Skepticism and Conspiracy Theories


They had better bring Damian back soon, I’m going to run out of material before too long.

One of the things that conspiracy theorists describe themselves as is ‘skeptics.’ They don’t accept the ‘official story’ because the facts don’t line up! This is all well and good, or it would be, if their cases actually stood up to critical scrutiny, which they almost never do.

By no means am I suggesting that anyone should ever accept anything that smells fishy to them at first glance, but on that same hand, no one should continue to disregard anything once the evidence against their case starts to stack up. This is the problem with conspiracy theorists and this is why they shouldn’t consider themselves to be skeptics, since an actual skeptic can be swayed in one direction or another according to the evidence.

Take the 9/11 conspiracy. And I’m not talking about the conspiracy that’s been constructed By Alex Jones and his like, I’m talking about the conspiracy that was concocted by the pilots of the jets. One of the complications that are involved in talking about conspiracy theories is that there really are secret plans that are put together by confederates in darkened rooms. There are testimonies, passports and other pieces of evidence that link the people identified in the official story to the actual crimes. That’s one of the problems with conspiracies, is that their coordination and execution tends to create a lot of evidence that can then be used against them by police agencies and prosecutors. That’s what happened with Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal, which was another conspiracy.

That’s the larger problem that conspiracy theorists need to contend with, that there’s often no evidence that connects the dots that they’ve created. Their cases often have to deal with problems that they see with the official story (one example is the hole in the side of the Pentagon building that they allege couldn’t possibly have been made by a jet and had to have been made by a missile) while they often fail to provide any actual evidence (and not just circumstantial evidence (like the Bush administration invading Iraq, even though Iraq had no connections to 9/11)). I say often because conspiracy theorists can provide evidence that gives the illusion of confirming their narrative, but that’s often due to a lack of inquiry into that evidence.

My heart goes out to conspiracy theorists though, which is one of the reasons why I’m so invested in them. I get where they’re coming from, because I have a natural lack of trust when it comes to official agencies. This is where they actually do have a point, because the absolute worst reason to believe anything is because someone else said that you ought to believe them. This is what’s often referred to as an argument from authority (you should believe in X because person Y says so). This is rather tricky though, because in order to find evidence, it has to come from someone. So, whenever anyone comes out in favor of evolutionary theory, they’re often accused of being ‘Darwinists,’ which carries the implication that people agree with evolutionary theory on the word of Darwin. It doesn’t matter who discovered whatever theory or whatever line of evidence, all that matters is that the theory or the evidence stands up to scrutiny. It’s the data that you need to follow, not any person or any agency.

A good example of this is the Popular Mechanics issue that was devoted to debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories. It’s not a good idea to side with the evidence because it came from Popular Mechanics, but to side with Popular Mechanics because they side with the evidence.

At the end of the day, that’s a good rule of thumb to follow. Remain skeptical of claims until the person making those claims comes up with evidence that supports those claims. Then, only accept that evidence if it corroborates with other data that links persons or agencies to the crime. But, most importantly, be ready and willing to accept the truth whenever the truth is arrived at. That last bit is one of the most important, and one of the most often forgotten, because we all hate to be proven wrong, even when we say that we’d be ready to give up the ghost if we were shown to be in the wrong.


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