Ethical Skepticism – Part 9 – Skeptive Dissonance

The heart which is only focused upon itself, eventually tires of such a subject. There exists a discomfort one experiences in overcoming anosognosia. This is considered the first step in the journey of ethical skepticism.

It is my contention that the crisis in the skepticism community today, derives its potency from one single issue. The internet is forcing hard questions upon skeptics. Not questions of scientific conclusivity (which is part and parcel to the fantasy they maintain); rather questions of ethic and philosophical merit. Media is no longer a one-way street. Questions are being asked back, in the face of the old proclamations of certainty. Have you really examined this issue? Do you perceive that you might be conducting advocacy for answers which are mere ego fodder, are profit-fueled or might be causing harm to the innocent? Have you really asked a scientific question? Have we really tested this product to deductively, not inductively, prove safety? Are we brushing off clear and robust epidemic trends, with clever apothegms? Are you sure that all your hullabaloo has been about ‘knowledge’?

The heart which remains focused upon itself, eventually tires of such a subject. This realization is one of the critical first steps we all face in the journey to maturity as a human being. Often, such a weariness is followed with an examining of self, by means of the following questions of true skepticism:

1.  Could I be mistaken on this?

2.  If I was mistaken, would I even know?

3.  If I was mistaken, could I have helped enable harm?, and

4.  How do I go about honestly addressing the above risk, and correcting that which I find wrong?

If you have not seriously challenged yourself with these questions, stop reading this blog now – and more importantly, stop pretending to know skepticism. This is the point at which the fake skeptic takes the first step in standing down the concealed temper tantrums dressed up as science. This is the point at which they become disillusioned with the ‘skeptic movement’.

All science endeavor naturally features error. Moreover, all humans add to and greatly amplify the impact of such error. Once we observe this, we begin to dismantle the podium upon which our younger mind placed the self-scientific poseur. If one is going to err, err in the favor of precaution, mercy and advocacy on behalf of those innocent who are placed at risk. Err in favor of the honest observer, the unnecessarily accused and that which is ignored by those who act most assured of their immunity to such error.

You may be wrong 24 times; but even being right on the 25th time, finally and satisfyingly places your life inside a reference frame of joy and usefulness. This will dissipate:

Skeptive Dissonance

/philosophy : pseudoscience : ethical dissonance/ : the difficult to articulate or grasp, cognitive discomfort experienced upon one’s first perception of the disconnect between fake skepticism and real or effective science. The discomfort one experiences in overcoming a former fake skeptic anosognosia. Usually considered the first step in ethical skepticism.

No one is ever convinced upon the hearing of mere words
A question betrays its suspicion, and teflon heart craves familiar phrases
Dissonance is sticky philosophy, a robust and persistent emissary.

What You are Departing

The following is the protocol/approach of the fake skeptic – the handiwork of the darkened heart, which has demonstrably failed to advance mankind even one small step – serving to produce only the fruits of polarization, ignorance and scientific illiteracy. In order to undertake the journey of ethical skepticism, one’s first step of self examination usually involves not doing this:

  1. Issue the authorized conclusion; usually the first answer they are taught
  2. State a memorized one-liner
  3. Boast about ‘evidence’ or ‘science’ or ‘facts’
  4. Focus on only ‘the enemy (you)’ personally thereafter; usually in a clique/menacing/insulting demeanor
  5. Exhibit a life dwelling in feckless issue advocacy, soft meaningless targets selected to inflate their club status; unqualified by any scientific question or research;  bereft of a heart for mankind or the risks born by the innocent and vulnerable. Champion of nothing but their own childish tantrum-concealing ego.

The first three steps are a costume they wear in order to make their way to the real goal, Step 4. Step 5 is the habit of the anosognosiac fake skeptic.

Ethical Skeptic Faith

Yes, we all love science, and yes – I eagerly anticipate being shown to be wrong on this incredible journey. However, once undertaken, I know that I can trust you now – that we are on the same team. You will find that the dissonance fades as you progress. Congratulations, you are on your journey.

Nurturing the New Mind: The Disruptive Nature of Ethics

Everyone lies. Even so, it is the legitimate role of the New Mind to not simply detect lies, but moreover to dethrone those entities which pretend to the role of God. The Ethical Skeptic does not know what a god even is; nor does he possess all knowledge and wisdom. However, he can easily spot a monkey with a gas can. Even and especially if that gas can serves to intimidate via means of institution, socialized rationality or specious claims to science, evidence or truth. Inside this awareness, several telltale character traits, life signatures, differentiate the poser elitist from someone who can be trusted. This is his threshing floor – upon which he exercises the disruptive nature of ethics.

monkey with a gas canTo a degree, ethical skepticism can be viewed as a method of exercising a New Mind. It involves a keen survey of the landscape of animal, primate and human behavior, along with an understanding of how these roles, tactics and strategies of both survival and inhabitance, have played into our success as a species. It also involves (as does true skepticism) a keen understanding of the pitfalls of each strategy and how such pitfalls might manifest in our lives inside the societies in which we dwell. Everything of merit possesses a relevant range of application, outside of the bounds of which, even the best strategy can devolve into a practice oriented towards power; producing deception and suffering. Remember, that to a sentient intelligence species, deception-based ignorance and suffering are the same thing – one is simply the expression of the other. Lacking of knowledge is not a sin. The withholding of knowledge and denial of the right to thrive is a sin. This is a key tenet of ethical skepticism. It is not so much bunk we are fighting, as bunk will eventually falsify itself in a free information environment, rather cultivated ignorance. The ethical skeptic gets this, the small mind, no matter how rational, does not.

The Knowledge of God and Not-God

Let’s take a step back and examine the myth outlaid in the Torah, a myth which has for right or wrong, ruled much of our foundational understanding of good and evil as a western superculture. A condensed version of manuscripts taken from an older Levantine religion (I suspect from which the Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite lineage spawned) now included in what we call The Bible. In the renamed condensed later manuscript now called Genesis, we see in verses 3: 22 – 24 (NASB):

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the Tree of Life.

Now I have found manifest in my years working with nations and corporations all over the globe, that man possesses a serious dearth in ability to distinguish good from evil, nor even cozen a coherent definition of each thereof. What man understands is ‘proper’ and ‘improper’. These are simply popular constructs relating to socialized rationality. Hence the persistence of malicious religions, governments and corporations – entities which thrive on ‘rationality’ but do not serve its goals necessarily; rather ultimately their own. Were we to recognize them in the context of true good and evil, possibly we could work to mitigate their deleterious effects. But we cannot even recognize such effects, even if we did possess a knowledge of good and evil at the outset. No, we are their prey – seriously falling under the contention that we must have eaten from the Tree of Lack of Knowledge of Good and Evil, were there such a mythical flora indeed. The bottom line is that the Bible is wrong, we do not know what good and evil is. We know harm, proper and improper. That is all. Perhaps our fall after all, simply resides in our presuming of skill at good and evil discernment in the first place.

Just think to yourself, what if your family dog one day licked an electrical socket and suddenly obtained the mental clarity to ascertain your true nature and celestial position as a human being? What if in a bought of tragic rift, your beloved pet, the furry creature who used to greet you at the door with such abandon, excitement and love each day after work, became knowledgeable about just who and what you were? What if he understood that you did not really kill and prepare the food you so faithfully gave him? What if he understood that you routinely lie to your parents in order to placate them? What if he understood that you had to betray a friend and take full credit for a paper that was partly her idea, in order to make the next step in your career? What if he understood that you destroyed a friend and former lover, in order to chance a relationship with someone more attractive – and it all collapsed in a heap of angst and broken hearts? What if he knew that you habitually tolerated or promulgated lies between 10-200 times every single day – along with the rest of humanity?¹ And even lived in a state of denial of even doing so, lying even to yourself? But never mind this, what if your faithful dog – suddenly possessed even the slightest understanding of who and what you are? He would hold then the wisdom of the Knowledge of God and Not-God. He might even bite you and leave.

He would be wise to you, and no longer serve in the faithful role in which you both previously existed. Bad dog…

Everyone lies. Even so, it is the legitimate role of the New Mind to not simply detect lies, but moreover to dethrone those entities which pretend to the role of God. The Ethical Skeptic does not know what a god even is; nor does he possess all knowledge and wisdom. However, he can easily spot a monkey with a gas can. Even and especially if that gas can serves to intimidate via means of institution, socialized rationality or specious claims to science, evidence or truth. Inside this awareness, several telltale character traits, life signatures differentiate the poser from someone who can be trusted. This is his threshing floor.

The ethical skeptic knows that it is often those who adhere to the most strict appearances of honesty – who can produce the most corrupt manifestations of ignorance and suffering. They can be known by hints derived from their motivations.

Standing Up to The Monkey with the Gas Can

Ethics are therefore disruptive by this very principle alone; and in an evolutionary context actually, eruptive. And in as much as this comforting metaphor of the family dog can serve to exhibit the crucial relationship between knowledge and control, even so we as thinking and discriminating beings can fortunately now examine the playing field inside which we reside. Our task is to become more than simply the smart but formerly obedient dog.  In so far as Pamela Meyer has outlined in her work “Liespotting,” the ability to spot lies in other people;¹ even moreso, the task at hand for us the ethical skeptics, is understanding the conditions when someone is pretending to the role of God in our lives. And trust me, it is not just mainstream religion which is pretending to this role. Primates seek power, pleasure and entitlement by any means they can – and uber-correctness, fake humility and social rationality can serve as great cover for such foibles.

First however, let’s examine the transitional role which primates have played in the evolution of consciousness and conscience. The stacked hierarchy of tactic and strategy inside the reality of the need to survive or thrive within this physical realm in which we find ourselves. A New Mind may perceive itself as an unwilling participant inside the grand play in which it holds a role. And whether self-deception, illusion or none of the above, it is of no matter. The reality is that we survey this landscape nonetheless.

Perhaps two examples from the natural world, the first from the Jane Goodall Institute and the second from the work of animal psychologist Penny Patterson of The Gorilla Foundation, can suffice to elicit this graphic below. (As a note, I would ignore the abysmally incompetent, paltry and biased writeups in Wikipedia on both these matters as the authors of those entries were merely doing amateurish hackjobs, and not true research expose on each topic – so the entries are useless as information other than nominal facts and fake skeptic viewpoints on the matter):

[One Chimpanzee named Mike (1938 to 1975) began a strategy of dominance through employment of a gas can.] One day as Mike was batting a gasoline can around, the loud thuds and irritating banging noises it produced resulted in a few of his fellow chimpanzees running quickly away from the strange object and the noise it produced. Mike understood this to mean that he had found a means to intimidate his fellow chimpanzees. Mike began to practice his new brand of display with two cans bouncing off trees and earth as he went running madly down the path with hair standing erect, shoulders pushed back, and face molded into a fiercely determined look. Chimpanzees cringed in fear as they heard his noisy approach and saw him running at them. They scattered off the path and out of his way.

Large high-ranking males fled up the tree trunks when Mike began his descent down the forest path slapping, kicking, and smacking three cans in front of him! The other chimpanzees had never seen or heard anything like it. It was as if the worst thunderstorm had erupted and Mike was directing it toward them. They shrieked and tried desperately to get away from him and the terrible rattling and banging noise the cans made as they flew down the hill in their direction. Not wanting to fight with the unknown, the males of Mike’s community acquiesced. Mike became the first alpha male ever to employ his brain rather than his brawn to govern his community. One year after Mike began his unusual display, he attained the position of alpha male.²

Successively then, let us regard a tale of Koko the western lowland gorilla, the primate who has single-pawed overturned our understanding of the primate mind.

Like most people, Koko has good behaviors and bad behaviors. Like most people, she takes credit for the good behaviors and blames the bad ones on someone else. The cat [All Ball] came in handy on one particularly destructive day. When no one was around, Koko managed to rip a sink out of the wall in her habitat. When the humans returned, they asked Koko who ripped out the sink.

Koko signed, “The cat did it.”³

What this indicates is then, the death of the idea of glorified but fallen-sinful humanity, and the introduction of the idea that our vulnerabilities, our proclivities for both illicit and legitimate gain – are simply expressions of natural strategies to survive and thrive. They are natural, albeit higher DNA based manifestations of expression. We were simply blinded to this by entities pretending to the role of God in our past. Bluffing into a form of control, or what might reside inside the blue levels of the primate pyramid below. Below, I have constructed a graphic depicting the less-than-dramatic schism between humanity and the natural realm, along with the challenge resident in the mind of the ethical skeptic as to how we progress from this problem of philosophy (Social Skepticism), and onto the next step. What I call, The New Mind.

The Heirarchy of Natural Competitiveness

Traits of the New Mind

sci literacyThe decision as to whether control, coaching and conscience are sufficient to the task of fostering The New Mind, or whether or not to apply the draconian measures of culling and conversion, wholly resides inside another camp altogether. So for purposes of this blog, let’s assume that coaching and conscience are the tactics which provide for success in crafting of The New Mind. In that context, for the ethical skeptic, the matter is not simply one of determining liars and lies. Everyone lies. This is the reality of the natural realm inside which we reside. Pretending to be able to counter all the proclivities of the natural realm is a matter of magic, self aggrandizement and boast. Our task is NOT to detect every single lie which is uttered, and swell our egos in a virtual cocoon of correctness. Such a state stands itself, manifest as a sort of lie of its own crafting.  The key for the ethical skeptic is to detect when lies become institutionalized, when they begin to manifest suffering on a small or even grander scale.

The question on the mind of the ethical skeptic is “How do we get to the New Mind?” And more importantly, how do I take control of my intent and begin to serve a New Mind in myself? This is the essence of becoming an ethical skeptic. To become a skeptic of one’s self, and others – in so far as spotting the character traits of one who is – or is not – residing inside this New Mind:

Be tenacious, not stubborn
Be kind, rather than nice
Be firm, but not cruel
Be genuine, rather than frank
Be ethical, rather than virtuous
Tender epoché, rather than doubt
Examine self, before others
Be a learner, rather than a professional test taker
Be curious, rather than incredulous
Be level-minded, rather than humble
Be transparent, but not full disclosure
Nurture, but do not molly-coddle
Possess integrity, rather than conformance
Be merciful, rather than charitable
Dream, rather than fantasize
Lead, rather than draw attention
Observe, rather than assume
Risk, rather than suffer ‘what could have been’
Communicate, rather than speak or be silent
Run, rather than race
Laugh, rather than mock
Joy, whether comfort/love is near or absent
Serve, before being asked
Leave a legacy, without trying to do so

humble costumeThese are the hallmarks of the person who can be trusted, and not whether they have ever made a mistake – nor pondered ‘pseudoscience’. A person who has overcome themselves, and further then realizes that the goal of life is not simply to be happy, judgemental or controlling – and especially to not pull off primate tricks in order to amass such pleasure. Rather, possesses the quiet focus to be steadfast, faithful, compassionate, hungry and firm in the face of elite thirst for power. In a world of primate tricks, corruption, collusion and control – such traits are innately disruptive.

Epoché Vanguards Gnosis.

epoché vanguards gnosis

¹  Meyer, Pamela; “Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception”; July 2010; Pamela Meyer.

²  ChimpaZoo; The Goodall Institute, Chapter 21: “Mike the Alpha Male”;

³  “A Conversation with Koko”; Nature (1999) The Gorilla Institute; – as reported through Natural News; Mike Budrant; Jan 19, 2013;

Ethical Skepticism – Part 8 – The Watchers Must Also Be Watched

One of the tenets of Ethical Skepticism is “Monitor those who do the monitoring.” A confluence of three pitfalls derive from a monitoring process which has gone awry. In-group biases tend to reinforce in the mind of the watchers, the need for their quality entity (external entity skepticism in lieu of science) and they may fail to be able to recognize a quality outcome – becoming the source of error themselves. The net result, many times is an unbound combination of lack of accountability and coalescence of power to the authority who watches. This stands as a god-proxy. A mistake wherein the network may value itself above product or topic and become a regularly self-justifying and error stimulating/generating mechanism.
Clubs fail to ensure quality. Ethical Skepticism is the very absence of club quality.

Quality is not an Add-OnIn classic quality control theory, there exist five principal approaches to improving and sustaining quality of process and delivery. They revolve around the ethos of designing elegant procedure, being smart, and treating people in an ethical manner. Accountability imbued from outsiders is rarely effective, rather only standing as a cathartic and futile gesture on the part of someone looking to profit from the process, not share in its success. Shortfalls in this regard are what result in human and systemic error. Error does not stem primarily from an absence of monitoring errors; rather, it stems from a bad assumption, bad training, bad process …and sometimes (many times), bad monitoring itself. The key elements entailed in designing a process of quality, in order, are †

I.  Craft process(es) based upon clarity and value regarding human, training, system and their symbiosis

II.  Interweave self-checking mechanisms which highlight and correct error as an elegant aspect of each step

III.  Right-Pace productivity expectations to enhance quality, not make things produce as fast or low-cost as possible

IV.  Inform those who are stakeholders, and reward those who are critical, in achieving and sustaining quality delivery – Punishment and social derision are ineffective at producing sustained quality, or even quality at all.

V.  Monitor the mechanisms which monitor the process/quality.

Skepticism as Quality

In this same manner, (Ethical) skepticism is a quality mindset one maintains while doing actual science. It is not an add-on which decides, judges, derides, intimidates, concludes or provisionally stacks externally to or in lieu of science. This latter approach is demonstrably and timelessly ineffective.

How its not doneWhat my businesses have found over the years is that, if you do the first four things right, then the majority of error will be generated regarding pitfalls inside element V. In other words, your goal is to craft a process which is effective enough from a quality standpoint, that the monitoring process itself becomes the weakest link in the chain. As a young executive, the first time my organization achieved this state, it surprised me. From then on, I understood.

Treating people ethically is the key to quality – you do not punish quality deliverers and reward external parties – this is anathema to a sound approach in establishing quality. This however, is the practice of Social Skepticism.

In real ethical business and engineered process, you inform stakeholders (those directly impacted) and you reward those who deliver quality. Unconcerned parties do not get a voice – no matter how many buzzwords they know.

This lens into the principle of quality elicits a key tenet of Ethical Skepticism. That of watching the watchers. Systems are systems and humans are humans. Once established, they tend to erect mechanisms which serve to defend the existence of the system or human organization itself. Just as in the principle where the old bootleg networks of the prohibition era simply became drug networks after prohibition was repealed, any self-justifying network (one in which the value incorrectly resides in the network itself and not the product) will find targets which serve to reinforce justification for their existence. It was the network after all which was important and not the drug they were supplying.

With this in mind, several current pitfalls intersect to produce the current reality we observe with regard to Social Skepticism:

A.  The value, in the mind of the member is incorrectly shifted from the product or topic, and into the Organization itself.

B.  The watchers or Organization themselves may be unconnected to the issue, fail to recognize success and be where the majority of the error is then generated.

C. The Organization errantly begins to see quality as an external process of authority, derision and punishment – this always fails.

A or B or C or any intersection thereof. The watcher network may value itself above product, begin to fail to be able to imbue a quality outcome and become a regularly self-justifying and error stimulating/generating mechanism of its own.

This is the condition (A or B or C or any intersection thereof) we find ourselves in today. Fake skepticism run amok; wherein its participants reside in a state of such epistemic commitment and in-group bias, that they cannot observe the ineffective and many times destructive quality role they have played inside the public’s understanding of science and skepticism. This is the condition wherein a god proxy has arisen and is now exercising power.

The watchers are abusing the public and are not being held to account themselves. They are only producing errant outcomes and quality somehow never seems to arrive. An excellent example may be found inside this blog by Vixen Valentino, where as an astute observer of process error, she has identified the hypocrisy of appeal to motive accusations carelessly foisted by this self-justifying watchers organization. This is not how science is done, and not how skepticism is done. This introduces another form of informal fallacy for our consideration, qualitas clava error.

Qualitas Clava Error

/philosophy : fallacy : demarcation of skepticism and pseudo-skepticism/ : club quality error. The presumption on the part of role-playing or celebrity-power-seeking social skeptics that their club or its power, is important in ensuring the quality of science and scientific understanding on the part of the broader population. The presumption that external club popularity and authority, lock step club allegiance and presumptive stacks of probable knowledge will serve to produce valid or quality outcomes inside scientific, rational or critical thought processes. The pretense of encouraging skepticism, while at the same time promoting conclusions. Such thought fails in light of time proven quality improvement practices.

Those who truly value the outcomes of science, those who truly seek to develop knowledge and alleviate suffering – must be ever vigilant to watch for those who are simply using science as a battering ram to build their ego, money, politics and celebrity. At the supposed benefit of increasing quality which never seems to come; all at the cost of understanding and the sustaining of human suffering.

There is no club inside Ethical Skepticism. There should not be a club, as Ethical Skepticism is the very absence of club. Nor does teaching people how to think ethically skeptical constitute a qualitas clava error – an ethical skeptic encourages dissent by means of originality of thought and hard field research – not simply parroting of the provisional knowledge and one-liners held by him or his cronies. Ethical Skepticism is a process of personal choice regarding knowledge. It is an allegiance to preparing the mind to conduct science; a respect for quality knowledge improvement and the subject at hand, above all else.

epoché vanguards gnosis

†  There are numerous references which I can cite with regard to quality and process design – however, these five principles stem from my own decades of experience. They overlap 100% with established industry wisdom, but this version is a crafting of my own, employed through 30 years of creating effective and industry leading businesses and processes. The focus of this blog is not to provide a dissertation on quality control, rather highlight this tenet of Ethical Skepticism. However, if you seek some academic backing and foundational resource on systemic quality, some excellent reading can be found here:

Oakland, John S.; Total Quality Management (Fourth Edition); Routledge, 2014; ISBN-13: 978-0415635493.

Peters, T.J., Waterman, R. H.; In Search of Excellence; Harper Business, 2006; ISBN-00-6-0548789.

Hadley, M.E., Levine, J.E.; Endocrinology; Pearson-Prentice Hall, 2007; ISBN-0-13-187606-6.

¹  Many thanks to Vixen for highlighting to me this very important aspect of Ethical Skepticism, one which I had long forgotten to address.