The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

A Handy Checklist for Distinguishing Propaganda from Actual Science

The propaganda artist insists upon final conclusion from a smattering of facts. An ethical skeptic raises questions from disciplined, incremental and in-the-field observation.

How do we distinguish propaganda from genuine skepticism and science? How does the ethical skeptic discern who to engage with and whom to treat with a more asperous demeanor? Here is a handy checklist which I find helpful in such circumstances. Ethics never demands that you treat everyone nicely. Be gracious to all and tolerant of unintended ignorance – but never cozen a liar or insistent apparatchik. These are distinguished by their methods, and not their specific beliefs or stances on an issue. The central key is this:

A propaganda artist insists upon final conclusion from a smattering of facts. An ethical skeptic raises questions from disciplined, incremental and in-the-field observation.

A propaganda artist habitually defends the strong. An ethical skeptic defends stakeholders at risk.

A propaganda artist focuses on person, identity, motive and trivia. An ethical skeptic focuses on method and argument.

The propaganda artist may in fact, be correct – but this is simply by accident.

The Propaganda Artist

Seeks and targets specific groups, inserting them self into that targeted group conversations

The only ‘question’ raised is pejorative, questioning an opponent’s motive or character/person

Makes a high priority of identifying the bad guys (usually a priori)

Identifies the bad subjects a priori (by means other than actual completed science) – often in a bundle or on a t-shirt

Groups opponents into a gigantic conspiracy-theory-believing, tin-foil hat or anti-science cult

Relies upon personal attacks based simply upon an opponent’s dissent

Uses the media or a club of social superiority as their backup – bullying crowd

Comes armed with a list of disjointed facts or canned points, and calls that ‘evidence’

Issues figures and fabutistics (‘97% of scientists’, ‘less than 5% of cases’), without any qualification or understanding of them

Obtains plausible deniability stances from club doctrine and materials/sources

Uses one-liners/talking points and presumes opponent has never heard them before

An habitual attachment or reliance upon headlines or catch phrases

Fails to examine their canned talking points for any straw man of opponents

Appeals to authority or celebrity in lieu of competence, and before any argument is actually framed or established

Habitually underestimates or deprecates opponents

Relies upon partial, preliminary or outdated science

Fails to demonstrate a record of producing any original thoughts

Fails to understand what a hypothesis is, or the different Levels/strengths of study design and inference

Seeks to increase celebrity and club status through their activity

Focuses upon victory – motivated to compensate for a past anger/shortfall

Was in the opposite camp and now they have ‘seen the light’ and are still a fanatic, just merely switched sides

Significant need to be the ‘science representative’ or the smartest person in the room

‘Wears the logo or job’ as status inside the science or industry under contention, but does not seem to carry much professional knowledge of that science or industry

Insults the innocent opponent – bears a habit of insulting

Flip-flops sides (not as an outcome of scientific persuasion) unconsciously or on smaller (but critical) issues

Never applies doubt to self or favored ideas, only to disfavored ideas

Fails to grasp that simply using the tools of science (eg. Bayesian analysis, meta-study, single p-values) does not mean that one has actually done science

Habitually fails to understand or acknowledge risk or value

Seldom distinguishes a stakeholder from casual interest – never defends a stakeholder at risk

Issues conclusions based upon mere ‘facts’ and not the critical nature of argument (soundness, logical calculus and critical path)

Never ends with a question, always a final answer

Does not seem to be aware of what a syllogism or logical calculus is, and how to differentiate it from an ignoratio elenchi argument

Reliance upon informal fallacy or peripheral trivia as a means to disprove an opponent

Fails to measure or be aware of the cost in a claimed cost-benefit mechanism

Forces a simplest explanation or talks about ‘Occam’s Razor’ (sic)

Possesses a final explanation claim for all inquiries

Forces an argument to final explanation

Answers are always simple and easy (which is not the real world)

Tenders an idea equal status to a scientific hypothesis

Implies at all times that the science has been completed

epoché vanguards gnosis

How to MLA cite this blog post =>
The Ethical Skeptic, “A Handy Checklist for Distinguishing Propaganda from Actual Science” The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 24 March 2018, Web; https://wp.me/p17q0e-7lR

March 24, 2018 Posted by | Agenda Propaganda | , | Leave a comment

Wittgenstein Error and Its Faithful Participants

I neither want to understand your observation or contention, nor do I regard it as acceptable for consideration unless I see solid conclusive empirical underpinning; much as I hold for all the things I regard as true.  Until it is proved, I will allow no language of science to develop around the subject. Your terms and measures are all pseudo-science.
Wittgenstein says bullshit to the supposed objectivity of those who game process in this manner, and identifies three types of error to which the social epistemologist falls prey.

One of the principal developers of our modern framing of philosophy was Ludwig Wittgenstein (most often pronounced /vhit’-geng-shtiyne/). His Philosophy of Mathematics served as a means to bring into coherence his own contentions regarding the role and limitations of philosophy as it impacts our science. Indeed, Wittgenstein’s writings from 1929 through 1944 are heavily devoted to mathematics, a fact that Wittgenstein himself emphasized in 1944 by writing that his “chief contribution has been in the philosophy of mathematics.”¹ This focus on mathematics afforded Wittgenstein a frame of reference from which to understand the contast between a hard-boundary science such as maths, and in contrast a soft-boundary science, such as philosophy. Wittgenstein going even so far as to consider philosophy thusly: “philosophy is not a theory, or a doctrine, but rather an activity. It is an activity of clarification (of thoughts), and more so, of critique (of language).”²

The Wittgenstein Thresholds of Knowledge - Copy - CopyAs such philosophy does not lend itself to recitation in the Wittgenstein argument, aside from its basic dependence upon foundational elements, tautologies that are true based on their own essence (eg. 2+2=4, or I am alive). A philosophy can be nonsense (unsinnig) when it is devoid of any referenceable structure or meaning, or senseless (sinnlos), when possessing referenceable structure and meaning but contestable in terms of accuracy.¹ Most of mankinid’s contentions, are incorrectly ascribed to be nonsense by faking skeptics, when in fact, they are more accurately termed senseless under the Wittgensteinian philosophical framing. But for the most part, we forgive social skeptics this error. Employment of the pejorative ‘nonsense’ sounds more scientifically authoritative and conclusive. They are all about sounding authoritative and conclusive, so they would rather employ that term in error. Terminology and language as it turns out in the Wittgenstein sense, are not only crucial to the foundations of understanding and science, but also stand as one of the principle tools through which fake skepticism is leveraged.

Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language.
     ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein is considered one of the key developers of thought regarding how we understand what is philosophy, sense, nonsense and knowledge.  Wittgenstein outlined a useful framework hinging around the all important role of language (#2 in the series), inside of which I have developed a series of litmus thresholds which define what is both knowable, and what is known. Elements of science, or what is considered to be added to the body of what is known, are dependent upon several channels of serviceability in order to possess even the remotest possibility of becoming a part of our body of knowledge. Each must sufficiently pass a litmus test of serviceability in terms of:

  1. Domain of Comprehensibility – a tenet of knowledge must be graspable by the mind of at least one person
  2. Domain of Descriptive Symbology (Language) – a tenet of knowledge must be describable in some kind of symbolism, both privately and commonly held
  3. Domain of Intelligibility – a tenet of knowledge must be framable in reference to previous foundation tenets of knowledge (Wittgenstein elements)
  4. Domain of Observability – a tenet of knowledge must possess a feature which is at least in part, observable
  5. Domain of Tolerability – a tenet of knowledge must not offend the sensibility of members of those who hear it
  6. Domain of Sustainability – a tenet of knowledge must both be teachable and teachable by others than its originator

Wittgenstein placed language and descriptive symbology as the foundational aspect which influences the intelligibility and more of an idea. These six screening mechanisms are the filters through which mankind develops what is considered the Body of That Which is Known (science). However, when this process is tampered with, or the methods of science are crafted in such a way as to corrupt and game this series of acceptances, two errors result, below.

Because most things are innately comprehensible (1), intelligible (3), and can be observed (4) and taught (6); therefore, should I wish to constrain science in the Wittgensteinian/Ethical Skeptic sense, science which is headed in a direction I do not like, I must attack the two vulnerable thresholds of the knowledge development process (Numbers 2 and 5 above):

A.  Refuse to afford the subject an intelligible and professionally agreed set of concepts, questions or descriptive language, and

B.  Position a screen of intolerability as to its being sustained (taught).

Wittgenstein cautioned that what is ‘known’ can be as much an exercise in philosophy, as is philosophy itself. Unlike maths’ hard boundary science, much of what we know, is vulnerable to what we want to know, or our soft-boundary philosophy of both what we can comprehend, measure, communicate or desire to observe. Very often this knowledge is not in reality anchored existentially into both that which is known, or especially that which can be known. We pick and choose what eventually arrives as ‘truth’ based on our philosophy.

It is this refusal to observe that which can be known, which is the chief sinnloss on the part of the Social Skeptic. Both the desire to not know something, and the belief that all one’s knowledge is underpinned outside the framework of philosophy, stand as a grand fantasy on the part of the social skeptic. The nonsense arises in their inability to observe this in themselves.

More than simply an argument from ignorance, the Wittgenstein Error is the active construction of the ignorance itself. A gaming of what is observable by tampering with language and symbolism first. It is akin to attempting complex math while refusing to allow a mechanism for integration. All in order to shepherd to a priori ends, that which can be known.

This gives rise to two particular forms of error on the part of those who profess science as part of a social agenda. Errors which The Ethical Skeptic, is wise to avoid in their own thinking – and quietly identify in the thinking of others, in a non-pejorative context (we all are vulnerable to this human frailty).

Wittgenstein Error (Descriptive)

Describable: I cannot observe it because I refuse to describe it.

Corruptible: Science cannot observe it because I have crafted language and definition so as to preclude its description.

Existential Embargo:  By embargoing a topical context (language) I favor my preferred ones through means of inverse negation.

/philosophy : knowledge development : symbolism and language/ – the contention or assumption that science has no evidence for or ability to measure a proposition or contention, when in fact it is only a flawed crafting of language and definition, limitation of language itself or lack of a cogent question or (willful) ignorance on the part of the participants which has limited science and not in reality science’s domain of observability.

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” ~Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein Error (Contextual)

Situational: I can shift the meaning of words to my favor or disfavor by the context in which they are employed.

/philosophy : knowledge development : symbolism and language/ – the philosophical conception of words bearing a meaning-as-use approach to definition, or the idea that the meanings of words, relative or not, cannot be defined abstract in isolation from the contexts in which they are employed.³ Semantics and locution abuse as it formulates the basis of rhetoric.

We are unable clearly to circumscribe the concepts we use; not because we don’t know their real definition, but because there is no real ‘definition’ to them.” ~Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein Error (Epistemological)

Tolerable: My science is an ontology dressed up as empiricism.

/philosophy : knowledge development : fallacies/ – the contention that a proposition must be supported by empirical data or else it is meaningless, nonsense or useless, or that a contention which is supported by empirical data is therefore sensible, when in fact the proposition can be framed into meaninglessness, nonsense or uselessness based upon its underlying state or lacking of definition, structure, logical calculus or usefulness in addressing a logical critical path.

bedeutungslos – meaningless or incoherent. A proposition or question which resides upon a lack of definition, or which contains no meaning in and of its self.

unsinnig – nonsense or non-science. A proposition of compromised formal structure or not framed in a scientifically valid form of reduction. Feynman ‘not even wrong.’

sinnlos – mis-sense, logical untruth or lying. A contention which does not follow from the evidence, is correct at face value but disinformative or is otherwise useless.1

Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself.” ~Wittgenstein

Our duty is to challenge pseudo-skepticism which employs these two error bases, institutional doctrine which is founded upon them and the resulting cultivation of ignorance which provides the fertile soil from which more of this type of error can be perpetuated.


¹  Rodych, Victor, “Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Mathematics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2011/entries/wittgenstein-mathematics/>.

²  Biletzki, Anat and Matar, Anat, “Ludwig Wittgenstein”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/wittgenstein/>.

³  Auerbach, David, Slate, The Limits of Language: Wittgenstein explains why we always misunderstand one another on the Internet; Sep 1, 2015; http://www.slate.com/articles/life/classes/2015/09/take_a_wittgenstein_class_he_explains_the_problems_of_translating_language.single.html.

August 15, 2015 Posted by | Agenda Propaganda, Argument Fallacies | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Tell When a SSkeptic is Lying

How does one tell when a Social Skeptic is lying? It is of course tempting to retort with the old adage “When his lips are moving.” But indeed this is not the case. The modern Social Skepticism movement has not always universally promoted falsehoods, having sponsored many science-friendly actions historically. There exist of course oppressive religions and pure Woo subjects which need diligent countering.  But it is not the things one is correct about after all which justify one’s actions; rather, those things which the Social Skeptic is religiously adamant, incorrect and prejudiced outside the bounds of science, which compose a damaging contribution on their part. These are the characteristic methods of ignorance which are enabled through the enforcement of the social lie. This is where the well expired point of diminishing returns becomes most manifest inside the actions set of Social Skepticism.

Triangulating a Fix

triangulate a fix in navigationIn navigation at sea, one can determine ship’s position via several methods. Older systems like Loran and Omega existed which allowed a mariner near shore to obtain position information via specialized receivers. Radio direction finding was always an added excitement to seafaring. One never knowing for certain if you were lost or not. Celestial sight reductions, sun lines and Local Apparent Noon can allow for a fix in blue water passage making. Today, satellite GPS provides a very accurate fix for open sea navigation; however sometimes when navigating a channel or tight formation of islands, it is useful to triangulate a fix off of nearby measured and charted objects.  In this method one simply takes a bearing shot with compass enabled binoculars, or through a shot-sighted compass, converts the bearing shot to True bearing via the “Can Dead Men Vote Twice At Elections” (Compass Deviation Magnetic Variation True Add East) convention, and then marks that bearing line across the observed (shot) fixed structure on the chart. Perform this three times, and where the three lines intersect as a group, that is approximately where you were when you made the bearing shots.

This is called a Terrestrial Fix and is shown as a circle with the dot inside it on the chart to the right.  From there, the prudent mariner knows where to set safe course and speed, from which to extrapolate, or dead recon. The skilled skipper can do this innately, sometimes almost in his head, in familiar waters or in situations where speed is of the essence. Tools such as the Three Minute Rule or the Radian Rule can provide fast access to key data which allows insight into a Inland Rules of the Road or Collective Regulations situation at sea. The key is the ability to run the fix at the right in your head, along with an estimate of set, drift, course and speed while you stand watch at the helm.

In similar fashion, for those who navigate the complexities of truth, social enforcement and the scientific method, it is useful to be able to spot the key indicators which elucidate when Social Skepticism is promoting a lie. A lie in the name of enforcing their cult and religion as opposed to real science.  This is where the skill of triangulating a lie comes in to play.

I can forgive a lie issued to protect one’s self, and may fathom what motivates the starving thief. But it is those who lie, only in purpose to harm others as entertainment, which evokes a most august objection.  ~TES

Triangulating a Lie of Social Skepticism

How to triangulate a skeptic lieSocial Skeptics speak often of “triangulating the truth,’ and indeed this is a useful analogy to some of the deliberative challenges inside of society and science. Lies however are typically enforced by means other than diligent research, hypothesis reduction, observation, objective neutrality and ethical curiosity. There are a number of subjects which are blocked from science by Social Skepticism. Social Skeptics bear none of these traits of ethical scientific method, rather are fixated on declaring a subject dead before any of these actions of science have ever been undertaken.  There are a variety of reasons for this, which I have cited in the Ten Pillars. But more importantly, it is incumbent upon the honest researcher to be able to spot the habits of a social liar, and use these hints to triangulate the lie itself.  The promoted religion of Nihilism is the lie of Social Skepticism, which one must ethically reject as actively as one did with oppressive Abrahamic religions. Watch the social actions of SSkeptics and you will note that on certain subjects, ones which threaten them, the traits of the social lie will become manifest:

  • Targeting a woo group whom they imply is less than human and of lesser mental skill or capability
  • Employment of one liners, weapon words, celebrity intimidation and propaganda
  • Intimidation of students, researchers and direction of media along methods of social enforcement/passing off themselves as “experts” or “investigators.”

True science involves the courage to set one’s prejudices aside in favor of real questions and new discovery.  Not to promote circumstantial methods of social control – and here is the key – EVEN if the answer promoted ends up being correct in the end, the method is still wrong, and will eventually result in social oppression and cultural mistakes.

Today we suffer, as a direct result of the ignorance cultivated by Social Skepticism. There exist serious sets of data, questioning, consistent observation, insight and discovery which lay derelict, victim of the prophylactic, pretentious and pseudoscientific phrase “I am a skeptic.”

Through Ethical Skepticism as a movement of science and a movement of conscience, we can fix this.

July 23, 2014 Posted by | Agenda Propaganda | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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