The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

The Dark Side of Doubt

The issue at hand for the ethical skeptic, is not that the concept of doubt bears virtuous potential, and indeed is used for specific legitimate scientific or legal benefit – but rather, that the term offers an equivocal dark side, which can be employed to cultivate ignorance. Ethical skepticism contends that a doubt-based process of ‘sorting out true from false claims’, when exercised outside the bounds of science, is indistinguishable from faith – especially when plied inside the context of a club.
Methodical cynicism versus epochéwhen it comes to philosophical terminology, leave no doubt as to what you mean.

“Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public.”

~ Tobacco Company Brown & Williamson Action Plan Against Anti-Smoking Anti-Science Forces1

Doubt is a necessary practice of skepticism, when defined and exercised correctly. But doubt can be weaponized. Doubt, can mislead both its practitioner as well as its victims, the doubted and the third party observer. It remains the habit of social skeptics, to enthrall their egos through the misleading specter of exercising this sciencey sounding technique. Doubt, in contrast to the actual philosophical principle called epoché, is a tool which is exercised too often as a tactic of fake skepticism. Under the Tower of Wrong: The Art of Professional Lying, doubt is regarded as a form of Skulptur Mechanism; a pseudoscientific razor employed to slice off undesirable observations and data until one is left with only evidence in support of what they were looking to find in the first place. This contrasts with the legitimate forms of doubt employed inside professional contexts.

When René Descartes issued this phrase: “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” He was not speaking of the context of doubt as a form of negation or denial; rather a shift in disposition to neutral regard and no longer the credulous superficial acceptance with which all humans are born.

I am a staunch evolutionist for instance. But that being said I read eagerly articles which identify challenges2 to this important paradigm of living phylogeny. My ‘doubt’, regarding these articles is that I do not buy (nor reject) their conclusions on the spot.  Rather I suspend such contentions and hold onto them for later comparison and reflection. Were I to weaponize doubt in these circumstances and cynically filter out all such discourse – I would be doing nothing but defending my latest religion. Evolution’s acceptance as a scientific principle would impart nothing whatsoever to my personal credit. Evolution would still be evolution; however, I would simply be a cynical religious idiot babbling its familiar phrases.

This is what correctness clubs do – they imply that correctness of their positions substantiates correctness of their method of weaponized doubt.

Therefore, I utilize a person’s regard of and skill in handling doubt as a key indicator into their scientific literacy. Doubt can be a lens mechanism through which the ethical skeptic is able to examine a person’s habits relating to original thinking.  Not critical thinking mind you – as we have tons of flavors of that form of masturbation; rather original thinking. Original thinking is what distinguishes the scientist from the technician, contrary to the fantasies of 14 year old wanna-be skeptics. It is a discernment as to whether or not the ‘doubter’ has ever placed a conjecture upon the line – ever undertaken a risk, in order to prove out a potentially game changing line of investigation.  What the astute ethical skeptic will find is, that people who have had skin in the game, who understand committing ones self to researching a line of risk – these mature researchers possess a much more reserved exercise of ‘doubt’ than do persons who have only existed inside an academic or armchair discourse environment.  Having been burned several times through ‘doubting’ young researchers or ideas which I refused at first blush, I have come to understand the roles of creativity, novelty and serendipity inside research. When I observe a doubter abusing the principle, as an evidence skulpting mechanism or not even comprehending of the difference between methodical doubt and deontological doubt (see below), I know I am witness to a rote script follower. A technician, not a scientist. This is why I avoid the equivocal term altogether. I know the game the fake skeptic is playing.

Doubt is every bit the tool of deception as it is tool of inspection.

The preeminent doubt I hold, is that we possess enough knowledge to go around ‘doubting’ things as a first reaction. Real doubt is a disposition built over diligent research and time – fake doubt pops its head up, every time it senses a chance for self-aggrandizement.

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.”

~ Khalil Gibron, Lebanese Poet

Most of the time, I reserve my actual application of doubt to social situations wherein a person has an established history of lying, or might possess a key motivation for deception. Issues involving profit, opportunity to surreptitiously harm enemies or reap easy gains. I doubt human nature – but I do not ‘doubt’ first hand observations, as that is a practice of pseudoscience. Below, let’s examine some of the reasons why the ethical skeptic is very reserved in his or her usage of the term doubt, and prefers instead for the scientific principle of epoché when it regards pluralistic issues of science and even its fringe horizons.


/verb: 1175-1225 Middle English douten < Anglo-French, Old French douter < Latin dubitāre to waver, hesitate, be uncertain/ : to call into question the truth of; to lack confidence in or distrust; to consider unlikely. Older: trepidation or uncertainty.3 4

Methodical Doubt – the first is the questionable method of denying that something exists or is true simply because it defies a certain stacked provisional knowledge. This is nothing but a belief expressed in the negative, packaged in such a fashion as to exploit the knowledge that claims to denial are afforded immediate acceptance over claims to the affirmative. This is a religious game of manipulating the process of knowledge development into a whipsaw effect supporting a given conclusion set.

Deontological Doubt (epoché) – if however one defines ‘doubt’ – as the refusal to assign an answer (no matter how probable) for a specific question – in absence of assessing question sequence, risk and dependency (reduction), preferring instead the value of leaving the question unanswered (null) over a state of being ‘sorta answered inside a mutually reinforcing set of sorta answereds’ (provisional knowledge) – then this is the superior nature of deontological ethics.

Most fake skeptics define ‘doubt’ as the former and not the latter – and often fail to understand the difference.

As we conducted in a previous blog entry regarding the term anecdote, again here we cite the broad equivocal footprint of the term doubt. This is a reasonable, generally accepted range of usage of the word. Notice the large and accommodating equivocal footprint of this word, ranging very conveniently from ‘neutral disposition’ to ‘accusation of a lie’. Again, take notice that fake skeptics have a habit of wallowing in such luxuriously equivocal terms. Avoid such skeptics.

The Illegitimate Form of Doubt

Of course, the concerns listed below, exclude the definition contexts of deontological doubt (a suspended or graceful disposition of neutrality) or ‘reasonable doubt’ as a principle expressed inside of the Law. French philosopher Peter Abelard argued that “doubt is the road to inquiry, and by inquiring we perceive the truth.” These ‘doubt is a virtue’ instances of the term’s employment bear specific meaning and application contexts which serve to constrain their equivocal potential. Below we are not talking about these forms of doubt, rather the illegitimate pop-usage which is promoted by social skepticism (see ‘Propaganda Butte’ in the graphic above). But the definition of the word has drifted socially, since the days of its employment by Descartes and Abelard. A drift rightward along the above spectrum of usage, which is extraordinarily convenient to agenda plying agents.  This drift pertains to the introduction of ‘methodological skepticism’ by later interpreters of Descartes’ Cartesian Doubt.  The following Wikipedia entry attempts to sum up this contrast:

Methodological skepticism is distinguished from philosophical skepticism in that methodological skepticism is an approach that subjects all knowledge claims to scrutiny with the goal of sorting out true from false claims, whereas philosophical skepticism is an approach that questions the possibility of certain knowledge.5

Philosophical skepticism does not ‘question the possibility of certain knowledge’, as this is a contorted-to-simple and accordingly absurd statement; bearing neither the clarifying nor practical use features requisite in sound philosophy. Ethical skepticism is a form of applied philosophical skepticism, unacknowledged inside this layman construct framed above by Wikipedia (Gee, I don’t question the possibility of certain knowledge, so I must be the skeptic type who evaluates claims then – Duh Huh!). Ethical skepticism contends that this purported process of ‘sorting out true from false claims’, when exercised outside the bounds of science, is indistinguishable from faith (methodical cynicism) – and especially when plied inside the context of a club. It does not question the possibility of ‘certain knowledge’; but rather doubts people. Ethical skepticism seeks to rob the lie spinner of the raw materials he desperately needs, but does not make pronounced dispositions on topics based on how likely things are and how smart the skeptic is. All this gamed process achieves is to make the skeptic the next lie spinner. The above bifurcation by Wikipedia is illustrative of the level of ineptness and misinformation which sustains this false form of doubt inside the social skeptic community at large. The issue at hand for the ethical skeptic, is not that the concept of doubt bears virtuous potential and indeed is used for specific legitimate scientific or legal benefit – but rather, that the term offers an equivocal dark side, which can be employed to promote agenda and cultivate ignorance (as per below). When it comes to philosophical terminology, leave no doubt as to what you mean.

Ethical Skepticism Concerns About ‘Doubt’ as a Tactic of Social Skepticism

1.  Requires No Thinking (Creative nor Critical).

2.  Can Always be Posited (feature of pseudo-theory).

3.  Requires Zero Effort or Evidence.

4.  Highly Intervolved with or Indistinguishable from Unconscious Bias.

5.  Deceives its Participant and Observers through Feigned Objectivity.

6.  Artificially Generates an Alternative which has Not Surpassed Ockham’s Razor (is pseudo-theory).

7.  Serves to Intimidate Argument Outsiders or Future Researchers.

8.  Serves a Club Quality Agenda (which never works).

9.  Usually Employed as an ‘I’m the Smartest Person in the Room’ Tactic.

10.  Equivocal Footprint is Useful to Game Playing Fake Skeptics.

11.  A Method of Accusing a Person of Lying – Without Saying as Much.

12.  Provides no Mechanisms of Parametric Argument Discipline nor Self Examination.

13.  Implies a False Dilemma/Bifurcation of Dispositions Constituting Only ‘Belief and Disbelief’.

14.  Is a Pretense/Persona/Posturing Put-On For Others.

15.  Forces a Lazy or Premature Conclusion at the Beginning of the Scientific Method as Opposed to its End.

16.  Posed in the form of a Question – When it is Not One (see The Nature of Rhetoric).

17.  Is a Skulptur Mechanism and Tactic of Inverse Negation Fallacy (Appeal to Skepticism).

18.  Tenders the Appearance of Scientific Literacy.

19.  Is Gratifying Inside of Use Contexts wherein Gratification Can Serve Only to Mislead its Practitioner.

20.  Methodical Doubt Inevitably Breeds Self-Doubting and Group Think in Young Scientific Minds.

Number twenty above, is the impact which most greatly concerns The Ethical Skeptic. This is the dark side of doubt from which we suffer today – and is the number one concern of real scientists. These are the reasons why a seasoned researcher, a life long passionate investigator – eschews the term ‘doubt’ to a level which the neophyte does not. Be on your guard as to ‘skeptics’ who insist on using the term without clarification as to their employment of deontological doubt at the least, despite knowing these pitfalls – or even not possessing awareness of them. There may well be a reason the skeptic embraces such ambiguity.

Your choice dear reader, is to hold and contemplate my words here along your journey; or to ‘doubt’ them.  Choose wisely.

epoché vanguards gnosis

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February 10, 2018 Posted by | Argument Fallacies | , , , | Leave a comment

Ethical Skepticism – Part 7 – The Unexpected Virtue of Allow-For Thinking

Did your husband really chase a flying refrigerator doing Mach 8 and 15 G’s in his F/A-18 and get it filmed on his gun cam? Did your trustworthy neighbor really see a 2 foot tall man in a green suit and derby wander through his backyard yesterday? As long as we constrain to parsimonious coherency of definition, that which has been reliably observed, the ethical skeptic allows for potentialities and refuses to participate in the unwise dogmatic actions of denial and belief. He neither accepts nor rejects, but instead relies on the acute discriminating virtue of the Allow-For.

What is the Allow-For?

what is the allow forThe Allow-For is the neutral zone of tolerance practiced inside the spectrum of disposition regarded by an ethical skeptic.¹ Put more simply – it is that set of subjects for which you have not decided either way, to dismiss or to accept. The Allow-For is the practice limit which keeps the open mind of the ethical skeptic from wandering into either methodical cynicism (the black box) or methodical clinging to belief (the blue box) as both are depicted in the graphic to the right. The practice of Allow-For thinking is not tantamount to a confirming belief nor a denial belief on the part of the ethical skeptic. It is not a belief at all, nor is it either simply synonymous with a ‘lack of belief.’ Rather, it is a practical allegiance to science, a pledge to allow a matter of coherently observed plurality its day in the court of science; no matter what methods our personal prejudices, provisional knowledge, bunk intolerance, and social pressures might tempt us to bias.

doubtThe Allow-For is an idempotent (processed but not altered in the processing) discipline which allows the ethical skeptic to maintain a field of coherent and possibly observed phenomena to exist as plausibility. It is a realm of scientific consideration, however not necessarily scientific investigation; as investigating everything in the Allow-For is simply not feasible. To a detective, the Allow-For would equate to the group of suspects in a murder. They are not guilty, they are not innocent. But filtering any person into the Lack of Allow-For and Acceptance domains too hastily is most often not a wise practice. Murders fall into two groups: Crimes of passion, and Crimes of deception. ‘Occam’s Razor’ is not a best practice in the latter. Yes, a suspension of belief is certainly in order, but even more importantly a tolerance of the Allow-For is critical in the mind of the ethical investigator. This mental discipline as well allows-for the consideration of multiple pathways of explanatory construct, in absence of a setting involving personal prejudice, belief or bias. It is encompassed, rather than by provisional stacks of favored explanations which are often then spun into truth or the null hypothesis, instead, a plural set of explanatory constructs which are given sufficient accommodation to be examined for merit, simultaneously. This is anathema to the fake skeptic, who favors the former practice over the latter. This ability to hold several explanatory construct in mind at the same time is embodied in the expression per hoc aditum:

Per Hoc Aditum

/philosophy : logic : ethics : alternative reasoning/ : according to this approach. The ethical skepticism version of provisional or stacked arguments, which allow for the examination of a postulate, construct or theory in an unbiased pathway of consideration; often as one of a plural set of explanatory approaches. The ability to hold more than one explanatory pathway in mind and fairly consider the strengths, shortfalls and ramifications of each without a priori based beliefs or prejudices unduly influencing the ability to discern the core argument/application at hand.

most-brilliant-oppressionNor is the Allow-For tantamount to Michael Shermer’s ‘whimsy;’ as there should really exist no fantasy, ethereal-speak, gonzo-terminology or incoherent babble inside the Allow-For. It is not a skeet shooting range where we entertain ourselves by seeing how smart we are in shooting down ideas presented to us on a proof-on-silver-platter we have demanded. This is the folly of the fake skeptic – the Methodical Cynic who proudly dwells inside the black box on the upper left, and makes sure that he gets lots of attention in doing so. Instead, those issues which contain a material subject, bearing a coherent definition and/or an observation base – even sometimes without a fully matured, at least nascent coherent definition; these are the elements of consideration which exist in the ethical skeptic’s domain of Allow-For.

What the Allow-For is Not

allow for erThe Allow-For is not

  • Gullibility/Stupidity/Credulity/Lack of Scientific Literacy
  • Immediate acceptance of a conspiracy theory
  • Immediate acceptance of anything
  • Whimsy (Shermer)
  • A provisional knowledge set
  • A committed pathway of conclusion
  • Visioneering/Dreaming
  • A practice outside of the methods science
  • Belief
  • Denial
  • Cynicism
  • Faith
  • Acceptance
  • The Lack of Allow-For
  • The same thing as a Lack of Belief*

Its Contrast with the ‘Lack of Belief’ Boast

lack of beliefNotice the last bullet point. The Allow-For practice is neither a belief, but more importantly for the ethical skeptic, nor is it solely a lack of belief – rather it is a species of lack of belief. Everyone claims to lack belief, except those who claim the belief itself. At least they are being honest. Not everyone on the ‘lack of belief’ side is being honest however. This is an important point which distinguishes the mind of the ethical skeptic from that of those who have arrived at Acceptance and those who practice denial based Cynicism.

There are several phenotypes of ‘lack of belief.’ Occulting your motive/agenda by gaming this equivocal domain slack is not a practice of ethical skepticism.

If you do not comprehend what the sentence above is saying, you are probably already participating in it (see Slack Exploitation (Ambiguity)). The virtue of the Allow-For requires a clear mind, and self-circumspect discipline. The species of lack of belief are outlined below, using the artifices of belief in God and the backyard leprechaun your neighbor saw yesterday, as examples of application in each case, where appropriate.

lack of belief and allow forThe Methodical Cynicism Disposition – the methodical cynic claims a lack of belief, however in reality actually possesses a belief and extreme commitment to a particular antithetical construct. He hints at this epistemic commitment through his disdain and intolerance for every other thought domain inside the argument at hand. This can be best exemplified by contrasting the Atheist, agnostic atheist and ignostic atheist.

Nihilist Atheist – claims to possess a lack of belief, however in practice dwells inside the realm of methodical denial, an apologetic crafted to defend a set of beliefs antithetical to the belief dogmatist. A lack of belief can dwell anywhere on the chart to the above right. So its claim is a distinction without a real discriminating definition. An apologetic which exploits philosophical slack, used to masque and defend a residence in the black box of denial. They know what a deity is defined as, and know that science has actively found no evidence for such thing through physical measures. They employ the ‘lack of belief’ moniker, and while correct, enjoy the perception luxury of equivocation, amphibology and apparent epistemic neutrality it affords them.

Note: By Margold’s Law, how one handles the material argument around deities is also how one will handle material arguments of deontological science. Take note ethical skeptic.

Backyard Leprechaun – as a skeptic and a person who regards physical measures and repeatability as the standard by which we arrive at conclusions, the Methodical Cynic is bound into a method which will never allow anything other than his dogmatic set of beliefs to ever rise to the surface. He rejects the little man in the green suit and derby sighting by his neighbor as a ‘sincere but deluded’ contention. Science has never found existence for leprechauns, therefore they do not exist (Wittgenstein Error or Appeal to Ignorance). He filters this information along with millions of other data which threaten his inner-peace, by means then of Occam’s Razor.

He gets upset with those who do not bear his antithetical belief set and practice. They are beneath him philosophically and intellectually. He softens over time into the appearance of instructing the scientifically illiterate. He sells himself as a ‘science enthusiast.’ He campaigns on Twitter and forums to decry these opponents who may be operating in a realm of ethic he does not fully grasp. He scratches his head at Ethical Skepticism and concludes that it must surely be an opponent in disguise!

He claims to lack belief, but does not possess the self-circumspection and Allow-For discipline which would enable him to observe the dogmatic set of beliefs he is promoting.

95% of Twitter and forum fights over ‘science’ occur between Cynics and Dogmatists pretending to represent science; indeed rather defending one set of antithetical belief, and another idea which is belief. An ethical skeptic student or journeyman should be armed with its philosophy so as to quickly and easily spot this condition before they enter any fray.

Ethical Skepticism and the Allow-For Virtue

The Acceptance Disposition – the scientist who has arrived at Acceptance, lacks belief because he is basing his gnosis on falsification or a preponderance of science. Popperian science standards. No belief is entailed at all, at any time in his processes or thinking. Were the accepted issue to be falsified tomorrow, he would not bear such epistemic commitment as to drive himself across the dotted red line and into dogma or cynicism. Acceptance disposition is a hard fought, non-celebrated litmus of parsimony and discipline on the part of the ethical skeptic. I have many constructs I have disfavored, which now reside solidly in the Acceptance disposition in my mind. Two things qualify a material issue into the Acceptance domain:

1.  A consilience of evidence and successful record of theory prediction success underpin the material contention.

2.  A reasonable set of plausible alternative explanations have all been falsified.

Backyard Leprechaun – the Acceptance professional begins with the ethical skepticism Allow-For, conducts science looking only for 2ft tall men in green suit and derby at the neighbor’s house and then arrives at his acceptance through a Popperian standard of consilience and falsification. He is a scientist. He finds small shoe footprints in his neighbor’s backyard mud. He finds it interesting, he accepts what his neighbor has contended, but he takes it no further from there – and awaits more opportunity to investigate.

The Allow-For Disposition

Agnostic atheist – does indeed possess a lack of belief and to his credit innocently struggles for the ethical comfort zone of the Allow-For domain. He does not know or not-know. He has simply fallen for the sleight-of-hand promoted by the Nihilist Atheist and the Dogmatist, that we have a coherent definition for what is a deity.

Backyard Leprechaun – since my neighbor was not drunk, is always highly trustworthy, and this was an observation in broad daylight and fairly close up – I tender him the benefit of a doubt and idempotently catalog this piece of information. I Allow-For his observation. I do not allow for a kingdom of leprechauns and a nearby pot-o-gold. But incrementally I allow for the potentiality entailed in this observation until more evidence arrives.

The Lack of Allow-For Disposition – the Lack of Allow-For disposition is a hard fought, non-celebrated litmus of parsimony and discipline on the part of the ethical skeptic. I have many constructs I have favored, which now sadly reside in the Lack of Allow-For disposition in my mind. Two things qualify a material issue in the Lack of Allow-For domain:

1.  The matter has been falsified by a sufficient Popperian level of scientific method

2.  The matter possesses no coherent definition and/or observational basis.

Ignostic atheist – lacks an Allow-For disposition for ‘God’ or ‘deity’ because the term bears no coherent meaning or epistemically observable base. They are gonzo terminologies, falsely implying meaning and often used to intimidate. The perception that the term god or deity has a definition, is only an apparent coherency delivered to us by society. The ignostic atheist does not deny deities or actively campaign against specific beliefs, he simply lacks the Allow-For, for god. He considers the babble of both the Cynic and the Dogmatist about ‘God’ to be irrelevant and not the (salient, sequitur, constraining, advancing) next step of scientific inquiry.

Backyard Leprechaun – since my neighbor was not drunk, is always highly trustworthy, and this was an observation in broad daylight and fairly close up – I tender him the benefit of a doubt and idempotently catalog this piece of information. I Allow-For his observation. I do not allow for a kingdom of leprechauns and a nearby pot-o-gold. But incrementally I allow for the potentiality entailed in this observation until more evidence arrives. Subsequently another neighbor is laughing at a party about their two year-old running through the street in their last year’s Halloween costume, a leprechaun outfit. I therefore then arrive at the Lack of Allow-For, that a real leprechaun strolled through my neighbor’s yard.  I inform him of what I found out, and let him know that I did not take his observation lightly – I trusted him.

This is how science and ethical skepticism are done.

what is ethical skepticism the allow for ethic

epoché vanguards gnosis

¹  Please note that when The Ethical Skeptic employs the initial caps version of the moniker, he is speaking of himself. When the lower case instance of the expression is employed, he is speaking of any student, journeyman or master ethical skeptic – those who bear an allegiance to a standard of practice.

And as a reminder, ethical skepticism is not a boast of morality, goodness or superiority. An ethical skeptic is critical of own thinking, almost to a fault. An ethical skeptic regards the fair treatment of others to be of utmost regard inside his ethic, save for those who are actively conducting or screening defense of human/planetary harm and suffering. Rather it is simply a blend of those facets of skeptical science and philosophical skepticism which can be brought to productive (and not intellectual self aggrandizing) mutual benefit for all mankind, inside the domain of one’s personal and social life. It is crafted to displace the current form of invalid social skepticism which is taught by agenda-bearing parties.



April 29, 2016 Posted by | Deskeption | , , , , | Leave a comment


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