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Jenniehowell's avatar

What is your theory on conspiracy theorists?

Asked by Jenniehowell (2214points) April 17th, 2012

I’m considering concocting a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists – I’m curious whether or not you have any opinions, input or theories about conspiracy theorists – whether you are one – whether you’ve been accused of being one & if so, why? – do you think that there’s a mental glitch in one of the mental switches of the average conspiracy theorist? How closely related are conspiracy theorists to those who are susceptible to falling into the mental/emotional/psychological traps of a cult? Is it just a matter of intelligence that determines whether or not those with a particular mental glitch will go the cult direction or the conspiracy direction? What say you on this topic?

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47 Answers

ro_in_motion's avatar

Humanity survived, in part, because we are experts at pattern recognition. We can extract meaningful information amidst the chaos that floods our senses. If we couldn’t, we’d have to drive at 5 miles an hour. Heck, even walking would be difficult.

However, we don’t always get accurate patterns. We make all sorts of decisions based on faulty patterns. That’s how we screw up relationships and start wars, among other things.

Now, imagine a ‘harmless’ false pattern. You watch the destruction of the World Trade Center. Talk about assaulting all of our senses! In the chaos of that event, someone can point to something they saw and others might recognise the same pattern. The misrepresentation of reality spreads. You end up with a group of people who all reinforce each others view to the point where information to the contrary clearly has to be ‘wrong’.

Another example, much more harmful, are the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists. The original paper that started the kerfuffle was found to be so seriously flawed that the doctor who penned it, I believe, lost his license. There have been any number of scientific articles that prove the benefits of vaccines to society and the dangers of having non-vaccinated children in a population. The evidence is over-whelming.

However, people formed into a social group and reinforced each others wrong pattern recognition and getting them to drop their pattern now is infinitely more difficult.

We all fall victim to grabbing onto wrong patterns. The trick is to test them early and often. A good test is: Have I looked on Wikipedia for articles on this? Are the people making the claim qualified experts in their field or, say, are they a washed-up Hollywood actress or talkshow post? Even with that, we still make mistakes. Is a medical claim made by peer-reviewed papers or is HuffPost just spreading bull again?

However, we’re really good at pattern recognition and it’s incredibly valuable.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@ro_in_motion so in a sense I would interpret what you are saying to some extent to mean that cult followers and conspiracy theorists are the same in that they are as you say…

people formed into a social group and reinforced each others wrong pattern recognition and getting them to drop their pattern now is infinitely more difficult.

but their intelligence level (as I insinuate to some extent within the body of my question) is not what may become the determining factor as to whether they go in the direction of the cult vs. the direction of the conspiracy theorist. Because either way it is a social group getting stuck in their attachment to a “wrong pattern” that they then refuse to test early or often or even at all simply due to their co-dependent/emotional attachment to that particular belief.

and if that is true then would it mean that the common issue with regard to conspiracy theorists and cult followers would be co-dependence? Is co-dependence one of the necessary and/or significant traits/psychological issues of the cult followers and conspiracy theories?

ETpro's avatar

@Jenniehowell Great question. I am not sure there is something identifiable as co-dependence. Do we not all depend on one another. How far would I manage to get in this world is all the rest of you suddenly left for happier hunting grounds?

I’ve listened to enough conspiracy theorist expound on their pet belief now that I am certain stupidity is NOT a conspiracy theorist marker. To be sure there are some who are dumber than a bag of hammers, but most are at least of average intelligence and some are quite bright.

I suspect one element is the inability to think critically. How many conspiracy theories, From the John Bircher’s fluoride making you communist and Area 51 UFOligists to the Birthers and 9/11 Truthers rely on these two fundamentally contradictory assumptions?
1—The government is utterly incompetent at everything. All this it touches falls into ruin.
2—The government is secretly conducting an operation of grand scale and pulled it off perfectly without any hint they were behind it.

So while they may be quite bright, they are not thinking right.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Jenniehowell I don’t think intelligence is a big factor … which is infinitely sad.

Definitely when people form groups and don’t allow outsiders to present information, you have a cult. Mormons and Scientologists have many documented instances of ‘shunning’ former members and family who disapprove of the organisations.

Co-dependence is definitely part of it, I think. Part of it is the “La La La! I can’t hear you!” function where it’s clear they are not even listening to your comments and just repeat the slogans the group have adopted.

What is really scary is that people can be induced to believe falsehoods rather easily. Take Patty Hearst as an example. She was kidnapped and held captive for a long time. Ultimately, she joined the kidnappers, making a video and going on a bank robbery with them. Nothing in her life, before or after, suggests that she had any criminal tendency.

Blackberry's avatar

They’re really easy to get sucked into if you’re not skeptical. I don’t blame people for initially questioning things, but it goes too far sometimes.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@ETpro when I speak of co-dependence I am not necessarily meaning literally/scientifically how we all depend on one another in order to survive and/or live. I am speaking of the psychological trait of an unhealthy human attachment to someone or something.

With regard to intelligence I agree with you in that most conspiracy theorists are at least average if not bright (at least the ones I’ve met) but they lack the ability to think critically, research completely or follow through with deductive reasoning. Your example makes a perfect point of that – from one side of their mouths come claims that the government is incompetent and yet from the other side they speak of the genius of the government to come up with these elaborate schemes that the general public is incapable of debunking/proving etc.

serenade's avatar

IMHO, it is a mental switch, but not in the perjorative sense that you seem to mean. Rather, it is a different way of seeing reality. It is like the difference between book smarts and street smarts. Which of the two makes for a smarter person? It’s difficult to argue definitively for either.

With all due respect to the opinions above, you all sound like clueless morons to a conspiracy theorist’s ear—as much as a ranting conspiracy theorist might sound to you. But, you have the luxury of conventional wisdom and “common” sense to bolster your satisfaction in believing you know what you’re talking about.

For the record, I don’t know anyone who holds those contradictory beliefs about incompetence and genius. If anything, the genius would be hiding the genius behind a veil of believable incompetence.

There may be truth to the aspect of a conspiracy theorist needing to believe in some kind of all-encompassing narrative, but that’s not really much different from what most of us have every day. Humans, in part, are belief machines, and we expend tons of energy affirming a few collective narratives—what else is talk radio, television, sports and crime drama for? What does advertising do every day but make us believe that we need shit to be worthy of reproducing? Other than the fact that it’s popular thought, how are the mechanics any different?

Jenniehowell's avatar

@ro_in_motion I agree to some extent in that the co-dependence is a part of it & that the “la la la! I can’t hear you!” is also a part of it as if the lack of intelligence causes confusion between what can be called real “faith” or confidence vs. a delusional insecurity that causes one to believe that faith means saying “la la la I can’t hear you”.

I wonder whether there is any difference in intelligence between cults and conspiracy theorists though. It seems that with cults/religions it is a bit easier to simply believe what you are told and have faith without even the need for any logic whatsoever whereas at least in situations of conspiracies someone has to think intelligently enough to attach patterns together before making up a meaning for them.

For instance, with the bible I’ve heard a plethora of people claim that it’s true simply because God wrote it/inspired it. There is no pattern or proof that is attached to that “made up” meaning. But with Area51/aliens/UFOs there are a particular set of stories, patterns, witnessed events etc. that people put together to deduce that there are a bunch of alien scenarios happening there that the govt. is covering up/hiding. So at least the cult following of patterns and theories in regard to the flying/crashed objects in that area in combo with the uber secretiveness of the Area51 perimeter etc. is a cult/co-dependent following of something that has some level of evidence to be linked to it.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Jenniehowell You bring up a lot of good points. :)

I am always suspicious of the leaders of conspiracy theories, cults and the like. L. Ron Hubbard, for example, is notoriously famous for saying something along the lines of “If I really wanted to make money, I wouldn’t write science fiction. I would start a religion”. Not much later he started Scientology.

When I hear O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Beck and the like, I can’t help but wonder if they actually believe the crap they spew. It’s easy for me to assume they don’t but act ‘as if’ because there’s great buckets of money in it for them.

Your example about some Christians is a great example of ‘circular reasoning’:’ I believe the bible is true because the bible tells me it’s true’. It’s a classic logical fallacy. It isolates the people who use it from ever being challenged by evidence to the contrary.

There is nothing I believe that I won’t submit to critical analysis from others. People in these closed groups often refuse to. In the case of 9/11, you hear all these claims about how the buildings wouldn’t have collapsed when jumbo jets filled with fuel flew into the buildings. It really doesn’t make any difference how many actual experts take down the conspiracy points one by one. They simply won’t listen.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@serenade what are you talking about?!? I am a total all-knowing genius as are @ETpro & @ro_in_motion. In fact, there are flutherbots, humans, religious leaders & scholars concocting conspiracy theories about us right now as they contemplate how we could have been born so perfectly intelligent because there is such a vast difference between us and the average person. Those quotes in the Dos Equis commercials that induce people to want more beer… they were taken from our biography. hee hee

On a serious note I get your meaning. So where is the line between what can be considered an acceptable, intelligent, true &/or logical belief vs. one that is a wacky cult or conspiracy theory?

I would argue that the difference would be that a particular set of irrefutable facts exist (at least until more studies and proofs become available) that easily work to discount the conspiracy when a person is willing/able to be objective in their consideration of the information presented vs. surmissions that the theory must be true and there is an evil/good and/or secret society, group, organization, government entity etc. simply because the patterns “could” be put together to mean a certain thing (as long as you deny the facts that disprove the conspiracy of course).

To answer your question ”what else is talk radio, television, sports and crime drama for?” the purpose of those things is to fuel the cult of capitalism. (my made up on the spot conspiracy ha ha) As for advertising and the belief of certain people after seeing the ads that they really do need those items being advertised – I would say that those things fall under the category similar to a cult simply because it cannot be proven that the “need” for those things is true and/or it can be proven that there is no “need” for them beyond emotion/belief.

ETpro's avatar

@Jenniehowell Why thank you. And be forewarned, I just might spawn a religion before I get too old to play the game. :-)

Oh and I follow you on co-dependence now. Thanks for providing the context.

SmashTheState's avatar

The State and their corporate masters tacitly promote conspiracy theories. I’m certain they even originate some of them. Through a combination of reverse psychology and reaction formation, the people responsible for actual conspiracies use conspiracy theorists as a smokescreen to hide their activities. If David Icke and Alex Jones were actually revealing the secret machinations of power, do you think they’d be allowed to run around spewing their nonsense? No, they’re allowed to operate so that the real conspiracies get lost in the fake ones.

Try talking to someone about real, factual, demonstratable conspiracies of power to fuck over the lives of ordinary people, like the Trilateral Commission or the Project for a New American Century or Nestle killing millions of babies or Monsanto basically owning the FDA, and people roll their eyes and act like you’re ranting about chemtrails or reptilians – and no wonder, since the only context they ever hear about these things is conspiracy theory nutjobs. The powerful use an ocean of lies to hide that one pint of truth.

Between 1980 and 1985 alone, death squads in Guatemala – trained in torture and genocide by US experts at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, funded by US tax dollars, armed with US weapons, and accompanied by CIA “advisors” – massacred more than 100,000 people, mostly women and children, and mostly hacked to death with machetes, then buried in mass graves. All of this is verifiable. All of this is freely available information which can be obtained in any number of places, But the most common reaction I get when telling people about this is disbelief and mocking incredulity.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@SmashTheState OK, I’ll bite. Wikipedia link? ;)

Jenniehowell's avatar

@SmashTheState I suppose that is possible though I myself haven’t seen any proofs of it.

Your second paragraph makes me think of a conversation I recently had with a conspiracy theory goofball/nutjob. He was going on and on about how the Democrats in America have been completely infiltrated by communists and that the average person who is a Democrat is blind/clueless to this fact simply due to their attachments to a particular set of social policy beliefs they all hold in common & that the complete/current intent/agenda of this underground communist faction is to get UN Agenda21 passed in the US. Because of this belief he told me that there was literally nothing else that was worth getting angry about or informing others about because those things were small potatoes in comparison to the communist UN Agenda21 pushers.

My argument to him was that it would make more sense if he were to actually fight the small potatoes one by one which he felt fell under the umbrella of UN Agenda21 for three reasons. 1— The US Constitution prevents that entire agenda being approved/passed as a whole in this country because it requires itself to be higher in the legal hierarchy than all other treaties etc. 2 – if he is right and there really is a conspiracy then the only way they could get this agenda passed would be to pass the small pieces of it one by one over a period of years so that the average person wouldn’t suspect or fight it and would simply one day look up to find that they live in this socialist existence that he so extremely fears. & 3 – even if he is right no one with a brain would ever take him seriously unless he fought each little attempt to pass a portion of the agenda because otherwise he sounds like a conspiracy theory nutjob & people find conspiracies much more palatable when they are administered in small doses.

My point is that though there is no real proof that there is a conspiracy where the State & their corporate masters tacitly promote &/or originate some of these theories – if that is true it still makes more sense to simply fight each law/bill/act etc. that is put forth which may fall under the umbrella of those real Monsanto type scenarios so that the average person can better & more logically digest it. Otherwise, as you already mentioned a person simply gets bulked in with the bad apple bunch of conspiracy theory nutjobs in the world.

ucme's avatar

They tend to conspire & eventually perspire over a red hot camp fire.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@ucme so it’s been the boy scouts all along – now we know who to blame for all these cockamamie theories. I knew there was a bigger reason as to why they wouldn’t let me go on those camping trips ha ha

ucme's avatar

@Jenniehowell Don’t sit too close though boys or you’ll roast your nuts.

lillycoyote's avatar

I have no clue really. Perhaps it stems from the desire to believe that someone or some group of someones is actually “running the show” as opposed to facing the fact that the world is really a chaotic, unpredictable mishmash of historical forces, good and bad decisions by individuals and groups of people, of nations and leaders, “acts of God,” accidents, mishaps, unforeseen consequences and all of the other things that we humans can neither predict or control. Maybe it is more comforting to some people to believe that someone is in control of it all, no matter how evil they perceive them to be, rather than face the reality that none of us have any control, really, over any of it.

ETpro's avatar

@lillycoyote Great point. I’m sure the desire to impose order enters into it. It’s like, “Yeah this sucks, but at least somebody is in charge. And hey, I’m on to them.”

Jenniehowell's avatar

interesting point – in that sort of case I’d say it’s a cop out for the weak to some extent. An urge to have someone to blame for our own issues.

For instance we vote politicians into office and expect them to act as if they are our saviors and then when it doesn’t actually work out for us rather than blame ourselves for being weak enough to fall for their bs we blame the govt/politicians for it all. Same goes in other categories be it our parents or any other person or group of authority. We put too much faith in them & by finding someone else to blame we take the spotlight off of both our own failures and our own power at the same time.

augustlan's avatar

We used to have a member who was heavily invested in conspiracy theory. When I first encountered him, it was just one or two little conspiracies. Over the course of two years or so, I watched him go down the rabbit hole, chasing one theory after another, to the point where it was starting to make him mentally ill. He is a very bright guy, highly likable, charming, etc, and I talked to him about it at length, because I was so concerned about him. He said he felt like the blinders had finally fallen from his eyes, and like he was finally going to know THE TRUTH. Almost like he had felt all along as if he were living in The Truman Show, and had finally reached the edge of the make-believe world.

After he had rejected all evidence to the contrary, I met him on his own terms. I tried like hell to convince him that even if all the conspiracies were true, it would be impossible for him to affect any change on the situation, so why worry himself to death about it all? He said he knew he’d feel better once he hit bottom, and learned all there was to know. That he’d be able to put it to rest. I think maybe he has, finally. We’re still friends on Facebook, and he seems to be living a full and normal life again.

What do I make of all that? I’m not really sure. It seems like a life-long tendency toward paranoia might be one big factor. Maybe a bit of OCD in there, too, or at least compulsive thoughts.

ragingloli's avatar

Here is the thing: Conspiracies did happen. The Reichstag fire. The Gleiwitz incident, the Gulf of Tonkin event. The toppling of the democratically elected government in Iran by the US and UK. Operation Northwoods.
Of course, people who accept every conspiracy theory on flimsy to no evidence to outright nonsensical evidence are crazy. But so is everyone who rejects every conspiracy out of hand.

Trillian's avatar

So I’m wondering if those who believe this or that theory but not another fall into the same category of people who believe or don’t believe in other issues. For instance; studies have shown that people can listen to expert opinions about an issue which are polar opposites and rather than being confused still further they will choose to believe the opinion which most closely coincides with what they already believe or want to believe. So if a person believes in global warming being caused by the use of fossil fuels and is not a cyclic event and falls into the Al Gore camp, would that same person be more or less inclined to believe the 9/11 conspiracy theory?
Or do atheists have a group of conspiracies they all more or less agree upon as valid, and another group which causes eye rolling and head shaking.
How well documented are the bits of evidence in the theories? How long have they been in existence?

ro_in_motion's avatar

@ragingloli I need some valid sources for your information, I think. I checked Wikipedia for ‘Operation Northwoods’’: the first bit of its description ends with “None of the Operations Northwoods proposals became operational.” I’m not saying it didn’t happen – Wikipedia can be wrong. Educate me. :)

The fact that America partakes in regime change is well known at this point.

My first response on hearing a conspiracy theory is: Are ‘Those Involved’ so very competent that they can pull it off? Could the US really have false flagged 9/11? Really???? The amount of effort and people involved in doing so would almost, by definition, have resulted in leaks: then or now.

The answer, for me, is that it’s virtually impossible to pull something like that off.

However …

Wasting time on Big Conspiracy prevents the Little Nasty Ones from being exposed. Among the little ones:
1. The 9/11 hijackers were Saudi not Iraqi.
2. There were no WMD’s. Think how relatively simple it would have been to make one in the US, ship it over to Iraq and then ‘discover’ it.
3. Since 9/11, Americans have lost so very many civil rights.
4. American citizens can be assassinated by the President’s bidding.
5. The Internet is both being censored and all posts ever are being stored in government computers. In the UK, there’s a bill pending which would allow the Government to also grab all email and search it without a warrant.

This is why I actually hate “O! Building 6 was obviously blown up by the US” or “No plane crashed into the Pentagon” sorts of things. It causes people to lose focus on what’s really happening.

This is why I was so overjoyed when OWS happened. These were people who were involved in actually changing the world without resorting to fear mongering or conspiracy theories. The science behind OSW’s claim is well established.

ragingloli's avatar

I never claimed northwoods was executed. The fact that it was planned at all is enough.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Trillian While there are plenty of nut-case atheists, the basic principal of atheism is immune from conspiracy theories.

Simply stated: Prove it.

That’s really all there is to it. “You are making this incredible claim about an invisible thing that is all seeing, all knowing and all powerful and provides you with all of these alleged miracles. Prove it.”

And, of course, the believers can’t. They rely instead on magical thinking. Sad.

It’s impossible to prove God doesn’t exist – you can’t prove a negative. As an example, prove that a pink teapot isn’t floating in Saturn’s rings.

Atheism is based on the very simple, very accurate rigours of science.

Let’s look at global warming. Again, it’s happening. I was in University a loooong time ago and remember hearing about it then. There wasn’t much proof. Only a few scientists were looking at the problem. Today, the amount of science showing the global warming is true is staggering. There is simply no scientific way to deny it at this point.

Not all (maybe most) are not “in” Gore’s camp. That kind of sounds conspiratorial when used the way you did. He deserves credit for the parts of his message in An Inconvenient Truth that were correct and he received scientific criticism for the parts that were wrong.

Here’s the real kicker for me:

If there were any way to prove God exists or that global warming was false, it would have happened by now. Consider the amount of money poured into churches or the amount of money poured into warming-deniers (see the Koch brothers for details). Consider how many scientists study, say, global warming. The first thing a scientist does is try to come up with a way to show the contrary is true. If I could either prove there was a God or that global warming was a myth, I would win Nobel prizes and be richer than even I can imagine. It just hasn’t happened.

If you want to go for conspiracy theories go after the Koch brothers, religion and others. As an example, I am ancient. I remember when the Flintstones were first aired (in glorious black and white) and Fred and Barney would do commercials for Winston cigarettes. [Aside: I even remember the slogan: Winston tastes good {snap snap} like a cigarette should.] It was well known that cigarettes were bad even then.

The cigarette companies (Big Tobacco) pour a seemingly never-ending amount of money into research to cast doubt on cigarettes causing cancer. Other scientists were able to show how flawed the tobacco-founded research was done. Long after there was no scientific doubt that cigarettes cause cancer, there was this nightmarish moment when the CEO’s of Big Tabacco all stood in front of a Senate committee, raised there hands and swore that they didn’t have evidence that smoking causes cancer. Since then, each company’s exposed internal documents showed that they knew it did. Yet none of them were brought up on perjury.

Wikipedia is always good for a first source. Clicking on the external links and on the citations will bring you to the primary research. Google the rest. It’s amazingly easy to see where the reality stops and bullshit starts.

Before I end this, I will bring up the TSA. Among the myriad of things they do wrong is this one: Taking a 400 ml bottle of some liquid on a plane is bad. Taking four 100ml bottles on a plane is good. Excuse me???? :)

Jenniehowell's avatar

@augustlan interesting – this sounds similar to the person I mentioned in one of my earlier comments. His paranoia has grown from being an average conservative American citizen with a genuine concern for following the constitution, fiscal responsibility and state’s rights to being convinced that there is a secret underground faction of communists that only he (& a handful of others) can see due to his special powers of being able to filter information to recognize the TRUTH.

When considering this particular guy I have to admit that OCD may easily be a part of his life. His mother was very nitpicky and OCD about things and additionally had Huntington’s Disease which often comes with extreme mood swings and manic/paranoid attacks on others before many of the other symptoms appear. Huntington’s is passed down in families so I am curious sometimes based on his behavior as to whether or not he is experiencing the beginning symptoms of it. Even if he’s not though it would not surprise me if he does not cause himself a health issue after years of his erratic paranoia and angry outbursts toward those who don’t fall into line with his views. I swear one day he will have a heart attack.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@ro_in_motion RE: your OWS comment – you may be interested in this article – I thought it had some good points about protesting vs. actually creating revolutions.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Jenniehowell Interesting read. :)

I think OWS is a revolution. I hope the participants never match the violence of the police. I have the seen from the movie ‘Gandhi’ in mind where the protesters lined up to be beaten by the police. That was a world-changing event.

It’s past time to rein in the omnivorous appetite of capitalism. As the end game, we end up with one person owning everything. And that one person won’t be me or thee! Drat!

Jenniehowell's avatar

@ro_in_motion I choose to have a faith/belief/magical thinking in regard to your statement ”If there were any way to prove God exists or that global warming was false, it would have happened by now.” I have no attachment to either of those particular topics but I would simply say that when we reflect upon the history of science and how it has/hasn’t proven one theory or another to be true we know that over time as more technology is created/invented etc. and more tests and studies etc. are done often times more evidence then becomes discover-able. For instance, back in the day bacteria and whatever it may create or cause was merely a theory and then microscopes and extreme levels of magnification were invented and wallah we could actually see bacteria and begin to study it.

My point isn’t that God really exists and we simply haven’t found an extreme enough magnification with which to locate him but rather that what we all at any point in time believe to be fact based on scientific proofs etc. is relative because with the advancement of science itself more things become discover-able.

Science could in fact eventually prove that there is such a thing as a soul & spirit or it could prove that humans have the ability to control and manipulate energy through a form of personal EMI of some sort if/when they hone that ability and therefore people like Buddha & Jesus are not related to a God in any way they simply were able to do odd things with their bodies and the things around them due to their skills at manipulating EMI within the space around them.

My point: Who knows what will and won’t be changed or proven as technology advances. I would be willing to bet that if someone has the money and technology and time to do so they could easily investigate every inch of Saturn’s rings and actually prove that the little pink teapot is really not there…

but even after that point of proof against the teapot – there will be someone who sees a little rock, cloud or shadow in the shape of a teapot in the pictures of the rings of Saturn and uses it to claim a conspiracy that then a bunch of others will jump to believe in the pink teapot conspiracy & that a secret faction within the Free Masons actually put the last existing tidbits of the fountain of youth in that teapot and hid it in Saturn’s rings for the purpose of protecting it from the rest of us and the only way to get out access to it is to be distantly related to JP Morgan and be a member of Skull & Bones.

It is those types of “believers” that I am curious about – those who are attached to these cockamamie theories rather than the facts that happen to exist at any particular point in time. Is there something within the DNA of each of us that could be tracked down & potentially cured without damaging our sense of logic and our ability to see patterns and link them in logical ways? Could someone get their DNA makeup investigated in their teen years and then just as some choose to do when they find they are pre-disposed to get breast cancer… can they remove their conspiracy cells in the same way they would their breasts? What in the world is that underlying ingredient or specific set of ingredients that eventually snap together like a lego to eventually build the average conspiracy theorist?

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Jenniehowell When I use ‘magical thinking’ I am not exclusively looking at religion. We all have magical thinking errors we have to get over:
1. I won’t grow up and be like my parents.
2. My child will be so happy because I won’t do to him what my parents did to me.
3. When I grow up, I can be President.

Anytime we base our beliefs on incomplete evidence or a total lack of evidence, we are thinking magically.

When I say it’s impossible to prove that a teapot is orbiting Saturn, I mean it’s literally impossible. I can run tests that say: Wherever I’ve looked, there’s no teapot. It doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Your last paragraph is simultaneously interesting and frightening. :)

Imagine if profound belief in a God and/or having ecstatic religious experiences was the result of one or more genes? There’s current research showing just that albeit that it’s very early, new research. It’s generic name is the ‘God gene’. There’s more to it than I am saying, wikipedia has a number of great articles related to that.

That’s interesting.

Here’s where it gets scary:
Which way do you go (if any). I could see religions getting behind giving children a ‘God gene’ treatment. I can see others who will claim that the gene causes hallucinations and there should be treatment to eliminate it.

Fun times.

Trillian's avatar

@ro_in_motion wow, way too much to read, but I cought your reference to golbal warming that you misrepresented back to me. I never said it wasn’t real, or took a position either way. I said there are those who believe it is caused by use of fossil fuels as opposed to being part of a cycle.
I don’t care enough about any of this to have an argument.
If you can’t see what my basic question was by what I wrote the first time, oh well. I’m just not going to engage in a debate about something that I don’t care about.
I’m not “going after” anybody. Just wondered further along the lines of what the OP asked.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@ro_in_motion I knew what you meant about the magical thinking – I was just saying that I choose to have a bit of magical thinking in my life in that even though there are things with no proofs I choose not to hold tight to a belief that it means they don’t exist or even a belief that they do exist. Additionally, I choose to hold to a belief that there is a high potential for some technological advancement or another to provide us with the ability to find out either way.

I recognize that belief I choose to hold as something that would likely fall under the umbrella of “magical thinking” because however logical that belief may be I don’t think I could argue that there is proof or that my belief isn’t based on nothing more than some patterns I recognize in the history of science and technology.

I feel that if I were not objective enough to recognize that my thinking was not of the magical variety in that particular area that I would then all of a sudden fall into the category in which we are discussing and I myself would be then a conspiracy theorist who believes in future unpredictable inventions & discoveries which would ultimately prove all of my beliefs and faiths to be true.

& yes – that whole God Gene thing is a bit on the scary side while interesting at the same time.

SmashTheState's avatar

There should be a boxing glove which comes out on a spring and knocks out anyone who replies to a posting with “TLDR.”

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Trillian I tried to answer your question. If I didn’t answer it, tell me how and I will do my best to address those issues. Of course, that would mean actually reading what I write. ;)

Trillian's avatar

@ro_in_motion ok, I’ll check back after work when I actually have time to read all that. thx.

lillycoyote's avatar

I certainly agree that conspiracies do happen, they do occur, but I think some of these complex, ongoing, vast conspiracies that some people propose and believe in require much more coordination, cooperation, communication and balancing of egos and self-interest than human beings, in general, when working together to accomplish a common goal, are actually capable of.

I think people entering into a conspiracy together are subject to the same problems that any people entering into a common goal are subject to, and I think it may be even more difficult to pull off a good conspiracy among the wealthy, powerful elite, the usual subjects, because those people may be even less inclined than ordinary people to surrender their egos and self-interests, to trust their compatriots, to cooperate in order to achieve whatever the goal of the conspiracy is.

If rich, powerful, driven, ambitious, ego-driven, self-interested people can cooperate enough to put together some vast, enduring, global conspiracy, without ending up conspiring against one another, without becoming paranoid and suspicious of one another, without stabbing each other in the back and betraying and scheming against one another at some point, it would really surprise me. LIttle, compact, short-lived conspiracies seem very possible, but not some of these long term, global ones I just don’t think it could happen. But maybe I am naive. Or maybe I’ve seen too many movies. Who knows.

Paradox25's avatar

No more different than my opinion of fulltime or professional sceptics. Not all people who believe that one or two conspiracy theories may be true are conspiracy theorists. Just like there is a difference between being sceptical vs being a professional debunker or obscurant. To the people who are obsessed with conspiracy theories (personally I don’t know of any conspiracy theorists) I guess I could say that they have too much free time on their hands.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@Paradox25 just the concept that I could be a professional debunker makes me a tad bit excitable LOL. Seriously, I don’t have time for such a thing but I do love love love doing random bits of research for no major reason other than to “know” the facts that exist about one thing or another so perhaps when I hit the lotto I’ll be back on fluther being discussed as to how annoying I am because of my constant debunkerizing hee hee

lillycoyote's avatar

@Jenniehowell Sadly, even if you had the time to be a professional conspiracy theory debunker, I don’t think you or anyone else could make a living at it. Even if you did it as a “labor of love” you would be wasting your time, I think. In my experience, most conspiracy theorists are pretty much “debunk proof.” If the only thing you have in your arsenal are facts, if all you are armed with is truth and reason… those folks are pretty much immune to that kind of thing.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Jenniehowell Go for it! We need all the rational books we can get!

Paradox25's avatar

@Jenniehowell Actually there are many people out there who spend a great deal of their lives debunking subjects they do not favor or support. There are many sceptical organizations out there. Most people (I’m not talking about the fluther userbase here) do believe that there may be truth to one or two conspiracy theories, but I would stop short of calling them conspiracy theorists. Like I’ve said before I’m a sceptical person but I’m not a sceptic. Personally I’m more interested in the truth, not labels.

@ro_in_motion Unfortunately there are many people who carry with them the ‘rational’ label. Many conspiracy theorists consider themselves rational, but so do many dogmatic sceptics or what I call irrational rationalists. Scepticism did not bring us the tv, radio or many other things that we use today, and even these inventions had their devoted fulltime sceptics at the time. I think that scepticism is important, but there is a big difference between true scepticism vs pseudoscepticism.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Paradox25 I am not sure I understand your specific example. Scepticism is a two-edged sword. I use it not only to eliminate magical thinking in my life but also to change how I look at things in general. I am sceptical, for example, that current computers will be the ‘last’ generation. In business, I’ve struck out in new projects that others have tried and failed at because I was sceptical that their failure meant I would.

Paradox25's avatar

@ro_in_motion I’m not sure why you don’t understand my specific example. It was very straightforward, and I use scepticism myself. My whole point was that while I employ scepticism myself, that I don’t refer to myself as a ‘sceptic’. Also, pseudoscepticism is an actual term, with an actual meaning to it.

I’m not sure what you mean by magical thinking or ‘rational’ books. Are you implying that ‘rational’ people only agree with your set of views on different subject matter?

Jenniehowell's avatar

@lillycoyote I don’t think there’s a living to be made in it either – hence the mention of winning the lottery being a pre-requisite – I just enjoy research, proofs and facts – to me being a professional debunker after winning the lottery would be similar to someone else winning the lottery and spending their time shopping or hanging on the beach. I’d much rather hang out on the beach with my laptop researching the reasons that shopping was a waste of time and life would be better if we all just invested in a tshirt, shorts, some flip flops, a beach chair and an endless supply of margaritas.

NomoreY_A's avatar

I don’t care for the term conspiracy theory. I think it’s a question of discerning the difference between deliberate disinformation, and plausible theories. Example: I believe the 9/11 inside job theories are more plausible than the official explanation. They expect us to believe that a handful of “Arab terrorists”, most of whom couldn’t have flown a kite, were somehow able to hijack 4 big ass airliners, then fly them with expert precision into at least 3 of their targets. Being the two twin Towers and the Pentagon. Flight 93 is another can of worms by itself. And all under the nose of NORAD, and the mightiest Air Force to thus far exist since the advent of flight. Is that more logical than the idea that greedy, traitorous, and self serving persons with in our own Government might have planned and instigated the affair? Then the Kennedy thing… Oswald was noted as a poor marksman, and no one has since been able to squeeze off the shots that he allegedly did, within the time allotted. Is the “Oswald did it” theory more logical than the idea that many power players in this country wanted Kennedy removed for a variety or reasons, and that they had the means, motive, and opportunity to pull off the assassination? Do your own thinking, don’t let societal pressure or Government hacks tell you what to believe.

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