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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skepticism as Quality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Qualitas Clava Error

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

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

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

epoché vanguards gnosis

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

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

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

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

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

Are You a Cynic? You Might be Surprised

Are you a cynic, or simply skepticky? Perform steps I – III below and rate yourself on the Cynic Scale. You might be surprised at what you discover.

Skeptic or cynic? You might be surprised at what you find.

Scepter means in Latin, to ‘palm’, hold, touch or examine​
Cynic means in Latin, ‘dogged’, doglike in denial, doubting, scoffing​

Step I – Rate your agreement with each of the following statements from 1 to 5, with 5 indicating most agreement that this statement represents your sentiment or usual actions as applicable.

Are You a Cynic p - Copy1.  I generally regard skepticism as an evidence based method of evaluating claims and applying discernment to information I am given.     1  2  3  4  5

2.  I think that skepticism should be employed to evaluate most likely conclusions on an issue, especially if it aids the effectiveness and focus of science or scientists.     1  2  3  4  5

3.  I sometimes identify myself to others as a skeptic when in an online discussion in which claims are made which are questionable, but I am not a cynic.     1  2  3  4  5

4.  I am wise to apply doubt or critical thinking to any subject or claim before I have the access or time to research it more.     1  2  3  4  5

5.  When examining evidence behind a claim, I often start with a certain set of reliable reference resources then branch out from there for more depth.     1  2  3  4  5

6.  I apply doubt, critical thinking or skepticism and it has made me a more trustworthy person whom to ask about challenging issues.     1  2  3  4  5

7.  If I spend too much time among the believers I tend to get weary and need to reconnect with my peers, if not for simply a little comic relief.     1  2  3  4  5

8.  If we are to start the process of science, I like to ask a question as the first step. After all, that is the scientific method.     1  2  3  4  5

9.  My powers of perception or discernment are above average.     1  2  3  4  5

10.  With some exceptions, my peers in skepticism tend to agree with most of my positions and I agree with most of theirs.     1  2  3  4  5

11.  I can name a couple forums/subjects where conspiracy theorists seem to gather in higher number.     1  2  3  4  5

12.  When hit with a challenging claim, my first thought is to examine the evidence behind it, if any.     1  2  3  4  5

13.  Agents for various irrational beliefs are at times now posing as ‘skeptics.’     1  2  3  4  5

14.  I sometimes am aghast at the level of bunk accusations targeting our corporations, medical and food producers.     1  2  3  4  5

15.  All things being equal, I will pretty much always tend to side with the consensus of scientists on a controversial matter.     1  2  3  4  5

16.  I think that people who believe irrational things and/or mislead others should be held to some form of public or humorous example.     1  2  3  4  5

17.  I think in terms of skepticism when the contentions of a pseudoscience come up, but I am not a cynic about it.     1  2  3  4  5

18.  I am usually more comfortable when citing the conclusions of science, than swallowing bunk without evidence.     1  2  3  4  5

19.  I don’t regularly read pseudoscience research; it would for the most part be a waste of time.     1  2  3  4  5

20.  I regularly apply doubt and critical thinking on subjects outside my field(s) of expertise.     1  2  3  4  5

Now tally up the total of points you earned on questions 1 – 20.

Step II – Now, add 20 points to your score tally from Step I.

Step III – Now find your position on the Scale of Cynicism above.

Skeptic (20 – 65) – You have a healthy perspective on knowledge and the pitfalls of human nature and knee jerk thinking. You are skeptical of self first, then skeptical of claims to represent truth and official knowledge. Yes you are skeptical of extraordinary claims, but you understand that this is not the only domain for its application. You do not seek to control or deceive self or others – rather seek to simply find out what is going on through proactive investigation, without a prejudiced desire for specific outcomes.  You don’t see evidence as a thing to be brought to you on a silver platter, and recognize that most of science does not operate on ‘proof.’ You can spot a cynic a mile away and well before they can even spot themselves.

Skepticky – (66 – 87) – You have heard all the propaganda regarding skepticism and what it is, and some of it was sticky. You put on this pretense like a fashionable coat and wore it – but didn’t think too much through what you were actually adopting as a character and life’s philosophy. Inside, you have a sincere desire to follow the evidence, yet are hampered by exempting self and other ‘skeptics’ from your skepticism, thoughts about ‘proof’ and the burden of ‘claims’ being brought to you. Because this seems to sound right, right? This renders you vulnerable to being used as a functional cynic as opposed to a real skeptic. Real cynics would not even give you the time of day, save for your spouting off the familiar one liners. So you do. Shake loose these shackles and learn what real skepticism is about.

Social Cynic – (88 – 120) – You are a full-on cynic, but being acutely aware that such an approach to life is both bad science and bad character, you seek to hide this flaw from both yourself and those around you.  Your ‘skepticism’ comprises a set of mandatory beliefs couched inside a few key good sounding thoughts you overheard from allies in forum arguments or from celebrities about skepticism. Try and find even one thing you disagree with social skeptics on. I bet you can’t. That is a sad state of affair. Try and tell yourself that you don’t have a target group which you disdain for their beliefs. Your self won’t believe you. You need a skepticism and possibly a character overhaul. A life spent anesthetized through code phrases, blinded from understanding its own cynicism, is a life which is very less likely to result in any benefit to mankind.