The Ethical Skeptic’s Razor – The Antiwisdom of Crowds

Among competing alternatives, all other things being equal, prefer the one for which discussion or research is embargoed.

Lying is an art form which ranks among the greatest of the humanities – bearing parity with such human affairs as mercy, semantics, history, love, literature, or war. The Paul Ekman Group, which teaches methodologies useful in spotting lies, has identified nine key reasons as to why people lie.1 Within this essay, we seek to extrapolate beyond this body of work, and identify a chain of principle regarding the lie of the syndicate in particular – a foible-in-common which further then leverages the amplification gain to be had through collective humanity: the antiwisdom of the crowd.

Specifically, people lie in order to

  • attain or preserve something precious,
  • win or preserve the admiration of others, or
  • exercise power over others by controlling the information their target can access.

When a group in authority, seeks to exercise or preserve that authority, all these ubiquitous human factors not only come into play, but moreover become part of the re-enforced culture of the club itself. It’s alright to lie a little. After all, it’s for the club, it’s for science, it’s for virtue, and besides everyone in the club is also doing it. What I have found in business, is that even an individual habitually attentive to meticulous details of accountability, will suddenly compromise or abandon such practices when it comes to personal or club gain. Everyone is honest until money is actually sitting on the table. Then things change. A syndicate will loan to you only under the auspices of a lengthy and iron-clad contract, yet then demand that a loan they take from you, be borne upon a mere handshake. They suddenly become stupid – taking one for the club.

Once an individual has attained a scarce membership, one that they regard to be precious, worthy of admiration, or which affords them heady power over the information which others are allowed to consider – thereafter, preservation of the club (or syndicate) in the best interests of the individual, becomes paramount.

The Razor – Crowds are Anti-Wise

Inside a previous article we identified the principle that partial truths constitute the most effective form of lying. But what happens when spin, disinformation, and partial lies are wholly inadequate in controlling the critical information which the target of the lie might receive? What if the topic is not vulnerable to talking points, appeal to ignorance, or misrepresentation? For example, there is no way to ‘spin’ the ramifications of putative election corruption, elite island debauchery, fraudulent FBI warrants, or anomalous creatures. There is no ad hoc method available to rescue the notion that one got blind-drunk the previous night and had sex with an animal (hence the expression ‘screwed the pooch’). Information threats of this nature must be made subject to embargo alone. Embargo of research – embargo of its very mention.

Syndicates which bear the risk of the three primary motivations to lie, inside a milieu of anomie, are more likely to lie, more likely to spin disinformation, and more likely to frame an embargo of threatening ideas.

anomie – a breakdown of ethics, circumspection, awareness, standards, or clear purpose on the part of those inside a club.

Through this process of reverse osmosis, over time a syndicate or collective party will therefore be more likely to also be inhabited by a number of accrued false paradigms. Tangled webs which themselves must also be protected by means of more lies. This is what makes the silence of embargo a much more sustainable tactic than mere lying. Individuals then are inoculated by this collective antiwisdom as one requirement of an elite membership. This is the central purpose of the university, governance board, and media systems in America. No evolution better demonstrates this anti-wise effect than the emergence of the SARS-Cov-2 virus.

A herd of quislings with scientific degrees allowed themselves to be so intimidated by the toxicity fabricated around Trump by the political, media, and academic establishment that they covered up something they believe to be true — that the [SARS-CoV-2] lab leak theory is credible enough to warrant investigation.

John Nolte & Alina Chan: Scientists Admit Covering Up Lab Leak Theory to Avoid Being ‘Associated’ with Trump

One should not misevaluate through Gaussian blindness, a crowd attempting to measure the weight of an ox, or guess the number of jelly beans in a jar, as is framed inside James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds for instance. Such non-sequiturs stand merely as exploitation of the constrained-obviousness of a tight Normal arrival distribution and the simplicity of a single variable, coupled with a Pollyanna view of the methodology by which complex issues are prosecuted.

There is no subterfuge or career risk wound up inside the anonymous guessing of the weight of an ox. Being wrong here, does not serve to embarrass you nor your fellows. Large groups of people are not ‘smarter’ than individuals, simply due to the fact that crowds bear a greater incentive to lie, to not be wise. Syndicates in particular, those who hold the power of embargo, bear an enormous incentive towards antiwisdom. They do not exist to protect truth after all, they exist to protect the club.

There exists an exculpatory gain-amplification (antiwisdom) to be realized, through having every fellow inside your syndicate also participate in the lie. An amplification effect above and beyond the mere willingness to lie, on the part of an individual.

The reality is that crowds will adopt a wrong just as often as will individuals, all things being equal. However, the likelihood of the crowd enforcing a wrong to a greater degree or frequency as compared to an individual, increases as a function of the perceived scarcity of the crowd’s (syndicate’s) membership, veneration, and power. This is the very basis as to why the fashion apparel industry exists. Fashion is a lie, which becomes truth through the Overton Window power of the club. This power serves to introduce error, more often than it does rare truth.

The humanity of collective lying is an economy after all, just as are all the other humanities – and people will do what they must in order to preserve syndicate or clique brand against an outside threat. In order to accomplish this, a crowd may choose to prevaricate, disinform …or even embargo. It is the visceral desperation of this final tactic, the embargo, which stands as a warning flag of agency to the ethical skeptic.

If a subject is of such an abject nature of threat, that no form of prevarication nor disinformation will suffice to control its dissemination – then that subject must be embargoed by the syndicate. Embargo therefore, stands most often tantamount to an admission of validity which resides somewhere inside the threatening message. Debunking as well therefore, is a pretend method of engaging that subject and a tactic of its overall embargo. Debunkers constituting the erstwhile hit men, doing the disdained and dirty work of the syndicate.

A troubling notion which is 10% correct bears more inferential gravitas than does a truism which is 90% correct.

After all, a topic not worth studying, is also not worth investing copious amounts of focus and time around crafting a web of Nelsonian obfuscation. This brings us therefore to the point of crafting a principle of ethical skepticism from these predicates. A syndicate which is burdened by the human motivations to lie, serves only as a gain amplifier of this foible of human nature.

The Ethical Skeptic’s Razor (The Antiwisdom of Crowds)

Among competing alternatives, all other things being equal, prefer the one for which discussion or research is embargoed.

[Embargo] is the keystone to all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy and censorship. When any government or church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you many not read, this you must not know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man who has been hoodwinked in this fashion; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, whose mind is free. No, not the rack nor the atomic bomb, not anything. You can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.

~ Robert A Heinlein

Just as a false faith will costume itself in a public display of good works, even so a false truth-club will adorn itself in facts, coupled with embargo. Such exemplifies the ephemeral and mercurial nature of the complex relationship between humanity and truth. That occult reality which surrounds us merely reflects this very trickster nature back upon us – a form of pedantic and satirical mirroring. A mocking of that which we refuse to observe – very likely serving as the ironic basis behind our embargo as a species to begin with.

The Ethical Skeptic, “The Ethical Skeptic’s Razor”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 7 May 2022; Web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/?p=65555

The Art of Rhetoric

Rhetoric is an opportunist, desperate for an avenue of entry through any means of persuasion and locution – a form of such extreme commitment to a conclusion that it bears not the ethics and honesty of poetry. An answer seeking a question which then targets a victim – a disliked topic or person.
Don’t be fooled. Rhetoric always defends an answer – always targets a victim. It is the opposite of poetry. It is the opposite of the process of sound science.

The Art of Rhetoric is the process by which dogmatic truths are enforced through the impugning of an antithetical idea or person. It consists of two components: Opportunistic Persuasion and Opportunistic Locution. These two elements are the subjects of the last two blog posts in The Ethical Skeptic:

How You Persuade Makes All the Differencethe ethical skeptic button

How You Say It Makes All the Differencethe ethical skeptic button

unmitigated bullshit - CopyWhen we sequence the two activity sets together, we educe a process which is in its essence, the reverse of science. Rhetoric is a method of convincing a dilettante audience, and even a scientifically trained audience to submit to consensus on an idea – which holds potentially questionable empirical merit. Neil deGrasse Tyson cites that scientific literacy is what empowers one to spot when someone else is full of bullshit. That might be partly true; however, to Neil’s discredit the vast majority of our scientists, even less Social Skeptics, are not well trained enough in philosophy to understand the tenets of what constitutes bullshit in the form and nature of rhetoric. One cannot conduct the process of science in typical social discourse, nor is holding a set of prescribed answers which were handed to you, indeed science. Thus I am skeptical that Dr. Tyson’s one liner is correct. Spotting rhetoric however, is a useful skill; the ability to spot those arguments which seek to take the place of sound methods of science. Rhetoric is designed to trick smart people into consensus through sleight-of-hand persuasion and locution. It is the container ship which docks at the port of bullshit. Similar to Methodical Cynicism being a martial art, Rhetoric is an Art – a rogue doctrine among the humanities.

An Answer Looking for a Question Looking for a Victim

Rhetoric

/philosophy : argument : bias : inverse logic : sleight of hand/ : appearing to be focused on a given topic or a given case example, when a slightly different or less acceptable somewhat related position is actually being surreptitiously promoted. Enacted through opportunistic measures, desperate for an avenue of entry through any means of persuasion and locution – a form of such extreme commitment to a conclusion that it bears not the ethics and honesty of straightforwardness, science, transparency or poetry. An answer seeking a question which then targets a victim – a disliked topic or person.

rhet destroyIt is not simply science after all which equips a person with the tools necessary in detecting bullshit. It is the quality and rigor of one’s philosophy inside their discipline. That is why it is called a Doctorate in Philosophy, a PhD. Facts are peppered about by all sides in most debates. Facts do not necessarily lend deontological knowledge (truth). It is the structure and nature of argument which reveals both the credibility of the arguer, as well as potentially the soundness of their argument. A seasoned philosopher can discern the difference between a dogmatic shallow skepticolyte, and an authentic lay or professional scientific researcher. Take the current blog series among Social Skeptics demonstrating rhetoric about one of their favorite topics of obsession (why they obsess over this I have no idea):

Answer (truism): Ancient and cultural folklore is an unsound basis from which to make a claim that any folk-legend-monster exists or ever existed.

Question (rhetoric): Do “cryptids” exist, or are they simply figments of social archetypal folklore and imaginations?

Victim (target): Therefore, since it is most likely that the answer substantiates the question (apparent coherency), there is, quod erat demonstrandum, no substantiating evidence supporting any crypto-zoological being like Bigfoot.

The Ethical Skeptic does not believe in Bigfoot. But he also does not believe in bad science either.

Backward science is one of Social Skepticism’s primary means of enforcing consensus. Notice that, as always, no actual science is employed in the above process of rhetoric. If we pepper the process above (and in the below exhibit) with ‘facts,’ it renders the process no less an Art of Trickery than it already is in its essence. This is the chief craft of the most senior of Social Skeptics. It is pseudoscience.

The Art of Rhetoric - Copy

An Example of Rhetoric in Journalistic Propaganda

diabetes - Copy - CopyThe following example is pulled from today’s INQUISITR. It consists of a short prejudicial propaganda article by Shelley Hazen, published September 9th, one day after a diabetes study summarized on September 8 2015, outlined how diabetes has grown in 24 short years, to affect half the American population. In an effort to head off public unrest over the idea that something might have caused this precipitous upsurge in disease, social epistemology outlets such as INQUISITR were instructed to head off unauthorized ideas, via push articles for immediate promulgation. This is a regular observable, repeatable and measurable occurrence of Social Skepticism. Some key features to note, which delineate rhetoric based propaganda:

The Ten Features of Rhetoric Based Propaganda
  1.   It is fast in its retort (often right on the heels of the release of disliked information)
  2.   It employs the worst of pathos based persuasion (polemic, apologetic, obdurate, philippic, coercion)
  3.   It protects a single buried Answer (with a capital A)
  4.   It is promulgated through the same, very familiar media channels
  5.   It is written by low-experience, dilettante journalists – compliance minded B students who don’t know any better
  6.   It is fraught with semantic and locution breaches
  7.   It is written in simple to construct, imprecise and non-scientific phraseology
  8.   It lacks technical competency on the subject being discussed
  9.   It falsely spins scientific and research principles into totally different understanding
  10.   It assumes an unmerited position of authority.

Well, as you can see below, the article is a case study in rhetoric. It bears all the elements of opportunistic persuasion, in this case in the form of an obdurate to apologetic. It cannot be a polemic or disputation because it offers no hint of any opposing viewpoint or substantiation of its “Answer” buried as lede inside the prejudicially framed text. Second, it follows through on the persuasion by taking the question raised (Has diabetes risen with obesity since 1988?), and feeding that via a disconcertingly large series (read that as – this person would not last five minutes in one of my labs or firms) of locution foibles into a

prescribed Answer: Type 2 [diabetes] is caused by poor eating, lack of exercise, and being obese.

assumptions they they want to slip by:

  1. poor eating and lack of exercise increased as a precursor to this 20 year period of diabetes increase. When in fact, this is not the case at all.²
  2. poor eating and lack of exercise are the source of the obesity epidemic. When in fact, it is gut flora which is being identified by science as the culprit. Gut flora being altered by a substance we are ingesting on a regular basis.³

The Targeted Victim:  The idea that diabetes causes obesity. The idea that something introduced into the American diet since 1988, has precipitated a dramatic rise in pre-diabetes, and that obesity and pancreatic failure are the later symptoms and not the disease or cause itself. This is the antithetical idea which is targeted by Social Skeptics. Shelley Hazen’s medical pseudo-authority might be even palatable, if there were not at least 11 other maladies which have also skyrocketed in the last two decades (pancreatic cancer, rosacea, skin disorders, childhood diabetes, autoimmune disorders, thyroid disease, IBS/InfBS/Crohn’s, liver distress, kidney disorders, etc.).

click on image to enlarge

example of rhetoric 2 - Copy

Such is the nature of journalistic propaganda from push-media outlets. Such is the nature of apparent coherency spun by social epistemologists for your consumption and consensus. Such is the nature of Social Skepticism. A lie in so many words. An answer looking for a victim.

Such is the nature of rhetoric.


¹  Hazen, Shelley, INQUISITR: Do Half of American Adults Have Diabetes? The Numbers May Not be That Clear Cut; http://www.inquisitr.com/2404697/do-half-of-american-adults-have-diabetes-the-numbers-may-not-be-that-clear-cut/

²  “Physical Activity Statistics: No Leisure-Time Physical Activity Trends | DNPAO | CDC”. WHO. Retrieved Sep 9, 2015.

³  Science Daily: VIB – Intestinal flora determines health of obese people, Aug 28, 2013; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130828131932.htm