist must first select the study type and design that will afford them the greatest draw in terms of probative potential. The intricacies of this process present the poseur an opportunity to game outcomes of science through study design, type and PICO features, such that it produces outcomes which serve to further the political, hate or religious causes of their sponsors.

There are several ways to put on the appearance of conducting serious science, yet still effect outcomes which maintain alignment with the agency of your funders, sponsors, mentors or controlling authorities. Recent ethical evolution inside science, has highlighted the need for understanding that a researcher’s simply having calculated a p-value, applied an arrival distribution or bounded an estimate inside a confidence interval, does not necessarily mean that they have developed a sound basis from which to draw any quality inference. In similar philosophy, one can develop a study – and completely mislead the scientific community as to the nature of reality inside a given issue of contention or science.

We are all familiar with the trick of falsely calling a ‘survey of study abstracts’, or a meta-synthesis of best evidence, or an opinion piece summarizing a body of study from one person’s point of view – a ‘meta-analysis’. A meta-analysis combines congruent study designs and bodies of equivalent data, in order to improve the statistical power of the combined entailed analyses.1 The fake forms of meta-analysis do no such thing. A meta-analysis is a secondary or filtered systematic review which only bears leveraged strength in the instance wherein randomized controlled trials or longitudinal studies of the same species, are able to be combined in order to derive this higher statistical power. Every other flavor of such ‘blending of study’, does not accomplish such an objective. Such blending may, and this is important, actually serve to reduce the probative power of the systematic review itself. Nonetheless, you will find less-than-ethical scientists trying to push their opinion/summary articles upon the community as if they reflected through convenient misnomer, this ‘most rigorous form of study design’. One can find an example of this within the study: Taylor, Swerdfeger, Eslick; An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies; Elsevier, 2014.2

This equivocal sleight-of-hand stands as merely one example of the games played within the agency-influenced domains of science. With regard to manipulating study design in order to effect a desired scientific outcome, there are several means of accomplishing this feat. Most notably the following methods, which are all called collectively, torfuscation. Torfuscation involves employing a less rigorous study type (lower rank on the Chart below), an ineffective study design, or a type of flawed methodical PICO-time analysis, which will serve most often to weaken the probative potential of a study which could ostensibly serve to produce an outcome which threatens its sponsors.

Torfuscation

/philosophy : pseudoscience : study fraud : Saxon : ‘hide in the bog’/ : pseudoscience or obfuscation enacted through a Nelsonian knowledge masquerade of scientific protocol and study design. Inappropriate, manipulated or shallow study design crafted so as to obscure or avoid a targeted/disliked inference. A process, contended to be science, wherein one develops a conclusion through cataloging study artifice or observation noise as valid data. Invalid observations which can be parlayed into becoming evidence of absence or evidence of existence as one desires – by accepting only the appropriate hit or miss grouping one desires as basis to support an a priori preference, and as well avoid any further needed ex ante proof.  A refined form of praedicate evidentia or utile abstentia employed through using less rigorous or probative methods of study than are requisite under otherwise ethical science.  Exploitation of study noise generated through first level ‘big data’ or agency-influenced ‘meta-synthesis’, as the ‘evidence’ that no further or deeper study is therefore warranted – and moreover that research of the subject entailed is now socially embargoed.

Study design which exploits the weakness potential entailed inside the PICO-time Study Design Development Model3 (see Study to Inference Strength and Risk Chart below), through the manipulation of the study

P – patient, problem or population
I – intervention, indicator
C – comparison, control or comparator
O – outcome, or
time – time series

Which seeks to compromise the outcome or conclusion in terms of the study usage; more specifically: prevention, screening, diagnostic, treatment, quality of life, compassionate use, expanded access, superiority, non-inferiority and or equivalence.

Meta-Garbage, Deescalation and PICO-time Manipulation

One example of tampering with the PICO-time attributes of a study, would consist of the circumstance wherein only medical plan completed diagnostic data is used as the sample base for a retrospective observational cohort study’s ‘outcome’ data. Such data is highly likely to be incomplete or skewed in a non-probative direction, under a condition of linear induction (a weaker form of inference) and utile abstentia (a method of exclusion bias through furtive data-source selection). In similar fashion and as example, if the average age of outcome diagnosis is 5.5 years, and the average slack time between diagnosis and first possible recording into a medical plan database is 4 to 18 months, then a constraining of the time-series involved inside a study examining that data, to 4.5 years, is an act of incompetent or malicious study design. But you will find both of these tricks to be common in studies wherein a potential outcome is threatening to a study’s sponsors; agents who hope to prove by modus absens shallow and linear inductive inference that the subject can be embargoed from then on. Just such a study can be found here: Madsen, Hviid; A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Autism, 2002.4 A study may also be downgraded (lower on the chart below), and purposely forced to employ a lesser form of design probative strength (Levels 1 – 7); precisely because its sponsors suspect the possibility of a valid risk they do not want exposed. This is very similar to a downgrading in inference method called methodical deescalation – a common trick of professional pseudoscience. One may also notice that often, studies employing these three tricks are held as proprietary, concealed from the public during the critical study design phase. This is purposeful. This is oppression in the name of science. One may also notice that the ‘meta-analysis’ decried earlier in this article, cited this very study just mentioned as a ‘best evidence study’ inside its systematic review. If you meta-study garbage, you will produce meta-garbage as well (see Secondary Study in the Chart below).

The following is The Ethical Skeptic’s chart indexing study design against mode of inference, strength and its risk in torfuscation. It is a handy tool for helping spot torfuscation of the three example types elicited above, and more. The study types are ranked from top to bottom in terms of Level in probative strength (1 – 7), and as well are arranged into Direct, Analytical and Descriptive study groupings by color. Torfuscation involves the selection of a study type with a probative power lower down on the chart, when a higher probative level of study was available and/or warranted; as well as in tampering with the PICO-time risk elements (right side of chart under the yellow header) characteristic of each study type so as to weaken its overall ability to indicate a potential disliked outcome. The Chart is followed up by a series of definitions for each study type listed. The myriad sources for this compiled set of industry material are listed at the end of this article – however, it should be noted that the sources cited did not agree with each other on the material/level, structure nor definitions of various study designs. Therefore modifications and selections were made as to the attributes of study, which allowed for the entire set of alternatives/definitions to come into synchrony with each other – with minimal overlap and confusion. So you will not find 100% of this chart replicated inside any single resource or textbook. (note: My past lab experience has been mostly in non-randomized controlled factorial trial study – whose probative successes were fed into a predictive model, then confirmed by single mechanistic lab tests. I found this approach to be highly effective in my past professional work. But that lab protocol may not apply to other types of study challenge and could be misleading if applied as a panacea. Hence the need for the chart below.)

Study Design Type Definitions

PRIMARY/DIRECT STUDY

Experimental– A study which involves a direct physical test of the material or principal question being asked.

Mechanistic/Lab – A direct study which examines a physical attribute or mechanism inside a controlled closed environment, influencing a single input variable, while observing a single output variable – both related to that attribute or mechanism.

Controlled Trial

Randomized (Randomized Controlled Trial) – A study in which people are allocated at random (by chance alone) to receive one of several clinical interventions. One of these interventions is the standard of comparison or the ‘control’. The control may be a standard practice, a placebo (“sugar pill”), or no intervention at all.

Non-Randomized Controlled Trial – A study in which people are allocated by a discriminating factor (not bias), to receive one of several clinical interventions. One of these interventions is the standard of comparison or the ‘control’. The control may be a standard practice, a placebo (“sugar pill”), or no intervention at all.

Parallel – A type of controlled trial where two groups of treatments, A and B, are given so that one group receives only A while another group receives only B. Other names for this type of study include “between patient” and “non-crossover” studies.

Crossover – A longitudinal direct study in which subjects receive a sequence of different treatments (or exposures). In a randomized controlled trial with repeated measures design, the same measures are collected multiple times for each subject. A crossover trial has a repeated measures design in which each patient is assigned to a sequence of two or more treatments, of which one may either be a standard treatment or a placebo. Nearly all crossover controlled trial studies are designed to have balance, whereby all subjects receive the same number of treatments and participate for the same number of periods. In most crossover trials each subject receives all treatments, in a random order.

Factorial – A factorial study is an experiment whose design consists of two or more factors, each with discrete possible values or ‘levels’, and whose experimental units take on all possible combinations of these levels across all such factors. A full factorial design may also be called a fully-crossed design. Such an experiment allows the investigator to study the effect of each factor on the response variable or outcome, as well as the effects of interactions between factors on the response variable or outcome.

Blind Trial – A trial or experiment in which information about the test is masked (kept) from the participant (single blind) and/or the test administerer (double blind), to reduce or eliminate bias, until after a trial outcome is known.

Open Trial – A type of non-randomized controlled trial in which both the researchers and participants know which treatment is being administered.

Placebo-Control Trial – A study which blindly and randomly allocates similar patients to a control group that receives a placebo and an experimental test group. Therein investigators can ensure that any possible placebo effect will be minimized in the final statistical analysis.

Interventional (Before and After/Interrupted Time Series/Historical Control) – A study in which observations are made before and after the implementation of an intervention, both in a group that receives the intervention and in a control group that does not. A study that uses observations at multiple time points before and after an intervention (the ‘interruption’). The design attempts to detect whether the intervention has had an effect significantly greater than any underlying trend over time.

Adaptive Clinical Trial – A controlled trial that evaluates a medical device or treatment by observing participant outcomes (and possibly other measures, such as side-effects) along a prescribed schedule, and modifying parameters of the trial protocol in accord with those observations. The adaptation process generally continues throughout the trial, as prescribed in the trial protocol. Modifications may include dosage, sample size, drug undergoing trial, patient selection criteria or treatment mix. In some cases, trials have become an ongoing process that regularly adds and drops therapies and patient groups as more information is gained. Importantly, the trial protocol is set before the trial begins; the protocol pre-specifies the adaptation schedule and processes. 

Observational – Analytical

Cohort/Panel (Longitudinal) – A study in which a defined group of people (the cohort – a group of people who share a defining characteristic, typically those who experienced a common event in a selected period) is followed over time, to examine associations between different interventions received and subsequent outcomes.  

Prospective – A cohort study which recruits participants before any intervention and follows them into the future.

Retrospective – A cohort study which identifies subjects from past records describing the interventions received and follows them from the time of those records.

Time-Series – A cohort study which identifies subjects from a particular segment in time following an intervention (which may have also occurred in a time series) and follows them during only the duration of that time segment. Relies upon robust intervention and subject tracking databases. For example, comparing lung health to pollution during a segment in time.

Cross-Sectional/Transverse/Prevalence – A study that collects information on interventions (past or present) and current health outcomes, i.e. restricted to health states, for a group of people at a particular point in time, to examine associations between the outcomes and exposure to interventions.

Case-Control – A study that compares people with a specific outcome of interest (‘cases’) with people from the same source population but without that outcome (‘controls’), to examine the association between the outcome and prior exposure (e.g. having an intervention). This design is particularly useful when the outcome is rare.

Nested Case-Control – A study wherein cases of a health outcome that occur in a defined cohort are identified and, for each, a specified number of matched controls is selected from among those in the cohort who have not developed the health outcome by the time of occurrence in the case. For many research questions, the nested case-control design potentially offers impressive reductions in costs and efforts of data collection and analysis compared with the full case-control or cohort approach, with relatively minor loss in statistical efficiency.

Community Survey – An observational study wherein a targeted cohort or panel is given a set of questions regarding both interventions and observed outcomes over the life or a defined time period of the person, child or other close family member. These are often conducted in conjunction with another disciplined polling process (such as a census or general medical plan survey) so as to reduce statistical design bias or error.

Ecological (Correlational) – A study of risk-modifying factors on health or other outcomes based on populations defined either geographically or temporally. Both risk-modifying factors and outcomes are averaged or are linear regressed for the populations in each geographical or temporal unit and then compared using standard statistical methods.

Observational – Descriptive

Population – A study of a group of individuals taken from the general population who share a common characteristic, such as age, sex, or health condition. This group may be studied for different reasons, such as their response to a drug or risk of getting a disease. 

Case Series – Observations are made on a series of specific individuals, usually all receiving the same intervention, before and after an intervention but with no control group.

Case Report – Observation is made on a specific individual, receiving an intervention, before and after an intervention but with no control group/person other than the general population.

SECONDARY/FILTERED STUDY

Systematic Review/Objective Meta-Analysis – A method for systematically combining pertinent qualitative and quantitative study data from several selected studies to develop a single conclusion that has greater statistical power. This conclusion is statistically stronger than the analysis of any single study, due to increased numbers of subjects, greater diversity among subjects, or accumulated effects and results. However, researchers must ensure that the quantitative and study design attributes of the contained studies all match, in order to retain and enhance the statistical power entailed. Mixing lesser rigorous or incongruent studies with more rigorous studies will only result in a meta-analysis which bears the statistical power of only a portion of the studies, or of the least rigorous study type contained, in decreasing order along the following general types of study:

Controlled Trial/Mechanism
Longitudinal/Cohort
Cross-Sectional
Case-Control
Survey/Ecological
Descriptive

Interpretive/Abstract ‘Meta-Synthesis’ – A study which surveys the conclusion or abstract of a pool of studies in order to determine the study authors’ conclusions along a particular line of conjecture or deliberation. This may include a priori conclusions or author preferences disclosed inside the abstract of each study, which were not necessarily derived as an outcome of the study itself. This study may tally a ‘best evidence’ subset of studies within the overall survey group, which stand as superior in their representation of the conclusion, methodology undertaken or breadth in addressing the issue at hand.

Editorial/Expert Opinion – A summary article generally citing both scientific outcomes and opinion, issued by an expert within a given field, currently active and engaged in research inside that field. The article may or may not refer to specific examples of studies, which support an opinion that a consilience of evidence points in a given direction regarding an issue of deliberation. The author will typically delineate a circumstance of study outcome, consilience or consensus as separate from their personal professional opinion.

Critical Review/Skeptic Opinion – A self-identified skeptic or science enthusiast, applies a priori thinking with no ex ante accountability, in order to arrive at a conclusion. The reviewer may or may not cite a couple examples or studies to back their conclusion.

Sources: 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

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April 15, 2019 Posted by | Agenda Propaganda, Institutional Mandates, Tradecraft SSkepticism | , , | 2 Comments

The Roger Principle

Never place a tactician in charge of a strategic challenge. Their hammer sees every new problem as constituting another nail. Such exhibits the distinction between expert and strategic skill sets. Both are critical when it comes to solving multifaceted, novel and asymmetric challenges; however, it is the tyranny of the simple-minded, the disdainful miasma of the expert proceduralist, which renders the organizational/societal dynamic sometimes more daunting to solve than the challenge the organization was tasked to address in the first place.

During my decades of business advisement and observing personalities inhabiting my client organizations, there began to manifest to my observation, two consistent phenotypes of general professional personality inside a competitive workplace. At the extreme risk of oversimplification, and while acknowledging that many people bear traits in common with both species, we can frame these individuals along the profiles developed by Laurence J Peter in his book The Peter Principle,1 and American Psychologist Carl Rogers through his (psychology) theory of personal phenomenology.2 For simplicity’s sake, I call the first organizational personality, ‘Peter’, and the second organizational personality, ‘Roger’ – both in honor of their primary thought leading experts in business management and psychology. What the two researchers have outlined collectively is the essence of contrast between the organization procedural expert (Peter) and the multi-skilled adaptable leader (Roger) inside organizational development, function and more importantly, dysfunction.

The Peter Principle

Have you ever taken notice inside your graduating high school class, of the difference in success between people who made straight A’s say, in 5th Grade and those who flourished academically in high school and beyond. One may note that often, those who succeed early in a developmental process do not end up being those same individuals who succeed later in that developmental process. In similar fashion, many of those who thrive and excel at administrative tasks, fall prey to being overwhelmed or fail when faced with asymmetric or novel complex organizational challenges; ones say which might befit a higher leadership role. Such is the nature of what organizational behaviorist Laurence Peter outlined in his work called The Peter Principle. Individuals exhibit tactical competence, and then are promoted or rise through the ranks of a social structure, until such time as they encounter a level which outstrips their ability to perform well. This is shown on the left hand side of the chart above. Now set aside that this constitutes a rather simplistic view of organizational or societal development; and rather, embrace its principle in regard to understanding why such more tactically-minded persons tend to get upset when others who they perceive to be less skilled, are promoted or excel in their place. How can I, Salesperson of the Year for the Southwest US, not excel at being Vice President of North American Markets? How could such an event transpire? And how could a lowly Sales Engineer for the Northeast, who required an escorting sales professional on every contract he ever landed, then thrive so well as that Vice President? This is a dissonance I cannot fathom, much less bear!

Peters tend to outstrip their ability to perform at some point in a social or organizational succession;
whereas Rogers tend to thrive more effectively as they are exposed to increasing challenge.
There is a natural enmity between these two species.

What the Southwest Salesman of the Year fails to understand, is that the skills which might enable one to excel at cold calling and reading field customers, might not also translate so well into reading the tea leaves of market inflections, or promotion of a change in the offering of inventory or product being sold to a whole new customer base. The temptation is for the Southwest Salesperson of the Year to get angry with the Northeast Sales Engineer who took their coveted position – and begin to point out how they don’t follow the rules or don’t know how to fill out the sales credit authorization correctly, nor can they keep a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software log accurately. Peter, the regional sales lead, will naturally bear a subception based jealousy and dislike towards Roger, the new Vice President, which understandably is not given in return. Peter may begin to manufacture sins in his or her head, which justify their indignation over the Roger who serves to introduce or symbolizes threatening stimulus. Roger, the ‘ugly duckling’ in such a circumstance, may be flabbergasted by the sudden appearance of vitriol and criticism, coming from people whom he or she regarded to be their allies and business partners, many of whom were at one time their friends – long before the promotion was ever even let. It becomes important for the senior executive or CEO, to spot their Peters and Rogers, and manage them effectively through organizational structure and reward – before Peter creates a problem and disintegrates the organization morale or its function.

Subception

/psychology : self deception : subconscious perception/ : a perceptual defense that involves unconsciously applying strategies to prevent a troubling stimulus from entering consciousness. The method of deceiving one’s self and others in the process of cynicism, jealousy or denial. A process of expressing unrealized subconscious vitriol, in which one habitually creates artificial ‘violations’ (usually forms of administrative or social protocol which their target ‘does wrong’) which their target of jealously or hate keeps committing – in order for the subception holder to internally justify their ill feelings toward their target.

Immature Peters will often resort to the crafting of negative clique-like social clubs in reaction to the presence of a Roger whom they have elected to target. If they cannot win by professional standards, they can always revert back to high-school style politics – especially inside an organizational structure with weak leadership. In this same way, the perception of science is ruled by Peters of social skepticism – they have failed at science as a career, so now they must make others pay for this failure. Moreover they must find some way other than competence or resilience, through which to be accepted at the level of power and prestige given a scientist.

Another feature of a Peter is that he or she gets ahead by claiming credit for the success of the group, regardless of whether or not they actually added anything of merit into its value provision. The Peter calls the meetings to order, makes sure everyone is on task and puts on an air of authority. The Peter will speak often of ‘there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’ but will stand exemplary of the supplemental apothegm ‘but there is often a hidden ‘me’.’ A Peter bears this concealed ‘me’ inside everything they undertake; and moreover, it is precisely this ‘taking of the credit’ which serves ultimately to be their Achilles’ heel, under The Peter Principle to begin with. This unmerited credit is what propels the Peter into those lofty levels wherein their incompetence can be ‘suddenly exposed’. At some point, it is not enough to merely be a titular head of the group. It is not enough to be in control and enforce ISO or ASME standards and protocols. It is not enough to patrol the hallways and make sure everyone is at their desk staring at a piece of paper at 8:30 am. As one rises in responsibility, the titular head more and more actually has to do stuff; make informed and ‘why and how’ based decisions inside a context of individual naked accountability. If a Peter’s entire career consists of merely who, what, where and when coordination, then they will fail miserably at the why and how decision set.

A Roger in contrast does not bear an innate craving to be recognized as the head of the group, nor to control others, nor to hold a whip of conformance, nor to garner credit for the group’s success. He is not necessarily the extreme of a polymath or pariah, as those types of individuals can be grating inside a team structure. Instead, a Roger gains his satisfaction through the accomplishment of objectives and goals – and knowing how and why such process worked. He is quietly passed from team to team to fix things, and must advance by the principle of ‘a prophet is never accepted in his home town’.3 For a Roger, even though they may rise through the ranks for solving complex novel and asymmetric problems, they soon find that the more they change settings, the faster they rise. This because they skip over The Peter Principle games played by each Peter Organization of which they were once a member. This is unfortunate but can be observed as the key to many people’s successful career paths – they must eventually sidestep and pass by the Peters, if the Peter Organization is not mature enough to spot the circumstance in their own ranks.

Skepticism and Science are Ruled by Peters

There exists a difference between what is defined in Organizational Behavior as a goal, and that sub-element which is defined as an objective. We observe this disconnect inside skepticism as well, wherein the fake skeptic regards the goal of skepticism to be a ‘conformance to knowledge’ on the part of the public4 – when such a mission constitutes merely one non-critical path objective. The actual goal of skepticism is the creation/refinement of knowledge inside a scientific context, or the opposition to scientific oppression inside a free society; as those constitute our first true priority. They are the heads on the very tippy top of the skepticism totem-pole. One of the objectives of a skeptic organization is to ensure that pseudoscience is not promulgated freely, of course – but this should never be practiced to the extreme point wherein our goals to create and refine knowledge or alleviate suffering are impinged. In such a circumstance, our objectives have become our chief obstacles to our goal. This latter condition is more what we face today inside science. Science is ruled by Peters. They thrive upon order and discipline, but most importantly conformance – especially conformance which best serves to place them in charge. Whereas a Roger tends to thrive better than does a Peter in the midst of novelty and unscripted complexity. Roger is a problem solver and gains from disorder. Peter is a status quo manager, and loses from it.

Ethical skepticism is all about knowing where this critical knowledge dynamic inflection point resides. Tacticians rarely grasp inflection points in asymmetry. This is why they often fail when pushed outside their comfort zones. This inability to see the forest for the trees is what distinguishes Peter from Roger. Such dilemma is exhibited no better than by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile, regarding what he calls the Green Lumber Problem.5

Green Lumber Problem

The Green Lumber Problem involves an essential misunderstanding between which facts are relevant versus those which are not, or which objectives are critical path and those which are not, as they may regard decision goals under uncertainty (multifaceted novelty and asymmetry).

“In one of the rare noncharlatanic books in finance, descriptively called What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars, the protagonist makes a big discovery. He remarks that a fellow called Joe Siegel, the most active trader in a commodity called “green lumber” actually thought that it was lumber painted green (rather than freshly cut lumber, called green because it had not been dried). And he made a living, even a fortune trading the stuff [and went in to ask when he could begin trading ‘other colors of lumber’].6

The Green Lumber Problem elicits this issue of distinguishing one who can thrive in doing anything, from one who only thrives because they understand all the trivia, nuance and procedure surrounding a single discipline in which they have chosen to immerse them self. While this approach to knowledge and skill is certainly useful, it becomes a hindrance when such simplicity of role, is enforced as an effectiveness panacea. Joe Siegel, undoubtedly pissed off a lot of Peters in green lumber, by excelling inside their discipline, not knowing what the heck green lumber even was. Joe Siegel is simply one step removed from the thought, ‘Maybe there is a better way to do this. Maybe simply deriving wealth off the trade of the lumber is not the primary goal after all’. By thinking past the trivia and the rules, Joe has begun to develop a different ethical mindset than the 30 Peters who populate the cubicles around him.

There exists a difference between informing one’s self to establish control of a system, and informing one’s self to achieve a goal. In contrast with Siegel, a Peter crafts a world in which they are fully armed to know and control all within their reach – their goal is power. This foible tends to express itself inside organizations as rice-bowls, silo’s and kingdoms – the very elements of stagnation which an external consultant will find sport in disrupting. Peters bear a tendency to mistake academic knowledge for an ability to distinguish a goal from simply a critical or non-critical objective. This delineates as much as any single principle, the demarcation between academia and business. Those who can’t do, teach.

“Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.” ~ Laurence J Peter

…or as well, to realize that they possess little or no actual bearing on the goal at hand.

The Roger Principle and Why Rogers are So Threatening to Peters

Psychologist Carl Rogers outlined a series of propositions as to why the proceduralist is so highly threatened by the multi-skilled leader. Interestingly the axioms also explain why the multi-skilled leader rarely bears such animosity in return. Animosity is not critical path. Yes, success may serve to make a publican out of any barbarian; however, it is the flexible and tolerant nature of the Roger, which more readily explains why he or she is less apt to return hate for such hate. [To be fair, it should be noted that The Roger Principle is somewhat akin to Laurence Peter’s ‘Summit Competence’ principle elicited in Chapter 9 of the referenced book. However, Peter did not delve into the aspects of ‘congruency’ outlined below, which make this rare phenomenon possible.] Essentially Carl Rogers contended that all individuals (organisms) exist in a continually changing world of experience – what he called the ‘phenomenal field’, of which they are the center. One of his key (of nineteen) axioms outlines the principle thusly.7

Psychological adjustment exists when the concept of the self is such that all the sensory and visceral experiences of the organism are, or may be, assimilated on a symbolic level into a consistent relationship with the concept of self.

The proceduralist immerses them self in the discipline at hand. They are going to make an A in the class. They will strive to be the task expert. They will strive to rule the organization with regard to the single expertise set on their plate. This serves to align their experiences, as symbols which are now in concert with their perception of self. It is heady to be ‘the expert’ – and those who fall for such charade typically hunger for control, both of environment and organization. There arises a problem however, when this type of personality is thrust outside of their comfort zone. This Peter will exhibit a visceral dissonance, an anger which then erupts on their preferred target – the Roger who appears to not only be the source of the dissonance, but moreover appears to be capitalizing from it. To Peter, Roger certainly could not actually be thriving, because if Peter cannot thrive, then no one can – therefore in Peter’s eyes, Roger has to be taking advantage of the situation. Carl Rogers continues with two more of his nineteen key axioms, related to exactly this:

Psychological maladjustment exists when the organism denies awareness of significant sensory and visceral experiences, which consequently are not symbolized and organized into the gestalt of the self structure. When this situation exists, there is a basic or potential psychological tension.

Any experience which is inconsistent with the organization of the structure of the self may be perceived as a threat, and the more of these perceptions there are, the more rigidly the self structure is organized to maintain itself.

Therefore, Peter will almost always double-down in order to protect the gestalt of self structure upon which they so heavily depend. Anything; logic, science, reason, facts or even life itself if necessary are elements subservient to this Maslow-style need inside the mind of the pathological Peter. They will turn heaven and earth to keep things they way they prefer to view them. While this is understandable as a personal foible, persons bearing these traits should seldom be allowed to unilaterally manage the public perception of science. This is why we need ethical skepticism – the tyranny of the Peter.

The Roger Principle

/philosophy : science : psychology : leadership/ : the principle which cites that a multi-skilled, creative, congruent and leadership oriented personality will routinely rank level relative to his or her peers while performing lower organizational or administrative jobs; however will begin to increasingly thrive as they are promoted up through an organization and are exposed to more multifaceted, novel and asymmetric challenge. This will tend to anger the peers who were in contrast limited by means of a Peter Principle. Roger Principle individuals are usually targeted for disdain by tactic/talent limited persons, often out of jealousy or dissonance; and are usually flagged early on by their performance in more chaotic tasks or situations involving uncertainty. They can make for excellent CEO’s, strategists and thought leaders.

In contrast with Peter, Roger just shrugs off the uncertainty and instead focuses upon the overall sequence of critical path objectives, or upon developing new understanding in absence of such knowledge. Yes, details are important, but they are not what dictate one’s thinking nor boundaries. The objective of thought is to create new ways to view a critical path and to challenge why something is done in a particular fashion in the first place. A Roger does not want to drive off a cliff and cite how good his gas mileage is on the way from the edge of the cliff to the bottom. This is why Roger tolerates Peter, much better than Peter can stand Roger. Peter cannot fathom the reasons for departure from his neatly ordered environment or pathway to dominance and control. Rogers relate to a goal of succeeding and not one of personal control. Carl Rogers finishes his nineteen axioms with this exact point.

When the individual perceives and accepts into one consistent and integrated system all her sensory and visceral experiences, then she is necessarily more understanding of others and is more accepting of others as separate individuals.

A Roger can readily step in and be any Peter, but a Peter finds it extraordinarily difficult to be a Roger.
A Roger tolerates a Peter very easily; but a Peter finds fault in everything a Roger says or does.
Roger sees Peter as an essential aspect of the functioning company; Peter does not view Roger in that same way.
This is why Roger advances, and Peter does not. Peter cannot perceive this dynamic, so he blames Roger for his career stagnation.

One may humorously note that a Peter, can often be synonymous with a ‘dick’. It is precisely their anger over the dissonance derived from mismatch between their phenomenological self and the environment in which they find them self (or wish to dominate), which tempts their observer to entertain such a nickname. In similar contrast, a Peter may view a Roger as an opportunist, looking to get a good ‘Rogering’ out of every new opportunity which arises inside an organization. Each may regard the other as a dick or a shark. Such is the comical nature of human competitiveness. In the end, the nicknames are not fair at all (and sexist to boot) – in that diversity of skill and personality in the workplace is exactly what makes for a strong and effective organization in the first place.

Why Roger Succeeds While Peter Often Stagnates

Peter succeeds at the outset because they have established them self as master of the topic at play. Roger on the other hand, succeeds because he or she has honed specific traits which serve to enhance mere fundamental competency. A Roger will succeed at pretty much anything they choose to do, save for many compulsory perfunctory or administrative tasks – often stumbling from sheer boredom, rather than any particular shortfall in acumen or skill. Rogers are C-student bosses who regularly pissed off all but their most senior college instructors; who hire privileged A-student Peters who were those same pissed-off instructors’ darlings.  Peter leverages his strength through fastidious displays of competence and rules following. Peter wants his benefactors to know that, by placing him in charge, things will go as planned; even if that plan involves running off a cliff and claiming the fantastic gas mileage, laying off one quarter of the employee base, increasing productivity regardless of the life-cost of the associates burdened with that increase, or extracting the wealth of the corporation to elite European bond trading accounts. A Peter will obediently trade and sacrifice higher goals, to increase his power base and money flow – as you see, for Peter these objectives served to obscure the real goal to begin with.

A Peter regards the goal of his company to be funneling efficiency-precipitated earnings to powerful outsiders/cronies.
A Roger entertains a greater mandate for his corporation – and disobeys this instructed procedure.


However, as outsiders begin to see Peter as the spoils-enabling character, we will observe more corporate failure and consolidation;
along with a greater disparity between the worker and the extraction classes.


Flat organizations – hollow brands inhabited by CFO’s and supply chain specialists, lacking an authenticity of mission;
bereft of the vision and ethical backbone necessary in defending their stakeholders from creeping enslavement.

Carl Rogers opines on the Roger Principle below, through outlining those character traits which make this unique style of person successful. A Roger bears the following strengths:8

A growing openness to experience – they move away from defensiveness and have no need for subception (a perceptual defense that involves unconsciously applying strategies to prevent a troubling stimulus from entering consciousness).

An increasingly existential lifestyle – living each moment fully – not distorting the moment to fit personality or self-concept but allowing personality and self-concept to emanate from the experience. This results in excitement, daring, adaptability, tolerance, spontaneity, and a lack of rigidity and suggests a foundation of trust. “To open one’s spirit to what is going on now, and discover in that present process whatever structure it appears to have”

Increasing organismic trust – they trust their own judgment and their ability to choose behavior that is appropriate for each moment. They do not rely on existing codes and social norms but trust that as they are open to experiences they will be able to trust their own sense of right and wrong.

Freedom of choice – not being shackled by the restrictions that influence an incongruent individual, they are able to make a wider range of choices more fluently. They believe that they play a role in determining their own behavior and so feel responsible for their own behavior.

Creativity – it follows that they will feel more free to be creative. They will also be more creative in the way they adapt to their own circumstances without feeling a need to conform.

Reliability and constructiveness – they can be trusted to act constructively. An individual who is open to all their needs will be able to maintain a balance between them. Even aggressive needs will be matched and balanced by intrinsic goodness in congruent individuals.

A rich full life – he describes the life of the fully functioning individual as rich, full and exciting and suggests that they experience joy and pain, love and heartbreak, fear and courage more intensely.

It is not that we as ethical skeptics necessarily aspire to be solely a Roger in makeup of character. Peters are essential to any organization or society. Rather we should seek to avoid the negative pitfalls of becoming a Peter – infusing enough of the creative, free, orgasmic fascination with wonder and discovery to compel us to not fall into the trap of becoming a Peter of skepticism.

It is this essential nature of congruency which we seek to develop within ourselves- that which the universe is asking us to learn. After all, we know how to discern that which is relevant from that which is not; and as well the goal, from that which merely might appear to be an objective.

     How to MLA cite this article:

The Ethical Skeptic, “The Roger Principle”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 6 Apr 2019; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-9zc

April 6, 2019 Posted by | Ethical Skepticism, Social Disdain | , | Leave a comment

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