This is a rerelease of an earlier post, retro-posted to its original date, updated, cleaned up, and clarified, with a link to the most recent version of these postulates here (now four of them). Enjoy.
A bit back, I had come up with a set of general rules of thumb to judge the relative plausibility of conspiracy theories, first only one, then two, and just recently completing them as a full set of three, in the spirit of Clarke’s three laws, as well as Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics and his semi-humorously intended Laws of Humanics.
But these are postulates, not laws, though they have shown themselves remarkably consistent and useful predictive guides indeed.
The postulates are general observations on features of conspiracy theories ranging from the seemingly sound to the bizarre, and of what things to look out for and sound the shenanigans alert when dealing with the claims of conspiracists.
- The likelihood of any given conspiracy theory being true is inversely proportional to the amount of fallacious rationalization that goes into it.
The next involves what’s known as “cascade logic,” spurious reasoning in which the conspiracy must be ever-widened with enormous numbers of people “in on it” to support the theory.
Never mind that it’s highly implausible for a conspiracy to involve thousands or even millions of people, all of them sinister-minded, comically evil, and as obedient to their masters as Daleks. And not one of them ever blowing cover once for personal gain or ethical reasons, or any of the other reasons for blowing big secrets wide open. People in the real world tend to be pretty bad at keeping secrets.
If even the United States government couldn’t keep the secret of the atomic bomb, or in the last century, the affairs of a US president in the oval office, even if conspiracies do happen and secrets are sometimes successfully kept, it’s the successful conspiracies that no one, and I mean no one uninvolved, ever hears about until said conspiracies are exposed, unsuccessful, widely known of, and thus no longer pose a threat.
- The plausibility of any given conspiracy theory is inversely proportional to the number of people allegedly involved in it.
This last one is a variant of Godwin’s Law, dealing with the invective that flies when unsupported claims of conspiracy are challenged by those less inclined to be taken in by or to promote them.
- The probability of being accused of implication as a craven shill, stooge, or dupe in a conspiracy is directly proportional to the implausibility a critic attributes to its theory and to the level of self-righteous indignation of the conspiracist.
I find these useful for separating the absurd theories from the more likely ones, and best used together in looking for fallacious and baroque chains of argument, including cascade reasoning, special pleading and ad hominem arguments of motive and knowing or naive involvement in the conspiracy.
I hope you find these amusing if nothing else, but never forget that the most important thing is the evidence for a claim – these postulates are only intended to raise the proverbial red flags, to help noting when something sounds fishy, but are a good indicator of nonsense if no evidence, only more claims, are given by the conspiracist.
- Believing the impossible and conspiracy theories (physorg.com)
- Believing the impossible and conspiracy theories (esciencenews.com)
- Is obsession with conspiracy theories a sign of schizophrenia? (gunnyg.wordpress.com)