Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Belief in Conspiracies Trivialized by Skeptics

There are skeptics who want to fool you, by attempting to discredit legitimate conspiracies. 

Some try to make people who believe in conspiracies look crazy. There are skeptics who have even coined the term, "conspiracy nut" into a joke. They want to convince you that the belief in conspiracies is linked to a Machiavellian Mindset, whatever that means.

However, according to recent polls, most Americans agree that the scenario posed by at least one conspiracy theory is very likely or somewhat likely (see my Conspiracy Watch article The 10 Most Popular Conspiracies). Doesn't this mean that these skeptics are calling the majority of Americans nuts?

Still the skeptics continue to try and make us look like fools. There is even a Skeptics Society, which hosts the laughable Skeptic Magazine Articles Archives, as well as the somewhat more credible UK Skeptics.

The UK Skeptics write on their website, although, "'conspiracy theorist' is generally a pejorative term used to discredit people for having far-fetched beliefs. In reality, however, conspiracy theory is not just just about zany ideas... Conspiracies are real."

UK Skeptics continue, "Conspiracies occur in many walks of life: politics; organized crime; cartels; insider dealing; scams; etc. It is illegal to conspire, therefore conspiracies are usually cloaked in secrecy. This is the cause of the speculative nature of conspiracy theories; it is also the excuse used to mask the lack of evidence in the more bizarre theories.

Conspiracy theories are legitimately used by historians, for example. A conspiracy theory could be postulated based on incomplete evidence; suggestive facts; probability; or even coincidences.

This type of legitimate conspiracy theory is generally accepted as credible, although not proven, as they have some supporting evidence and are based on sound reasoning. A good example from history is the "Princes in the Tower" where historians have identified several likely suspects that may have been behind the plot to murder the princes. None of the theories is claimed to be the truth: they are merely proposed as being likely given the incomplete evidence; each theory having its own strengths and weaknesses.

Valid conspiracy theories are those that are considered plausible. There are many valid conspiracy theories, many of which continuously come under attack from skeptics and those who have something to gain from them becoming discredited.

Though theories such as being controlled by aliens may be unbelievable, theories concerning certain secret societies, government cover-ups, assassinations and many others are undoubtedly true. Still skeptics have lumped all these theories together and termed them "paranoid conspiracy theorists" (PCTs).

The UK Skeptics continues on about "paranoid conspiracy theorists", though Conspiracy Watch has little if anything to do with these theories, since these are based primarily on speculation, having little if any factual evidence to back them.

Another skeptical hack, Tom Jacobsstarts his article, Belief in Conspiracies Linked to Machiavellian Mindset... Know any conspiracy theorists?" No doubt they’ve tried to convince you that man didn’t really land on the moon or President Obama was born in Kenya.”

Jacobs rants on about people who believe in certain conspiracies “…were imparting genuinely interesting information about themselves. New research suggests belief in such theories may reveal a Machiavellian mindset” (Machiavellianism as it turns out, is the tendency to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain).

Jacobs quotes one study in which 189 British undergraduates completed the MACH-IV questionnaire to measure their level of Machiavellianism. This involves expressing one’s level of agreement with a series of statements such as “The best way to handle people is to tell them what they want to hear.” Duh! Tell us something we haven already known all along!

“At least among some samples and for some conspiracy theories, the perception that ‘they did it’ is fueled by the perception that ‘I would do it,’” University of Kent psychologists Karen Douglas and Robbie Sutton write in the British Journal of Social Psychology.

“These studies suggest that people who have more lax personal morality may endorse conspiracy theories to a greater extent because they are, on average, more willing to participate in the conspiracies themselves. 

So let me ask you, my dear reader, since you probably believe in one or more conspiracies (otherwise you would probably not be reading my Conspiracy Watch blog), does this mean you have more lax personal morality?

The reasons people persist in believing conspiracy theories have long been debated by psychologists. One of their theories contends that we are convincing ourselves of conspiracies as to avoid acknowledging the terrifying arbitrariness of life.

British psychologist Patrick Leman noted in New Scientist in 2007, that some conspiracy theories offer us accounts of events that allow us to retain a sense of safety and predictability.

My readers and I would love to read your thoughts on everything and anything conspiracies, so don't be afraid to leave your comment, down bellow.

The Encyclopedia of Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracies and conspiracy theories, both documented and undocumented, this volume's 500-plus entries are arranged alphabetically. The selection of topics represents what Newton considers "significant" conspiracy and conspiracy theories--that is, those that affect large numbers of people or inspire widespread interest. The volume contains more than 80 black-and-white photographs. The 200 or so listings in the bibliography are limited to sources published or translated in the English language. 426 pages.
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