The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

The Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy

I doubt, therefore I am (superior)

Most of the time, an Appeal to Skepticism is employed when no real data is possessed and no real research has been conducted on the part of the challenging claimant; instances where the integrity of a prima facia counter-claim could be called into question (e.g. attempting to deny an observation made by a third party, without direct evidence – i.e. Truzzi Fallacy).  It is in its essence, simultaneously an intellectually lazy boast, a pretense of self promotion to that status equivalent to a scientist (a form of ‘social peer review’ when one does not hold the qualifications) and finally an implicit or explicit disparagement of a targeted disliked party. The Appeal to Skepticism is often also a Richeliean Appeal, progressive and destructive in nature; 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.

We initiate our first step into examining the pitfalls of skepticism, by observing those who treat skepticism as a personal identity and goal unto itself; as opposed to its true application as a tool inside science method. Therefore, Ethical Skepticism can be viewed as a personal practice set which seeks to avoid the pitfalls portrayed inside application variants of Neuhaus’ and Goodhart’s Laws:

Neuhaus’s Law

/philosophy : skepticism : fallacies/ : where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.

Therefore, by this principle, we see how skepticism, as a goal in and of itself will always escalate to extremism. Because anything which can be encompassed inside a halo of ‘doubt’ will eventually be ‘debunked’ by default, whether or not research is done inside the subject at all. All it takes is a bit of club self-delusion and a little shove of doubt. This is encompassed then as an outcome of Goodhart’s Law:

Goodhart’s Law (of Skepticism)

/philosophy : skepticism : fallacies/ : when skepticism itself becomes the goal, it ceases to be skepticism.

Both of these principles become favorable leverage angles for the adept forces seeking to conduct Bernaysian social engineering. The social skeptics they target to participate in this ploy are smart enough to support the agenda, but not smart enough to spot the methods of counter-intelligence and the role they play therein. Nassim Taleb’s ‘Intellectual Yet Idiot‘ class of smartest people in the room.

Therefore, The Appeal to Skepticism is the ethical skeptic’s way of discerning actions and people who are pushing agendas, through a fallacy of self-identity:

The Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy (Informal)

Ergo Sum Veritas Fallacy (of Irrelevance)

1a.  The contention, implication or inference that one’s own ideas or the ideas of others hold authoritative or evidence based veracity simply because their proponent has declared themselves to be a ‘skeptic.’

1b.  The assumption, implication or inference that an organization bearing a form of title regarding skepticism immediately holds de facto unquestionable factual or ideological credibility over any other entity having conducted an equivalent level of research into a matter at hand.

1c.  The assumption, implication or inference that an organization or individual bearing a form of title regarding skepticism, adheres to a higher level of professionalism, ethics or morality than does the general population.

1′ (strong).  The assumption that because one or one’s organization is acting in the name of skepticism or science, that such a self claimed position affords that organization and/or its members exemption from defamation, business tampering, fraud, privacy, stalking, harassment and tortious interference laws.

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.

2b.  The argument assumption or implication that an opinion possesses authoritative veracity or a proponent possesses intellectual high ground simply through allegiance to a consensus skeptical position on a 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.

Richeliean Appeal to Skepticism

4. /Appeal to Skepticism : coercion/ – an inflation of personal gravitas, celebrity or influence by means of implicit or explicit threats of coercive tactics which can harm or seek to embarrass a victim one wishes to be silenced. Coercive tactics include threats to harm family, contact employers, ridicule, tamper with businesses, employment of celebrity status to conduct defamation activities or actions to defraud, or otherwise cause harm to persons, reputation or property. This includes the circumstance where a Richeliean skeptic encourages and enjoys a form of ‘social peer review,’ empowered via politics or a set of sycophants who are willing to enact harm to a level which the Richeliean power holder himself would not personally stoop.

Inverse Negation Fallacy (of Presumption)

5a.   The asymmetrical strategy of promoting an idea through negation of all its antithetical concepts. A method of undermining any study, proponent, media byte, article, construct, data, observation, effort or idea which does not fit one’s favored model, in a surreptitious effort to promote that favored model, along with its implicit but not acknowledged underpinning claims, without tendering the appearance of doing so; nor undertaking the risk of exposing that favored model or claims set to the scientific method or to risky critical scrutiny.

5b.  Omega Hypothesis (HΩ) – the argument which is foisted to end all argument, period. An argument which has become more important to protect, than science itself. An invalid null hypothesis or a preferred idea inside a social epistemology. A hypothesis which is defined to end deliberation without due scientific rigor, alternative study consensus or is afforded unmerited protection or assignment as the null. The surreptitiously held and promoted idea or the hypothesis protected by an Inverse Negation Fallacy. Often one which is promoted as true by default, with the knowledge in mind that falsification will be very hard or next to impossible to achieve.

predatory doubt

Truzzi Fallacy (of Argument)

6.   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)

These two general forms of The Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy eventually produce an habituation in individuals with compromised integrity, whereby they will begin to see denial as a mindset or reward reinforced mental state. Whether or not this condition is a strategic goal of Social Skepticism; regardless, the observed prevalence of this effect is undeniable. In addition, this habituation may be rewarded by the heady nature of power which comes through a Richeliean Appeal to Skepticism. In this final state, it is the reward of celebrity and power which is the goal of Social Skepticism, and not the status of science or correctness of the conclusions touted by the SSkeptic.

Negare Attentio Effect

/cognitive bias – unconscious self positioning/ – the unconscious habituation of a person seeking publicity or attention in which they will gravitate more and more to stances of denial, skepticism and doubting inside issues of debate, as their principal method of communication or public contention. This condition is subconsciously reinforced because they are rewarded with immediate greater credence when tendering a position of doubt, find the effort or scripted method of arguing easier, enjoy shaming and demeaning people not similar to their own perception of self or presume that counter-claims don’t require any evidence, work or research.

Explanation of The General Forms

An Appeal to Skepticism is an Irrelevant Appeal which in one of three ways, cedes control of an argument high ground artificially to the person attempting leverage by deception or means other than the evidentiary 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 Appeal to Skepticism is the implicit or explicit boast by the claimant that simply through the act of doubting, I have assumed a superior argument position, all things being equal.  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.  There are two general forms of this Fallacy of Relevancy.

Declaring Myself As A Skeptic Defaults Me Unearned and Unassailable Credibility

Whether I use my self-awarded moniker as ‘skeptic’ to attempt to drive home a political goal, or squelch a subject I dislike, or improve my standing and notoriety, self developed claims to skepticism are designed to serve exactly that: self.  Most commonly, self appointed skeptics are only skeptical about the set of data and ideas they do NOT believe, and tender their favorite subjects a coddling and shallow appearance of scientific veracity.  In similar fashion to the Texas Barn Logic Fallacy, where one shoots at the barn wall and then draws the target bullseye around the bullet holes, the faker skeptic will challenge every subject EXCEPT those which they surreptitiously are promoting.  So rather than taking the ethical pathway of developing hypothesis and methodical testing of their favored claims, the faker skeptic shoots at everything except their favored claim.  The only thing left standing, is that which they wished to promote in the first place.  This is called the Inverse Negation Fallacy approach to agenda sponsorship, and is a method of deception; and when used in this context by SSkeptics, is Deskeption.

Example

(1) Astronomer Phil Plait is a skeptic, by his own admission.
Therefore:
(2) Astronomer Phil Plait should be published as an authority on a variety of subjects aside from Astronomy, such as issues of health practices, gun control, and bigfoot.

Assuming A Position of Doubt Affords Me Immediate Rational Gravitas

It is a damaging and deceptive tactic to create un-level argument playing fields simply for the benefit of personal victory and ego.  It is fallacious to presume 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.  Yes science uses doubt as a lever.  But science also understands when data has produced a sufficient threshold of plurality.  SSkeptics do not grasp this, as understanding was not the goal in the first place.  Inside the notorious Climate Change denial antics, those who defended Climate Change data – were quick to disallow “Deniers” the high ground of being called ‘skeptics’, as they knew the deceptiveness wound up in this moniker tactic well.  Taking a position of denial or cynicism does not guarantee one a position of superior intellectual approach, nor does it represent a superior rational position on a topic at hand.  As with most arguments, the mere presence of plurality, the fact that science has not yet definitively answered or addressed the question, means that ‘doubt’ can unethically be used as a battering ram, just as easily as it can be used to enforce an ethical falsification hierarchy under the scientific method.

Example

(1) Evidence has been purportedly gathered that ulcers are caused by a bacterium, helicopter pylori.  I am in an association which represents antacid manufacturer interests.
Therefore:
(2) Denial of this claim as false, implies that there is a current understanding of what causes ulcers, which has evidence, and will tender our stalling the appearance of being a legitimate facet of ethical science.

This argument is fallacious because it only serves to aggrandize the person making the appeal to skepticism, and tenders the false appearance of science.  It suffers from the diminishing gains failure problem in that:

When the one making the Appeal to Skepticism is correct:  There is no added Value or Clarity gain (goals of Ethical Skepticism)     OUTCOME = ZERO SUM GAIN

When the one making the Appeal to Skepticism is incorrect:  Damage is done through obfuscation   OUTCOME = LOSS

This is why, on average, skepticism should be used as a technique which aids in good science.  But to take on the identity of being a skeptic, to chest-pound, dominate discourse and to begin to wield such self declaration as a political or argument position basis, causes no net benefit to mankind and science; only loss.

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Argument Fallacies | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Penultimate Set Fallacy

We know that we do not know, what we do not know.

A common street hustle in Europe and Africa begins with the claim “There is only one thing we do not have, and all you have to do to make this happen is _____________.”  That blank, is filled with a menagerie of cost, counter-evidence and complexity, which the claimant implicitly denies in its offing.  The Penultimate Set fallacy is the furtive presumption expressed or implied by a claimant, that enough knowledge is held by the claimant to reduce or eliminate the salient impact of unknowns within a discussed domain.  In this inductive logical fallacy of presumption, more broad but conditionally related to the No True Scotsmanfallacy, it is implied that unknowns inside a domain are all identified, further then these ‘gaps’ in knowledge constitute a sufficiently insignificant impact on the domain, and/or finally that this minority of unknowns in no way compromises a claim to authority.  This fallacy is a danger when employing the ‘God of the Gaps’ counter argument inside natural theory, which while valid as an argument in a generic sense, becomes invalid when contended based on a Penultimate Set fallacy.

How the Penultimate Set Scam Works at Face Value

We just lack one thing from you which is preventing utopia from effervescing forth.

This 3-step artifice is a very common hustle employed in the third world as well as the largest institutions in the Western world. After observing this ruse many times in Asia and Africa, I have given it the moniker The Penultimate Set Scam (or Fallacy when contended in the objective).

The hustle always falls along these lines:

1. Everything is, was or can be perfect (the substrate),

2. something you are not doing is causing this perfection to be stultified (the sin),

3. we just lack one thing from you which is needed in order to fix this (the mark),

(there is a fourth requisite part – this thing you need to provide needs to happen now)…

Whereupon bountiful utopia will be precipitated into reality and all perfection will be realized. The substrate is always different, the shortfall is always in your camp, and the mark usually involves money, fealty or politcal power.

If there is one projected character trait of a supreme intelligence (whatever that is) in the cosmos, which I surmise, it is that such an intelligence will NOT practice this scam methodology, as a measure and feature of its interaction with the lesser beings which inhabit the cosmos.

But yes, fake SSkeptics sell this very same scam.

You see it’s simple really. All knowledge is already there, and all we lack is critical thinking on your part.

Penultimacy in this context means that the claimant presumes to hold ‘the next to last piece of information knowable.’  Therefore the gaps in the claimant’s knowledge are insignificant or substantively irrelevant.  It is fallacious in the logical sense that ‘we do not know, what we do not know’ so an implied penultimate knowledge is likely, or can be shown to be, a false underpinning of an argument.

Penultimate Set

Explanation

A penultimate set is a sub-domain of assumptions or proofs which are contested as chiefly, substantially or sufficiently representative in describing the salient features of the broader domain.  It is the boast that my knowledge or the knowledge of science, or the expertise of a particular discipline sufficiently describe a construct or natural realm such that only minor gaps remain our understanding of that discipline.

A claim of penultimacy is not automatically fallacious, hence its inductive categorization; however, this status does not excuse the employment of the presumption, especially when implied rather than stated. Even a legitimate authority speaking on his area of expertise may hold a minority of knowledge in that field, and not yet be aware of this.  So absolutism in any given field is not guaranteed to be valid.

This informal fallacy occurs most commonly when a claimant either (a) is not an authority, or (b) is not an authority on the subject on which he is being cited.  However it can easily occur by commission, when the claimant is indeed an authority as well.  If someone either isn’t an authority at all, or isn’t an authority on the subject about which they’re speaking, then that undermines the value of their testimony, based on the likelihood of the Penultimate Set fallacy.

Example

(1) We have gathered and analyzed the facts surrounding the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa.
Therefore:
(2) His murderer needs to be identified by you

This argument is fallacious because the presumption is made that the only step remaining, is to identify the murderer, when the set of other possible events are still extant; including things of which we have not thought or were not even aware existed.  It is an implied boast on the part of the claimant in line (2).  In this case the ‘gaps’ in the knowledge domain may be constrained, and we are able to identify that there are other, granted unlikely, scenarios which could have occurred.  Jimmy could be hiding out somewhere, or he could have been riding his bike and fallen into a volcano, or he could have become ensnared in fishing line in a lake near his home and drowned.  However, in domains less precise than this example, the concerns over the Penultimate Set fallacy grow larger.  The ‘gaps’ may constitute the majority of the domain in question, and indeed we may not even be aware of these things we do not know or features we have not observed nor understand.  The appeal to this logical fallacy therefore, enables the counter argument to be ethically posited, in a non-pejorative context toward the knowledge domain claimant.

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Argument Fallacies | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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