Authority Credulity. While the conspiracy theorist may allow themselves to be whipsawed into fits of paranoia concerning authority, the authority credulist employs symbols of power, identity and correctness to assuage an immature ego; to exorcise injury over past transgressions and target those whom they see as having caused this pain. It thrives inside a milieu of mindlessness which in the end serves to cause more harm than conspiracy theorizing ever could.
Authority Credulity is the paradoxical opposite of Conspiracy Theory. It is a type of gullibility and desire to allow one’s self to be comfortably fooled, through scant amounts of science and ample doses of imperiousness and insistence – especially when posed in the name of some psychological need for a symbol of power wielding authority. Virtue signalling for instance, is a common type of authority credulity. It is conducted within and exploits a cultural milieu of mindlessness. Whereas conspiracy theory may arise from various blends of paranoia, pareidolia and/or apophenia – authority credulity arises from past resentment over an injured ego, and the desire to ensure that everyone knows that the person bearing it is indeed the smartest person in the room. Science is one such identity and authority through which such a mindset can be plied. Hence the origin of this familiar tenet of ethical skepticism:
Simply because scientists use skeptical thinking discipline, does not mean that skeptics therefore represent science. The two are not congruent.
However, authority is simply one tool in their quiver of tactics employed in winning arguments at all costs; as the Ten Pillars of Authority Credulity outline this mentality, the banal antipode of the conspiracy theory mindset.
Authority Credulist (aka ‘Coincidence Theorist’)
/philosophy : agency/ : the opposite of a conspiracy theorist, but even worse in terms of harm imparted. Believes authority with very little question. Will craft/propose an extremely complicated, stacked and risk-bearing explanation and tout it as being superior, just so long as it conforms with what they view as being official. Vulnerable to and often exploited by authorized propaganda outlets, through bearing an abject weakness in ability to grasp asymmetry, spot patterns or develop intelligence. Seeks to be an agent which foments conflict between what they view as authority, and everyone who disagrees.
The series of fallacies, errors, and crooked thinking employed by the Authority Credulist are outlined inside The Tree of Knowledge Obfuscation:
The Ten Pillars (Vulnerabilities) of Authority Credulity:
I. Social Category and Non-Club Hatred
II. Narcissism and Personal Power
III. Promotion of Personal Religious Agenda
IV. Emotional Psychological Damage/Anger
V. Overcompensation for a Secret Doubt
VI. Fear of the Unknown
VII. Effortless Argument Addiction
VIII. Magician’s Deception Rush
IX. Need to Belittle Others
X. Need to Belong/Fear of Club Perception
Who of course, fall victim most often to fallacies involving the Misrepresentation through Authority. This informal error in logic does not simply comprise one fallacy, as many sophomoric philosophical sites outline, rather an entire domain of mistaken method and fallacious thinking. So while conspiracy theory critics often correctly outline an entire series of fallacies committed by those vulnerable to that ilk of ideas, they routinely miss that authority credulity is very much a similar domain of corrupted thinking.
A key indicator resides in this: to the authority credulist, everyone who holds a differing idea is guilty of magical thinking and conspiracy theorizing. It is the same as using accusation of being racist and a Nazi. The term has been emasculated through abuse. And as they age and realize the ludicrous nature of such mindlessness, they must yet still possess an anchoring bias or conflict of interest in maintaining their dogma, while at the same time appearing to be open minded. They know what the old guard social skeptics can do to them. Heck they did it to people too. This inevitably leads the authority credulist down the compromised road of liberalism or libertarianism. You are free now to think the way they think.
Maintains a cynical perspective on authority, yet bears an inability to grasp asymmetry, spot patterns and develop intelligence. Totally free except where authority quietly wags a finger at them. Then, a retreat into silence.
Many social skeptics, upon encountering skeptive dissonance, tend to move toward styles of libertarianism as they recognize the shortfalls of their former philosophy. Michael Shermer offers up a great case example of such a life transition. By his own account this is actually Michael’s third manifestation of personal cosmology. Neo-Libertarians err however, in not recognizing the blinding impact which their clinging to authority has wrought in their inability to handle probative data, risk and intelligence.
The authority credulist, even in the instance where they mature into a libertarian, employs panduction in order to discredit entire domains of thought. Despite the condition of being correct for the most part, ultimately this proves only to introduce a level of harm and scientific stagnation, unequaled by most forms of conspiracy theorizing.
Maintains a cynical perspective on authority, which whipsaws into unsound levels of conjecture, stemming from a sense of asymmetry and higher developed skills in pattern recognition. Relatively unskilled at necessary forms of intelligence development.
The conspiracy theorist who cultivates a skill in intelligence, inevitably begins to find that 80% of what they regarded to be true, indeed turns out to be bunk. The value however, of bunk finding, is limited – as rather, it is the discovery of the novel, and the falsification of incremental risk in conjecture, which move science forward. Not compliance and authority. I would rather discover myself through field work to be wrong 9 times, and serendipitously accurate one time, than be compliantly correct ten times. This illuminating set of discovery leads one to begin to ‘up their game’ – heeding the cautions of skeptics certainly, but not buying into their inverse negation fallacy conclusiveness. Consensus and proof are very hard standards to attain, and an ethical skeptic begins to understand this. This is where one learns to spot and oppose agency – even conspiracy theory agency. One journeys into the realm of the ethical skeptic.
I would rather prove myself wrong on nine ideas and find one to be prodigiously valid,
than wallow in the correctness of ten unquestioned norms.
With regard to information, maintains a healthy perspective on the role of authority tempered with the realization that proof is a hard standard to come by. Keen sense of asymmetry, skills in pattern solving and ability to develop intelligence.
Of course, ethical skepticism hinges around the ability to spot and derive intelligence.
/philosophy : data : decision theory/ : data is denatured into information, and information is transmuted into intelligence. Inside decision theory and clandestine operation practices, intelligence is the first level of illuminating construct upon which one can make a decision. Intelligence skills combine a healthy skepticism towards human agency, along with an ability to adeptly handle asymmetry, recognize probative (not just reliable) data, assemble patterns, increase the reliability of incremental conjecture and pursue a sequitur, salient and risk mitigating pathway (critical path) of syllogism.
Authority, Data and Fact are merely information at best. They do not constitute intelligence. One cannot adopt a belief, nor take an action bearing risk, unless based upon intelligence. And in absence of intelligence, the ethical skeptic maintains a disposition of neutrality.
This is why the appeal to authority informal fallacy exists. When I was a department head in intelligence, I was able to determine that a dignitary whom we had thought to have died accidentally, was indeed assassinated. We could not inform the nation involved, nor of course the family – but I accomplished this task through my own side investigation, examining more than simply the reliable sources and authorities. Less reliable, but high probative value and robust consilience potential channels of information gradually began to belie the standard reliable channels with the official (and easily believable) story – and turn our accidental death case into one of international intrigue. The cover story was perfect. It bore consensus.
/philosophy : scientific method : intelligence/ : is a dramatic principle that states that every element in a fictional story must be necessary to support the plot or moral, and irrelevant elements should be excluded. It is used as part of a method of detecting lies and propaganda. In a fictional story, every detail or datum is supportive of, and accounted for, as to its backing of the primary agenda/idea. A story teller will account in advance for every loose end or ugly underbelly of his moral message, all bundled up and explained nicely – no exception or tail conditions will be acknowledged. They are not part of the story.
Ultimately, determining this perfectly explained accidental death to be a murder, opened up a line of investigation that helped topple an espionage ring. I refused to accept the reliable, authoritative and sensible information, and insisted instead upon critical path logic, probative corroboration and deductive falsification. Understanding reduction and critical path logic is not a skill possessed by most people, and certainly most skeptics. But it essential to the path of ethical skepticism.
The ability to go into the field and see for one’s self, to recognize probative data and know how to convert it into reliable conjectures – these are the skills of a good detective. Such skills can be developed through a savvy or even unprecedented use of statistical inference, as is demonstrated no better than by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Or one can develop such skill by becoming an investigator or intelligence specialist. While I do not possess the skill set in mathematics any longer which NNT does, I have suffered through nine semesters in statistics, probability, hypothesis testing, modeling and simulation and decision theory (actually I loved these courses – but they were demanding). In addition I have functioned as a department head inside an intelligence organization. Authority and correctness counts for very little inside such disciplines.
These are two background sets which can serve to enhance one’s skills at the denaturing of mere information, into intelligence. And intelligence is the construct basis of ethical skepticism, not simply ‘facts’ and ‘data’. As these devices constitute merely the battle cry of the poseur, the authority credulous.
The Ethical Skeptic, “Authority Credulity: Antipode to Conspiracy Theory – But Even Worse” The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 29 Oct 2018; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-8uB