The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

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.

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

How and Why We Know What We Know

Undertaking the (ethical) skepticism of understanding of how and why we know what we know, is not tantamount to usurping scientists at their job. It is not a philsophy of ‘doing the science all over again, in order to believe it’. Such prattle is agency lined straw man. Nonetheless, the question arises for concerned citizen and science communicator alike, ‘How do we know, how we know what we know, and why then it should be regarded as science?’

Rights come with responsibilities. The right to pursue science in the name of profit, comes commensurate with the responsibility to execute such activity under the burden of unadulterated public scrutiny. In compliment, the right of a common citizen stakeholder to have a say in the deployment of science and technology upon society, comes commensurate with the duty to understand how and why we know what we know.

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. ~John F Kennedy

Undertaking the (ethical) skepticism of developing an understanding of how we know what we know, is not the same thing as usurping scientists at their job. It is not tantamount to ‘doing the science all over again, before we believe it.’ Such are straw man framings lined with agency. Nonetheless, the question arises then, ‘How do we know, how we know what we know, and why then it should be regarded as science?’ How can we differentiate claims such as ‘The Earth is a sphere’, from ‘Dioxin is safe when employed under appropriate application protocols’ or ‘vaccines do not cause cerebral injury’? You might even see a person wearing a T-shirt, walking down the grocery store aisle, which says ‘We landed on the Moon, The Earth is Not Flat, Chemtrails are Not a Thing, Dioxin is Safe’. Well the first thing to note, is that truth does not come in bundles like this. Any person wearing such a t-shirt is scientifically illiterate to begin with. Lies and abuse come pork-barreled, always.

But, what if the discernment of truth is not as easy as is this visceral t-shirt example for the average member of the public? What questions should we as public stakeholders and ethical skeptics, those who bear a love for their neighbor and their children – what should we ask in order to discern strong science, from that science which is developed under a social masquerade? Now that we live in the era where the media censors voices which issue caution around science it favors, how do we tell valid plenary science, from its agency-infused imposter? When a single scientific study is being touted as the basis for truth the ethical skeptic must bear in mind, the disciplines of science. The following seven questions most often apply.

    1. How near is the researcher to the topic?
    2. How new is the topic and do we really understand much about it?
    3. Did the researcher stay focused and constrained on a single relevant aspect of the topic?
    4. Did the researcher conduct observations which would serve to fully inform, or to only partially inform?
    5. Does the work support the researchers’ conclusions, or did they bundle, exaggerate or extrapolate its results?
    6. Was the researcher’s primary objective to intimidate an issue into closure and embargo?
    7. Is the researcher influenced by agency of any kind?

The bottom line: If you are a citizen, you need to be asking these seven questions about the science being foisted upon you. It arrives every single media-propaganda operating day. If you are a science communicating journalist (or even a scientist), and you don’t understand these questions nor why they are important, then you are pretending at your craft.

Discerning Plenary Science from Imposter Science – Seven Questions

How near is the researcher to the topic?

1. Is the researcher close to the observation domain? Would you trust a two-year experienced intern in molecular biology, to scour 10,000 studies and determine what the opinion of the study authors were regarding a particular highly-charged political question? I would not. But this happens every day inside so-called ‘meta-study’. Highly compensated science celebrities, with little database and information technology skill, rarely possess the resources necessary in such detailed work. Young professionals often do however. They know that they will get ahead by simply tendering the results their mentor desires. The arrogance of extrapolation is then added by means of the pseudo-wisdom that ‘meta-analysis is the most rigorous form of scientific study’.1 What a load of hogwash. If a researcher conducts their first study out of the gate as a massive ‘statistical analysis’, and has never interviewed parents, doctors, kids, victims, never conducted decades of any direct physical observation at all, the odds of their statistical study bearing any gravitas are very low. If it goes straight to the media as ‘finished science’ thereafter, that broaches a case of court-defined oppression in the name of science.

See: Distinguishing Scientific from Academic Study

See The Lyin’tific Method: The Ten Commandments of Fake Science

How new is the topic and do we really understand much about it?

2. How large is the relevant subject domain relative to what we have currently observed of it? A four year-old can probably inform me as much about Heaven as can an 80 year-old (note: ‘Heaven’ being defined as ‘all that is, but remains unknown’). The reason for this is that the topic of Heaven is such a large domain, that one lifetime does not serve to place even a dent into its discernment. More tactically, inside topics such as Dark Matter versus Quantum Interference we have only begun to scratch the surface of the necessary understanding – I would be remiss to attempt to enforce a conclusion therein. This demonstrates the folly of certainty expressed inside a domain of substantive unknown. Similarly, were I to encounter a researcher who was sure he knew everything which was needful concerning Fast Radio Bursts, and had concluded exactly what they are – given that we have only detected them for less than a decade, and only for a few milliseconds at a time (and only two instances wherein they repeat), then I would not regard that researcher’s contentions as being plenary science.

See: The Fermi Paradox is Babysitting Rubbish

See: The Map of Inference

Did the researcher stay focused and constrained on a single relevant aspect of the topic?

3. Did the researcher employ actual critical path scientific hypothesis? Was there an actual necessity which drove the study? Were its terms well defined and disciplined? Was it conservative in its reach and implication? Did it address the critical path of prior art on the topic and inform its audience of any contrast or corroboration regarding that prior art? Did it combine a robust set of intelligence data with a set of direct observations and probative tests? Did it establish a proposed mechanism at risk and seek to hold that contention up to the light of accountability? It does not matter whether or not a study uses p-values to test its statistical hypothesis versus the null hypothesis – if the preceding questions are not answered in the positive, one should be concerned that they are examining propaganda, and not science.

See: Reduction: A Bias for Understanding

See: The Elements of Hypothesis

Did the researcher conduct observations which would serve to fully inform, or to only partially inform?

4. Was an appropriate study design employed? Did the study author use a longitudinal data study when a directly observed cohort study would better differentiate the critical argument at hand? Did the study authors avoid deductive study in favor of statistical induction, because it cost less or bore less risk of deriving a controversial result? Did the study authors sample an inordinately large population as their first and only data analysis, never establishing protocols to mitigate Yule-Simpson effect? Did the authors study two cohorts which were differentiated only by a trivial factor, and then declare that a major differentiating factor was actually studied by this method? Did the study authors ask the right question and do the appropriate background research? Did the abstract summarize the results, or simply preach about other study results as a pretext – or how this study was not necessary but anti-science forces mandated that it be done? Did the study contain a ‘Limitations and Qualifications’ section? Was the study passed straight to the media upon completion?

See: Interrogative Biasing: Asking the Wrong Question in Order to Get the Right Answer

See: Torfuscation – Gaming Study Design to Effect an Outcome

Does the work support the researchers’ conclusions, or did they bundle, exaggerate or extrapolate its results?

5. What type and mode of inference was drawn? Did the researcher seem to be aware of both the type (vertical axis of the Map of Inference) as well as mode (horizontal axis on the Map of Inference) of inference being drawn? Was methodical deescalation performed? Did the researcher seek to bundle-associate their scientific question with other, more established ones, or manifestations of virtue and correctness (did they wear the t-shirt)? Did the researcher use a small question inside a very large domain and then extrapolate its results to apply to that entire domain? Did the researcher claim that something was ‘not’ or that something ‘did not exist’ – when good argument as been made as to that entity’s possible reality? Did the researcher understand the difference between plurality and proof, under Ockham’s Razor?

See: The Map of Inference

See: The Three Types of Reason

Was the researcher’s primary objective to intimidate an issue into closure and embargo?

6. Did the researcher appear to distinguish a claim to proof from one of simply plurality? A very common philosophical sleight-of-hand proceeds along this line ‘I doubt, therefore my preferred and implicit conclusion is true.’ Its proponent will not admit this false syllogism at face value, however – watch for this tacit contention, as this is a key tactic of fake skeptics. In similar fashion always ask yourself, does the researcher involved make it clear what they are actually claiming? Are they suggesting that an argument be opened up for further deliberation, or are they suggesting that the entire issue is now closed? Even worse, are they appealing to an embargo of all competing ideas. Fake skeptics will gravitate towards the latter two. The burden of evidence in the case of the latter two far outweighs the burden of evidence sufficient for the former. A curious skeptic should regard with keen interest, any petition for plurality – the idea that ‘an additional explanation should now be considered, and here is why’. This versus the resistance they should tender in the face of a claim to conclusivity, especially premature conclusivity. Fake skeptics and fake scientists use such conclusivity as a method of embargo of ideas they dislike. Watch for this form of chicanery.

See: Ethical Skepticism – Part 5 – The Real Ockham’s Razor

See: Embargo of The Necessary Alternative is Not Science

Is the researcher influenced by agency of any kind?

7. Is the researcher well known for publishing studies of this expected result in the first place? Would the researcher be now negatively perceived if they showed a different result? Did the study start in the abstract by targeting or blaming disliked persons or ideas? If the researcher has found the antithesis to be indeed the case, would they have lost their job or community respect? Was the study funded by a group who stood to gain revenue or political power from the study’s touted implication? Is the study author well known for a position upon which they would need to double-down, if other threatening studies were to surface? Then perhaps you are witnessing agency (not simply bias) at play inside the process of supposed science.

See: A Handy Checklist for Distinguishing Propaganda from Actual Science

See: Epoché and The Handedness of Information

Although this responsibility of course is simple in it expression as seven specific questions – it can be rather complex in regard to its actual execution. Ethical skepticism is a life journey, and not a light undertaking by any means. One does not have to grasp all of this inside one day. Nonetheless, it is our duty. War is never fought casually, nor should it be. We are in just such a battle for mind, power, money and influence.

Arm yourself accordingly ethical skeptic.

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April 3, 2019 Posted by | Ethical Skepticism | , | Leave a comment

What Happens After?

Who is more terrified by the possibility of disclosure of alien life? Skeptics contend that it is the public at large which ‘risks going bonkers’ under the existential tumult of such a discovery. However, increasingly it is the open-minded and curious publican who regards the fake skeptic as the agency at risk of such duress.  What will so-called skeptics do with their endless plagiarized articles and investments into denial? In what ways will they adjust their propaganda in order to preserve their power? In short, we deal inside this article with the critical question of disclosure: What happens after?

The term ‘disclosure’ is one of those rare instances wherein a single word suffices to embody an entire composite of endeavor surrounding a single idea – the validation of alien life as a fact based and accepted reality for mankind. Journey with me for a while down the path of contemplation regarding this subject of disclosure. One hinging upon speculation to be sure; but also one of actual sponsorship science method. A pathway irrationally shunned by the typical consumer of Shermer, Nickell or the Skeptical Inquirer – the comic posturing of such celebrity dispatch, standing as decisive rationale supporting the idea to undertake consideration of the very journey itself.

No other subject in the entire litany of human existence, aside from sex, elicits so much visceral reaction from various agencies of mankind. It is as if we built a gigantic box in the middle of town square, fully clad in yellow police line tape, and placed a crier with a sounding bell on top of it, exclaiming ‘Don’t look inside this box!’ Disclosure. If experts in the martial art of cynicism rank a subject as their number one target of evisceration, then you should probably look into it and find out why. How does that old adage go?

It is said that a secret not worth sharing, is a secret not worth keeping. In this same vein perhaps, a disdained topic not worth studying, is also a topic not worth embargoing.

And should you agree to partake here along my suggested per hoc aditum sojourn of reason, you may find the comforting compartments of your mind slightly broached from this point forward. This is a healthy thing. The key to intelligence resides in the ability to stay grounded, but most importantly also not be afraid of what you may find.

If skeptics have invested so much effort into mandating that a subject is not worth knowing, then perhaps it behooves the ethical skeptic to investigate that which is not worth knowing, so that he can know exactly what it is he is supposed to not-know.

And so, this is what we as ethical skeptics do. When everyone says that ‘you can research anywhere you please, but the windfall-of-truth does not reside in there’ – that ‘there’ is indeed often the first place he or she should look. In keeping with such philosophy then, consider with me for a moment the possibility that mankind will sooner or later detect and/or be forced to disclose, the existence of extraterrestrial life inside our galaxy – and very possibly even, ‘nearby’. Inside this journey we will apply our study on the existential natures of mankind, and how those might both impact, and be impacted by discovery of life in our local universe. If you are part of the Cabal of critical thinkers who now regard me as a ‘believer’, for the mere sin of undertaking such contemplation, then stop reading right now and go elsewhere. There are thousands of regurgitated echochamber ‘articles’ though which you may comfort your self (again). I am not a believer in aliens. I do not pretend to know any particular truth about either the potential nor nature of any exceptional life form. Rather, as you will find herein, I am an observer of man – his foibles, power lust, avarice and tendencies towards self-deception.

The Two Types of Disclosure

An article by Yasemin Saplakoglu, former intern for Scientific American, published in an editorial from February 2018, partitioned the topic of discovery/disclosure of alien life into two macroscopic buckets: One entitled for our purposes ‘Threatening Disclosure’, and the other entitled ‘Less-Threatening Discovery’.1 ‘Threatening to whom?’ is of course the critical question. The only parties threatened by the disclosure of alien life are larger governments and those heavily invested into an a priori conclusion on the topic; i.e. fake skeptics. The common person kinda already suspects the reality; therefore, I suppose the public at large will not be as threatened as will be those skeptics who seem to have the most emotional investment in the right answer regarding this issue. A shift of blame as to who is actually threatened most, from fake skeptic to public-at-large, is expressed no better than by Seth Shostak in that very same Scientific American article.

“There’s this feeling amongst the public—a very large fraction of the public—that the discovery of intelligent life at least would be kept secret by the government because otherwise everybody would just go bonkers,” says Seth Shostak, an astronomer at the SETI Institute who was not involved with the study. Perhaps it might make sense for our brains—tuned by millions of years of evolution to be wary of predators—to freak out over immensely powerful alien beings arriving on our cosmic doorstep from parts unknown.

But let’s say the situation hasn’t gone full “alien invasion” yet and malevolent starships aren’t sailing toward Earth, but rather we have read news of a definitive discovery of extraterrestrial life. How might we react then? Psychologists at Arizona State University (A.S.U.) used language-analyzing software to gauge feelings associated with 15 news articles about past discoveries that could have potentially been attributed to extraterrestrial life—reports covering items such as newfound Earth-like planets, mysterious astrophysical phenomena and possible life found on Mars.

Any study of potential detection or disclosure of alien life, as it turns out, constitutes merely a pretext for a deeper study in the character of man. The more we look into the cosmos, the more in a sense, we see ourselves staring back. This Nitzschean insight might very well happen well before we, and especially our science communicators, are fully prepared with ready-explanations for such an event. In the celebrated 1970’s western High Plains Drifter we find a related key existential question being posed. Set upon by the burden of anticipating an upcoming deadly conflict between citizens of the mining town of Lago, and three marauding gunfighters, one of the town folk (played by Billy Curtis) inquires of the gun-slinging hero (played by director Clint Eastwood), as to what happens after the big day of the battle is over. (Photos above and to the right property of Universal Studios, Fair Use employment – 17 U.S.C. § 107)2

Mordecai:  What happens after? What do we do when it’s over?

The Stranger:  Well, then you live with it.

Within this article we contemplate, not simply the visceral and immediate reactions on the part of various factions inside mankind, such as were outlined in the infamous Brooking’s Institute Report,3 but rather – the long term chronic existential stress involved and how such realization will express itself inside mankind’s institutes and durable social fabric. Accordingly, the ‘Brooking’s Report’ briefly touched on the danger of just such a discovery with regard to those who ‘have their minds made up as to how things are’, thusly.

Societies (agency) sure of their own place in the universe have disintegrated when confronted by a superior society, and others have survived even though changed.

How will we as a collection of societies react to various scenarios of detection or disclosure? Who will change and who will disintegrate? How will various factions live with such knowledge? How will various agency respond; and in particular, heavily invested fake skeptics – so sure of their near-total grasp of the natural realm? How will they adjust their propaganda in order to preserve power (and no doubt they will)? In short, given their past embargoes and nefarious activities, what can we anticipate to hear from social skeptics, once the reality of (nearby) alien life has irrevocably impacted our perception of our relationship to the cosmos at large?

My fear is that, once disclosure occurs, people will react so viscerally to mainstream skeptics – that actual skepticism may be tossed to the wind. I almost fear the opposite therefore – that we may enter a conspiracy-laden dark age wherein every event or thought will be suspected as being of alien in origin. We will need real open minded skeptics and scientists – and not this cabal which has misled us for decades.

What We Can Expect to Hear from Skeptics Threatened by Detection or Disclosure

Thus in keeping with the framework outlined by Scientific American’s Saplakoglu, we will divide the potential response by social skepticism into two groupings. First, their response talking points under a context of Post-Detection Protocol (Saplakoglu’s ‘Less Threatening’ scenario), and then secondly, their response under the more visceral condition of Post-Disclosure Protocol (Saplakoglu’s ‘Threatening’ scenario). Given the more orderly and power-preserving path of the former, one would anticipate this to constitute the pathway of choice on the part of professional skeptics. But you know, the universe, or a higher form of intelligence therein, might just have a different agenda in mind. Should the process of disclosure be forced from a government or an outside influence, expect three phases of denial to be undertaken by social skepticism:  Pseudo-Skepticism, which progresses on to Exculpatory Apologetica and/or an Appeal to their Authority as Skeptics.

A.  Fake Skeptics’ Post-Detection Protocol (Less Threatening Scenario)

Any kind of post-detection protocol will involve two categories of incremental scientific discovery, as outlined below:

Subjacent Life – technological detection of viral, microbial, plant or animated lower life forms nearby to Earth

Passive Superordinate – observation in the cosmos: intelligent signals, technological signatures, device noise, macroenergetic activity, purposeful beacons, war, transportation effects

You can expect skeptics to fight tooth and nail against any potential disclosure of life on the surface of Mars, or inside an ancient space rock for instance. Even though social skeptics posture as if they are looking for signals from space, such activity merely constitutes Nelsonian Inference and Cultivated Ignorance. It is a way of saying ‘look ma’ there’s nothing here!’. In such a circumstance, we have already seen – not a parsimonious defense of science – but rather a religious and angry reaction to any and all speculation that testing for signs of life might be warranted in the case of a planetary surface sampler or inside a collected meteoroid artifact. Expect such policy to exhibit stickiness, especially as regards institutions which are most highly connected to, or influenced by, fake and celebrity skeptics.

The Subjacent or Passive Superordinate Response

Skeptics will fight (often right alongside Bible-thumpers) to squelch the disclosure of detection of any form of subjacent life. Post-Detection quotes, many which are also correct, but only stand as exculpatory rhetoric in the case of bullying skeptics, will include:

Pseudo-Skepticism

These fossils originated from Earth in an ancient meteor strike, casting life-containing rock into space.
These findings have not been reviewed by real scientists (antagonistic peers).
The publishers feared or refused to use the scientific method (peer review by antagonistic peers).
They published the report in a minor or questionable journal.
Experts have not certified that the signals contain any form of recognized intelligence or structure.
These findings need to undergo replication, which they have not.
The evidence was ‘contaminated’ (not understanding what that even means).
This is simply one anecdote.
The authors are believers and/or are not credible.
If anything of merit existed therein, scientists would be all over this (see Myth of the Excited Scientists)

See also:

The Lyintific Method: Ten Commandments of Fake Science
The New Debunker: Pseudo-Skeptic Sleuth
Myth of the Excited Scientists

Exculpatory Apologetica

Only conspiracy theorists or anti-science shills bring up these myths of our refusal to acknowledge this.
Where are all the old articles? We need recitation (pretending that the old wives tale paradigm never existed).
“The science arrived right on time” baloney.
Scientists always scoff at the first introduction of a new or unproven idea.
The discovery was accepted right on schedule, and only after appropriate initial skepticism.
The history of denial and pseudo-skepticism cited is mythical.
The lacking number of consensus citations did not merit the idea’s consideration at the time.
Even the discoverers had some doubts and conflicting evidence early on.
The ‘scientific method’ and standards of progression were not followed or took time to execute properly and by the right people.
It had to be replicated (ignoring the decades of refusal to do so).
Time was required to ensure that the discovery showed as reliable and repeatable.
Peer review was a necessary task which could not be rushed.
This was not a simple task.
A case for absolute proof needed to be established.

See also:

What’s the Harm: The Lifecycle of Fake Skepticism

B.  Fake Skeptics’ Post-Disclosure Protocol (Threatening Scenario)

This more visceral scenario of disclosure or even worse, forced disclosure will not only serve to destroy the 1972 fake skepticism movement, but moreover the psychologies of the individuals within those affiliated movements. Any form of Post-Disclosure scenario will involve either a disclosure on the part of a social institution of authority, or the forced disclosure by the subject entities themselves. Either evolution will shake the foundations of the smartest people in the room. This will transpire as one of the following two speciations of event.

Local Superordinate – Admission by a leader of a nation that direct contact, interplay, engagement or competition with extra-terrestrial life, present on Earth, has been, is, and/or will be ongoing.

Supernumenal or Other – A unilateral and unequivocal action on the part of some form of higher intelligence, results in purposeful disclosure of its presence to the majority of the planet.

These are the scenarios we speak of when we as ethical skeptics talk about ‘a disdained topic not worth studying, is also not worth embargoing‘. These topics are heavily embargoed, and an enormous amount of resource is input into their suppression. Yet, the curious and non-threatening existential nature of the actual topic exposes the ludicrous psychology wound up therein. In that light, let’s take a look at a magazine article in a key science and skepticism publication of a future in which a Local Superordinate event has transpired.

The Local Superordinate or Supernumenal Response

Fake skeptics, feel free to copy and paste as you need – and advertise as if this were your own original thinking. You guys are really good at that. The following is extracted from Skeptic Eurmerican magazine, March 2033. Celebrity editorialist Seth Shermer has returned from retirement, inspired by his disgust over announcements of ‘alien contact’ and the like – in order to strike some sense into wayward and credulous voters and their equally credulous elected anti-science officials.

Appeal to Skepticism (Authority)

Bottom Line: The battle against cultivated ignorance will not end, with Disclosure. Skeptics will apply their appeal to authority under 95% of its scenarios. What follows, is an example of the cheap pulp editorial one should anticipate; the shallow Appeal to Skepticism (Authority) drivel which will follow such an Event. This is what happens after.

Does the article above look familiar? It should, its ilk is lazily promulgated daily in compliance enforcing tabloids worldwide. The articles target 756 subjects, many linking back to a common theme – which threatens their religion, sol-nihilism. What the ethical skeptic should infer from this process outlined under the two forms of threat-disclosure above, is that the progression from 1. Pseudo-Skepticism, to 2. Exculpatory Apologetica and finally to 3. Appeal to Skepticism (Authority) – when purposed to squelch, obfuscate and stall – are indeed hints that the ‘skeptic’ is not a skeptic at all. Our prior engagement with Abrahamism proved to mankind that such a process of activity, stems from existential terror alone. We crafted gods from our terror of being alone, and now we are terrified of not being alone? …or maybe, someone is terrified of the plans those agencies have in mind?

They are employing techniques of methodical cynicism in order to screen specifics from their reality; specific Nelsonian knowledge of which someone is enormously terrified.

Such Existential Skeptical Terror Begs the Question: Is Mankind Then Ready or Perhaps Even Sustainable?

So, given our well-evidenced and abject resistance to this subject, the inability of our smartest people in the room to ‘live with it’? – Regardless of the evidence to the pro or contrary (I am not rating the quality of such evidence here in this article), what does this portend for us as a species and what does this communicate to any erstwhile aliens who might be monitoring us from nearby?

1.  Visceral reaction versus chronic existential stress

Mankind is ready to handle the visceral reaction of a Supernumenal Disclosure event; however socially we are not yet mature enough to handle the chronic existential stress which might result. In other words, we won’t destruct a mere week after such an announcement – rather we would implode from psychotic denial and crises of competence, a couple decades or even a century after the disclosure event. We would lose our unique soul as a species.

The fear exhibited by our arch skeptics, very visibly inside the media, should make any erstwhile species out there who is pondering an involuntary disclosure, think twice or three times before considering such an event.

2.  We are a religious people

We tend to adopt gods like a cat lady adopts cats. We thirst for gods. Even in the circumstance where we pat ourselves on the back for having only one of them. They do not even have to be personified – we adopt them. We appoint them. We crave them. Any ethical civilization knows that – to pretend inside a role as god, to a lesser being – is probably one of the most heinous acts which can be committed by a creature or society. For this reason at the very least, they must refuse to interact with us.

3.  Grief does not fade, only our perception of it

We know ourselves much less accurately and deeply than we believe. Grief never fades, it simply grows less intense in comparison to what has transpired since. Just like the days seem shorter and shorter as we age, yet they are not – so too, permanent is our grief. Grief over our dethroning as the Apple of God’s eye. Grief as to our apparent non-parity in the universe. Grief over our having to depend upon another race, in order to propel ourselves to the stars. Grief over the inevitable loss of our genetic identity in the ensuing eons. Grief over the loss of primacy of our Tolstoy, Joyce, Pauli, Dostoevsky and Einstein – and most of all the celebrity of being the smartest person in the room.

No, the aliens (per hoc aditum) are a full two orders of magnitude smarter than are you, and they could care less about you ‘skeptic’. What a sound dethroning that will be.

Perhaps a grief they know well from experience, experience derived from a hundred civilizations who have come this pathway before (including their own). You see it is a formula after all.

Perhaps a grief of which we are already subconsciously aware inside ourselves. Perhaps a grief, long ago a memory of an edifice building mankind.

“It’s what people know about themselves inside that makes them afraid.” ~The Stranger, High Plains Drifter

Ethical Skepticism, it is all about courage. Courage of method. Courage of existential need, of which one may not even be fully conscious.

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The Ethical Skeptic, “What Happens After?”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 22 Mar 2019; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-9u8

 

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

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