By focusing on skepticism as a method, outside of science, of disposing of people, ideas and observations, one corrupts the discipline into nothing more than that of a practice of methodical cynicism. Under this errant version of skepticism large groups of smart people can end up arriving at an ignorance based conclusion very easily. Real skepticism, as exhibited inside Ethical Skepticism, combines elements of traditional skepticism, under the principle of plurality, with the goals of value and clarity.
Why Sagan and Shermer are Wrong: False Dilemma Skepticism
Below we retract Social Skepticism back to its core basis of Descartes’ Cartesian Doubt and outline how Ethical Skepticism, in contrast, draws its tenets from the most value laden elements of the three classic (and one modern) approaches to the knowledge development process. The contrast resides in no better form than when framed against much of the false wisdom put forth by celebrity SSkeptics over the years. For example, in the oft touted words of Carl Sagan:
“What is Skepticism? It’s nothing very esoteric. We encounter it every day. When we buy a used car.”
Point 6 of the Baloney Detection Kit: Where does the preponderance of evidence point? – Carl Sagan¹
As much as I loved Cosmos and read many of his books which inspired me in my youth towards a science and engineering career, unfortunately Carl Sagan was wrong (see link) here, as this is not skepticism. This is simply a guide to methodical cynicism (a method of being a cynic, while at the same time convincing yourself you are not a cynic). Carl has purposely conflated human tactical presumption and the exercise of dogma/stereotype with the ethical mindset which facilitates the process of knowledge development. True Skepticism alerts to the condition of not holding sufficient evidence, or in the asking of the wrong question. A used car salesman (or person) might burn you if you do not collect your data, and you do not observe before pretending to ask the right question. In other words, fail to be skeptical of self. They do not burn you simply because of what job they hold, who they are or that you are involved with them in the sale of a used car. If we go out and develop a research study which proves that used car salesmen are hired based upon being or trained to be more corrupt than the general population handling large money negotiations, then we will have developed that conclusion by the disciplines and method of science, not ‘skepticism’ of car salesmen acting in lieu of science. We will then need to change the law. The latter presumption is simply human prejudice masquerading as science, so we do not have to undertake the gumption, epoché and curiosity requisite in actually studying the issue of buying a used car in the first pace. This process alluded to by Sagan simply serves to cultivate ignorance. It is not skepticism in the least. Where we failed in skepticism in this process is the first rule of ethical skepticism: being skeptical of our selves and that we have the information and observation basis to ask the right question.
Healthcare will also burn us all and destroy our economy soon through overdriven costs, fake industry exclusivity and privilege of expertise/access to treatments, if we do not question those who craft and pay to have its policy legislated. But do we question Science Based Medicine, which promotes this present healthcare film-flam? No. Because, in broach of skepticism, we have declared them in advance to be the ‘good guy.’ They have sought to step between the public and block our access to government – remove rights and afford power to withhold information, to Crony institutions. This is not skepticism in the least. Their claims to be ‘evidence based’ fall hollow on philosophically trained ears (see Kilkenny’s Law). Skepticism is about opposing mechanisms and institutions who seek power and illegal trust advantage by the restriction of information and rights. Both the pigeon-holing of the used car salesperson and the blessing of Science Based Medicine pretenses results from what is called in ethical skepticism: cultivated ignorance.
This Sagan/Shermer approach of identifying the good guys and bad guys and good subjects and bad subjects and good observations and bad observations in advance is simply an exercise in human tactical presumption and prejudice. It is evidenced in today’s skeptically crafted and inappropriate use of the term pseudoscience. In other words Methodical Cynicism. So on everything else in our lives besides used cars, we can relax and not question? This example foisted by Sagan bears nothing whatsoever in common with skepticism. It is the pretense, or M’ in the Novick sense.
Carl habitually conveyed false depictions of what indeed is skepticism; conflating it in the quote below with cynicism and completely missing the fact that skepticism involves precisely an active, researching and open mind. Pretending that possessing an open mind is somehow the opposite of skepticism, and involves giving all ideas ‘equal validity.’ In his mad rush to pummel this strawman of what a researching open mind is, he attempts to foist below – that the purpose of skepticism is therefore the alternative: to force most-likely conclusions in lieu of scientific research (see Garbage Skepticism).
This false dilemma (bifurcation fallacy with a call to choose side) about what skepticism entails has resulted in a mis-education of the public as to the definition and ethic of skepticism – one which affords the cynic a comfortable hiding place inside of science. We continue with Carl Sagan’s quote:
“If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. But every now and then, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.
But if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones. If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all.
Some ideas are better than others. The machinery for distinguishing them is an essential tool in dealing with the world. And it is precisely the mix of these two modes of thought that is central to the success of science.”
Skepticism: 50% Gumption, 49% Curiosity, 1% Provisional Assumption
Nor does true skepticism simply combine “empirical rigor and imaginative whimsy” as Michael Shermer puts it. One will notice that this is the same exact bifurcation fallacy as Sagan cited; Shermer having simply re-worded it so that he could take credit for the thought at a later date. On the personal level, whimsy is a boast of self-serving entertainment, while empirical rigor is often a self delusion as to intellectual prowess and ability to target shoot. A delusion wherein once we play in the fantasy role that we alone represent science, thereafter every thought we possess and every belief we hold is ’empirically based.’ This especially when both whimsy and rigor are applied as an excuse for lazy provisional skepticism, in lieu of science. Both form the mental chewing gum we employ to deceive ourselves into thinking we are “open minded” and have done our job – and can now make a comfy conclusion from which to demonstrate to those we wish to impress, our skill in fealty to truth.
This is a game of intellectual idea skeet shooting, attended by our self-appreciation as science, applauding to the powdered explosion of every whimsical skeet of busted bunk. It habituates one into committing an Existential and Transactional Occam’s Razor Fallacy when faced with any challenging argument. It is trained methodical cynicism.
Moreover, this arrogant mentality is all centered on the idea that since we are a skeptic, we are now science too, and therefore are no longer in need of personal gumption and curiosity. We can assume sufficient equipage is held to be able to make a scientific determination, in lieu of science. Gumption is the drive to research and seek; curiosity a dissatisfaction with pat answers coupled with the mental discipline of withholding conclusion (epoché) until we are able to undertake the monumental task to fully observe. “Empirical rigor and imaginative whimsy” when applied at a personal level as ‘skepticism,’ all occur in a closed domain. Armchair, academic, bookshelf, aged-tenure pretend science. In a closed domain the only next step left is to throw up one’s hands and guess on the most likely conclusion based solely on what one knows right now (see Novella’s ‘provisional knowledge’ in Garbage Skepticism). None of this faldara is science. This is the essence of fake skepticism.
“Stupidity consists in wanting to reach conclusions. We are a thread, and we want to know the whole cloth.”
~ Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary author and French Literary Realist, circa 1850-1880)
In contrast to Michael Shermer’s teachings, true skepticism challenges the notion that we have completed the knowledge development process and have vetted thoroughly what we regard as being assumed to be ’empirical.’ Nor is science constrained to only the academic sciences, as Mr. Shermer contends in his editorial in the June 2015 Scientific American. This false equivocation of the word ‘science’ to mean only the academic sciences, affords skepticism therefore tactic permission to be applied ‘outside science’ and therefore be employed in any fashion deemed useful to one who has declared themselves to be a skeptic (since they cannot, quod erat demonstrandum, be an actual scientist). Ethical Skepticism eschews all of Shermer’s ideas that 1) we must immediately tender a disposition or disposal of an idea, 2) that the actual and correct empirical knowledge base has been fairly represented by Social Skepticism, 3) that anything other than the conforming explanation is ‘whimsy’ and 4) that anyone can act as an authority on anything provided they apply (outside of science and method) skepticism, empiricism and reason. These are all beliefs of a fake skeptic.
Both Sagan and Shermer imply that skepticism is the process of applying personal brilliance and current understanding in lieu of scientific method to arrive at most likely conclusions. This is the process of one acting in lieu of science.
Protecting the integrity of the methods of science is not the same thing as tendering conclusions in lieu of science. This is the litmus test of Ethical Skepticism.
These principles are embodied inside The Riddle of Skepticism:
Ethical Skepticism in contrast detects pretense or premature empirical rigor, and dismisses the idea that humans naturally know how and when to ask the right question, and what data to base that question upon. Michael Shermer will imply that science has proved his religion Nihilism true, and then through a process of inverse negation demonstrate that your subject, your observation and indeed you, are therefore irrelevant. True skepticism examines (even our own) furtive claims to knowledge first, before pretending to examine seemingly contradictory observations, data, intelligence, sponsors or ideas. And then, it refuses to immediately dismiss those elements (and yes, even sometimes their ‘claims’) until we have better knowledge. Ethical Skepticism is Boolean idempotent, as it does not seek to filter or alter for its own goals, the underlying data it surveys; rather, it catalogs them all. Michael spins the game that observations, data, ideas and people must be evaluated and disposed of immediately upon encounter, so that later arguments will have a predisposed favorable playing field. Moreover in fashion as if the stage role Pollyanna skeptic were an erstwhile version of Popeye in a fight; all his enemies lining up to do combat with him and be defeated, one at a time. This is the Transactional Occam’s Razor Fallacy error, which along with the Fictus Scientia Fallacy are two of the central sleight-of-hand techniques employed by false skeptics.
This fundamental mis-definition resides at the heart of the conflict between those who squelch science in the name of their own religion, and those who conduct actual research. Skepticism is NOT the “evaluation of claims based on personal experience;” rather, it is the mindset which allows that experience to be accrued in the first place. In science, and I know this is a shocker, science evaluates claims, not our pre-prejudices. And the only way science can accrue the tackle necessary in conducting this evaluation, is through Ethical Skepticism. Not prejudicial doubt and data filtering, as that constitutes a process which will only result in finding what one is looking for. One is not born magically all knowing, nor does an academic youth correct this weakness – and if one presumes such – much deleterious result will come from such a boast. If you presume all used car salesmen to be fraudsters, you will make just as many mistakes as those who presume them all to be honest. It is your ability to understand the information sets and questions necessary in grasping the nature of used car sales which exhibits skepticism on your part. Not your prejudice about people.
This boast, this a priori prejudice of ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’ indeed stands as the most extraordinary claim in the fake skeptic’s quiver of boasts. The claim to absolute knowledge along with the divorce of one’s mind from the need to accrue any more. As you can see in the graphic to the right, a MiHoDeAL claim to knowledge is an example of our error in making grandiose boasts about what we think we know. Our pre-adopted prejudices are the weak link in our skeptical minds, the practice which allows us to fall prey to religious thinking. In contrast, real Skepticism in reality, is a method of preparing the mind and data sets to do actual science – not to conclude it in one felled swoop of personal brilliance.
The Essential Code of Ethical Skepticism: Epoché vanguards Gnosis
Ethical Skepticism is a blend of Empirical and Philosophical Skepticism, the tenets of both of which are vetted through Ockham’s Razor and the scientific method, as to their efficacy in delivering value and clarity inside man’s knowledge development process. It rejects today’s versions of Cartesian Doubt as a racket of a priori simplistic predictive based knowledge, self delusion and methodical cynicism. Instead, Ethical Skepticism dictates a mute disposition on any topic which science has not studied, there is simply not enough data on or the Ethical Skeptic himself has not studied. This is called the state of Epoché. It is the vanguard which links both the deontological and consequentialist facets of traditional ethics. Ethical Skepticism petitions for Ockham’s Razor plurality in research when sponsorship has shown adequate necessity, and opposes all efforts to squelch such research. The context of ethics employed here is deontological in as far as the adherence to standards of protocol, such as the real scientific method, are regarded as the standards suitable to direct our actions. Yet, still consequentialist from the perspective that the outcomes of value and clarity manifest as the signature handiwork of those who practice such ethics.
The Deontological Fulcrum of Ethical Skepticism: Ockham’s Razor and The Principle of Plurality
The inputs into the Ethical Skepticism process involve three key steps necessary in introducing Ockham’s Razor plurality. Three key steps which are blocked, ignored and obscured by modern efforts to enforce ignorance. Plurality is both the condition where one justifiable avenue of research is no longer warranted under the current conditions of intelligence inside a discipline; and as well, the condition where no single faceted explanation is sufficient to encompass the explanatory basis of a set of observations. These conditions are termed ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ plurality (or that which has departed for necessity from the singular or simple). These principles are outlined in the graphic to the right:
Observation – the first step in the scientific method is not “Ask a Question,” it is Observation. Observation is one of the central character traits and habits of an Ethical Skeptic. It is fed by an incessant curiosity and dissatisfaction with pat answers.
Intelligence – Intelligence is not personal acumen, but rather the assimilation, retention, cladistics and processing of observations such that they are transformed into useful value. Nothing is thrown away through Knowledge Filtering. Every observation offers value of some kind. In military intelligence, lies are just as important as are truths, each tells us something more and more as we begin to construct an analytical framework.
Necessity – the point at which Observation and Intelligence – or even a stand alone event, developed or observed by sponsors (and hopefully science, but sponsors when science has been misled by Social Skeptics), have provided sufficient predictive or falsifying evidence which mandates that a sole explanatory approach to a problem is no longer warranted.
The principal role of Social Skepticism is to thwart the Observation – Intelligence – Necessity process at all costs. In this fashion, any prejudicial question maybe be asked for testing – thereby emasculating the effectiveness of the scientific method. The true application of skepticism involves the principle of Parsimony as follows:
Parsimony – the resistance to expand explanatory plurality or descriptive complexity beyond what is absolutely necessary, combined with the wisdom to know when to do so
When parsimony argues for ‘simplicity’ it is referencing the term in contrast to complicated-ness, not the principle of complexity. We must expect complexity in our epistemology and not fear it. Use of the equivocal term ‘simple’ to oppose complexity as well is a method of deception, which constrains incrementalism to only develop along pathways of expectation. This is pseudoscience.
The Valid Consequentialist Outcomes of Ethical Skepticism: Value and Clarity
The conclusion of these three steps, then introduces Ockham’s Razor plurality: The existence of more than one explanatory avenue of research. In absence of these three steps, the Ethical Skeptic contends that science cannot “Ask a Question.” Therefore the outcomes of Ethical Skepticism are not ‘conclusions and claims’ as the dilettante believe. The outcomes of Ethical Skepticism, are:
Value – providing
- knowledge increase or accretion
- easing suffering
- developing a business which serves, produces and/or employs
- falsifies an oppressive belief
- falsifies an oppressive movement
- improves our ecosystem and sustainability
- enables a more successful governance
- supports ethical military capability
- makes money through a provision of equal value
Clarity – exhibited by
- ability to describe an opponent’s position without mocking
- integrity and mental capacity to hold Epoché on issues of plurality
- ability to hold observations without knowledge filtering
- ability to cogently outline a problem
- ability to bring the right data and argument to bear
- the over-riding desire to apply inquiry over enforcing established answers
- the ability to outline the scientific method in straightforward and accurate fashion
- the ability to inspire through presentation, other than simply those in your club
You will notice that – in Ethical Skepticism – nowhere is the burden placed on the adherent to ‘evaluate claims’ or speak in lieu of science nor enforce correct answers or simplest explanations. These activities betray a mind which is ill prepared to handle the questions science is meant to address. Skepticism is a means of preparing the mind and data sets to perform science. That is it.
It is incumbent upon us to promote genuine skeptical thought and decry pseudo-skepticism, imperious institutional doctrines and the cultivation of ignorance.
¹ The Burden of Skepticism, Carl Sagan, Skeptical Inquirer, vol. 12, Fall 1987; “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection.”
Skeptic – One who practices the method of suspended judgment, engages in dispassionate evidence gathering and objective unbiased reasoning in execution of the scientific method, shows willingness to consider opposing explanations without prejudice based on prior beliefs, and who pursues goals of clarity and value in support of our knowledge development.
This is the valid definition of skepticism. There exists a problem however, in that a sufficiently detrimental portion of those who identify themselves as ‘skeptics’ teach and purposely practice a different version of skepticism. In order to clarify the difference between false and valid skepticism, I have introduced a more rigorous professional definition of the mindset; one more clearly and effectively focused on application of the scientific method. One which I call Ethical Skepticism:
/ Epoché Vanguards Gnosis / : A means of preparing the mind and data sets in order to accomplish science. The positivist technique of developing a neutral disposition based phylogeny around existing and new data. An aversion to obsessing over disposing of subjects, people and claims; while instead, focusing on accruing field research and underlying data. Defense of the Knowledge Development Process through application of Ockham’s Razor and full scientific methodology. Opposition to all thinking which seeks to surreptitiously establish power through errant method, religion, institution, cabal, oligarchy, intimidation or ignorance – regardless of how ‘critical’ or ‘rational’ it purports to be.
Ethical Skepticism is a blend of Empirical and Philosophical Skepticism, the tenets of both of which are vetted as to their efficacy in delivering value and clarity inside man’s knowledge development process. It rejects Cartesian Doubt as a racket of a priori simplistic predictive based knowledge, self delusion and methodical evasion (See Ethical Skepticism PART 2). Instead, Ethical Skepticism dictates a mute disposition on any topic which science has not studied or the Ethical Skeptic himself has not studied. Ethical Skepticism petitions for Ockham’s Razor plurality in research when sponsorship has shown adequate necessity, and opposes all efforts to squelch such research. One should not infer from the term ‘Ethical Skepticism’ a personal boast of morality, as those who are ignorant of graduate level philosophy are prone to accuse; rather comprehend it as an intellectual and practical allegiance to an actual long held standard of science. The context of ethics employed here is deontological in as far as the adherence to standards of protocol, such as the real scientific method, are regarded as the standards suitable to direct our actions. Yet, still consequentialist from the perspective that the outcomes of value and clarity manifest as the signature handiwork of those who practice such ethics.
Ethical Skepticism is an invaluable tool for conditioning of mind and data sets, practiced by those in our history who have born true brilliance in their successes inside of science, social issues, technology, government and discovery. An Ethical Skeptic first recognizes the shortcomings of those who hold power and those of his own assumptions. The Ethical Skeptic then sets about a methodology which neutralizes these shortcomings and approaches solving the riddles wrapped around our resulting ignorance as a culture and body scientific. The Ethical Skeptic is not as concerned about doubting things and always being right as he is about defending a mental self discipline of epoché; followed by the establishment of clarity and value in his research. He is insatiably curious, yet obsessive in defending the integrity of the knowledge development process. He says “Look here, at what is predictably consistent. It may be significant. Let’s mature it enough to test, along with its counter claims, for falsification.” He tolerates the potential falsification of his own pursuit, despite the irony of having pursued it passionately.
As an Ethical Skeptic, you are the one tasked with maintaining a discriminating mind with regard to process. No, you are not claiming to represent science or its conclusions. But one can as a skeptic indeed take a stand to defend the method of science when one observes it being abrogated. This is what the term ‘ethics’ means, an allegiance to a standard of practice – and not an allegiance to a particular set of outcomes, or categories of thought one considers invalid.
Protecting the integrity of the methods of science is not the same thing as tendering conclusions in lieu of science.
Skepticism does not evaluate claims, as only science can do that. Skepticism does not pretend to speak for science nor act in lieu of science. Skepticism is a mental discipline which prepares its participant to do science. The pretend SSkeptic in contrast has memorized the one-liners which explain why the scientific method is unnecessary. That simply by means of the miracle of rational thought, which only they and their fellows possess, they can intercede on behalf of science. The pretend SSkeptic proselytizes children and promotes themselves through celebrity and intimidation, in a vain attempt to squelch unwelcome subjects, observations or thought. The pretend SSkeptic uses doubt like a weapon, via its selective and prejudiced application employed to promote an unacknowledged set of beliefs. The pretend SSkeptic highlights visibly and often that he is a skeptic and enforces plausible conformance claims without evidence, based on a list of disfavored subjects. He employs predictive testing supporting favored explanations, at best; and stopping there, then demands proof be the first step provided by outsiders, without the aid of science. The pretend SSkeptic is an opportunist who leverages scientists’ lack of knowledge of sister disciplines to change the message of what scientists think, then boasts in visible media that his contentions represent the consensus opinion of scientists.
The Critical Role of Scientific Resilience Through Ethical Skepticism
Within each of us resides the Quixotic heart, the romanticist longing to be free from the prison which progressively adapts its walls to our observing of the reality in which we reside. A Schrödinger’s Cat entrapment. Bars which afford us emancipation, only to reveal that our escape has served simply to introduce us to another prison cell of observation and paradox. It is the keen intellect and ethical nature of the true skeptic, the true scientist, which prompts him to tilt his lance toward such phantoms. He does not mock; rather, he laughs. He recognizes that conformity is simply a resignation, a giving up; and is nothing akin to the purity of Taoist surrender. In defiant errand of mercy, he succumbs to an irresistible dissatisfaction; a labor of understanding that pattern solving and conformance serve to produce nothing but the walls and bars of the prison itself. This is our appel aux armes, the call to arms of the ethical skeptic.
A true scientist can discern the prison walls. It is in his nature to rebel. The technician and the diagnostician observe only arms waving in the wind.
This rebellion of course is not tantamount to Michael Shermer’s ‘whimsy;’ an exercise foisted to elicit the compliant and false version of skepticism. Whimsy is simply a tennis ball employed inside a game of self entertainment. A flailing of arms in the wind, deriving comfort at the striking of strawman and scarecrow constructs. Whismy is the shotgun skeet of the pseudo-intellectual and pattern recognition intoxicated. Endlessly reminding themselves of how smart they are through a repetition of offering up ridiculous notions and successfully shooting them down via the ceremonial and marital art of denial. Mocking is the surety that knowledge is something to be possessed, when the whole of the universe teaches us the abject lesson that such is not true (see Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality). The ethical skeptic must first spot this game in himself. It is the first dragon he must slay; and whether of stone or flesh it makes no matter. In such day, he becomes an ethical skeptic.
Thomas Kuhn accordingly laments in his work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions :
“…my most fundamental objective is to urge a change in the perception and evaluation of familiar data…” ³
Are Kuhn’s data windmills or dragons? In one frame of reference we mock, inside the other we effect resilience. This is what the mind yearning to be free, recognizes in Hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha. The second lesson of ethical skepticism is to understand this. Revolution does not, nor even most often, reside in the upturning of groundbreaking new measures or discoveries. It resides instead within our collective ability to recognize the recursive delusional entrapments of our scientific circles. Our love for Don Quixote resides not in celebration of the tilting at windmills, rather the comedic changement de cap, which allows him to exercise his tragic quest inside a realm of agreed containment.† We weep at the containment of the resilient will. We celebrate ethical skepticism.
The Legacy of Scientific Rebellion: Resilience
Today we are undergoing a revolution in the science surrounding intestinal health, auto-immunity and this amazing and diverse new organ we have discovered called the microbiome. This discovery was made despite the efforts of, and not by, Science Based Medicine. Instead it was precipitated by the Don Quixote’s of health – the consumers – the patients. Those who’s children are injured, those who suffer and those who are ethically skeptical of being forced to endure endless, expensive, side-effected and useless symptom treatments, passed off as ‘medicine.’ Science Based Medicine has sought to do nothing but criticize the ethical actions of these victims and seek to enact legislative prohibition of their rights. This is the true delusion – the mandatory thinking that they own, represent and are, science.
/philosophy : nature of science : ethics/ : ability of a society to perceive and deliberate a course of discovery and development which targets the alleviation of suffering; one which rehabilitates its scientific methodology and knowledge gracefully and robustly to misfortune, mistake or change.
Resilience is defined as the ability of an entity to both recover from and adjust its future course gracefully and robustly in relation to error and change. The Khun-loss of science is demonstrated only in the very nature and level of its ability to effect resilience.‡ Ethical Skepticism recognizes that the whole of life is one tumult, a crescendo of misfortune and change. Our will to effect entropic benefit inside this chaos not only serves to prove that we exist as consciousness, but moreover are a precursor and independent actor inside the interplay of tragedy and comedy. Our prison is a tragedy, and we transcend through the freedom of comedy, extant before such tragedy ever dawned on our mind. In the same way, science must be directed by the collective will of our society and not by those who declare themselves and their cronies to indeed be science. The same principle applies to skepticism. Resilience will come by handing the ethical direction of science back into the hands of those it is meant to serve. This elicited in no better fashion than by delineation of the difference between mocking and comedy:
Comedy is the protest of consciousness to the tragedy of paradox. Mocking is the abject refusal to see it.
Today we observe that it is mocking, which is the chief tool of those who seek to squelch and control the direction of science for their own selfish ends. The control freaks among us, refuse to see the true nature and need of scientific rebellion and resilience. They are the fakers, the mockers, the ‘anti-science’ among us all. They can only see windmills to their last dying and ineffectual breath. It is incumbent upon us to promote genuine skeptical thought and decry pseudo-skepticism, imperious institutional doctrines and the cultivation of ignorance.
The Ethical Skeptic (Octavus Thesauri)
First and foremost finds fulfillment through disciplined pursuit of an insatiable curiosity; scrutinizing and maintaining caution around his own assumptions, regardless of where they are obtained; discriminating with discipline, ontological and religious cosmologies from actual science.
Holds his skeptic peers accountable for abusive behavior, dishonesty, conflative or extrapolative pretense with actual science, epistemological broaches and appeals to false authorities.
Challenges pat answers, one-liners, old truisms, social pressure mandates and institutional doctrines which surreptitiously evade scrutiny under the scientific method.
Does not enforce one answer, nor consider/accuse under the basis of a ‘belief;’ rather considers new data without pre-filtering, exploring several ‘constructs’ at once, some of which may be diametrically in opposition.
Acknowledges with integrity a sufficient threshold of plurality attained on a singular construct, warranting hypothesis development under the scientific method. Keeps a keen eye on the next appropriate question and objects at the asking of the wrong or manipulative question under the scientific method.
Is not arrogant nor disdainful, nor seeks personally aggrandizing victory over others. Rather, is self-confident enough to allow the scientific method to proceed no matter whether or not the subject threatens his own club, status, philosophies, authorship, ego, or even rational tolerance.
Does not strive to disprove, but rather allows constructs to falsify themselves through accrued verity; eschewing promotion of a favored idea solely because it is promoted by peer pressure or is the conforming, predicate confirming or simplest explanation.
Does not seek immediate forced proof before consideration of an idea, nor promote any enforced truth; but rather pursues
Value – as measured by achieving beneficial outcomes in their research,
Clarity – as measured by the ability to obtain common ground or understanding with opponents when possible, and
Integrity of The Epignosis – defends the integrity of the Knowledge Development Process, resists the promotion of religion as absolute truth and denies the cultivation of ignorance.
The Knowledge Development Process (The Epignosis)
¹ Nozick, Robert; Philosophical Explanations, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1981, ISBN 0-674-66448-5; pp. 179-187.
² Rosen, Stanley, Editor; The Philosopher’s Handbook: A User’s Guide to Western Philosophy, Random House, Inc., New York, NY, 2000; ISBN 978-0-375-72011-6; pp. 165-169.
³ Kuhn, Thomas S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1996, 3rd edition, ).
† Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra; El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha; Public domain.
‡ Bird, Alexander, “Thomas Kuhn”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/entries/thomas-kuhn/>.
What is Pseudoscience? And why we live in a banana republic age of scientific consensus, ruled by SSkeptics.
In the September 2011 Scientific American Skeptic editorial, Michael Shermer tendered, in my opinion, an untenable definition of Pseudoscience. A definition which is crafted to lend legitimacy to the unethical act of classifying subjects a priori into forbidden domains; involving power which appropriates and corrupts the use of peer review and research, making them no longer tools on the part of true experts in a field of study, rather the pretentious actions of controlling social figures and campaigns. A definition which seeks instead to promote science as a form of democratic popularity contest adjudicated by all those appointed the right to vote by the very power wielding SSkeptics themselves. A contest of politics wherein it is the number of people in a social club who have an opinion, and not the data, research and work of the true investigators (see Discovery Science), which determines the tenets of what is considered an acceptable conclusion of science.
All this passed off under the pretense of socially responsible jargon, that somehow this broad non-expert opinion survey constitutes “egalitarian rather than elitist” principles and is “bottom up rather than top down.” In other words “We cannot rely upon people conducting observations and doing research to guide us, we need the vote of our social order, trained through filtered channel propaganda.”
“Let science consumers in the marketplace of ideas determine (vote) what constitutes good science, starting with the scientists themselves and filtering through the editors, educators, and readers. As for potential consumers of pseudoscience (that means everyone), that’s what skeptics are for…” (Michael Shermer, “What is Pseudoscience?”, Scientific American; Vol 305, No. 3; p. 92)
Michael Shermer is wrong here in my opinion. He has not only crafted an non-viable definition of the term pseudoscience, but has assumed a position of power on the part of he and his Cabal, which they do not merit. What is actually practiced is nothing akin to an egalitarian consensus, rather is a Social Technology (a forthcoming blog on why it does not take a conspiracy theory in order for good persons to produce evil outcomes) crafted by those who seek power. SSkeptics develop an iniquitous and incompetent framing of the processes which lead to the presumption of what is and is not pseudoscience. Below I will outline why Pseudoscience, in Ethical Skepticism is an action and a pretense on the part of those claiming to represent science, and not a disposition of a topic by controlling interests. There are five principal fatal problems inherent in defining pseudoscience as a disposition of a topic, tendered by today’s version of democratic science.
Why Pseudoscience is an ACTION and a PRETENSE, and cannot ethically be a research subject, topic, belief or faith
Ethical Problem 1: The Marketplace is informed of the vote results by SSkeptics
If you have ever been to a party, where a scientist will quietly speak his mind on one of the Forbidden 121 topics but mentions that he would never be able to speak in public about such things, nor heaven forbid, actually conduct observations inside the subject, much less do any science – then you know first hand the all-too-common witch hunt mentality which exists inside science today. This witch hunt is not a conspiracy theory, rather a real and damaging zeitgeist crafted by, and painted by the SSkeptic Cabal. The problem with Michael Shermer’s version of the Marketplace of Science , is that the results of the vote, or if you will what is the new fashion rage for this spring, or the results of this year’s Academy Awards of Authorized Science, are informed and presented to the democratic body, by the very SSkeptics themselves. This is a stark conflict of interest. People with a singular religious view, informing people as to what to believe, is not science. “As for potential consumers of pseudoscience (everyone), that’s what skeptics are for…” In other words, we live in a banana republic, where one party informs the voters of the tally of the vote.
And is this party honest? No. In the coming millennium this will not even be in question. As our minds continue to expand and be informed, today’s SSkeptic movement will be replaced by true scientific method and ethics (see Deskeption: The Art of the Elegant Lie).
Ethical Problem 2: The Science ‘Marketplace’ includes a majority of non-expert voters, who are an easy sell for SSkeptics, and who are inappropriately called the ‘scientists themselves’
Ahh, I see. So science is a popularity contest inside a club of non-experts, non-researchers, non-interested persons who simply hold a status and title (“the scientists themselves”). A democracy of popular vote among a constituency of persons who win the right to vote by simply being in the club; and not by having actually conducted real research into the idea in question. Since I have a title, I am deemed able to make pronouncements on any subject I desire, and be counted in the vote. SSkeptics ignore the fact that, in regard to those subjects deemed “pseudosciences” – very few of scientists are actually experts in the subject in question at all.
Corollary 2a. There are far fewer true experts than there are opinionated non-expert voters
There at least 200 sciences comprised by Natural, Social, Medical, Engineering, and Mathematical discipline groupings. This is a very successful focus and career advancement structure. But the weakness therein is that any participant in the body of science intrinsically only holds expertise on .5% to 4% of the given knowledge base. I have spent 30 years pursuing my career subject, replete with 8 years of undergrad and graduate work. I am considered one of the top 3 persons in my field. This as a result of working 6 days a week and 12 to 16 hours a day on the cutting edge of my field. I still do not have an adequate grasp of my field after all this time. It is still not enough for me to begin to dictate what is right inside of sister disciplines. At most I have a 4% grasp on industry as a whole. I am a non-expert on much of my broad science grouping. Understanding this is a key tenet of Ethical Skepticism.
When I observe scientists or SSkeptics pretending to be experts on a broad array of subjects, I KNOW it is a load of baloney. They have not had enough time to gain this insight. It is a pretense and a masquerade.
So, because a group of astronomers, physicists, psychologists, nuclear technologists and mathematicians do not like the idea of a North American Primate, then the subject is given the final fatal disposition of a ‘pseudoscience’ – despite none of the ‘scientists themselves’ (or voters, in this context) in question actually having done ANY research at all into the subject. Couple this with the fact that those who actually DO research, are declared to be not-scientists, or are relegated to and less than SSkeptics’ subjectively convenient “dismissible margin,” and one has witnessed the establishment a social construct. There is a problem, there is a flaw in the system which creates a social order and not a science, when the following state exists in the voting input. This state exists for much of what is deemed “Pseudoscience” by the Social Skeptics:
Sum of Expert Input < Dismissible Margin
Corollary 2b. PhD level or other technicians are often counted in the vote as ‘scientists’
A definitive weakness in the ‘count everyone’s vote’ egalitarian method of science is that we allow the definition of the term ‘scientist’ to include degreed field and research technicians, when indeed these individuals are simply there to follow the guidance, follow the rules, and make sure that everything works. A technician, a PhD level engineer, graduate IT developer, or degreed lab tech, may be called a scientist in slang, but are not really considered expert researchers. They may even hold several advanced degrees. Technicians in most disciplines include psychologists, sociologists, information technologists, human factors engineers, electrical chemical or mechanical engineers, project and program managers, finance managers, lab techs, research aides, statistical analysts, methods analysts, or non-tenured research associates. While I have immense respect for these areas of research and development, they should not typically comprise a part of the base which qualifies as ‘the scientists themselves’ – but you will find people with really 8 years in program management, or 7 years in PhD engineering project roles being called ‘scientists’ – when in fact they are not
Many so called ‘scientists’ really only occupy technician or teaching roles
Technicians beef up the non-expert vote count
Technicians distinguish themselves by being good at following the instructions
You will find more SSkeptics in the Information Technology, Psychology and Engineering realms than you will find in true Science
In reality, technicians make their merit, distinguish themselves in their careers by how well they follow the rules. If you think outside the box, you are not going to do well in an engineering curriculum typically. Laplacian Transformations, Golden Section Algorithms, Reactor Core Design theory development academic proficiencies are all typically programs which demand rigorous rule following, and are not typically designed to encourage the participant to develop new ‘out of context ideas” Having hired and worked with over 400 engineers over the years in profit-based and demanding professional businesses, as well as cutting edge research environs, I have observed this to be very common. Technicians follow the rules. They will spout the dogma. As they move into management they rarely promote maverick thinking, and are rather irritated by it. They will cast their vote the way they are told to vote. That is how they made the cut to begin with.
Ethical Problem 3: The Club voting membership is educated, regulated and qualified solely by those who have an investment in the outcome of the vote
The “editors, educators…and skeptics” role is to filter data and acceptance of voters, so that the outcome they desire is ensured in the popular vote. We have stacked the jury and ensured that we have an OJ Simpson verdict on subjects in which we have conducted NO research whatsoever – simply because we do not like the subject. We have dismissed an idea by popular prejudice, method, education and media propaganda, and not by evidential merit.
I have several excellent scientists working for me. They all maintain pre-concluded presumptions as to the validity and veracity of alternative medicine, human neolithic history, UFO’s and various forms of paranormal data collection. They have been trained to hold these beliefs. They are NOT experts on the subjects, they cannot cite falsification Test 1 on any topic. But SSkeptics would have us all believe that they are fully accepted and qualified members of the voting “scientists themselves.”
Ethical Problem 4: Status declarations imply successful falsifications by science which indeed have never actually been tested for, nor achieved
SSkeptics, often feel that the end game of their duty is to simply provide a Plausible Deniability scenario, when confronted with a challenging piece of evidence or data. This is fake skepticism (see Pseudo-Skeptics: Marcello Truzzi, Founding Co-chairman of CSICOP). While the simplest explanation is certainly an appropriate lead construct in a pluralistic argument, it by no means demarcates the end state of our duty, and it by no means indicates that falsification of all other compelling constructs has been achieved.
Corollary 4a. Seeking anecdotal evidence supporting Plausible Deniability scenarios is NOT science, it is Promotification
I watched a famed SSkeptic stand in as the ‘skeptic’ in a paranormal program the other night. Good job on that for the courageous skeptic, but I guess it is their job to deflect this stuff from the consideration of disdainful academics. The SSkeptic, as a representative of rational SSkepticism, only set up testing protocols to provide evidence of support for a Plausible Deniability scenario he had in mind. This is NOT falsification, does not add value and does not offer clarity in the process. It is not science. Simply establishing that a Plausible Deniability scenario is possible, does not add value to the argument. We need falsification, not propaganda fuel. The SSkeptic will simply find what he is looking for and take that back to reassure his arrogant 15 year olds that all is well. There are no ghosts.
Corollary 4b. Declaring ‘falsifiability’ is not the same thing as being falsified, and only scientific study can prove falsification
But at times SSkeptics break from the Plausible Deniability approach and range back into Falsification Testing. Well, not actually testing. That would require that we actually DO science. SSkeptic semantics shift back to falsification as a demarcating precept. But they typically only choose to focus on “falsifiability” and not the actual status of being “falsified.” A pseudoscience need only possess falsifiability and plausible deniability in order to be condemned by the SSkeptic Cabal on behalf of science. Indeed however, it is the flippant declaration of falsifiability, the swagger of plausible alternatives, and not the actual act of falsification itself which is the tool used by SSkeptics to declare a subject a pseudoscience. Only science can falsify, but science is forbidden access to falsify these topics (see What Constitutes a Religion?).
SSkeptics correctly cite “falsifiability” to be the ultimate criterion of demarcation of a science and non-science. Well, all of these subjects are falsifiable, so why do we forbid their testing by scientists? SSkeptics would dictate that falsification tests need not be conducted, since the ‘scientists themselves’ have already made a conclusion. Because I CAN falsify this, I do not need to. Scientists keep out of this and let the SSkeptics handle it.
This is pseudoscience.
Ethical Problem 5: Once a SUBJECT is deemed (by popular non-expert vote) as a “Pseudoscience,” it can never again be seriously considered despite the existence or introduction of Ockham’s Razor plurality evidence
Deniers!, Pseudoscientist! Pseudoscience! Simplest Explanation!, Woo!, Bunk!, Nonsense!, Witchcraft!, Magic! These are a part of the inventory of Weapon Words which are core to the filtering process which SSkeptics employ. These bear the hallmark employments of thought control and social order establishment. They are the means of control inside a large body of pretend experts on all subjects. They are the bricks of the Kristallnacht of Science. Please refer to the list of the 121 Forbidden Subjects.
The Principle of “filtering“ data “through editors, educators…and skeptics” is an irresponsible configuration of activities which are not science methods, but rather a method of developing propaganda, exclusion and definition of acceptable thought. Agenda sponsors, and those who have control of the media channels imbue their prejudices into the ideas which are then fed through the sole channels available (schools, press, media, publishing, policy, governance, enforcement) to the proletariat membership. This is socialistic in its construction, and is nothing akin to science. Science is not a popular vote, it is not appropriately based on agenda campaigns, nor is it a social order of entitlement, as SSkeptics would have it.
The final declaration of an IDEA as pseudoscience, rather than a set of actions, means that we can never recover from a mistake in the popular vote, contrived by those with less-than-honorable intent. We become the victims of the surreptitious among us. It does not matter that much of The Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense promoting rationality through ridicule (from © 2010 by Crispian Jago) depicted at the right, is correct. The issue is the incorrect methodology employed to arrive at its conclusions, the social method employed to enforce those dispositions and the great probability that it is incorrect on some of this ridicule material. This type of gilt-edged fakery constitutes a net loss to mankind.
NONE of this is Science. It is pseudo-science in my opinion for two reasons:
a. It boasts specific claims about these subjects sans any research, evidence, or critical epistemology, and
b. It pretends to have employed science in the determination of its conclusions, and that science agrees with its conclusions.
In fact, Pseudoscience can NEVER be a subject, by the tenets of logic alone. Rather it is characterized by actions just like a. and b. above. A subject cannot be declared false by a set of outsiders. Those who condemn a subject to be a pseudoscience, are guilty of unethical, non-scientific practices – and being eventually proved correct does not exonerate the practitioner of such deception. It is merely a technicality.
Indeed, what follows is therefore for the Ethical Skeptic, the only viable definition of pseudoscience:
Ethical Skepticism Definition of Pseudoscience: Pseudoscience is an action, not a subject
Pseudoscience – Disposition of ideas as constituting science or non-science based on their subject matter alone, in lieu of employment of scientific method. A methodology or conclusion which over-relies upon predictive study, confirmation or dismissive skepticism. A claim or conclusion which is presented as current best science or as being derived from the scientific method, when in fact such contentions are false.
The employment of Social Technology control tactics, seeking to dictate singular thought, is Pseudoscience. This is what Michael is proposing in his editorial.
A Scientist is someone actively engaged in research in a given subject, and NOT someone holding a degree or engaged in research in another subject. These contributors add no more value or clarity than outside non-expert opinions; their inclusion can only be used for control. And remember, the goals of the Ethical Skeptic, are value and clarity; not the control of ideas.