Before we begin to discuss the implications of claims to absence or claims to dismissal of observation (Appeals to Skepticism), we must first define a critical path term called, MiHoDeAL.
In order to avoid an Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy, one must be circumspect under the scientific method as to when one can and cannot make a claim to knowledge as a means to dispose of a challenging observation. In absence of a specific claim by the observer, to dismiss observations out of hand based on Appeal to Skepticism, is pseudoscience.
MiHoDeAL Claim to Knowledge
MiHoDeAL – noun \ məh -hōˈ dē-ül \ : a claim, implication or boast to knowledge, that one holds the credential and has conducted sufficient research into a subject to scientifically disposition that its underpinning observational basis consists solely of Misidentifications, Hoaxes, Delusions, Anecdote and Lies.
The Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy stands as the essential predicate of the MiHoDeAL Claim. The MiHoDeAL Claim is a formal fallacy when used in the errant contexts cited below. While the basis of a MiHoDeAL claim to knowledge is essentially an Appeal to Skepticism, it more specifically most often constitutes a Truzzi Fallacy.
Most of the time, a MiHoDeAL Claim is employed when very little data is possessed and no real research has been conducted on the part of the challenging claimant; instances where the integrity of a specific prima facia counter-claim could be called into question (e.g. claiming that the observer is lying). It is easier and more comforting to doubt and dispose than to actually accrue knowledge. It is in its essence, simultaneously an intellectually lazy boast, a pretense of self promotion to that status equivalent to a scientist (without the qualifications) and finally an implicit or explicit disparagement of a targeted disliked party and/or subject. It is employed as a method to circumvent the conventions of evidence, block the methods of science and to attempt to establish immediate unjustified credibility on the part of an arguer who must win at all costs.
The Appeal to Skepticism Foundation of the MiHoDeAL Fallacy
Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy (of Irrelevance)
2a. The declaration, assumption or implication that a consensus skeptical position on a topic is congruent with the consensus opinion of scientists on that topic.
3. The presumption or contention that taking a denial based or default dubious stance on a set of evidence or topic is somehow indicative of application of the scientific method on one’s part, or constitutes a position of superior intellect, or represents a superior critical or rational position on a topic at hand.
The MiHoDeAL Fallacy
Truzzi Fallacy (of Argument)
4. A claim, implication or boast to knowledge, that one holds the credential and has conducted sufficient research into a subject to scientifically disposition that its underpinning observational basis consists solely of Misinterpretations, Hoaxes/Being Hoaxed, Delusions, Accident, Anecdote and Lies.
5. The presumption that a position of skepticism or plausible conformance on a specific issue affords the skeptical apologist tacit exemption from having to provide authoritative outsider recitation or evidence to support a contended claim or counter-claim.
“Pseudo-Skeptics: Critics who assert negative claims, but who mistakenly call themselves ‘skeptics,’ often act as though they have no burden of proof placed on them at all. A result of this is that many critics seem to feel it is only necessary to present a case for their counter-claims based upon plausibility rather than empirical evidence.” – Marcello Truzzi (Founding Co-chairman of CSICOP)
A MiHoDeAL Claim Does Not Constitute A Skeptical Position
A MiHoDeAL claim is a formal fallacy which is committed by one claiming the informal fallacy of an Appeal to Skepticism. It is an attempt to wrest control of an argument high ground artificially in an effort to leverage by deception or means other than the evidential base. Negations and denials are control mechanisms, and in their truest sense, can be used to control the direction of science; however, when this control is ceded into individuals, it can be abused. The MiHoDeAL claim is the implicit or explicit boast by the claimant that simply through the act of claiming to be a skeptic, I have accessed a wealth of information which allows me to disposition a claim or observation, have assumed a superior argument position, and therefore have deflected your observation – without need to research. This allows for a claim of default victory in undetermined pluralistic arguments, where there legitimately is no suitable basis of authority from which to declare such. The focus by the claimant is typically on winning arguments, not in deriving clarity or value.
In a MiHoDeAL claim context, only one observation exists – yours. Because the MiHoDeAL claimant has disposed of all previous observations of this type in similar fashion, accordingly there exists only one instance of its occurrence to their cultivated perception. This is like Popeye in a cartoon fight. He can whoop 50 guys in a bar, as long as only one of them exists at any given time, and at the times of his choosing.Example to the Right (I do not believe in Leprechauns, but it is a suitable challenging observation)
(O) Ted observes a Leprechaun strolling through the forest on Saturday.
The three generic reactions:
R¹ ⇒ Wow, I trust Ted, the forest is full of Leprechauns. CLAIM
R² ⇒ Ted is full of crap, and is lying, hallucinating or was hoaxed. CLAIM
R³ ⇒ I withhold disposition and will table this until the instance where it becomes useful. EPOCHE’
Notice that Ted has not made a claim here, only cited an observation. Now if Ted had claimed the forest to be full of a civilization of Leprechauns – then he would not be applying the self circumspection of skepticism, and would indeed be making a claim. The Ethical Skeptic could not accept such a claim, and would only continue to focus on Ted’s observation. So the clarity between what stands as a claim, and what stands as an observation, should not be blurred by neither the observer, nor the recipient of the information.
To dispose of observations as if they were claims, is a method of cultivating ignorance.
To the Ethical Skeptic, in a reasonable scenario, where Ted matches the reasonable profile of a trustworthy person, a choice of doing nothing with the data, is the correct posture. Any other action constitutes a claim to knowledge on his part – something he wishes to avoid. The reason is that, he would hopefully begin to formulate a series of explanatory constructs regarding Ted and the forest, once or if this pattern of observation continues, or more data comes in.
That is what he looks for, nothing else.
One version of the MiHoDeAL Fallacy is the oft-touted “Law of Large Numbers.” This is a rationale used to convince the victim that they have won the SuperLotto Plus lottery regularly and often, just with no statistical rigor or method with which to back up such a claim, and that by the sheer enormity of the skeptic intellect, one can dismiss otherwise undeniable observations as being ‘expected.’ Notice that one wins such a lottery much less when money is actually involved. Suddenly then, we revert back to true odds and probability distributions.
Law of Large Numbers Fallacy
/philosophy : skepticism : pseudo-skepticism/ : the Law of Large Numbers does not apply ex ante, nor in any other case where there is not a large number domain to sample from in the first place. Any instance where the wrong species of probability event is selected, there does not exist a suitable measure of what is ‘large’ or ‘probable’ or the event being described constitutes only the single opportunity for the improbable event to have occurred. An ad hoc denial tactic which dismisses by presupposing the idea that one holds statistical refutation evidence based on plenitude of a sample domain. The rigor-less assumption that mass statistics will prove out any strange or unlikely observation one chooses to dismiss. It is a form of the MiHoDeAL Fallacy. See also Appeal to Plenitude/Appeal to Lotto.
In the end, to the wise researcher and ethical skeptic, one can begin to spot the MiHoDeAL claim and false Appeals to Skepticism and science. When an opponent seems to display the irresistible desire to wrest control of an argument high ground and win at all costs, be ready for this fallacious set of deception.
Be ever vigilant as an ethical skeptic.
The Ethical Skeptic, “The MiHoDeAL Claim to Knowledge”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 7 Dec 2014; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-32A