Trouble on the Way from Notion to Inference

As a child, my favorite bedtime story was Dr. Seuss’ I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew.1 I never forgot the story line segment wherein the hero is involuntarily conscripted inside an army, in order to confront the ‘Perilous Poozer of Pomplemoose Pass’. The erstwhile army ends up bailing on the hero and he is left alone, surrounded, and without a real weapon, to fight not one, but many Perilous Poozers.

During a severe market recession a couple decades ago, I was a junior partner in a firm whose principals and owners all bailed on the business and absconded in short order with most all the accounts, clients, and assets. These partners secretly knew that one major client was about to go bankrupt, while another was being acquired and merged. This left me alone to rescue the enterprise, and during a severe recession no less. We were abandoned with a mere two months of backlogged sales, while employees fretted over what was to happen with their jobs, families, and lives. We faced a monthly payroll that was alone twice the size of all backlogged sales. It was a dark time.2

I was quite happy and lived by the ocean
Not far from a place called the Valley of Notion
Where nothing, not anything ever was wrong
Until… well, one day I was walking along

And I learned there are troubles of more than one kind
Some come from ahead and some come from behind

There I was, all completely surrounded by trouble,
When a chap rumbled up in a One-Wheeler Wubble

“Young Fellow,” he said, “what has happened to you
has happened to me and to other folks, too
What I’ve decided to do is to think in more sense…
So I’m off to the City of True Inference

I was able leverage my house and retirement accounts, borrow money and time, change our market message and approach, and through an intense road campaign, raise new business to replace the old – and not let a single employee down through forfeiture of their job. We even brought the company back to equal its heights of record business – selling the business at a premium nine times earnings years later. I also ensured that the employees who stuck with the business were rewarded well in that sale. Such experience and willingness to stand in the gap, is essential to the life of the true philosopher. The stark challenge to think without coercion, and under differing goal structures. Such lessons are not learned in academia nor government, and yet are also critically essential to good science.

In the end, the hero of the Dr. Seuss story turns back to confront his troubles, and becomes trouble to them instead. When making the journey from notion to inference, there exists a cast of standard nefarious pretenders – characters who have never done a thing with their life, and for whatever reason, are angry at you over this reality. They will attempt to make the journey confusing and ineffective. These are the Perilous Poozers one must face down, in order to discern sound science or public policy.

The Perilous Poseurs of Pompelmoose Pass

Fallacy Falcons

They don’t actually ever create anything. They hide inside the lack of accountability automatically afforded denial and critique. They never get into the mix, but rather fly high above it, merely to swoop down and point out the informal fallacy you have committed. The problem with garden variety fallacies is, they lend a false confidence into the mind of this form of poseur skeptic. The notion that, because they have filtered out disliked ideas by means of informal violations, they have therefore increased the likelihood that their own ideas are correct. But you will also notice that they never expose their own ideas to critique and never show their hand at actual logical calculus built into an argument or refutation – this is part of the massive ego complex they conceal. In the end, their debunking only constitutes a form of punishing those who disagree and has nothing to do with any form of inference, rationality, or scientific ‘likelihood’.

It is commonly claimed that giving a fallacy a name and studying it will help the student identify the fallacy in the future and will steer them away from using the fallacy in their own reasoning. Fallacy theory is criticized by some teachers of informal reasoning for its over-emphasis on poor reasoning rather than good reasoning. Do colleges teach the Calculus by emphasizing all the ways one can make mathematical mistakes?

~ Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Fallacies: 3. Pedagogy

Bayesian Bullies

Bayes Theorem is founded upon scientific estimations of probability, which are confirmed and then updated by series inductive tests. However, poseurs therein are often not aware of when such a process does and does not bear utility. These poseurs will constantly sea-lion for ‘studies’, ‘recitations’, ‘proof’, knowing that most subjects are not easily reduced much less resolved by Bayesian induction under confidence. They use linear induction and abductive reasoning, in place of deduction, consilience, and falsification. They elect to be scientists when an investigator is needed most, and then become technicians when they need to be scientists. Shrinking from the true prosecution of ideas. They intimidate by means of unjustifiable levels of precisely framed outcome, or precision as a substitute for accuracy. They frame a complete guess, by means of boastfully confident (hedging) error bands. They resolve the answer before determining the right question. They forecast the future before defining correctly the present, hoping to be lucky rather than good. They harden their model to inaccurate outcomes, failing to realize its incumbent brittleness.

Bayesian methods are presented as an automatic inference engine, and this raises suspicion in any-one with applied experience… such methods being oversold as an all-purpose statistical solution to genuinely hard problems. Compared to classical inference, which focuses on how to extract the information available in data, Bayesian methods seem to quickly move to elaborate computation rather than the deeper questions of inference.

~ quoted and condensed from Andrew Gelman, Objections to Bayesian Statistics, 2008, Colombia University

Parable Probabilizers

Since all knowledge is uncertain, therefore knowledge can be gained by merely establishing a scant level of likelihood regarding it. Such probabilizers exploit the cache of obviousness as evidence that the ‘simple is more likely’. They stack up comfortable and understandable parables, asking you to ignore the risk, and just focus on the ‘explain it in simple terms’ answer they have crafted. They contend that ‘until God gets here and establishes truth for us, I will explain that which is more likely in his stead’. Yes, this is a claim to being God. They ‘results gauge’, or produce answers which are at face value simple, conforming or understandable (concealed complication in reality) as opposed to answers which are complex, informative, challenging or push our development envelope. They fail to understand Ockham’s Razor, and thus crafted this mutated version called Occam’s Razor, affording one permission to wrap up all epistemological loose ends as ‘finished science’ in one fell swoop of fatal logic. They ignore the riddle of Lindy:

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widely spread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.

~ Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals

Process Ponzi Schemers

One key method of pretend science is to borrow assumptions from early in the scientific method, and apply them later as pretend held assets, asking one to invest belief in such process of science. This is at its heart a Ponzi Scheme. Paying off scientific answers by means of borrowed assumptions, premature questions, and gravitas that are not real owned assets. They ‘ask a question’ before conducting any kind of intelligence development or establishment of necessity. They promote a mere notion to the vaulted office of hypothesis, and then prove it by its ‘simplicity’ alone. They fail to ask ‘What do we not know?’ or ‘Can this lack of knowledge cause harm?’ They use the process of reduction and linear analysis to affirm what they already ‘knew’ (sciebam), rather than seek to challenge and falsify (science). They declare (scientific claim) something ‘supernatural’ or ‘pseudoscience’ and not approachable by science, so that it does not have to be studied in the first place and therefore can never become science either. They use accidental absences of data in a discovery protocol, to stand as evidence of absence. They start with the answer, and finish in the very next step by means of the awesome insistence of meta-analysis. They view science as a bludgeon to conclusion, and not as a feedback cycle.

When I give a thesis to students, most of the time the problem I give for a thesis is not solved. It’s not solved because the solution of the question, most of the time, is not in solving the question, it’s in questioning the question itself. It’s realizing that in the way the problem was formulated there was some implicit prejudice or assumption that should be dropped.

~ Carlo Rovelli, The New Republic: Science Is Not About Certainty, 11 Jul 2014

At times, it is indeed the job of the ethical skeptic to stand in the gap on behalf of the innocent. To make life hell, for those who choose to be abusive troubles rather than thoughtful contributors.

The Ethical Skeptic, “Trouble on the Way from Notion to Inference”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 17 Feb 2022; Web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/?p=50006

The Distinction Between Bias and Agency

Bias comes from the inside and only becomes bias when we ignore it or are compelled to act upon it. Agency comes from the outside and seeks to leverage ignorance. Bias is the prejudice of the individual. Agency is the awesome insistence of the club. Agency is that intent which seeks virtuous godship over a lesser person or at-risk stakeholder.

What is Agency?

As part of my studies of mythology and in particular Gnostic Christianity, I made an effort to transliterate my way through some of the Nag Hammadi codex material and in particular The Hypostasis of the Archons. These Second Century early-sect Christian texts were not discovered until recently, inside buried and sealed clay jars, in upper Egypt in 1945.1 2 In this version of early Christian mythology the ‘God’ which created the original failed prototype of mankind on Earth was named Samael. Pistis Sophia, the celestial and true God, took pity upon the suffering creature and made him into a fully sentient being – much to the indignation of Samael. As a result, Samael enslaved the new creature back into servitude under the Archons, or Rulers.

Samael, also called the ‘demiurge’, was a heavenly being, subordinate to the Supreme Being (Pistis Sophia), that was considered to be the absolute Ruler (Archon or Archangel) of the Earth – antagonistic to all that is celestial, enlightened and/or spiritual. Samael eventually came to be known as Ha-Satan,3 the one who in Levant mythology tempted Christ, the Son of Man, by offering him rule over all the kingdoms of Earth if he would only subjugate himself (and the coming Mankind) unto the authority of the Archons.

This Gnostic version of ancient writ was regarded as holy well before that Canonical consensus which was assembled three centuries later and eventually came to be called the Bible.4 It is no mystery why those in charge of developing that World power which would become the Christian Church would have sought to exterminate this version of scripture – causing it to flee into Egypt – because in its texts as compared to the Bible, the roles of God (Pistis Sophia, Eternal Wisdom and Faith) and Satan (Samael, Ruler of Earth) are reversed in many regards:

Of primary importance to know, is the core principal that the Chief Authority of the Rulers, Samael is spiritually blind. Because his spiritual vision was very limited in this regard, because there was apparently no one to challenge him from what he could see, and finally because he was also arrogant, he concluded that quod erat demonstrandum, he must be the most powerful entity which exists. He therefore declared himself manifestly, to be God. But as a good man knows, it is the gravest of sins to adorn one’s self in the costume of God over a fellow or lesser being.

Thereafter, the Rulers took the man Pistis Sophia had rescued from their inept hands and mercifully transmutated as well into a fully sentient being, Adam, and placed him into a great garden situated adjacent to their abode in the Levant. They tasked him to maintain and cultivate the garden. But in this garden, they had hatched another plan as well – that of a trap. The Rulers had decided to plant a Tree in the center of the garden, and to subsequently instruct their ‘Man of the Clay’, “From every tree in the garden shall you eat; yet from the tree of understanding what is not-evil and what is evil, do not eat. For in the day you eat from that tree, you will again fall under our dominion and may no longer claim this Earth which has been so unworthily bequeathed to you. You will again die like the service animal you are.” Of course the Rulers knew, that once man was told to not do something, that is the exact thing which he would elect to then do.

Nag Hammadi – The Hypostasis of the Archons (Consolidation and Transliteration)

Now of course, this cache of ancient mythological writing bears no more credibility nor lack thereof than does any other (also known as ‘noise’, see below). However such mythology can stand as a form of analogue or parable relating key messages. What interests me in these passages of the The Hypostasis of the Archons, are three key inferences:

  • Adam bore an exploitable bias, however Samael bore its exploiting agency. Each bears a different ontological consequence.
  • Relative to the array of misdeeds which can be undertaken there exists no morality, there is no virtue – as every and any intent is actually good, when compared to that intent which seeks to enact godship over a fellow or ‘lesser’ being. It is not the costume one wears, nor how one appears to regard self, but rather what one does to others – which betrays the narcissist.
  • In this mythology, the urge to godship on the part of the Archons was what actually constituted the original sin.

As the reader may observe, one cannot enslave mankind under a burden of racial guilt, if this last element of inference sustained as a part of holy writ. Thus, such a parable had to be exterminated – or the house would be divided against itself.

Moreover, implicit in the Nag Hammadi mythos is the understanding that, avoiding regarding one’s self under the agency of god, and treating others accordingly is actually rather straightforward in its application:

First, there is a higher wisdom, knowledge, and faithfulness (Pistis Sophia) to cherish and hold dear above all else.

Second, hold those within your reach just as worthy of this as you do yourself.

That is pretty much it. One does not have to save the world. One does not need to put on a fake humility. One does not need to extract money from hard-working people in the name of helping the oppressed refugees championed in some virtuous narcissistic fantasy. These are merely forms of godship over those ‘lesser’ than us. We are deceived often in this – that between the at-risk laborer who is harmed, and the lowly victim who is blessed, there exists an enacting, ‘humble’ and ‘virtuous’ third party who has made an implicit claim to godship inside this entire sordid play. Part of treating others as you would want to be treated, also involves holding all accountable to do their share and not simply sexually reproduce beyond sustainability and confiscate the workfruit of their fellow beings (through that third party). This does not serve to invalidate acts of taxation nor mercy of course; however, there is no mercy in this particular social play act – rather only opportunities to claim godship over one’s fellow man.

Those who promise us paradise on earth never produced anything but a hell.

Karl Popper

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.

Lord Acton

One does not conduct deception for the sake of deception itself. It is always conducted as part of a conflict or in a competitive context, intended to support some overarching plan or objectives of a participant.

Robert Mitchell and William Mitchell, Intelligence Specialists5

Therefore the mere biases of suspicion, skepticism, sponsorship, hunch, predilection or conspiracy theory are one thing – but evil is known by one signature and one signature alone – and that is agency – the intent which seeks a position of godship over a lesser being or at-risk stakeholder. To costume this intent in virtue, goodness, morality, justice, science, religious or academic robes or any other urge of the poseur, stands only to compound such evil.

Evil is known by one signature alone – agency –
that intent which seeks godship over a lesser being or at-risk stakeholder.

To costume this intent in virtue, goodness, morality, justice, science,
religious or academic robes serves only to compound its evil.

Yes, an ethical skeptic recognizes the risk inherit in bias – but also understands as well that bias, is not really our preeminent problem. Agency possesses a raison d’être or telos which does not inhabit bias. This is why the First Duty of Ethical Skepticism is to oppose agency.

         Bias

Any form of development in epistemology which is conducted under a lack of epoché or skeptical neutrality. Bias is not something that one holds – as everyone possesses this form of ‘bias’. Rather bias is an action which has succumbed to such inclination, whether conscious or unconscious. It is a set of actions, postulates, questions, observations, analyses, portrayals, manipulations, methods, omissions or conclusions which are influenced in any way by a premise of non-neutrality concerning a question of inquiry or science. It can be considered an inherent variance in accuracy.

         Noise

The range of variance or inconsistency in a set of measures or systemic outcomes which result from error, lack of precision, misperception, low clarity, or other deleterious contributors to the involved process. Noise presents a difficulty in that it can conceal signal, bias, and agency from being detectable. The employment of noise so as to obscure a result or bias, is a method of agency.

         Agency

The manipulation of persons, institutions, procedures, risks, ignorance, biases or social message such that they bring to effect a particular surreptitious or manifest outcome. The seeking of godship over lesser, disdained or at-risk stakeholders in the form of power, virtue, moral authority, conflict, positional authority, defamation, control, retribution, sequestration, harm, death, justice, extermination, extraction of wealth, oppression or enslavement.

Bias versus Agency

Bias introduces error. Agency enforces it.

Bias is Tau. Agency is Indigo. (*see here)

Bias does not seek to govern. Agency does.

Bias does not seek to exploit other bias. Agency does.

Bias can be mitigated and worked around. Agency can not.

Bias will be acknowledged and surrendered by an honest researcher. Agency will not.

Bias can be discerned from noise. Agency uses it as camouflage.

Bias does not form a syndicate (cartel, mafia, cathedral, cabal, party). Agency does.

Bias counters its potential error by means of skepticism. Agency entrenches its correctness by joining a skeptic club.

Bias can be countered by in-context methodology and researcher discipline. Agency can not.

Bias does not celebrate, exploit, nor seek to wallow in ignorance. Agency’s argument grows stronger as ignorance increases.

Bias is identified through knowledge. Agency is identified through intelligence.

Bias will seek to protect its own. Agency will seek to harm those different.

Bias might involve standing up to a bully. Agency is the bully.

Bias does not see the full set of ramifications. Agency sets those as its goal.

Bias does not seek to bolster an institution. Agency is the institution.

Bias comes from inside. Agency comes from the outside.

Bias appeals to a higher authority aside from itself. Agency implies that it is the higher authority.

Bias can detect and deliberate an impact upon stakeholders. Agency does not care – or is even worse when it does.

Thus I have outlined as faithfully as I can muster, the threshing tool of the ethical skeptic allowing a distinction between bias and agency. Wise is he or she who understands and can master the difference.

The Ethical Skeptic, “The Distinction Between Bias and Agency”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 4 Jan 2020; Web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/?p=42966

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

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