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!”

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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TED – Jeff Hawkins: We Need a Theory of Brain Science

Jeff discusses the need for a coherent paradigm, grounded in sciences like biology, physics, mathematics, and yes, neuroscience, for how the brain works as a better model of making truly intelligent machines, which would be based, not on behavior, but on the same ability of our own brains to take in data and make predictions about what we perceive.

While this probably wouldn’t lead to Asimov’s R. Daneel Olivaw or the Terminator, it would be a better, much more realistic model resulting in computers as more than just fast processing machines, but truly intelligent in the same way we are, using better criteria to assess this intelligence than the Turing tests we use now.

Point by Point: Electric Universe Theory

Here’s a little exchange I found on an online forum between an Electric Universe advocate and a critic of same. The names have been deleted to protect the guilty. The grammar, punctuation, and text is verbatim.

[1A] Instead of gravity being the main power behind the universe, Electro-magnetism is.

[1B] This would be true if it weren’t for the existence of electric dipoles. Positive and negative charges have this quality of cancelling each other out, so the overall electric force in the universe, on large scales, is very small.

[2A] It asserts that the power that drives the sun is charges plasma…

[2B] This is almost true. The Sun is a neutral plasma. The electric universe “theory”, though, claims that the power of the sun is generated on the surface, which just isn’t possible. The densities are too low, and the temperature too, to explain the Sun’s energy output.

[3A] …and that an electric current runs from star to star, through galaxy’s, and even through the universe itself.

[3B] This would be observable. Its not observed. Therefore, it’s not true. We certainly see solar and stellar winds, but they’re always in an outward direction. Spray two water hoses at each other and see how much “current” you get.

[4A] It offers a new explanation for what we call black holes. That, they don’t exist. And what we actually see is converging lines of force.

[4B] This claim doesn’t even make any sense. Electric field lines “of force” can only converge on charges. If there are charges, they’ll feel that force, and be accelerated. Accelerated charges give off radiation and therefore are no longer “black”. We’d be able to see these things. More importantly, the electric universe doesn’t account for things like gravitational red-shifting around black holes, which we’ve observed. It fails every observational test it’s ever been subjected to. The model is bunk.

[5A] Yes, the idea that space is actually filled with billions of charged plasma particles instead of actually being a vacuum.

[5B] The problem is that space is actually filled with billions of uncharged particles. We’ve mapped the Milky Way using neutral hydrogen. If space were filled with a plasma, it would eat away at neutral objects, and we wouldn’t see any neutral Hydrogen. Again, it fails the test.

[6A] Stars are powered externally by this “Universal current”, and the tails of comets are electrical discharges… It’s pretty interesting.

[6B] Unfortunately, we already have a model for how stars work, and how comets tails come into being. These models fit the observations. The Electric Universe does not. I mean, please show us this “universal current”. It should be radiating like a mo-fo.

[7A] I am accepting this cosmological model over the Big Bang Theory (BBT). It offers easy explanations for things people had to invent (Neutron Stars, Black Holes, Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and other things ) To explain what they were witnessing in space.

[7B] Easy, but fundamentally wrong explanations. I can offer you an easier explanation of gravity than General Relativity: Everything is held together by giant invisible springs! The only problem is that I’m wrong! Neutron stars have been explained. The physics behind them is very sound. It’s called Quantum Mechanics, and it’s the same theory that engineers have used to build the computer you’re using right now. Dark Matter is a blanket term for “too much gravity”. We see too much gravity. We suggest there’s unseen (“dark”) matter. People are now looking for what this matter could possibly be. Dark Energy is another blanket term. We see too much energy. We don’t know the source (i.e. it’s “dark”). There you have dark energy. Dark Matter and Dark Energy may be uncertain things, but the fact that the Electric Universe fails is not. It doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

I would be much more impressed by this ‘theory’ if it actually had real evidence in support of it, added to our understanding of astrophysics instead of denying it, made genuine testable predictions exceeding those of conventional cosmological theory, and explained the universe better than standard astrophysical theory does, and didn’t consist only of arguments attempting to refute trivial anomalies that the proponents of electric universe theory constantly claim as being in support of their idea, as if by discrediting standard astronomy and astrophysics that their doctrine wins by default, committing the false dichotomy fallacy.

As it stands, I am not at all impressed, nor amused, since EU theory proponents lack any real knowledge of the science they try to undermine. Even the physics they claim to advocate they fail to grasp, which elicits much pathos from my bleeding heart. How sad..

Baloney Detection 101 – Scientific Theory

A scientific theory, as opposed to the everyday use of the word “theory,” is more than just a guess, and it isn’t, as Isaac Asimov once quipped, something you came up with while drunk.

It’s a set of ideas that weaves facts together into a single overall description and detailed explanation for a given set of phenomena.

All scientific theories are provisional, never proven with complete metaphysical certainty, and are sometimes demonstrably factual, but it’s important to tell a theory from the facts it describes.

The scientific use of a theory gives no a priori indication of its actual level of certainty, but any given set of ideas might be so well established by repeated testing as to be confirmed beyond all rational doubt. There are the theories of genetic inheritance, general and special relativity, quantum mechanics, number theory in mathematics, music theory in music, stress theory in engineering, the germ theory of disease, atomic theory, heliocentric theory, the global Earth theory, plate tectonics theory, and of course, that boogieman of creationists, evolution.

Booga-Booga! Eeevilution!

And not everyone’s doubt is rational, with various sorts of science denialists given to labeling any set of theories they have a bug up their posteriors about as “just theory, not fact,'” playing on the everyday use of both the words ‘theory,’ and ‘fact.’

A theory is not a hypothesis; the latter is just a part of a theory,a proposed explanation with a given set of predictions within a theory’s framework. That’s what you’d expect to see, or not see, if that part of the theory is to be tested.

Theories aren’t facts; they explain and describe facts. And facts are not certainties, outside of formal logic and maths. Never confuse those.

Facts in science are never absolute, due to science’s provisional nature. It can never be known absolutely that some data which might disconfirm any particular fact will never rear its ugly head at any arbitrary point in the future.

Theories are not ‘promoted’ to laws, they being two different sorts of beasts – laws merely define things, give a mathematical structure to a phenomenon we can use in applying it, while a theory describes and explains how it works.

Theories usually start as models, which offer testable hypotheses for experiment or other observation; there’s the comparative method in mostly historical sciences: geology, cliodynamics, cosmology, astronomy, paleontology, and archaeology to name a few.

No, you don’t have to do experiments in a lab to do science. Otherwise, no crime ever committed could be solved using evidence left at the scene where it happened, and detectives would be permanently out of work as a profession.

Science isn’t just for the nerds in lab coats and pocket-protectors.

Most science today is done as a community effort, evolving over time, and all involved in a study contribute to the overall theory being investigated and hypotheses tested; the idea of the lone researcher working in his basement lab, the sole author of his ideas, is a quaint notion, however popular it may be.

Even broader than a theory is an overarching concept called a paradigm, often composed of many theories. M-theory in cosmology might be a good example of a paradigm, as a candidate for a “theory of everything” composed of many subsets that individually describe and explain some aspect of reality.

The term paradigm was coined or popularized by philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn and he used it in an early attempt to describe the internal process by which science changes, though it is now more often used in the sciences to refer to a conceptual tool, as a mode of thinking or general working approach to theories and frameworks of theories.

Good theories are never supported by only one piece of evidence, but through multiple, often thousands, millions, or more independent lines of data spread throughout many fields of research, which is why the demand science denialists make of, “show me just one piece of evidence that proves the theory true,” is nothing more than an empty rhetorical stunt, and an illegitimate shifting of the burden of proof.

The burden of proof rests with those making unsupported claims and asserting questionable facts, not advocates of well established and previously demonstrated findings.

Ultimately, no theory can be proven to be timelessly, absolutely true by finite data.

That’s because it sometimes only takes one reliable and properly documented observation to falsify one or more hypotheses of that theory.

In science, there are no absolute truths, so sometimes, that one reliable observation is all it takes to bring down a previously, but erroneously accepted idea, or to subsume it into an overall new theory with a more narrow but still valid domain of application.

That’s why such ideas as phlogiston, the luminiferous ether, and phrenology are no longer accepted as viable theories in science.

And with the junking of ideas that don’t work, and science’s ability to correct its course to an ever more accurate view of the world, who needs absolute truth?

(Last Update: 2019/2/26, 13:50)