The Practice of Skepticism

What do people mean when they use the term ‘skepticism’?

The Practice of Skepticism


1 – Introduction

2 – Definitions

3 – Are You Practicing Skepticism?

4 – Objective Reality

5 – How We Spend Our Time

6 – How We Value Time

7 – Watching vs Doing

8 – The Beauty and Power of Logic

9 – Take a Walk on the Wild Side

10 – Nobody Can Do Your Research For You

11 – tl;dr


1 – Introduction

During the aftercall of a recent Memeber Skype Call, I was reminded of one of my many shortcomings:

I do not explain what I mean by my use of the term ‘skepticism’ often enough.

The consequence of this is that a lot of people who watch/listen/read my content, including recent arrivals as members of this site, may be operating under a misunderstanding of what I mean when I speak about ‘skepticism’.

To put it simply, there appears to be some confusion about skepticism the concept, and skepticism the practise.

Therefore, when I speak about the potential benefits — and the potential drawbacks — of following the skeptical path, it is entirely understandable that some people may find themselves wondering, ‘what the hell is he talking about?’

Worse, some people may find themselves agreeing with what they believe I am saying, when what they believe I am saying and what I am actually trying to say are two very different things.

So in this post I will try to explain what I mean when I speak about ‘skepticism’.

2 – Definitions

The first thing to point out is that a word can be defined however the speaker/writer chooses to define it.

Most words in common usage have generally-understood meanings. Ideally a dictionary definition for a word will reflect this general understanding. If you look at the various dictionary definitions for the term ‘skepticism’, you will likely find that many of them mention terms such as ‘attitude’, ‘disposition’, ‘doctrine’, etc.

Merriam Webster definition of ‘skepticism’.

This could be considered skepticism the concept.

Usually when I am speaking about skepticism, I am speaking about the practice.

To give a very simple example, consider the question of the supposed shape of the earth, or the Earth Shape Question (ESQ).

It is a ‘skeptical’ thing to ‘question’ or ‘doubt’ the official story. It is an entirely different thing to:

Take the time, and

Put in the effort, to

Inspect the available evidence, and

Arrive at inferences for oneself.

Anybody can claim to be ‘skeptical’. Most people do.

Ask some regular lemmings, ‘are you skeptical?’, and see if you can find many who say, ‘no’.

Good luck.

Now, how many people will take the time and put in the effort to search for the available evidence? To inspect the claims made by authorities and/or by other parties? To compile a data set of one’s own empirical observations?

Only practicing skeptics. And we are few and far between. When it comes to topics like ‘ancient history’, the only practicing skeptics I know to exist are here on this very website. I wish I were exaggerating.

Once a person has spent time searching for available evidence, inspecting claims made by authorities, compiling data sets of empirical observations, THEN that person will naturally come to their own opinions, based on inference.

When I speak about skepticism, this is what I am talking about.

When I describe myself as a ‘skeptic’, this is why: because I take the time and put in the effort to search for the available evidence, and then I draw inferences from that evidence.

Is a person who merely ‘doubts’ stories a ‘skeptic’? Yes, by the definition of a dictionary. But is their ‘skepticism’ the same as mine? Certainly not.

3 – Are You Practicing Skepticism?

Let me be frank: if you do not generally have your own opinions about relevant topics, then you are not practicing skepticism.

You may call yourself a ‘skeptic’, you may fit the general definition of a ‘skeptic’, but the way you live your life, the way you see the world, will be very different from the way that I do, on a fundamental level.

This does not make me ‘better’ than you at all. I am not talking about value judgements here. I am not even trying to suggest or imply that practicing skepticism is an inherently good thing. In the most recent MSC I spent considerable time trying to explore the notion that perhaps, if anything, the skeptical path may occasionally be detrimental to those who follow it.

I am merely pointing out an important distinction between two different things. And I am doing so because these two distinct things can be (and often are) confused, which leads to misunderstandings.

Let’s return to the ESQ. Recall that in 2017 I released an 18,000-word treatise concerning my opinions on the ESQ, semi-facetiously entitled the ‘Bon Earth Model’.

Whether or not a person likes or agrees with the model I have put forward, what will be clear to any reader of that piece is that I have done the following:

i) Searched for evidence

ii) Inspected the claims made by authorities (and other parties)

iii) Compiled a data set of documented and/or empirical observations

And, having done so, I have then:

iv) Applied a logical framework to the available evidence, in order to…

v) Arrive at inferences — opinions — on the matters at hand

If you ask me, ‘what is your opinion on the ESQ’, I can offer you an opinion.

I will point out that my opinion is merely an inference (or it is based on a collection of inferences), because I do not believe the ‘shape’ of the earth to be a self-evident truth, and then I can proceed to offer you the reasoning (the evidence and the logic) which led me to my inference(s).

This, my friends, is the outcome of practising skepticism: The development of opinions which I am able to explain — and, should I choose to do so, defend as well.

Even if at the end of my several-year process of researching the ESQ, I came to no solid conclusion about the supposed shape of the earth, I could still at least explain my reasons for rejecting the claims made by others.

Flat Earth, you say? Then how do you explain the southern hemisphere flights? How do you explain the TWO pole stars?

Spinning Ball Earth, you say? Then how do you explain the fact that we sense no spin?

You may have answers to these very questions. If you do, then this is good news! It means we can have a productive, two-way, interactive conversation, which may be mutually beneficial.

We can scrutinise each other’s evidence. We can scrutinise each other’s logic. We can assist one another by pointing out flaws or shortcomings of the opinions being offered.

If on the other hand you have no opinion about anything, if you are not willing to draw inferences from the evidence, if you are not even willing to compile a dataset of evidence for yourself, then we cannot have that mutually beneficial conversation. You cannot help me. You evidently cannot even help yourself (at least with regards to this topic).

It is that simple.

4 – Objective Reality

We live in an objective reality.

There are self-evident truths. There are cause-and-effect relationships between the physical elements of this thing which some people call ‘the universe’.

If I drop a pen, it will fall. If you drop a pen, it will fall. Why would any sane man want to deny this, or argue the point? If this is a man’s objective, to argue about self-evident truths, then that man is welcome to do so: but why the HELL would I waste my finite time trying to converse with this person?

Life is too short.

Of course, a well-trained logician could argue about these points, if he wanted to do so. I know that I could argue about every single sentence in the opening paragraph of this section, if that were my desire. The easiest method would be to entangle myself in semantics: the meanings of words. What is a ‘pen’, what does it mean to ‘fall’? I could argue about epistemology: how can one ‘know’ that their ‘reality’ is the same in any inherent way as somebody else’s ‘reality’?

It would be all too easy to destruct the conversation down to the level of meaninglessness.

Some people may feel compelled to do just that. To argue in ‘figure-eights’, going nowhere, as my old buddy Dave J would say. If a person feels this is a worthwhile use of their time, I for one would not try to get in their way. I also would not waste my finite time in their presence. Would you?

Let’s return to the ESQ. I accept objective reality, I am happy to work from the basis that some things are REAL. Those southern flights? They exist. I know because I took one. The southern pole star? It exists. I know because I can look at it, and have even uploaded a timelapse video to document what is visible from Australia at night.

If a man denies these facts about objective reality, that is perfectly fine. Perhaps he has never been to the southern hemisphere. Perhaps he suspects that I (and every other person who reports that the flights and the pole star exist) are all in on a grand conspiracy. This is perfectly fine, too. His suspicions might be valid: JLB may well be in on the Southern Hemisphere Hoax.*

*If they (whoever they are) paid me enough money, I would happily claim to live in the Eastern Hemisphere where there are dinosaurs in every backyard, and the night sky has thirty-three pole stars!!!1!

But at that point in the conversation, it is now incumbent on me to change the subject. I have nothing to gain from conversing about objective reality with a person who does not believe in it. I have nothing to gain from conversing about objective reality with a person who will not go and inspect it for themselves. My own opinions — inferences — about the ESQ are based on objective reality. The pen falls when it is dropped. The plane departs Johannesburg and arrives in Perth. The southern pole star does not appear to move in the night sky.

Perhaps, if a person does not believe in or care about objective reality insofar as the ESQ is concerned, he may yet believe in or care about objective reality with regards to some other topic. Excellent, then this is a topic which may be worthy of discussion. We can find a topic about which we agree that there is indeed an objective reality. Then, and only then, can we proceed to have a worthwhile conversation.

5 – How We Spend Our Time

Now we move on to the next point: when I say ‘worthwhile’, I am talking about worthwhile for me.

A person may have no opinions on anything, but still enjoy chatting with somebody like myself, about the very topics on which they themselves have no opinion. In this sense, I am merely entertaining them. Which is perfectly fine, I have no problems being an entertainer. I have come to accept that this may well be my primary role in the Kosmos’ grand opera. A man who entertains people. I can think of much worse roles to play.

However, this kind of entertainment does not require the setting of a two-way conversation. I can simply record my thoughts, and the man who seeks entertainment can listen at his own leisure. This is how I get my own entertainment: I watch/listen to things in my own time, with no direct interaction with the person(s) entertaining me.

Anybody who wants to be entertained by my opinions on the ESQ, just go back and listen to my conversation with Reds Rhetoric and his moronic pals. For all of their flaws, at least they accept that there is an objective reality. The problem is that they allow other people to do their thinking for them. Thus when they then proceed to pick a fight with a practicing skeptic, it doesn’t end well for them. At all.

Truly, that was an utter demolition.

And I was barely even warmed up! And it was two years ago — I have come so much further since.

Now, can you imagine what might have happened during that call if I were merely a ‘skeptic’ by dictionary definition, rather than a practicing skeptic? I would suggest that call may have gone very differently indeed. The reason why I was able to utterly destroy those fools was because I knew their story better than they did.

Why did I know their story so well? Because I had taken the time and put in the effort to study it. I knew the problems with their story because I had taken the time and put in the effort to compare it with my own empirical observations.

I made a mess of those poor fools not because I am a ‘skeptic’ but because I practice skepticism.

Do you see the difference?

I already sense that when I look back at my life, I will sigh that I spent inordinate amounts of time conversing with people who could not help me (at least, not on the topics being discussed). It is incumbent on me now to slowly but surely reduce the amount of time I spend in go-nowhere conversations. From now on, if somebody asks me for my opinion on the ESQ (for example), I will try to ask them for their own. If they do not have an opinion on the ESQ, I will politely change the subject to one on which they do have an opinion. Then, and only then, can a mutually beneficial conversation take place.

Unless, of course, I am in a conversation merely for the sake of entertainment — and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But when I am in a Member Skype Call, I am generally among two, three, up to six other people who have ascended beyond normie-tier. These are the only two-five hours per week in which I expect to be able to have genuinely intelligent conversations. Do you think I am joking?

Let me restate this: the MSC is the only time during the entire week where I feel like I am talking with people who are at my level.

The rest of the week, I either do not speak at all^, or I speak in full knowledge that the person(s) I am speaking with are not capable of the conversation I personally prefer. It is kind of like speaking with children, except that children are generally more enthusiastic about life than adults.

^I can go days without any human interaction other than, ‘Hello, how are you, good thanks, may I please have one standard flat white, no sugar, thank you, have a lovely day’.

So from now on, during the MSC’s (or equivalent), please do not turn the topic of conversation to the ESQ, if you do not have your own opinion(s) on the topic. Otherwise I will have to politely change the subject, lest we end up going around and around in circles, wasting the few hours of the week where better conversation could be had.

6 – How We Value Time

Let me state clearly that I know how the words I have written here may come across as ‘offensive’ if not understood in context. The main point I can make in reply to such a criticism is this:

I value my time, and you ought to value your time, too.

Mere entertainment can be had anywhere. There’s hundreds of hours of entertainment available to download from this very website right now! The MSC’s are not mere entertainment for me. I don’t participate in them merely to pass the time.

The benefit I gleaned from the first MSC’s back in 2017, which were not even recorded, is/was immeasurable. Chad, Dante, fuhng, Mezzie, Nate (and others), how can I ever communicate to them how much their participation in those early calls assisted my own mind? Well, I probably cannot, but hopefully the development of those calls into the MSC’s as they exist now, and the effort I have put in to promoting and producing this season of MSC, has gone some way to demonstrating the value which I think these calls can offer their participants.

Nothing I have written here ought to be taken as, ‘please do not turn up to MSC if you do not practice skepticism’. On the contrary, my hope is that this piece will be comprehended along the lines of, ‘please turn up to the MSC and help all participants get the most out of it’.

And as with all skepticism, the main benefits to participants in the MSC will be derived via practice.

7 – Watching vs Doing

Now onto the final Grey Pill for today:

Merely consuming skeptic-oriented content is not the same thing as practising skepticism.

You can listen to a two-hour podcast of intense conversation and within hours have forgotten the majority of what you just heard. I know this because I have done it myself, many, many, many times. For so long, I would listen to podcasts and tell myself that I was learning something in the process. Now I appreciate and understand that, no, I am not really ‘learning something’, I am merely being entertained. And that is okay. There is nothing wrong (in my opinion) with entertainment.

And better that entertainment be via people who question stories about nukes and war and other negative things, rather than people who help propagate these stories as though they are ‘real’.

To be sure, occasionally I may recall something I heard in a podcast, I may have retained a piece of trivia. However, the ‘bang for buck’ in terms of time investment is utterly pitiful. After a two-hour podcast I may recall a small handful of claims, and almost never am I able to recall the evidence put forward for those claims (if any). The podcast format is not ideally suited to conveying well-researched information. Podcasts are terrific for encouraging/inspiring inner thought and reflection, but not for learning and retaining key information.

Take my chat with Reds Rhetoric and his buddies. I went into that chat armed not with hours and hours of listening to Eric Dubay and Jeranism and so forth. I went in armed with key information, names/dates/places/etc, which I had been able to retain via research and revision. Actual research and revision, not merely watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts. Books, pens, paper. These are my training aids. These are the training aids of any practising skeptic.

Am I suggesting that listening to podcasts (such as the MSC series) is of no intellectual value? Of course I am not claiming that. Far from it. As I mentioned just a moment ago, podcasts are terrific for encouraging/inspiring inner thought and reflection. Listening to a good quality conversation on a meaningful topic while out on a hike or a bushwalk is a truly wonderful experience, in my opinion. And I can only hope that listeners of the MSC series feel the same way about these calls as I do: they feature the best quality conversations to listen to anywhere on the internet.


But the point of this section remains: merely consuming skeptic-oriented content is not the same thing as practising skepticism.

8 – The Beauty and Power of Logic

Some of the concepts I have touched upon in this piece today, happened to form the basis of a video/podcast I released about 12 months ago.

JLBM #17 – The Beauty and Power of Logic (26-Jul-2017)

Boy how time flies. It is interesting for me to look back and notice that that was JLB Member Video #17, and it was released around the same time as the heliacal rising of Sirius.

In any event, what I was trying to do was encourage the members of this site (of which there were apparently only 22 at the time — shiiiiiiiiet) to consider revising my Thinking 101 series in order to help their practice of skepticism.

9 – Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Of course, what I am doing with my videos/articles/podcasts is to offer/articulate/demonstrate the theory.

What I also try to do is encourage the members of this site to put the theory into practice in a specific way: by taking a trip out to Tucson for themselves.

For all you know, myself and the others who speak of the wireframe mesh are liars and blasphemers. Or we may just be very bad drivers, and we all got lost along the way. Perhaps it takes a three-year ‘History’ degree to learn how to drive to Tucson. Maybe Tucson exists after all! Perhaps there are extant primary sources, with consistent documentation of provenance, which confirm that Herodotus et al existed in the Before Time, just as out elders have told us!

How would you know? If you won’t take the time, if you won’t put in the effort, to drive out to Tucson for yourself, then why would you be so confident that JLB’s anecdotes about ‘the end of the road’ are anything other than pure fantasy? Perhaps you are being led down the merry path by elaborate practical jokers…

10 – Nobody Can Do Your Research For You

This was supposed to be a short post, and it has turned into a rather lengthy piece.

If I had to boil it all down to a single sentence, this would be it: nobody can do your research for you.

Not even me.

Even if I am the World’s Leading Skeptic (and I truly believe that I am), I still cannot do anybody else’s research for them.

Even if I wanted to do your research for you, I cannot. It is beyond my ability, it is beyond my remit.

I am just some dude from Brisbane.

The research I am talking about is not the mere accumulation and repetition of facts. It is truly a process of deprogramming, of coming to interact with the world in a tangibly different way; an experience which some people might describe as ‘ascension’.

The reason I sat down to write this piece is this:

Recently I asked a member of this site for their opinion on the ESQ, and they told me they had no opinion. What about the pole stars, the southern flights, do you at least accept that they exist? ‘No opinion’. I would not have asked these questions, but my interlocutor had actually asked the ESQ of another participant in the very same call. Okay then, I thought, let’s change gears. How about the ‘JFK Assassination’? ‘No opinion’.

I was beginning to notice a pattern.

So I asked my interlocutor, why don’t you look into these things for yourself?

‘That’s what I pay you for, John.’


My words here cannot convey how disappointing it was to hear this at the time.

Since then I have come to realise that more than half of the membership of this site signed up AFTER I released material such as ‘The Beauty and Power of Logic’. There are a lot of people here who may not be familiar with my attitude towards research, knowledge, and the many other issues touched upon in this piece. This is not their fault: if anybody is to blame, it is me. I ought to be reiterating this important point on a regular basis:

I cannot do your research for you, and you are NOT paying me to do your research for you.

Ever. Period.

All I can do is my own research, and share it with those who are interested in seeing what I have found.

If I share the findings of my research in a certain way, some people will also find me entertaining.

That is cool, too.

I’m happy to slowly but surely build up a little business as a researcher-entertainer. If I am successful at developing my craft, perhaps even a skeptic-comedian. Apart from people who instruct/entertain in genuinely creative fields (music, dancing, painting, etc), I can’t think of too many roles which are cooler than what I am hoping to ‘be’.

Just as in those fields, however, there is instructing and there is entertaining. The best musician in the world can’t help you become a musician by simply performing in front of you. They can entertain you, and that is cool, but they cannot help you to improve your own musical ability if you won’t do the work yourself.

Imagine somebody describing themselves as a ‘painter’ and then, when asked, ‘can you paint me something?’, the person responding with, ‘oh no, I have a gallery of paintings I bought from others’.

Imagine somebody describing themselves as a ‘musician’ and then, when asked, ‘can you play me something?’, the person responding, ‘oh no, I pay my instructor to do that’.

It doesn’t work that way.

My friends, if you consider the content of this site entertaining enough to remain a member purely for entertainment purposes, then I am flattered, and I am happy — and I am sure that the other regular members of the MSC series would take this as a compliment as well.

Where can you find a more amusing performance of deadpan comedy than Chad’s work in MSC 29? When I was listening back to that call myself, Chad had me chuckling out loud. Brilliant stuff, and much more entertaining to me than any of the junk on TV.

If you consider me an apt and worthy instructor in what I call skepticism, then once more I am flattered, and I am happy.

But please never confuse the two. If you want to improve your own skepticism, you have to do the work.

Merely watching/reading/listening to the content on this site is not work, any more than listening to a Cat Stevens album is practicing the guitar.

11 – tl;dr

I do not explain what I mean by ‘skepticism’ often enough.

I am speaking about skepticism as a practice.

Practice involves work, which involves research, which will lead to inferences i.e. opinions.

In other words, if you are truly practising skepticism, you will have opinions.

We live in an objective reality. Some things can be accepted as ‘true’.

The MSC’s are the only time I get to chat with practicing skeptics.

I value my time, and you ought to value yours, too.

Consuming skeptic-oriented material is not the same thing as practicing skepticism.

I have covered these ideas before, but I realise that was a long time ago.

What I am trying to encourage you to do is to try skepticism out for yourself.

Nobody is paying me to do their research for them. Period.

I’m happy to entertain, and I hope people find my website entertaining.

I’m also happy to instruct, but instruction alone is useless if the instruction is ignored.

As at 15-Aug-2018.

Production notes: Written and published to full-access Members 15-Aug-2018. 4,500 words. Released to Freeloader and Part Members 16-Aug-2018 as part of Mid-August Mailout.


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