In Defence of Conspiracy Theories

3943148273_67a49ca597_oBy: James Kennedy,

jameskennedystuff.com.

There is much snobbish dismissal of so called ‘conspiracy theories’ from the scientific, political, academic & journalistic community. I argue that conspiracy theories are a valid & necessary contribution to the discussion of certain events & deserve just as much credibility as those of the ‘experts’. I say this as someone who wholeheartedly subscribes to scientific methodology & sceptical thought as the best means of getting closest to the ‘truth’ of a subject – the need for solid evidence & rigorous testing being the process by which a ‘theory’ becomes an established fact (until proven otherwise). Another facet of that way of thinking is that the pursuit of truth must outweigh any emotional or personal attachment one might have for their ‘theory’ – if their beloved theory is proven to be undeniably incorrect, then the owner of that theory should gladfully dispense of it, in the pursuit of truth. Also, all theories should be treated (and tested) as equal. In light of these sceptical principles, I argue that many ‘conspiracy theories’ are perfectly in line with this spirit & that it is their rebuffers who are the ones adhering to a blind belief system. I can see no reason why a ‘conspiracy theory’ should not be treated with the same level of seriousness as any other theory. How arrogant it is of the self styled ‘know it all’s’ to guffaw & flippantly dismiss a ‘conspiracy theory’ as being absurd or impossible, just because it doesn’t fit their existing world view – that is totally out of step with the spirit of scepticism, scientific methodology, journalism & the pursuit of truth. I think that conspiracy theories bring a valid & defendable contribution to the debate & simply saying ‘oh what a bunch of crack pots’ whilst you smugly pat your ‘oh so clever’ self on the back, just shows not only an intellectual & sceptical flaw but also a questionable interest in the genuine pursuit of truth, no matter how uncomfortable that truth may be. Let us not forget that all ‘facts’ begin as theories & let us also not forget the countless great people throughout history that were once ridiculed (or tortured & killed) for promoting ideas that we all taken as granted today – such as the earth not being flat!

Image Credit: Flickr / Lil' Mike

Image Credit: Flickr / Lil’ Mike

I think that when it comes to subjects such as 9/11 & JFK, for example, the conspiracy theorists & the mainstream academic/scientific & journalistic community are on an equal grounds for credibility because neither side really knows for SURE what actually happened – ALL parties are mere theorists on these subjects & the actual truth is only known by the people who were involved. And this is where the cracks in the fibre of the mainstream Scientific, academic & journalistic fields start to show – they end up falling back on ‘belief systems’ (the exact opposite of the values they profess to uphold), they start to utter things like ‘oh they never would have done that’ or ‘they never could have kept that a secret’ or ‘why would they want to do that’, ‘thats absurd’ etc etc. They can’t argue with the conspiracy research because much of it is actually more thorough than their own, so they have to just dismiss it as just being some kind of ‘youtube academia’ – as if that is a good enough response to questions they can’t answer. The reason they can’t argue with the research is because most of these subjects involve secrecy & when you don’t have full access to the tools of the experiment, you are only left with your own judgement in joining the dots as best you can – and this position is the same for BOTH sides of the debate. This is where pre-set belief systems rear their head & also a thing called ‘confirmation bias’ (where a person only see’s the things that confirm what they already think). If you believe that ‘they’re all bastards & are plotting against us’ then you’re only going to see the ‘facts’ that support that but also if you believe that ‘they never would have done that, there must be some other explanation’, you’re going to dismiss information that might be outside of your comfort zone. You might expect such things from layman journalism but not from professional, experienced researchers, scientists & academics. If they were able, like some kind of intellectual superman, to answer all of the ‘naive conspiracy buff’s’ questions with a definite & irrefutable explanation, then we’d all be able to join in the laughter at the preposterous notion of whatever ‘the conspiracy loons’ were saying. But they can’t, they merely laugh & say ‘oh, you’re so naive, how ridiculous, trot along little one’. I know that extreme claims require extreme evidence & it is in the hands of the theorist to bring supporting evidence – but many conspiracy theorists DO & their evidence & research has not actually be credibly refuted. I know it is difficult to disprove something when you don’t have access to all of the facts & again, in areas involving government secrecy etc, this is the main problem, but that is exactly my point, the conspiracy debunkers have no more ‘special inside information’ than anyone else, so they are merely drawing different ‘judgements’ from the scant info that IS available. Just dismissing the NOTION of a conspiracy, is simply just expressing a belief system & is not the same as responding to the questions on an academic level. Also, I am not saying that I necessarily ‘believe’ any of these conspiracy theories – it is not about belief – but as a sceptic, I give equal time to all opinions on a subject – rather than arrogantly dismissing those that don’t fit my existing world view. Those that do that are not seeking truth, they are seeking confirmation of what they already believe.

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Image Credit: Flickr / dullhunk

Sadly, until all of the information on a certain subject comes out, we will never know the absolute truth & I think it would be tasteful if all sides of the debates would exercise some humility in appreciating that. Was 911 an inside job? There are a ton of very legitimate questions about the official story of 911 & anyone that says otherwise is exercising extreme confirmation bias & being incredibly naive. However, there is also a ton of credible scientific data on the subject which rebuffs many conspiracy theorists’ claims. The truth is, neither side really knows. If you believe in the pursuit of actual TRUTH, regardless of how comfortable that truth makes you feel, you would give these questions a serious listen. One way to get to the truth of a subject is to have ALL of the information & when you’re dealing with secret societies (which do exist) for example, that is impossible by its very nature. The rest of us, conspiracy theorists, academics, scientists, etc are all just theorists in the same boat, joining up the available dots to form different pictures based on our pre-set beliefs. Only a few people really KNOW what the truth is – those who were involved. ALL of the rest of us should appreciate that we DONT really know & probably never will. So I think that the snobbery around conspiracies should know its place. I for one, read conspiracy literature alongside mainstream scientific & academic works & treat them with just as much credibility. Anyone claiming to have a genuine interest in the pursuit of truth, should do the same – or else you are merely expressing a brand of blind faith not too dis-similar to that of your religious counterparts. I think it shows a strength of intellect to appreciate that just maybe, we don’t actually know everything & that to exercise some humility with your views is healthy.

Having now ‘fought their corner’ though, I must say that ALL of the above also applies to my conspiracy buff friends who blindly follow their chosen messiah’s of truth & treat their conspiracy books like a bible – a ready made book of answers to all questions ever! All seekers of truth should seek out information that challenges their belief system, not confirm it.

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This article first appeared on jameskennedystuff.com

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