How to tell when a conspiracy theory is bullshit.

I've borrowed a lot of this from Scientific American.


I get sick of all the stupid conspiracy theories people spout off.  As an educator, the lack of inquirey, incredulity, and healthy scepticism about outlandish conspiracies is personally offensive.  I get JFK shit, 9/11 inside jobs, shadow governments, federal reserve, trilateral commision, bilderbergers, fluoride mind control, reptilians, area 51, Illuminati, new world order, and any number of other bullshit.

People justify these ridiculous scenarios by elaborate mythologies and underground organizations that reach around the globe and into the deepest crannies of our governments.  They're all in on it.  Every president is indoctrinated in the long list of goings on. 


I'm not saying there's no such thing as conspiracy.  I'm just saying that if our government can't find its ass with both hands (and it can't), it might not be able to keep the fact that it's poisoning us intentionally with fluoride to control us from coming to light.


Do me a favor.  Next time you think about posting your pet conspiracy here, put it through these ten steps to see if it might be bullshit.  Before you believe something totally insane, spend some time thinking of the criteria necessary for it to be true.  Think up some alternatives that might be less crazy.


1. If proof of the conspiracy supposedly emerges from a pattern of connecting the dots between events that need not be causally connected. When no evidence supports these connections except the allegation of the conspiracy or when the evidence fits equally well to other causal connectionsor to randomnessit just might be bullshit.


2. If the agents behind the pattern of the conspiracy would need nearly superhuman power or access to multiple governments to pull it off. It just might be bullshit.  People are usually not nearly so powerful as we think they are.


3.  If the conspiracy is complex, and its successful completion demands a large number of elements, it just might be bullshit. 


4.  If the conspiracy involves large numbers of people who would all need to keep silent about their secrets, it just might be bullshit.  The more people involved, the less realistic it becomes.  This is a deal breaker for most conspiracy theory.


5.  If the conspiracy encompasses a grand ambition for control over a nation, economy or political system. If it suggests world domination, it is almost certainly bullshit.


6.  If the conspiracy theory ratchets up from small events that might be true to much larger, much less probable events, it might be bullshit.  Conspiracy promoters give you tiny tastes of bullshit until you get used to the taste and then really shovel it in.


7.  If the conspiracy theory assigns portentous, sinister meanings to what are most likely innocuous, insignificant events, it might be bullshit.


8.  If the theory tends to commingle facts and speculations without distinguishing between the two and without assigning degrees of probability or of factuality, it might be bullshit.


9.  Listen to this one kids, it's important.  If the theorist is indiscriminately suspicious of all government agencies or private groups, which suggests an inability to nuance differences between true and false conspiracies, it might be bullshit.


10.  If the conspiracy theorist refuses to consider alternative explanations, rejecting all disconfirming evidence and blatantly seeking only confirmatory evidence to support what he or she has a priori determined to be the truth, it might be bullshit.

Uploaded 02/13/2012
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