The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

Qualifying Theory and Pseudo-Theory

The scientific method is a discipline of solving a perplexing mystery when stakeholders are in a state of confusion or even desirous of exploiting the uncertainty it brings. In order to move beyond a good wallow in the mystery however, one must craft more art than simply a casual construct: rather, a set of disciplined and risk incremental conjecture.
There exists a stark set of criteria which distinguish the construct from its more mature conjecture cousin, theory. Even more distinguished, is the social pseudoscience phenomena known as pseudo-theory. It behooves the ethical skeptic to understand what makes up each of these three conjecture domains: construct, theory and pseudo-theory and how they relate to the scientific method.

As a young principal in a strategic advisory firm, I once supported a very familiar corporation who had an inventory problem. They asked me to initiate a project to investigate the cause of the recurring mismatch between their systems inventory and the actual physical inventories held in stock. I was already well recognized as an expert in this type of business mystery at a fairly young age. This company’s accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, had mandated that the company conduct quarterly inventories because this problem had become enormously impactful to accounting integrity and overall business performance. So pronounced in fact, that their quarterly inventory would again be off by 15 percentage points a mere three months after having ‘corrected’ it afresh each beginning of a new quarter. This mismatch between stock and what their information systems said was in their stock, was bringing the company to its knees. So they called my company. We were one of the best firms at analyzing signal theory and searching out the systemic causes of various industry operational or trade challenges. Our principals had seen it all, over the years. I set my talented team in place and we went to work on what is known as, yes, the scientific method – that is, a discipline of solving a perplexing mystery when stakeholders around you seem to be confused or even enjoying or exploiting a good wallow in the uncertainty it bears.

The executive team of the client possessed three primary ideas as to what might be causing the inventory drift. None of these were proven out however, each constituting only educated thoughts which the executive team had generated. Certainly valuable, these sets of preliminary conjecture were not theories per se; rather a less mature form of theory, what I call a construct. In order to solve a problem however and disabuse one’s self of enjoying a good wallow in the incumbent mystery, one must move beyond construct, and onto a set of incremental risk conjecture called theory. My team and I set about the process of establishing the necessity of theory. We were searching for those conjectures which bore both explanatory and quantifiable mettle, to sponsor into fully plausible explanations for the inventory drift. Hypotheses.

As sponsors, yet without a true hypothesis, we set about the beginning of solving a mystery: Observation, Intelligence and establishing Necessity. Every problem is solved in this fashion. We gathered data, tabled the premature ideas for a while, and began to assimilate intelligence – different ways of looking at the data we collected. We were looking for a thing called Necessity. What did the executive team know, know that they did not know, and did not know that they did not know? It is always this last category of not knowing, which I focus most upon. This is where a savvy investigator seeks to establish necessity. Indeed we found the problem by developing and falsification testing a theory inside a facet of their business which they least suspected to be an origination of the problem. However those executives who were exploiting the ‘wallow in uncertainty’ in an effort to get the VPIS fired, were not happy at all. They were the ‘social skeptics’ if you will. They were operating on pseudo-theory. Big on appearances, big on agenda. Easy to utter, no one can prove you wrong. They constituted a bigger problem than the inventory errancy ever pretended to be. This is essentially what I hinted to the CEO as we completed and presented our final report. Sure the VPIS made his share of executive miscalls. But the lack of team, and the disingenuous motives of these agenda-serving executives were significant problems for the company; ones which would continue long after tactical and technical issues were solved.

On Philosophy, expounds about bad theory and how it can be exploited for gain, under its Metaphilosophy thread:

A good example of a theory that isn’t able to be falsified, even in principle, is Freudian psychology. Freudian psychology fails to be falsifiable not because the theory is unclear but because the objects of the theory don’t seem to correspond to anything real. Freudian psychology posits an ego-superego-id structure to explain human behavior. How the ego superego and id interact is pretty clearly spelled out in the theory, so the problem is not that the theory doesn’t say anything definite about the theoretical objects it posits to explain phenomena. The problem lies in the way judgments about the ego superego and id are made. The psychologist observes the patient and then, on the basis of the patient’s behavior, creates a story about the interaction of their ego superego and id that seems to explain those observations. It would seem then that once the doctor has arrived at a hypothesis about the patient’s ego superego and id that Freudian psychology would then be testable, by comparing future behavior to the kind of behavior the theory says should be displayed by someone with that combination of ego superego and id. And this is where problems arise, because if the patient does act in unexpected ways it does not prompt the psychologist to question Freudian psychology. Instead they simply alter their story about the patient’s ego superego and id to fit this new behavior, and Freudian psychology can provide a story for any combination of behavior.1

A good professional instinct recognizes necessity, construct, theory and pseudo-theory when he or she sees it. In the end, the problem was found to reside in an area which the executives of the company had not considered before. Of course we conducted deductive system audit work – but a discrete beginning of the inventory errancy occurred after a process which had theretofore been considered beyond question. This is called a signal. it is part of the Intelligence and Necessity steps of the process outlined below. They did not know, what they did not know. This is how an astute researcher develops theory, true scientific theory. The ‘systems transaction’ approach they foisted on us, bore explanitude and even some consilience (see elements of Pseudo-Theory below). To blame the systems and VPIS, was an approach which could explain everything we saw, and was very hard to falsify. And was politically expedient.

Beware of fake skeptics who push explanitude (as in the case of Freudian Psychology above) and do not appear to understand how the scientific method really works – but speak lots and lots about it. They may be enjoying a good wallow in the sustained mystery and the celebrated power it affords their Cabal. They may be celebrating and exploiting pseudo-theory.

The Scientific Method

 Construct, Theory (Hypothesis) and Pseudo-Theory

A theory (hypothesis) is a construct with certain features added into the mix which make it a tool of plenary science. A construct, as incomplete as it is however, is a vital and useful tool at the sponsorship phase of the scientific method. In our project I just outlined above, one of the executives, who had no love lost for the Vice President of Information Systems, made it clear to me that “his intransigence on allowing input into the stock ledger management process, was the cause of the errant inventory.” The executive wanted the VP of Information Systems fired; and he wanted me to provide the evidence which would make his case. This construct was handed to my team and we were instructed to diligently pursue it. Everyone knew that it was the VP of Information Systems’ fault anyway. Argumentum ad populum, a key warning sign that maybe some stakeholders are enjoying or exploiting the mystery to increase their personal power base.

Wallowing in the mystery, this a habit which religious peddlers and social skeptics share in common. This is why many of our greatest social conundrums persist long after their shelf life has expired. The mystery can be exploited for club advantage.

Some of the cursory investigation their staff had conducted even clearly suggested his culpability in the matter. So I nodded and set off with my team to solve the issue using our best methods and knowledge.


/philosophy : science : knowledge development/ : an original explanatory framework or explanation for a phenomenon, which has not risen to the level of hypothesis or theory. A construct is contending for plurality screening under Ockham’s Razor, seeks to explain a context set of repeatable data, and is distinguishable from other hypotheses, theories or constructs attempting to cohesively explain the same or related data.

The Nature of Theory

A theory on the other hand, the real implement which is exercise-able under the scientific method and plenary science, bears features which the construct does not. More specifically the following list of items characterize those ideas whose sets of conjecture can be disciplined into what is in truth and method, a hypothesis.2

Theory (Hypothesis)

/philosophy : science : knowledge development : scientific method/ : is not merely a proposed explanation for a set of observations or phenomenon. Rather, true scientific theory (hypothesis) is an elegant mechanism of incremental and parsimonious conjecture, which explains consistently observed phenomena completely, without bearing the capability to explain everything, and which can be tested in objective fashion and repeated, and may or may not yet feature an underlying causal understanding or mechanism.

More specifically, a theory (hypothesis) bears the following critical traits or essences:

1.  Bears Wittgenstein definition,

2.  Is based upon necessity from developed intelligence, not simply bias or desire based upon data, anecdote or premature question.

3.  Possesses critical historical explanatory strength – things explained must bear a chain of empirical veracity themselves and not be anecdote (unless falsifying) – as a theory which explains everything likely explains nothing.

4.  Bears a critical element of measurability, under a context of incremental risk.

5.  Undertakes risk in incremental conjecture (but not outlandish sets of risk)

6.  Features a testable (or vulnerable to falsification) mechanism,

7.  Bears predictive power and

8.  Offers an advisory protocol for replication.

The Nature of Pseudo-Theory

Pseudo-Theory in contrast – is a construct which derives its viability through artificial or socially constructed mechanisms. The principle traits of pseudo-theory involve the following:

Pseudo-Theory (Mock Hypothesis)

/philosophy : argument : theory : pseudo-theory/ : is a premature and imperious proposed explanation for a set of post facto observations or phenomenon. Instead of bearing the traits of true scientific theory (hypothesis) – a pseudo-theory is quickly crafted and installed so as to exploit the advantages of pluralistic ignorance and the Lindy Effect. It explains everything without having to be approached by falsification, nor having to successfully predict anything. Usually installed as the null hypothesis before an argument is even framed around an issue, pseudo-theory is used primarily as a football enabling dismissal of competing alternatives from the point of its installation as the null hypothesis, onward.

More specifically, pseudo-theory (mock hypothesis) bears the following profiling traits or essences:

1.  Can be developed in full essence before any investigation even begins

2.  Never improves in its depth, description nor falsifiable or inductive strength despite ongoing research and increases in observational data

3.  Possesses no real method of falsification or distinguishing predictive measure which is placed at risk

4.  Employs non-Wittgenstein equivocal/colloquial terminology or underlying premises (possibly pseudo-theory itself) where the risk of conjecture is not acknowledged

5.  Is employed primarily as a symbolic or fiat excuse to dismiss disliked or competing explanations

6.  Can explain a multiplicity of observations or even every non-resolved question (Explanitude)

7.  Is artificially installed as the null hypothesis from the very start

8.  Attains its strength through becoming a Verdrängung Mechanism

Verdrängung Mechanism

/philosophy : argument : theory : pseudo-theory/ : the level of control and idea displacement achieved through skillful employment of the duality between pluralistic ignorance and the Lindy Effect. The longer a control-minded group can sustain a favored hypothesis (Omega Hypothesis) perception by means of the tactics and power protocols of proactive pluralistic ignorance, the greater future acceptability and lifespan that idea will possess. As well, the harder it will to be dethrone as an accepted norm or perception as a ‘proved’ null hypothesis.

In developing my thoughts around pseudo-theory I struggled for a better portion of a year, hashing over old idea failures, and socially influenced business and science communication cases before penning it. The struggle was over essentially three questions:

1.  How does the soundness (validity of its premises) of the theory play into its role as pseudo-theory, and
2.  How does the ultimate verity (success) of the theory itself relate to its status as pseudo-theory?

and finally,

3.  What if a construct is promoted into status as an accepted pseudo-theory, and then begins to show predictive consilience at a later time?

Regarding the first two questions, my conclusion was that neither factor plays into the delineation of whether or not a construct is being promoted into status as pseudo-theory. The theory’s (hypothesis’) formality, soundness, logical calculus, etc. are well known facets of argument discourse. The irony which elicits this is the fact that a pseudo-theory can also mature into one day being a real theory and further then a valid one – whereas a wrong answer can never mature into being a right answer. Thus, verity and pseudo-theory status, are two differing issues. The status of pseudo-theory pertains more to the idea – is this a real hypothesis, and is it ready for exercise under the scientific method? – or is it merely a construct, which has been promoted to the status of a theory, or even truth – without due process? It is not a judgement as to its construct being right or wrong, successful or failing; rather simply, premature.

So, pseudo-theory pertains more to the state of maturity of the idea (construct) in terms of its ability to be addressed by science, and NOT to its soundness, formality and logical calculus or truth. That comes later IF we have not promoted it to truth and into a state of exemption from being vetted by science in the first place.

The key for the ethical skeptic is this:  one distinguishes themselves from their skeptical colleagues in recognizing when pseudo-theory sits in the seat as the null hypothesis (Imposterlösung Mechanism). There are many ideas which have been selected solely under the protocols of logical reduction, to reside as the null hypothesis – but bear no real definition, nor supporting evidence. Constructs of absence and negation for instance: this does not exist or that is not valid or those people are deluded for a variety of reasons. The ethical skeptic must discern the conditions between when a mere construct (pseudo-theory) resides as the null, simply from the standpoint of procedure, and when a real theory (hypothesis) – fully vettable by science, measurement and competing alternatives – has assumed the null hypothesis role.

This is the origin of the contention that an ethical skeptic recognizes and works with the null hypothesis, but that does not mean that he necessarily believes it.

Question 3 therefore, pertains to a more serious and challenging aspect of the delineation between skepticism and social skepticism. This is a very common play inside of socially promoted science – We come up with an idea, we promote that idea as truth, then we go out and look for science to back it up.  To me, this is still a process of pseudo-science.  Hence, a pseudo-theory, even backed by some post-installment inductive support, is still a pseudo-theory.

Example Pseudo-Theory: The Blank Slate Theory (excerpt from, except for list items 1 – 8 below)3

One of the oldest and most controversial theories in psychology and philosophy is the theory of the blank slate, or tabula rasa, which argues that people are born with no built-in personality traits or proclivities. Proponents of the theory, which began with the work of Aristotle and was expressed by everyone from St. Thomas Aquinas to the empiricist philosopher John Locke, insisted that all mental content was the result of experience and education. For these thinkers, nothing was instinct or the result of nature. The idea found its most famous expression in psychology in the ideas of Sigmund Freud, whose theories of the unconscious stressed that the elemental aspects of an individual’s personality were constructed by their earliest childhood experiences.

1.  Was developed in antiquity before any in-depth knowledge of DNA, the brain or human developmental psychology and twin studies

2.  Never improved in its depth, description nor falsifiable or inductive strength (only became a Freudian appeal to authority)

3.  Never really attempted to be falsified until twins studies, DNA and modern psychology challenged the notion

4.  Based upon the notion that man is a spirit primarily & wholly accountable to god for every thought and action (also a pseudo-theory itself)

5.  Is employed primarily as a symbolic or fiat excuse to dismiss body-machine ideas

6.  Was able to explain every motivation of mankind and men

7.  Was artificially installed, and ruled as, the null hypothesis from antiquity

8.  Attains its strength through becoming a Verdrängung Mechanism and appeal to authority for over 2500 years

How it was Proven Wrong

While there’s little doubt that a person’s experiences and learned behaviors have a huge impact on their disposition, it is also now widely accepted that genes and other family traits inherited from birth, along with certain innate instincts, also play a crucial role. This was only proven after years of study that covered the ways in which similar gestures like smiling and certain features of language could be found throughout the world in radically different cultures. Meanwhile, studies of adopted children and twins raised in separate families have come to similar conclusions about the ways certain traits can exist from birth.

epoché vanguards gnosis

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November 27, 2017 Posted by | Argument Fallacies, Ethical Skepticism | , , , | 2 Comments

The Appeal to Fallacy

My goal as an ethical skeptic is not to cite a fallacy and subsequently snigger at my opponent “bwahahahaha!” That is the mental process of a child. There is a difference between arguing to win, and arguing for truth. It is paramount that the ethical skeptic keep a wary eye out for those who routinely confuse ‘fallacy’ and ‘error’.

Sometimes an assertion maker has not crafted a faulty logical contention, they have not overly focused on the opponents of their assertion – sometimes they are just simply, factually or existentially wrong. This difference between the state of being wrong, and the condition of making missteps inside logic and delivery of argument – is summed up inside a philosophical principle called the Appeal to Fallacy (or Argument from Fallacy).  The appeal to fallacy exists in two forms. First, is the instance wherein an assertion maker has crafted a failed logical construct, and an opponent (or skeptic) in the discussion surrounding that construct identifies the formal or informal fallacy which compromises the basis for the argument. To declare the assertion maker existentially or factually wrong under such a circumstance, would constitute an additional (plural) step in argument itself and would be crafted in the form of a mistake in argument, an informal fallacy of soundness called the Fallacy Fallacy.  Conversely, if the same assertion maker broaches a contention which is existentially wrong, to further then call that a logical fallacy, is itself an error in the use of the term and concept of a fallacy (note, this latter a state of being wrong – is not ‘fallacious’ per se – ergo it is error – while the former is expressed in the form of an actual modus ponens argument, which is flawed in soundness). [see note 1 regarding the colloquial use of the term ‘fallacy’]

Let’s suffer through the process of an example together, shall we?

Assertion in Argument:     All trees are green

Structure of Argument (modus ponens):     If P (latet)  ‘A great preponderance of trees I have ever observed seem to be green’  therefore Q  ‘All trees are green’

Argument Fallacy:     Fallacy of Composition (Informal)2

Assertion Validity:     Undetermined  ‘True’  ‘False’  or  ‘Inconclusive’  [see note 3 concerning Boolean Logic]

Notice that we have the assertion, and then its argument. Complimentarily, we face the issues of validity of the assertion as distinct from the soundness or logical calculus of its expression in argument. I threw a twist into the above example in order to introduce a common habit of fake skeptics. That being, an argument maker can hide the premise portion of his argument in order to make the assertion appear more acceptable (deflect from issues of soundness). A trick of the trade. Therefore many times it is up to the ethical skeptic to unmask such logical formations before they undertake the process of evaluating validity itself. Such contentions can easily slip by (wearing the costume of truth by hiding their modus ponens) and become common wisdom, Lindy Mechanisms of defacto truth in time.

Are all trees green? In fact, I do not know. My mission here in evaluating this statement was simply to elicit the exercise of identifying a fallacy (argument). This does not mean that the person who made such an assertion is existentially wrong on the point being made (assertion). If a skeptic is seriously examining the issue of green trees – he or she may choose to drop focus on the fallacy after pointing it out – and counter “While that argument bears a fallacy of composition, nonetheless it is an interesting assertion. Let’s take a look at it.”

My goal as an ethical skeptic is not to cite a fallacy and subsequently snigger “bwahahahaha!” That is the mental process of a child. There is a difference between arguing to win, and arguing for truth.

We know that the color green is the most common color associated with photosynthesis. The chlorophyll needed for photosynthesis tends to emit this color, which after some translucent lensing through the plant matter, then serves to form the typical pigmentation of most plant species.4 But while this is a very common condition of expressed color, it may not be universal (fallacy evaluation). Now in order to evaluate this contention for validity, I could play a game of induction and fact-mongering regarding the pigmentation of chlorophyll itself, pathways of light expression from reflection off and absorption-use by chlorophyll; all which show conclusively that the only color that can emit from the structure of a plant would be green. I would impress all those around me with my ability to sling around terms like ‘lattice/energy absorption wavelengths’, ‘propagation wave particle duality’, ‘scattering and angle of incidence’, ‘molecular spectral critical angle differential’.  But if I did this I would be committing the second sin of the social skeptic – ingens vanitatum (see The Tower of Wrong: The Art of Professional Lying) – knowing or relating a great deal of irrelevance. Again, not seeking the answer, rather seeking to discredit an opponent – and establish myself as the smartest person in the room. This is a process called pseudo-refutation.


/philosophy : pseudoscience : argument/ : a common 1-2-3 step charade of social skeptics in false refutation structure and logical calculus; employed as a ruse of conducting science. To

1) cite any fallacy an opponent has possibly made,

2) employ that fallacy as the basis to declare the opponent ‘wrong’, and moreover then

3) issue an inductive counter of their contention, bearing ample information and hidden conjecture, which tenders appearance that the social skeptic is smarter than the opponent (ingens vanitatum) and has successfully refuted their contention.

When in fact, nothing of the sort was achieved and/or a deductive falsification approach was avoided, which was already readily at hand (see Methodical Deescalation). The focus is not on the validity of the argument or any particular truth, rather in aggrandizing the social skeptic and belittling his opponent.

As an ethical skeptic, I prefer falsification over any sort of exercise in celebrity-building and display of personal inductive brilliance. I take the most efficient critical path to resolution: go and look for a single instance of a white crow, the existence of a non-green tree (we are assuming exclusion of the fall color condition of course). I go and look (really look – not Nickell plating – amazing that THIS is the identifier for ethical versus social skepticism), and I find the American Red Maple.5 The assertion in argument as it turns out, constituted not only a fallacy of composition, but it was existentially false as well. It very easily could have turned out true, or even undetermined. I celebrate our finding with my former opponent and thank him for the chance to learn.

I did not know
I went and looked
Everything else was vanity

Therefore we have the basis of what is called the Appeal to Fallacy. You will find many people habitually (me included at times and I hope I have caught them all) confusing the terms ‘fallacy’ and ‘error’. This is part of the basis as to why The Ethical Skeptic has chosen a different method of assailing arguments (see Formal vs Informal Fallacy and Their Abuse) – an intellectual pursuit which involves more than simply evaluating the trivia surrounding how a person has formed their contention. Aside from a skeptic protecting the integrity of soundness or how a logical calculus is assembled (part of the scientific method) – the remainder of fallaciadom stands as just one slight shade above, simple childish retorts. Beyond this however, those who fall prey to an appeal to fallacy is one sure way of discriminating the pretender from the truth seeker.

Appeal to Fallacy

/philosophy : fallacy : abuse/ : one of two forms of confusing the state of an assertion being in error, with positing a faulty argument, delivery or sound basis.

Fallacy Fallacy (Argument from Fallacy)  – arguer detects a fallacy in argument and declares therefore the person to be ‘wrong’ in assertion as well.  When an arguer employs either a formal, or even more an informal fallacy, to stand as the basis to declare a whole subject or assertion in argument to be therefore, false. A formal fallacy or redress on the basis of soundness or induction inference, only serves to invalidate an opponent’s argument structure. All three flaws tender nothing regarding verity of the argument’s assertion or conclusion itself, which may or may not be independently also true. As well, any instance wherein a circumstantial, expression, personal or informal critique or other informal fallacy is inappropriately cited as a mechanism to invalidate an opponent’s argument or stand as basis for dismissal of a subject.

Fallacy Error – arguer detects a condition of being wrong and incorrectly deems this condition to constitute a ‘fallacy’. When an arguer finds an argument assertion to be wrong and declares the incorrect conclusion, error, mistake or lie to constitute a ‘fallacy’. When in reality, a fallacy is nothing but a weakness or flaw in an argument, soundness, logical calculus, structure or form – and has nothing actually to do with the validity of its assertion or conclusion.

Notice as well, the example above elicits a distinction between two differing types of (often confused) refutation. The inability to distinguish between these two types of response on the part of an opponent, serves to alert one to a condition of epistemic commitment or other bias on the part of an assertion maker:

No, you are wrong and here is the correct answer.


No you are wrong, the answer is still undetermined.

This will stand as the substance of a future blog.

epoché vanguards gnosis

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July 15, 2017 Posted by | Argument Fallacies | , , , | Leave a comment

Denial and Pseudo-Skepticism are Not the Same Thing

Pseudo-skepticism is the form of cynicism wherein a power holding group tampers with methods and science, media and social pressure mechanisms inside a domain of large unknown – in order to craft and enforce on the public, a null hypothesis or conclusion narrative, that might at best be accidentally correct. This is completely distinct from the process of denial. Suspension in denial may be existentially incorrect, but it at least stems in its originality from proper method and does not enforce a particular small-unknown domain conclusion narrative. The distinguishing difference is this: An ethical scientist might be a denialist at times, but an ethical scientist can never be a pseudo-skeptic.

I recently had a discussion on Twitter with a gentleman (and separately a brief dispute with a posing pseudo-intellectual who seemed more focused on me than this topic) about the distinguishing earmarks which separate stances of denial from the methods of pseudo-skepticism. The contention is often made inside social skepticism, that the denial of Anthropogenic Global Warming, constitutes ‘pseudo-skepticism’. This because those who oppose AGW claim to be using skepticism to support their uncertainty over that consensus conclusion. The purpose of this charade in tampering with otherwise well fitted definitions of pseudo-skepticism and denial, is to provide a misdirection with respect to understanding the actions of social skeptics on other issues (true pseudo-skepticism). Social Skeptics enjoy enormously the opportunity to misinform the public through the ridicule that can be generated over highly contentious and visible issues just such as climate change. Denialists may even borrow some of the errant methods taught by social skeptics in their desperation to keep an issue open. But just as vigilantes and police might appear to at times share methods, they are not the same thing at all. (Please note that I am an AGW advocate, I just maintain questions surrounding some of the consensus alternatives which were, or were not, researched in our process of deduction therein. Nor do I extrapolate the science into contentions that evil working Americans or Republicans are therefore worthy of violent opposition and disdain)

Denial is simply dogmatic allegiance to a refusal to accept a consensus based conclusion of science or groups claiming to represent science (dogmatic dissent). And while denial does involve avoiding selection of an alternative or promotion of the null hypothesis as a Verdrängung Mechanism, it really has nothing to do with one being ‘open minded’ – and may indeed be based cruxially upon a closed mindset. It does not mean that one is using skepticism incorrectly necessarily – rather that their dissent has ossified into a condition of dogmatic cynicism – and not that any particular feature of their skepticism is necessarily wrong. There is never a condition of skepticism wherein one just throws up their hands at any kind of questioning, basking in the bliss of the ‘right answer’ – as attractive a surrender as this might appear to the political agenda laden, weary or snowflake heart.

Skepticism itself does not mean that I must accept specific answers, it simply means that I defend the methods of science, even in the face of popular votes – and withhold disposition until a critical nexus is reached. A skeptic can simply be contending that this nexus has not yet been reached – and even disagree with inadequately supported claims to consensus. One can do this however, and still ossify into the cynical specter of denial.  In contrast, and as exhibited in the chart above (click to expand), pseudo-skepticism is the form of cynicism wherein a power wielding group tampers with methods and science, associations, media and social pressure mechanisms in order to create and enforce on the public, a false null hypothesis or conclusion narrative. This is completely distinct from the process of denial. Denial may be existentially wrong – yet still have stemmed from proper science methods originally. Pseudo-skepticism is agenda laden methodical doubt – used to identify the bad guys who don’t accept the right answer – and is only existentially correct in its conclusion by accident. Denial does not enforce any particular conclusion, only pseudo-skepticism does this.

A chief tactic of social skepticism is to blur the distinct integrity of words which might be useful in describing and communicating the methods of masquerade they employ.

A Contrast: Example of Pseudo-Skepticism

Of course, enormous uncertainty surrounds the fate of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan during the terminal leg of their journey around the world. On the team’s fateful July 2nd 1937 trip, their radio signal was picked up by a number of surrounding radio stations (Oahu, Midway, Howland and Wake islands). Despite Noonan having been trained in what is called Dead Reckoning and Radio Direction Finding navigation, they were unable to utilize the bearing of the radio direction signal from the on-station Coast Guard Cutter Itasca, in order to develop a track from their DR (navigation slang for a ‘Dead Reckoning track’ – an assumed-correct course based upon speed, bearing and time – an inductive extrapolation used frequently in navigation – I have over 7,000 practice hours in this method of navigation). A track which would lead them to a visual confirmation of Howland Island, their destination. Itasca had detected Earhart and Noonan right on the correct bearing for termination of the DR phase of their navigation plot. Yet, despite having the Itasca’s axial measurement on their RDF radio, Earhart and Noonan never showed up for the scheduled landing. A very odd occurrence given that four of five navigational variables (Howland axis, distance, speed, time) had been solved for, and only one uncertain variable remained – axial distance to Howland Island.

When you are a skeptic, who is misapplying skepticism and fail to realize that you don’t understand critical elements of dead reckoning navigation or how radio direction finding antennas work, you might assemble grand logical conjectures which are erroneous in attempting to provide a ‘simple’ explanation to this mystery (note: this is not an instance of Dunning-Kruger Error because neither celebrity skeptic communicator, Michael Shermer nor Brian Dunning are ‘peers’ to any dead reckoning navigators as a discipline group – this is simply an instance of failed skepticism, pseudo-skepticism – and great example at that). Moreover, if the club picks up your ‘rationality’ and hails it as a championing issue, then that error becomes dogmatic – ossifying, from methodical doubt in the handling of Ockham’s Razor sufficient alternatives, into the a priori bias of pseudo-skepticism. For example, in his June 22nd blog, Brian Dunning inexpertly applies apparent common sense to the issue – a grave mistake when used in lieu of actual investigative skepticism:

Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan had followed Itasca’s radio direction finding signal to get there. The water there is very deep, and it’s unlikely that much survives of the plane to ever be found. There’s never been any mystery surrounding her loss at sea.

For some reason, [TIGHAR’s] Gillespie thinks they flew instead to an island called Nikumaroro, a full ten degrees off the course they are known to have followed, and which their fuel onboard made it physically impossible to reach.1

The astute ethical skeptic will notice primarily that Dunning here is overconfident in his promotion of the single, popular, Occam’s (sic) Razor, conforming and simple Verdrängung Mechanism solution. The argument is over and no further research needs to be done as “There’s never been any mystery surrounding [their] loss at sea.” Well, as it turns out, this entire contention set is incorrect. It is pseudo-skepticism. It may make sense for the general public (the vulnerable of pseudo-skepticism) to consume the idea that a tenacious pilot and experienced navigator just flew mindlessly until they ran out of fuel, but it does not make sense to a seasoned investigator (skeptic).

Pseudo-skeptics package material for general consumption. Their goal is not truth; rather, influence.

First, Noonan followed Itasca’s radio direction AXIS, not bearing (as Dunning implies), and there is a difference which a skilled dead reckoning and RDF navigator knows, a skeptic might ascertain, but a pseudo-skeptic will never know (and more importantly, never get the feedback that their skeptical method was wrong). The ‘Loop’ or axial antenna is shown mounted on top of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra in the photo to the right.2 What this type of direction finding device gives is a two bearing axis, not a single bearing direction.3 So the information Fred Noonan would have possessed was ‘Howland Island is either 350 degrees true from us, or 170 degrees true from us’ (see map above, upon termination of the dead reckoning phase of navigation). Their next step would be to fly one of the axis bearings to see if the signal faded or strengthened. The problem is that they were using very low HF (today’s frequency standards) frequencies, of which the signal propagation will dance around and chaotically strengthen and diminish no matter where you are. I once encountered a circumstance in my communications radio operator days where a 3MHz signal just like they used here, was totally clear from Diego Garcia, 1500 nautical miles away, yet I could not hear another transmitter on that same frequency band which was just 100 nautical miles from me.  This is the way radio frequency HF direction finding works. It bears enormous risk in its interpretation.

In addition, there was no ‘there’ to be gotten to in the first place. The navigation plot was ending its DR phase (an inductive conjecture) and transitioning to a radio directed phase (a deductive measure). This transition occurs at only a theoretical ‘there’. This is why a fix (the yellow circle with a dot inside it, on the chart above) is symbolized by a full circle, and carries more confidence than does a DR (in tomato) which is symbolized by a half circle. These symbols imply confidence on the datum.

Would not such symbology help in matters of science, to distinguish conclusions of induction and abduction pushed by pseudo-skeptics, as distinct from conclusions of deduction on a Query Oriented Normalization schema? But, we learn in pseudo-skepticism that the duty of skeptics is to defend questionable inductive answers (DR half circles) as science and never look again. The DR-science is finished. So…

Second, yes all the water was deep everywhere and no, it is not ‘unlikely’ – rather prohibitive, that any wreckage of the plane survives to this day, had they ditched in open ocean as he suggests.

Pseudo-skeptics rely upon how clever a phrase sounds, rather than its probative value. They will rarely catch a circumstance wherein we have stacked deductive methods on top of inductive conclusions. This is not a sound process – despite its looking ‘sciencey’ through its equipment and analytical tools. It is as dangerous socially for mankind every bit as much as it was navigationally for Noonan and Earhart.

Third, they did not follow a ‘known’ course as Dunning describes it, as Earhart and Noonan did not find the course confirming islands they had hoped for.4 A DR is not a ‘known’ course and speed, it is rather just as in the case of ‘there’ above, an assumption. If the prevailing winds were 10 knots south rather than the 1937 era forecast 3 knots north, then that would impart a 50 nautical mile error into the ‘known & there’. This is called a ‘tail condition’ in arrival distribution science – a less common scenario, but all too possible and real. The purpose of navigation is to use discipline methods to mitigate the risk of this assumption aspect of navigation and any tail condition circumstances.5

Pseduo-skeptics habitually fail to assess risk, tail variance and significance, as well as the impact of human behavior on social systems inside objective scenarios or their own construct analysis.

Fourth, Nikumaroro is EXACTLY ON, Noonan’s RDF search axis with Howland Island, a natural island to find once one has terminated their DR, and begun an uncertain axis search (again, something a pseudo-skeptic would never know).6

Pseudo-skeptics will tamper with terminology, using large footprint equivocal words, altering the meaning of probative terms in order to emasculate them, and switching critical words so as to reduce their expository value – like here, employing ‘bearing’ in lieu of ‘axis’. They are fully aware that 97% of the population, none of their cronies, nor scientists will catch the significance of the shell game.

Fifth, as you can see on the per hoc aditum scenario chart above, if Earhart and Noonan did not have the fuel to reach Nikumaroro, then they did not have the fuel to reach Howland Island, their destination either; unless the wind was just right (emphasis here). I seriously doubt that an experienced global pilot like Earhart would have taken off without enough fuel to cover for unexpected normal circumstance wind set and drift (such as 13 knots to the north or south).

This habit of crafting apparently solid debunkings, which rely upon clever sounding one-liners, in lieu of real understanding – this is a habit of pseudo-skepticism. Once you apply short cut one-liners in one discipline, you will do them in all (see Margold’s Law). The call here is to hold epoché, not craft appeal to authority solutions without real evidence.

Finally, their fuel would have run out EXACTLY about the time of spotting Nikumaroro island, based on the theoretical DR/RDF axis search, which is the standard practice of RDF/DR navigators. They had enough fuel to take the above track and even circle the island to see where they might land; as a reasonably conservative pilot will choose a deserted island beach over a chance of an open sea landing, any day, any time. If they are in trouble, they will land in a place where survival is enhanced and not chance a total loss in trying to find something better. Earhart did not have to be ‘ten degrees off course’ as Dunning inexpertly opines, because the “off course” variation he assumes is explained by the very RDF axis search Fred Noonan was trained to execute (in yellow in the image above).

A pseudo-skeptic will fail to see the non-linear dynamic outcomes of which a system is capable. Solutions are therefore easy, common sense founded upon induction – and become  prescriptive through Lindy Effect from that point onward – most fully unaware of the thin ice upon which their grand cosmologies stand.

Not to mention of course that the final radio direction finding fix of the aggregate of all the RDB reports from the surrounding islands (see on the chart above, the grey bearings reported by Itasca, Oahu, Midway, Howland and Wake islands – collectively support an aggregate fix at the position of the yellow circle fix), much more solidly than does ‘simplest explanation’ skepticism, places Earhart and Noonan about 50 nautical miles north of a nearest proximity island, right on the Howland search axis …Nikumaroro.

What distinguishes fake skepticism, just like fake news, from the real thing – is not the facts you bring to bear; but rather the facts you choose to leave out.

Note as well, that if I use only the radio direction bearings of the two closest radio stations (Itasca and Midway), then I get a two-shot fix right on top of Nikumaroro island. This should have been one of the first places to examine. Never underestimate the impact of the human desire to survive and skilled pilot ingenuity on ‘simplest answer’ alternative hierarchies.

The problem with social skepticism is not that individuals abuse skepticism to prematurely arrive at a personal wrong conclusion. The problem does not reside in simply being wrong. With social skepticism the entire scientific and public community at large, intimidated by simple linear approved thought, arrive at and permanently affix these errant conclusions. We take Dead Reckoning style induction or abduction – and falsely regard it as proved science. Then we stack such conclusions upon each other into grand assemblies of Dead Reckoning tracks – ignorant of the error we have imparted and multiplied (see Contrasting Deontological Intelligence with Cultivated Ignorance).

It does not matter that these individuals are rational and can eventually at a later time, be brought to understand what really happened inside such mysteries. What matters is that they over-confidently estimate their ability to spot and define ‘likelihood’ – and failing to evaluate that risk, compound it by releasing such conclusions as ‘rational’, ‘factual’ and science-based – simply because they think they used skepticism.

They would have circled and landed, only minutes after these transmission bearing measurements, as a precautionary measure. Observe the graphic I assembled above which reflects these final RDF bearings, and note where their weighted three-shot fix resides.7 A very compelling theory – and this is how science actually works. Why did Brian Dunning not do this same research? Because he was applying pseudo-skepticism (see Steven Novella’s definition). He selected for one imperious and likely correct answer, to be enforced by bad method – upon us all. My citing that his biased selection of one answer, constitutes wrong method, does not serve to make me therefore a ‘denier’ – even if 97% of his cohorts support the single answer.

Pseudo-skeptics employ derision or humor, not just to motivate deniers to accede to scientific gravitas, they mostly employ humor to block critical alternatives and prohibit deductive science, because of its distinct probative & epistemic value. They do not care what is truth – they care what you believe is truth. Often the developers of pseudo-skeptic propaganda (like the above fake science tweet from a paid hashtag stuffer – someone employed to squelch disdained ideas) are hired and compensated to play such a role. Deniers typically, not always, but typically rely upon conscience.

Knee-jerk dismissing this compelling theory as a viable and testable alternative, in favor of ceasing science and adopting a simple or socially preferred/conforming explanation, ‘they crashed into the sea’ – this is pseudo-skepticism. You will see it play over and over inside society – it is not the same as denialism.

Denialism is probably being wrong; pseudo-skepticism is being not even wrong.

Dismissal of a very compelling alternative theory – one which is supported to a great degree by the intelligence, one which is rational, one which is highly plausible by expert method, one which bears mechanism and can be tested (not that an ethical skeptic assumes it as a priori correct); dismissing this in advance of sufficient knowledge horizon development or testing is …pseudo-skepticism. It is pseudo-science. More specifically, what have Shermer and Dunning done here? In specific regard to pseudo-skepticism their contentions feature a degree of Methodical Pathology combined with a knee-jerk compulsion to enforce conformity. That is, they have ossified from dissent to cynicism. Specifically many pseudo-skeptics practice the following:

Hints that one might be a pseudo-skeptic (wrong methods and only accidentally correct)

  • A pseudo-skeptic rarely understands an opposing alternative, they socially – just don’t care about soundness or logical calculus
  • Has bought into one single answer
  • Promotes conjecture and conformance inside a subject with a large horizon of unknown
  • Chooses a ceremonial issue
  • Focuses on issues which bear no productive achievement potential with respect to love, an increase in usable knowledge, or the alleviation of suffering
  • Uses non-expert skeptics, as communicators – instead of investigative reporters
  • Decides the likelihood of ideas before the preponderance of compelling theory has been researched
  • Targets groups or legitimate researchers bearing ideas they do not like, as the bad guys (TIGHAR in this case) – polarizing and corrupting the issue a priori
  • Employs hearsay, common and ‘friendly sounding’ information as the principal elements to communicate
  • Enforces a popular standing belief as the ‘simplest explanation’
  • Chooses an issue which will incite their faithful with interest
  • Selects a position which can be perceived as being the ‘rational’ approach
  • Selects a position or issue which will tender them attention
  • Chooses a topic which contains enough unknown such that bias is hard to discern or be held to account for
  • Selects an issue where Nickell Plating (doing sciencey-looking things to appear skepticky) is practicable
  • Chooses an issue where to conform to the standing explanation can be used to show why those who oppose you are ‘irrational’
  • Stands in a position to block the investigation of compelling alternatives or intelligence
  • Assigns a null hypothesis which has been assigned without merit (See The Five Types of Null Hypothesis Error)
  • Never held epoché to begin with
  • Accepts entire bundles of scientific ideas based upon what political side they appear to reinforce
  • Employs false methods of science (often with real true facts) in order to petition for cessation of further investigative activity
  • A pseudo-skeptic considers violence or legal action as a possibility at hand in the enforcement of their conclusions
  • Can never be an ethical scientist
  • Employs false science method – pseudoscience

A Contrast: Example of Denial

AGW opponents, contrary to the shtick of social skeptics who promote anthropogenic global warming social agendas, might actually use skepticism.  They might be wrong, they might reside in a state of dogged denial – but those existential circumstances do not serve to relegate their skepticism to status as pseudo-skepticism, simply because they disagree. A denialist just simply might not be willing to accept the consensus alternative. An ethical scientist might be a denialist, but an ethical scientist can never be a psuedo-skeptic. More specifically for this example, a denialist ‘denies’ that the null below has been correctly assigned; and denies further that all of the alternatives below have been falsified through ample research and processes of deductive consilience:

Null – Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, introduced by human activity and increasing from from 280 parts per million in the 19th century to more than 400 today, much more than any other greenhouse gas or factor, is the primary contributor to climate change since 18508

Alternatives –

1.  Cyclical changes in Total Solar Irradiance (TSI), on increase since 1850, is the major contributor

2.  A cyclical shift in Solar Spectral Index (SSI), towards more release of water-vapor-absorptive infrared irradiance by the sun, has occurred since 1850 and is the major contributor

3.  Primary Earth orbital dynamics (obliquity, eccentricity and axis precession), as recorded in the Milankovitch Cycles, are at least partial and not fully understood contributors

4.  Cyclical changes to the Earth’s core nuclear reactor and structural/mantle dynamics (as measurable by geoneutrinos and as observed historically in the Schumann Resonance/Earth temperature record) have served to heat the oceans from the bottom up in the Pacific Rim of Fire and equatorial thermal regions (El Niño and La Niña), and consequently the pole ice from the bottom up, and atmosphere since 18509 10 11 12 13

5.  Deforestation and/or loss of reflectiveness/ocean/ice absorption has been the primary contributor to climate change since 1850

6.  Natural processes of water vapor, carbon and methane atmospheric release, in combination with and as precipitated resulting from the Null, or 1, or 2, or 3, or 4, or 5 or any combination thereof, explain the majority of temp increases since 1850

7.  Carbon, methane and water vapor are all released as a natural sympathetic outcome of climate change, and are not primarily contributed by man – nor the principal cause, rather only a correlation with some other causal condition

Note of Clarity – A denialist denies that the Null has been chosen by valid rational or empirical processes nor that it should be rationally selected for consensus. A pseudo-skeptic denies that the alternatives are even science, or insists that they should never have been seriously investigated to begin with, or merit zero investigation now.

For me personally, I hold the Precautionary Principle as one contributor to the reason I favor taking action based upon the Null Hypothesis in the matter of climate change – and complimentarily because I have read all the material I could find on alternatives 1 – 7, and found nothing compelling enough to be considered as a falsification of the Null. Alternative 4 is interesting, but only interesting so far. I wish we had more study on it. In so far as our temperature models are now outrunning our carbon curves (see graphic I assembled at right which includes the 2017 Mauna Loa data), then we need to keep a skeptical eye on our own conclusions, in order to avoid falling into pseudo-skepticism. Denial in contrast involves ignoring climate change warnings: greenhouse gasses, and carbon dioxide in particular, are not simply a ‘correlation’ with global temperature increases, rather a fingerprint signal. A distinction point which not only denialists, but fake skeptics as well tend to misunderstand (as in the case of autism contributors for example).

I maintain skepticism around the issue and bear some concern that we have not fully investigated the contribution from all alternatives 1 – 7. But like most scientists, hold the need for precaution and the current inductive data – as bearing more concerning gravitas. Should I encounter data which develops a compelling case for Alternative 4 and 6 for instance – that does not immediately serve to make me a denialist.  If however I am protecting the null hypothesis and begin to wage a campaign to have science ignore Alternative 4, then I am indeed a pseudo-skeptic. Do you see the game they are playing with our language in order to obscure this clarification on behalf of the general public (see Wittgenstein Error and Its Faithful Participants)?

These are the kind of games for which an ethical skeptic must be ever vigilant.

Take a hint folks, fake skeptics do not hold the reasoned position I just outlined above. They are correct – but only by accident. Moreover, they employ such correctness to enact goals which have nothing really to do with the science – rather someone they hate. I respect a researching denier much more, for this simple reason. But Let’s be clear here too folks – each of these alternatives listed above are actual scientific alternatives and their investigation is done with actual science methods. In contrast, pseudo-skepticism relies upon false methods. This makes it not science. The rightness or wrongness of the conclusion has nothing to do with it. A denialist, in contrast may practice the following:

Hints that one might be a denialist (right original methods yet may be doggedly incorrect)

  • A denialist understands the alternative they are denying, as well or better than do its proponents – they disagree on its soundness
  • Has not bought into one single answer
  • Withholds conjecture and consent inside an issue of a small horizon unknown
  • Does not choose an issue, but may have it thrust upon them
  • Focuses on issues of productive achievement potential with respect to love, an increase in usable knowledge, or the alleviation of suffering
  • Uses experts who focus on the salient evidence, eschewing ‘communicators’
  • Resists a priori definitions of likelihood
  • Doesn’t target anyone – just simply disagree with either soundness or logical calculus
  • Sometimes employs hearsay, common and ‘friendly sounding’ information as the principal elements of support only
  • Does not choose a ‘simplest explanation’ – cognizant that things may be more complex than we understand
  • Does not have a faithful following
  • Does not conflate rationality with conformance
  • Does not seek attention
  • Cites and alerts the community to bias – not a specific conclusion
  • Never pretends to be or represent science, just simply skepticism
  • Does not argue ‘rationality’ and ‘irrationality’ – rather corruption and conclusiveness
  • Does not block research of any alternatives – even the one they question
  • Dissents as to the null hypothesis assigned, but may refuse to assign one as well
  • Has held epoché past its utility
  • May resist a whole set of scientific ideas they perceive to be politically motivated
  • Employs real methods of science (sometimes with errant data or assumptions) to encourage more scientific research
  • A denialist rarely or ever considers violence or legal action as an at-hand solution to their debate
  • Might be simply a mistaken ethical scientist
  • Employs science – just errs in conclusion, soundness or logical calculus

Behind the Conflation of the Two Terms

Pseudo-skepticism is an entirely distinct malicious and errant method and is not a set of errant conclusions, per se. False skeptics do not get this. They believe the notion that

The ends justifies the means, the answer justifies the methodology of arriving at the answer.

Vigilantes and Police Forces both take people into custody at gunpoint, and sometimes kill people. They both have headquarter offices, but this does not make them the same thing at all. In similar fashion, just because a denialist might use some of the tactics of social skeptics and pseudo-skeptics at times (after all this is what celebrity skeptics have been teaching the public since 1972), does not serve as a basis to identify them as pseudo-skeptics. Social skeptics will employ the use of traits common to both terminology domains, those traits in the undistributed middle, to provide a basis for conflating and confusing the terms ‘denial’ and ‘pseudo-skepticism’.  They do so, for reasoned purpose: to blur the distinct integrity of words which might be useful in describing and communicating the methods of masquerade they employ.

Characterization by the Undistributed Middle

/philosophy : formal fallacy : fallacy of composition/ : a rhetorical blending of fallacy of composition and affirmation of the consequent, wherein traits shared between two distinct groups are used to underpin the claim that the two groups are indeed identical or falsely that a person in one group actually belongs in the other group. Usually a form of rhetosophy, used to support an agenda, in its conflation. All pseudo scientists promote un-vetted data, the proponent of this argument promoted un-vetted data, therefore the promoter of this argument is a pseudo scientist.

Being right all the time, is not the goal of an ethical skeptic. Investment in such ego and fear assets – introduces bias into the deliberative processes we undertake. I would rather be a mistaken denialist, who pressed their epoché just a little bit more than they should – than a mindless, bad methods, unethical pseudo-skeptic any day.

epoché vanguards gnosis

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July 9, 2017 Posted by | Agenda Propaganda, Argument Fallacies, Ethical Skepticism, Institutional Mandates | , , , , | Leave a comment

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