Mr. Eccles Presents | Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories


 

“Why do people believe conspiracy theories? What’s the harm if they do? And just what is a conspiracy theory, anyway? Conspiracy theories captured the attention of philosophers and historians decades ago, but it is only within the last few years that psychologists have begun gathering data on these kinds of questions. In this talk, Rob Brotherton provides a psychological perspective on conspiracism, drawing on his own research as well as other insights explored in his book Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories. In particular, research into cognitive biases and heuristics – quirks in the way our brains are wired – suggests that we’re all intuitive conspiracy theorists; some of us just hide it better than others. Rob Brotherton is an academic psychologist. He completed a PhD on the psychology of conspiracy theories with the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London. He now lives in New York City and teaches classes on conspiracy theories, social psychology, and science communication at Barnard College. This talk was recorded live at CSICon Las Vegas on Saturday, October 28th 2017. See more at reasonabletalk.tv!”

Mr. Eccles Presents | How Conspiracy Theories Destroy Families


I have no personal beef with conservatives of the sane, sensible sort, and I’m rather fond of those I call friends and family. They’re good peeps. My problem, as with some on the far left, lies with the extremists.

While there are conspiracy theories promoted on both ends of the political spectrum, this seems especially common with the radical right wing in the United States.

This is a problem for the safety of all sane Americans that begs for a solution.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

The Four, FOUR Postulates of Conspiracy Theories, Ah, Ah, Ah!


I recently came across some old fractal memes in my files, and decided to do an update to Three Postulates of Moonbat Conspiracy Theories and three followup posts Here, Here, and Here. I thought it would be fun to give them facelifts and reformulate them in light of current understanding. In all truth, the original memes could have looked better, and been much easier to read…

I do not call them laws, much less name them after myself, as I think that presumptuous.

These memes will read as dismissive, and that is exactly as intended. Claims offered with no evidence beyond illogical connections of invisible dots are well-deserving of being dismissed without needing evidence against them. Hitchens’ dictum, my peeps.

Yes, conspiracies do sometimes happen, but the vast majority that frequent the Internet and make the rounds in chain emails and 24 hour political news cycles ought to be called out as what they are: baseless nonsense and propaganda, spread with a paranoid fervor to deliberately misinform and mislead.

So here they are, the Four Postulates of (Moonbat) Conspiracy Theories, using better images and new fonts.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

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Mr. Eccles Presents | Conspiracy Theorists: Paris Attacks Were Faked Using Crisis Actors!


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The debunking of a silly claim of conspiracy theorists with too much time on their hands.

via Rebecca Watson‘s YouTube Channel

That Mitchell and Webb Look – Moon Landing Sketch


This is brilliant!…It’s the perfect comedic rebuttal to Moon landing denialism, what would have to be the case if it were a hoax…not that I expect the deniers to be convinced — you can’t convince a denier of anything when their denial is based only on ideology, not evidence.

Three Postulates of Moonbat Conspiracy Theories


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 1st:

  • 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 2nd:

  • 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 3rd:

  • 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.

Ubi Dubium… | Buzzwords of Nonsense


This post has been retitled, updated, and cleaned up grammatically on 21/10/2018 from the original, though the actual content and meaning are in essence the same. Enjoy. ~Troythulu

Those who promote nonsense as fact, and there are many, often use marketing techniques, saying that that their claims are “hidden,” “secret,” or “suppressed” knowledge, that some sinister, nebulous “they” don’t want you to have.

It’s really nothing more than a cynical selling point, included and not limited to terms like “natural,” “organic,” or my favorite, “holistic,”that last used in promoting alleged alternative medical treatments.

Let’s face it, this makes whatever idea or claim being sold look much sexier than the same not dressed up with a conspiracy theory or vague obscurantist buzzwords, and this makes it more appealing for those vulnerable to the sales pitch.

*Ahem*

Why do often smart people often fall for vague jargon that has no real meaning? Why do even smart people succumb to non-smart ideas and claims, even dangerous products or useless treatments?

I think there’s a number of reasons at play, and I doubt that it easily boils down to a simple answer, since people tend to be interestingly complex individuals with equally interesting and complex minds.

Now then….

People often consider vague and meaningless words and phrases to have deep meaning, and since we are a species that loves narratives, being storytelling animals, we tend to see patterns and attribute agency where they sometimes do not really exist.

We subjectively impose meaning to the meaningless, often without even being aware that we do it, and so fool ourselves into thinking that the meaning we give it comes from without rather than from within ourselves

The brain has been described as a belief engine – we see patterns and give them meaning whether those patterns and that meaning are really there or not as a way to explain what seems to happen around us, unthinkingly.

But one does not have to be mentally ill, poorly educated, or stupid to do this – it happens to all of us, simply because of how our brains operate, using simple rules of thumb that sometimes serve us well, and sometimes not.

In seeing the brain as an incredibly complex machine rather than an otherwise useless shell or mere interface for a mystical soul, it becomes obvious that a world in which everything not currently understood is a deep supernatural mystery unfathomable by science, is a lot less satisfying and interesting.

Pseudoscience and most paranormal claims seem to me more a failure of the imagination, and they lead to a worldview in which our sense of the truly wonderful in the world is dulled by bombardment with the same increasingly mundane claims and worn-out talking points by those riding the coattails of science without being willing to play by its rules or do its work.

Tf. Tk. Tts.