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!”

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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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.


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.

Considering Conspiracies

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

Image via Wikipedia

I was looking through the January-February 2011 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, and was especially interested in the issue’s feature article, The Conspiracy Meme, written by sociologist Ted Goertzel.
Rather than rehash the article here, I thought I’d add a little commentary and a couple of observations I’ve made about conspiracy theories in general.

Now, while it would be silly to suppose that conspiracies don’t happen–after all, anytime you have two or more people secretly gathering to plan something, that could be considered a conspiracy–there is no one universally accepted definition of a conspiracy, and everybody has their own take on what constitutes one.

Most such theories, however allege something outright evil, or in the more likely theories, merely illegal, or at the very least classified, about the nature of the conspiracy.

To me, in any claim of a conspiracy, it’s more parsimonious to attribute incompetence to a serious f*ck-up than sinister intent by agencies unseen unless there is a good reason to suppose the latter.

As one of my commenters pointed out in an earlier post, the terror attacks of 9/11, 2001 couldn’t have been an ‘inside job’ by the Bush administration because of the simple and graphic fact that they succeeded as well as they did.

Interestingly, those fingered as conspirators are attributed with both incredible intelligence and incredible stupidity at the same time–smart enough to cover their tracks to the rest of the sheeple, but somehow just not bright enough to hide their diabolical plans from the intellectually superior conspiracy theorists themselves.

I’ve found it useful to be suspicious of such claims unless they are reasonably supported and the following may be of some value in assessing them:

The likelihood of any given conspiracy theory being true is inversely proportional to the amount of unsupported rationalization that goes into it,

…and the corollary of this observation:

The successful, well-organized and secret conspiracy is the one that nobody not ‘in on it,’ even you, know about–After all, it’s a secret, and if you know about it and are not part of it, it’s no longer successful nor well-organized nor a secret.

Regarding those who claim poorly substantiated and often implausible conspiracies and who think themselves ‘skeptical’ of large institutions, I think that it’s a good idea to be skeptical of their skepticism.