Thursday, December 2, 2010

How to Test a "Conspiracy Theory"

I know that this blog departs from my usual theme a bit but I get emails and posts on my Facebook wall all the time telling me about this or that “conspiracy” by our government or a corporation or some such and such organization bent on controlling us “peons” through nearly every means imaginable. We humans are strange creatures, we are supposedly intelligent, yet much of the stuff that comes across my desk and desktop is the most illogical, outrageous and in many cases downright stupid theories that I have ever heard of. I have seen them all, from who really killed JFK and Jimmy Hoffa, to which foreign or domestic government entity this week was really responsible for 9/11. Sometimes Items sent to me are not necessarily “conspiracy theories” in the classic sense, but are intended to make the reader feel good or “patriotic” about something. They really fall in the same category because the over-the-top embellishment techniques used are identical to those of the conspiracy theories.

For example, every year about this time some well meaning individuals send me an email containing pictures from the December 7th 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor supposedly “recently found in an old camera in a footlocker”. I got it three times this year so far. The first time I received it was almost 10 years ago and the pictures have not changed. I just shake my head at the gullibility of these otherwise well meaning and intelligent people. (The pictures are actually from the National Archives, are official Navy photographs and were released for publication with the official Navy report on the Pearl Harbor attack in late 1942. The pictures are cropped of course, eliminating the Navy Department nomenclature on the bottom edge of the picture. It doesn’t take much in the way of research to look this up).

So in light of this I thought I would give you, my FB friends 10 “smell tests” that you can apply to any conspiracy theory or like thing that you come across. If any one or more of these tests are true, then you can rest assured that the so-called conspiracy in question is false.

1: “Proof” of the conspiracy is gained from a pattern of connecting the dots between events that are not necessarily linked by causality. No direct, independently verifiable evidence supports the connection except the allegations of the party or parties perpetuating the conspiracy. The supposed evidence will easily fit equally well into other causal connections.

2: The persons (the government agents or corporate personnel) behind the conspiracy would need super human abilities in order to accomplish it. People are generally not as powerful as one might think, except in the comic books.

3: Conspiracy theories tend to be complex and in order for them to be carried out, requiring a large number of simultaneous or sequential elements or events.

4: Because of this complexity, conspiracy theories tend to demand large numbers of people who would need to keep silent about their “work”. The likely hood of a “leak” grows nearly exponentially with the number of people keeping the secret.

5: If the conspiracy theory involves some sort of grand scheme to control a nation, economy or political system then this would require vast resources and hence, people to carry it out. If the conspiracy involves the ultimate domination of the world then even more people would necessarily need to be involved. You do the math based on number 4 above.

6: The conspiracy theory builds on a few small events, or small events within a larger event, that may be true in and of them selves, but then the parties perpetrating the conspiracy theory extrapolate them to gigantic, improbable events. (See number 1 above)

7: A conspiracy theory will assign some kind of sinister meaning to otherwise insignificant, unrelated events.

8: A conspiracy theory will commingle facts and speculation without distinguishing between the two. So much so, that after a while facts and speculation are so inter tangled that they are inseparable from each other.

9: The person who proposes or perpetuates the conspiracy theory is indiscriminately suspicious of all government agencies, corporations or private groups or clubs, which suggests that this person is most likely driven by emotional responses and unable or unwilling to pursue rational thought.

10: The conspiracy theorist refuses to consider alternative explanations (especially from a government. See number 9). They reject all other evidence and seek only that which confirms their pre-conceived notions of the “truth”.

Just because governments and politicians sometimes lie and corporations sometimes cheat, does not mean that there is a conspiracy behind every lie. Stuff just happens that we are totally unprepared for. Events such as 9/11 or the JFK assassination are so horrendous and we are so shocked by them, we tend to gravitate to an equally big imaginary causality. Who could have imagined that a simple box knife that can be purchased at the local dollar store, could destroy several skyscrapers, 4 large commercial airplanes, ground several thousand others, bring an economy to a screeching halt, and kill over 2000 people in the blink of an eye.

The truth is we failed ourselves on 9/11. We failed to imagine what other human beings, from a vastly different culture, mindset and religion could do when determined. We failed to imagine it, because we have no basis for understanding it in our culture or history. Consequently we come up with something that explains it in terms we can comprehend. We create a big picture from small facts that seem to fit perfectly within the framework of the larger event. We build from there, drawing conclusions that, at first glance appear to be logical and make the event understandable in our culture and history. The “conspiracy” is much easier to comprehend than the simpler reality.

We must learn to think rationally and, above all, we must remain credible if we are to take the message of Torah to the nations. Yeshua was a reasoned and rational thinker. (Pardon my use of a partial quote here.) Isaiah 1:18 KJV 18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: … After all he was and is God incarnate!

שלום ברוך
Shalom and Be Blessed.
Dan Cathcart

1 comment:

  1. Brother Dan...this is it!! We need a "Divine" gift of "discernment" for the times in which we live. In James's letter to the Church he says "IF ANY MAN LACK WISDOM LET HIM ASK OF GOD WHO WILL GIVE IT PLENTIFULLY TO ALL,AND WILL NOT REFUSE YOU". In these confusing times demonic deception and oppression is permeating every channel of information we must depend on the WORD OF GOD to filter out the "FOOLISH,FALSE,AND CONTRADICTORY" FLOOD OF INFORMATION DESIGNED TO GET US "SIDE TRACKED".
    S E L A H


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