Sunday, April 15, 2012

Debunking Conspiracy Theories

For conspiracy theorists, truth is less about fact and more about what they want to believe.


I believe that extra terrestrials probably exist. I just don't believe any of them have ever been here. I believe that 9/11 was an inside job — inside Al Quaeda, that is. I believe the global warming hoax is... well... a hoax. I believe J.F.K. was assassinated by an American — just not one working for the CIA. I believe NASA's moon landings were faked for the HBO specials in 2001, but not in 1969. I believe that the world will end in 2012 for somebody, but the rest of us will be fine. Conspiracy Theories are utter nonsense, and I am about to demonstrate why.


Why People believe in nonsense

Which do you think is easier to believe? The truth or a lie? I put it to you, dear reader, that the human mind is better able to cope with lies than truths. Why? Because lies by their very nature are evolutionarily more sustainable than truth. If it were not for lies, then the entirety of human existence would have imploded in one violent burst of manic desperation as we ran around like animals killing each other like the barbarians we used to be over 3,000 years ago.

Lies facilitate cognitive evolution, and I'll prove it:

Everyday Lies we believe

It is easier to believe that your husband loves you and only you than to believe that your husband married you because you're the best he could do as far as women are concerned. It is easier to believe that size doesn't matter, than to believe that women do get more pleasure from a bigger penis (and would gladly have sex with your best friend if given the opportunity).

It is easier to believe that all men are created equal than to believe that some races of men are superior to others. It is easier to believe that men actually think that women deserve to be treated as economic equals than to believe that men don't like the idea that a woman should still be paid for going on maternity leave. It is easier to believe that god exists, than to believe that our lives are the result of a cosmic fluke that has no intrinsic value whatsoever.

It is easier to believe that every time you hear about someone being killed that they provoked the killer, than to believe that the killer just enjoys killing. It is easier (for women) to believe that Rihanna caused Chris Brown to beat her to a pulp, than to believe that Chris Brown is just an a**hole. It is easier to believe that world peace is possible, than to believe that only the country with the bigger gun gets to rule the world. I could go on, but you get the idea.

We believe in lies not because we think they are true, but rather because they make life less of the bitch that it really is. Without any of the lies I mentioned earlier, we would never have a United Nations. We would have ended our civilization with a nuclear war 40 years ago. Black people would still be slaves. Women would still be second class citizens. The institution of marriage would have never survived this long. We would never have a Geneva Convention, a World Bank, or even Democracy. Lies are a fundamental component of the human condition.

In fact, ask any diplomat and they will tell you that the subtle art of diplomacy is learning how to say "nice doggie" until you can find a rock. Diplomacy is the science of learning how to gently pull your hand out of the lion's mouth until you can reach your shot gun. Every form of politics is predicated upon making promises to the stupid people just so that they can win an election.

So as you can see, without lies, we would never have learned to say things like "it's all going to be OK", knowing perfectly well that the target of such a phrase has no chance in hell of making it. The very act of pacification and the concept of euphemism is based on lying. We lie because we have fragile sensibilities. We lie because the human mind is most times devoid of the ability to process the truth. Sometimes however, we get so good at lying to ourselves (and have done it for so long) that we tend to forget where the lie ends and the truth begins.

—or if there was any truth to it at all. Enter:

The Conspiracy Theory

Now that you see the evolutionary necessity of lying (especially to ourselves), several things should automatically fall in place. Lies shield the human mind from the cold, brutal, harshness of the truth. That's part of the reason why religion thrives, providing subscribers with the beliefs and rituals that bring them peace of mind. It's really just a far safer way to get drunk.

Consequently, you may think that conspiracy theories are a recent phenomenon. I assure you, they're not. Conspiracy theories have been with us since the dawn of human intelligence. Ancient men used to blame natural events on the whims of gods who had strikingly human like propensities. They believed that whenever volcanoes erupted, earthquakes shook or storms struck, that the gods were in a consortium of immortals perniciously conspiring against man.

We humanised these powerful forces of nature to make them appeasable and reasonable. We did this to give ourselves the hope that if we prayed hard enough, or sacrificed enough, then the gods would be appeased and withdraw their wrath. It is because we believed that these supernatural beings existed why we could haplessly believe they would conspire against us.

Homer's Iliad is rife with such stories of Gods versus men. So is the Roman pantheon, Hindu's Bagharvad-Gita, Judaism's Torah and Christianity's Bible. In fact, the Bible has one particular story that tells of how God and Satan played with the fate of a man just to see who was more influential. The man in question was subject to both great fortune and grave misfortune. So you see, we have actually been believing in conspiracy theories for several thousand years.

Wrapping things that frighten us in a cloak that can be easily managed makes it easier for us to deal with the horrors of our reality. We have done this so often and for so long that it is now an automatic process that is subconsciously ignored by most people. In fact, it is not inexplicable to find a man of science today who would readily dismiss the Greek Gods as ancient hocus pocus, but still believes in an identical level of hocus pocus in Christian dogma.

To this day, we still believe in Karmic justice. Some of us still believe that what goes around, comes around. We still believe that God is going to punish us for something bad we did. Some of us still literally knock on wood so as not to "jinx" a hope we say out loud. We still say things like "they will get what's coming to them" to assure ourselves that there is justice in the world.

The primary reason why conspiracy theories survive is because they appeal to our fear. Fear is the most primal and most powerful survival tool. Without fear, humanity would probably have gone extinct a long time ago. We would have walked into the dens of dangerous animals and eaten poisonous food if we weren't instinctively more inclined to respond to fear more readily than any other emotion. Thus conspiracy theories are nothing more than a manifestation of our evolutionary fear factor that is now an anachronistic remnant of our more primitive selves.

Apropos, if you have ever examined the nature of any of the more recent conspiracy theories, you will find that most of them are based on the same delusional, unprovable conjectures that are designed to pacify their fear of the unknown by replacing it with a fear that is known. It is easier to process a fear that is manageable (the Government did it) than a fear that is not (terrorists did it). That is why we can split most conspiracy theories into 3 broad categories:

Type 1: Appeal to Fear Theories

These are designed to invoke fear and distrust. They serve no other purpose other than to play upon fears that may either be born of inherent prejudice or genuine fear to provoke a desired response. They are usually based on observations that are now obsolete. These types of theories are particularly dangerous because they can incite mass hysteria and panic.

Type 2: Fear Management Theories

These are conspiracy theories that are designed to reduce the severity of a (usually) tragic event by making it out to be something more deliberate, accidental, diabolical and thus familiar instead of being one that is more random, spontaneous, unpredictable, inexplicable and thus, more frightening. Fear management theories always seek to blame an identifiable, familiar, usually powerful organisation that relies on secrecy. This can range anywhere from the Free Masons to the US Government and may even include older organisations that no longer exist.

Type 3: Appeal to Ignorance Theories

These are designed to exploit what is generally unknown by the wider public about something that requires a very deep investment of technical knowledge. They are usually concocted about ideas and events that are heavily based on technology or science. Appeal to ignorance theories are really fear management theories that empower their target by filling the void of their ignorance with faux knowledge that would conveniently pander to their pre-existing bias.

Appeal to Ignorance theories are usually purported by non-technical individuals who have no training or experience in the field, but can be compelling in the way they present their fallacious arguments. Because they usually sound like they know what they're talking about, most of the proponents of appeal to ignorance conspiracy theories are often taken seriously.

A Few Examples

Over the next three pages, I will highlight some of the more popular conspiracy theories that you have probably heard of. A suitable break down of the circumstances surrounding them is also included, along with descriptions of how the theory was likely concocted, followed by reasonable explanations that would have (in other circumstances) sufficiently debunked them:

9/11 was an inside job

Type: Fear Management

You've seen the websites. You've heard the wild speculations. You've seen the enhanced photos. You're very familiar with this one. The psychological trauma of 9/11 was so profound, that it left the greatest country in the world in utter bewilderment as to how a bunch of delusional Muslims who could barely fly a plane could have done this much damage and killed this many. It's like being the biggest kid in school who got his ass kicked by a scrawny nerd.

It is no small wonder then that people, still unable to manage their grief and disbelief, started to push their pareidolia into overdrive, and literally saw things in the dust and debris that would make sense of it all. First, unable to deal with the horrific deaths of the passenger jet, they speculated that the plane that hit the building had no windows and so it was a cargo plane, not a passenger plane. Then when that wasn't enough, they speculated that the building was rigged to implode. Then finally, they speculated that George Bush planned it all.

Every 9/11 conspiracy theory was designed to reduce the culpability of what appear to be hapless terrorists who got lucky. America is a nation that knows very little of anything outside of its own boundaries. Therefore while it always knew Muslims were inside its borders, it didn't know anything about their religion until radicals blew up one their most treasured landmarks. So how exactly does American hubris respond to this sort of tragedy? With even more hubris.

American hubris is so profound that some of its people would rather believe that their own government orchestrated the deadliest terrorist attack on foreign soil in modern history than to believe the obvious; that 19 half witted, hapless terrorists brought the greatest nation on earth to its knees. This conspiracy theory is all about fear management. America can't come to grips with the idea that an enemy exists that doesn't fear death. So it invented one that does.

You can see a comprehensive debunking of the theories here.

The world will end in December 2012

Type: Appeal to Fear

If an ancient civilization that demonstrated an uncanny level of intellect ran out of stone in their epic calendar making exercise, which theory do you think is more likely to take traction among modern observers: that they ran out of stone or that the world will end on the last date of the stone they used? The latter of course. It appeals to our evolutionary need to respect our fear. In fact, we fear the end of the world more than we fear our very own death.

Debunking the theory

Despite the fact that the Mayans never made any explicit declarations in any of their writings that the world will end on December 12, 2012 (which is more of a mathematical fluke than it is a prediction), we already have a big budget Hollywood blockbuster and enough mass hysteria surrounding the subject to actually cause the world to end on that exact date. If you think this will actually happen, then I invite you to recall similar end of world dates from the recent past:

  • November 11, 2011 A.D. — Remember the 11.11.11 date where something special was supposed to happen? Heck I didn't even notice this one until after the fact. I'm surprised a Mayan apocalypse wasn't predicted for December 12, 2012 (12.12.12). These mathematical flukes are nothing new. It shows just how caught up we are with the nonsense of numerology.
  • January 1, 2000 A.D. — remember the Y2K glitch where computers all over the world which were wired for two digit years were supposed to fail simultaneously, with planes falling out of the sky and nuclear bombs going off spontaneously? Well... that didn't happen.
  • September 9, 1999 — What can I say? We have an unhealthy obsession with numbers. We instinctively think numbers are significant because we rely so heavily on mathematics for everyday use. So when a lot of the same number shows up on a date, we tend to freak out. The same thing happened on:
  • January 1, 1000 A.D — There was a great war, but the world did not end. Can you see a trend here? I have a feeling the exact same thing is going to happen on January 1, 3000 A.D. Even then, after we have conquered space and time travel, we will still freak out about round numbered dates.
Not to worry though. The world is not going to end on December 12, 2012. I can promise you this much, because there is nothing in our historic record that would even remotely suggest that the planet is in danger of a polar shift due to planetary alignment. The theory is as preposterous as it is stupid. Interplanetary gravity is not that strong. Furthermore, there are no asteroids heading this way, nor would it be possible for a planetary earthquake to occur.

Not even with an extinction level meteor strike.

I can say with certainty though that the world will end for some people on December 12, 2012. I can say this with confidence because the date is not unlike any other date where people die. Their world will come to an end not because of that date, but simply because it is a matter of coincidence. If you picked any arbitrary date on the calendar, I'm sure you will find that someone had died on that date. However, December 12, 2012 will also be someone's birthday!

The Government is hiding Aliens

Type: Fear Management

Ralph Ring talks about how men built flying saucers — plus the chick on the right is cute.

Even though mankind is capable of some truly breath taking inventions, there are those among us who still believe that aliens crash landed here in Roswell New Mexico and that from that wreckage, we pulled technology that gave us lasers, transistors and integrated circuits. Our lack of faith in humanity is one thing, but to say that aliens were responsible for recent advancements in technology is the identical to thanking god for helping you to pass an exam.

But to think that the government is hiding knowledge about aliens on this planet is stupid for a number of reasons. Firstly, if there's an alien civilization out there advanced enough to build a vessel that can traverse the vastness of space / time, they would not be playing hide and seek with the denizens of a backwater planet. They'd make a go of it and take over the world. about 5 minutes.

Secondly, the US government has been building advanced war machines for decades. The stealth bomber was a top secret craft for a long time and because of its peculiar shape, has been mistaken for a UFO on multiple occasions. The reason why these vessels are top secret is because a country as powerful as the United States has a lot of smart enemies. If their enemies got wind of their technology, they could usurp their global supremacy. Suspecting the US government of hiding aliens only provides a free smoke screen to aid them in this secrecy.

Thirdly, and most importantly, an unidentified flying object does not automatically mean that it is of extraterrestrial origin. In fact, I do not believe any extra terrestrial vessels have ever been to this planet for all the same reasons why Christopher Columbus didn't come to the Caribbean without making a history changing impact. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that every flying saucer that has ever been spotted is nothing more than a new type of omni-directional craft that can rapidly change vectors based on research by Nikola Tesla.

In other words, all flying saucers that have ever been spotted (and I do believe they have been spotted) were made right here on this planet by humans. I believe that just like the SR-71 Blackbird, the first ultra sonic military craft, the many UFO sightings that have been spotted were nothing more than newer more advanced experimental machines that do not use chemical based propulsion. The physics of flying saucers has been successfully replicated in a lab. Therefore it's not inexplicable that we are dealing with machines made by humans.

This conspiracy theory is clearly a fear management psychological phenomenon. Our fear of the unknown (aliens) is so debilitating that we have replaced it with a fear that is more temporal (the government). Despite the obviously ludicrous nature of the fear (how could an earthly government negotiate with a species from clear across the galaxy?), it helps conspiracy theorists in this school of thought humanize their fear in the same way we humanize gods.

Page 1 | 2 | 3

E-mail: accordingtoxen[at]gmail[dot]com


  1. truth is relative. nothing can truly be "proven" or "dis-proven". what is scientific "fact"today will become a scientific uncertainty, or,in some cases,a massive FAIL! all things in the multiverse will change again and again according to what we want to/expect to see. "all that is"(or some people prefer the word GOD) cannot be reduced to human understanding. it does not bow down to us, though we would like it to so that we may feel safer or more in control. a thing is only true until it simply isn't true anymore. and just because you cannot see it, doesn't mean that you cannot believe it. just because you/we may not understand/know something doesn't make it "not so."it just means that we are limited in a way that existence isn't. sometimes truth can only be revieled when you have earned the right to see it or increased your capacity as a human enough to perceive it. and the scientific method is often not the point of evolution that will get you there!

    1. You'd enjoy reading Euclid.

  2. A couple points here...

    1) Obama isn't a descendent of slaves. He is not of West African descent or had ancestors sold into American slavery.

    2) I totally disagree that any ETs visiting earth would necessarily be hostile. My main reason for thinking this is that there are no elements or resources on earth that cannot be found anywhere else in the universe. Most likely, 99.999% of planets in the galaxy have no intelligent life on them. If aliens needed resources the way the Spaniards needed resources in the Americas, they can easily find them on the endless amount of lifeless planets there must be in the universe. This is why I don't worry much about doomsday alien invasions. If anything they would be more interested in studying us the way National Geographic studies Australian Aboriginals and other primitive tribes people. If our probes found a primitive people on Mars using stone tools, we'd take a tremendous amount of interest in them and their culture.

    I'd also like to see your evidence that UFOs are man made phenomena based on Tesla's research. I'm not denying that's the case, I've just never heard that before and would love to see further explanation.