The Validity of Conspiracy Theories

Discussion in 'Compendium Of Kerrrr-azy Conspiracies' started by ska invita, Jul 16, 2005.

  1. laptop

    laptop Freudenschade

    Zword - you don't know how the infection theory of disease was developed and checked, do you?

    Which suggests that you're merely pissing around, arguing for people's "right" to spout rubbish with no regard for the world, other people or anything that could be called "truth".
  2. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time


    With microscopes I guess, so?

    I thought the point was obvious. Things can and often have been true for which there's no evidence..even for which evidence is unobtainable. In my not very entertaining dialogue, who is the proto-scientist and who is the proto-conspiraloon?

    Of course we're a lot better at science these days.
  3. laptop

    laptop Freudenschade

    Precisely. Without writing a dissertation on epistemology: starting with some evidence, composing a theory (which has a strict definition, which is not "hey! guess what I was thinking!") and then testing theory against other evidence.

    It's ridiculous to claim that something for which there is no evidence is "true".

    If there were things which were true but unknowable, how could we tell and how would they be the slightest bit interesting?

    Both are conspiraloons.
  4. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time

    Well it's lucky humanity didn't generally take your view, we'd never have thought of anything new. And some of the most remarkable breakthroughs have come initially from speculation and intuition, in science.

    And humanity and history are a lot harder to understand than the non-human world, as we intentionally deceive each other a lot of the time.
  5. Donna Ferentes

    Donna Ferentes jubliado

    They have, however, also come from thoroughgoing understanding of existing knowledge, as opposed to its wholesale rejection, and from application of the scientific method to new hypotheses, as opposed to its abandonment.
  6. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time

    But how to do science is not really the issue here, it's how to do history, or how to explain human society. And we don't seem to have made much progress at understanding our society since - whenever. If anything we've got worse at it.

    And I just don't see how anyone can claim that it's ridiculous to claim that something for which there's no evidence is possible. Truth and evidence are just two separate issues.

    And it's just a fact that sometimes people do know things without evidence and they're right.

    Though without evidence, there's no reason why anyone should feel obliged to take them seriously, but of course, argument or inference can lead one to a conclusion as well as evidence.

    But if you someone's evidence-free claims are ridiculous, by all means tell them to shut up, or ignore them, but why try and gag them?
  7. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time

    The other difference between science and history is that there's no real motivation for lying about scientific discoveries, and it's much easier to get found out. Whereas, people do lie about both past and recent history, and there is plenty of motivation to do so, because history is politically charged, and science isn't. Which is some grounds for being more sceptical about "existing knowledge" when it comes to people.
  8. Donna Ferentes

    Donna Ferentes jubliado

    Yes there is. There's money to be made very quickly, e.g. out of quack cures.
  9. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time

    I see your point, I suppose.

    But quack cures aren't exactly part of the scientific canon of knowledge.

    But I guess you could make an analogy between the peddler of a quack cure and the peddler of a CT, and it's a better explanation than many is that the authors are deliberate quacks who make up their theories to sell to a gullible audience who laps it up. Hmm.

    But all the same, there are plenty of CTers who don't make any money out of it.

    Isn't it taking it a bit far to say, either they're cynical quacks, or else they're gullible/deluded/paranoid fools?
  10. gurrier

    gurrier Registered Abuser

    Probably the biggest thing that distinguished Greek civilisation from most other civilisations before and since was that they went a long long way towards abandoning superstition in favour of reason. Even their early attempts at understanding physiology, hampered as they were by their lack of access to the microscopic, were the first real attempt to understand the body in physical, rational terms.

    In short, you are trying to claim for your side of this argument people who were moving in exactly the opposite direction to you.

    A better bit of dialogue might be the following.

    Euclid: But look, if you measure the radius of the circle you always get the same ratio of it to the circumference and this ratio is a natural law of the universe. Based on these calculations we can see that the earth must be round and have a radius of x as we know how far away that small hill is which the sun always disappears behind and we can calculate the curvature of the earth based on that, hence the circumference and the radius.

    Zword: but what about the cows? I'm sure the cows are involved somehow, are their moos really sucking the sun down to earth?

    Euclid: What are you talking about? what evidence have you got?

    Zword: Can you prove that the cows aren't involved? Can you? Why do you always believe what _they_ tell you to?

    etc. etc
  11. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time

    I don't see how the fact that I called them Greek is relevant to the point, They could equally well have been Celts.

    Let's say they were Celts, to please you, since you object to them being Greek. Hmm, has the point I made changed at all.?

    Your dialogue made me laugh. Thanks.

    Don't really see what it's got to do with the argument though, or with me. ?
  12. Jazzz

    Jazzz the truth don't care Banned

    I'll give you an answer which I've given before, which is that Lord Lucan is buried in my back garden.
  13. Cadmus

    Cadmus SINsational

    Red Light Green Light

    It was a hot, humid day in August, but I was suddenly cold. The proof was in my hand, straight out of my mailbox.

    They knew that I knew.

    With shaking hands, I opened the envelope. What I saw terrified me. There were four small, incredibly detailed pictures of my car driving through a local intersection. The driver wasn’t visible, but I knew it was me. One of the pictures was a close-up of the license plate, clearly showing the number and the expiration date, and even the small scratches inflicted by my bike carrier.

    The message was clear: we know who you are, where you live and what you drive. We know where you have been and where you are going. Do not risk our anger, for you cannot hide. We are everywhere.

    I showed the letter to my friends. Some laughed, finding my anger humorous. Others sympathized over the amount of the fine.

    “That’s too bad, John,” they’d say. “I can’t believe that they charge $75 for running a red light.”

    I tried to explain it to them. I tried to explain that the fine is just a cover up, a way of justifying the cameras. They say that the high fines will make the city streets safer, cut down on accidents. Oh, and they’ll add a little bit to the city’s bottom line, too. More money from traffic tickets means less money from taxpayers. How could that be wrong?

    But now they are everywhere. All of the major intersections are covered with cameras. I’ve tried changing the route I take to work – to no avail. The streets are sprouting metal flowers with glass-eyed blossoms, always watching, always tracking. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They never sleep and they never rest.

    And neither do I.

    The letter was a warning to keep quiet, to quit “making waves.” But I won’t – no, can’t – stop. I am the only thing that stands between them and total control of the population.

    So I work all day, like a good little drone. I drive my car slowly home, carefully stopping for every yellow light and dutifully waiting through each red one. I eat my dinner and wait for darkness to fall.

    Then I draw the darkness around me and start my silent struggle. With every wire I cut, I think of a friend, a neighbor, a relative, an unknown stranger. Each with a private life worth protecting, each of whom deserves their right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    But they’re getting smarter. They’ve started setting traps for me, hiding policeman at the intersections, trying to catch me. But I’m onto them. Without their mechanical eyes they are blind, helpless. And the police can’t be everywhere. That’s why they need the cameras, right?

    I am getting tired, so tired. But I must fight on. If I don’t, who will? By the time the others wake, it will be too late. It may be too late already.

  14. bigfish

    bigfish Gone fishing

    Top posting there ZWord... you're making it look like a bit of a cakewalk.
  15. bigfish

    bigfish Gone fishing

    What a pile of drivel!
  16. gurrier

    gurrier Registered Abuser

    Calling them greek is relevant to the point as ancient greek civilisation is synonymous with progress, enlightenment and advancement of civilisation. That is why you used them as an example. You were attempting to make the point that, had the greeks applied the rational evidence based approach advocated by your opponents then humanity may never have seen the benefits of their discoveries. I was pointing out that the evidence supports exactly the opposite conclusion.

    Had you used the celts as an example, it would have been nonsensical. The celts after all became enslaved, impoverished and culturally destroyed everywhere by peoples who were technically superior to them. Any speculative question that started with "what if the celts had" would have the irrefutable riposte (irrefutable in a speculative domain) "well if they had done that then maybe there'd be some trace of them around today."

    bigfish, you are a genius.
  17. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time

    I wasn't actually, I was attempting to make the point that if you think that the only way to come to true conclusions is to apply the evidence-based approach, you're wrong. And if you always slap down people who have ideas based on inference and analogy, challenging them for empirical evidence, you'll slap down a lot of true ideas as well as a lot of false ones.
  18. gurrier

    gurrier Registered Abuser

    Okay, but I can see no way that your point could possibly support your assertion so.
    erm, arguments and ideas based on inference and analogy _are_ based on empirical evidence and logic if they're done right. Or are you arguing for incorrect inferences and analogies that don't generalise as a method of enquiry?
  19. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time

    Well I can see no way that someone as intelligent as you could possibly fail to see how my dialogue supports the assertion. Isn't it a platitude that it's possible to say something true and yet have no evidence for it. But if you're serious, maybe you should take another look.

    I see your point about inference and analogy, presumably you mean you've got to have some good solid empirical evidence somewhere from which to make theories from which you can reasonably draw inferences and make analogies. ?

    On Popper's theory that the criterion of a scientific theory is that it can be falsified, and..? Well it might be quite a good account of science in general, but it's not much good as a general theory of what people can reasonably say, if some stone age bloke a long time ago said, -hang on, you know, if the world went round the sun it would look just the same to us,- well, he might not have been doing anything that qualifies as science, and there might not be much point to his statement, except general interest, but he'd still have been right for all that.

    Have you read the thread, since your early contributions?

    What do you think of the view that the original DNA from which all life on this planet evolved came together by a random concatenation of amino acids in what is known as the primordial soup ?

    And I have to say, I do think it's very relevant that when you're doing science you can reasonably expect that what you're investigating isn't trying to deceive you which is not a good assumption in investigating human affairs in the present day.
  20. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time

    On this thread I'm arguing for the validity of random inferences and analogies of any sort as a method of speculation that may result in true conclusions, particularly with reference to present-day human affairs, even when there's no or very little evidence for the conclusions.
  21. gurrier

    gurrier Registered Abuser

    If it can't be falsified it is a useless idea. Have you met my 12 dimensional bunny rabbit?

    Except he couldn't possible have said such a thing. He would have to have understood several completely impossible things to even begin to think in such terms. The ideas that we live on a planet and that the sun is another celestical body is so counter-intuitive that it is only when an enormous amount of empirical evidence is gathered to support the theory that it is even possible for people to think in such terms. He would have been exactly as likely to speculate about a ferrari.

    Not much of it, been busy for a while.

    If you substitute the word 'chaotic' for random it seems to me to be by far the most likely explanation for abiogensis. Second place in the list would be the same thing happening somewhere in the universe and seeding life here by a comet or other debris. All the other theories that I have ever encountered are vastly and incomparably inferior.

    Science is a method. All studies of humans that have any use at all rely on this method.
  22. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time

    (I am your 12-dimensional bunny rabbit. ) ;)

    On the question of the origin of DNA, you said,
    How can this theory be falsified? Can it be? I don't see how, without a time machine. It relies on inference and coherence with other knowledge, plus a host of unproved assumptions about the nature of the universe.

    Fair enough, you're probably right, though you're speculating as to what was and wasn't conceivable to stone age people without evidence, and only intelligent inference to go by. If the stone age bloke went astral travelling, :D he might have understood that the earth and the sun were celestial bodies. You're making certain assumptions, and making them without any empirical evidence to back them up.

    Lots of things are counter-intuitive, particularly the idea that everything you know is wrong, that you're being deceived, that your whole worldview is actually rubbish, that you've been carefully steeped in in order to blind you from the truth. Which is why I think it's wise to be cautious about certainty and allow even fruitloops freedom to speculate and admit the possibility that they could be right, except when you really know (in the strict sense) that they're wrong.

    What rubbish. It's almost impossible to study humans scientifically, as part of the nature of scientific observation is that you have to do it under controlled conditions, and (a) it's difficult to put humans under controlled conditions, and (b) when you do, you're not studying their normal behaviour any more, because they know they're being studied and behave differently, so all you're studying then is the behaviour of humans who know they're being watched.
  23. Bernie Gunther

    Bernie Gunther Fundamentalist Druid

    So doing science involving complicated systems and most especially involving humans, is hard.

    This is not big news.
  24. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time

    I didn't think it was particularly big news. But if that's true, then if our observations about humanity were limited to scientific observations (which is what gurrier seemed to be saying,) then they're going to be very limited indeed.

    What do you think this thread is about? I only ask, cause I don't really get where you're coming from with your post: The initial impression is, -you think you're arguing against me.- or at least saying -so what?- but I don't really get your point in that case.

    (and what's the snip at the beginning of your quote about?) you didn't snip anything.?
  25. Bernie Gunther

    Bernie Gunther Fundamentalist Druid

    Well gurrier is more of a hard-liner about this science stuff than I am, but in general, I'm much more comfortable with scientific rigour myself. I think it's perfectly possible to apply scientific thinking to really complicated stuff, but that it's interesting and difficult to do so in a lot of cases. I still think it's worth the effort though.

    I have a preference for scientific method, and I'll give it priority over any other way of thinking in most cases, but I don't think it's the only possible way to gain worthwhile understanding.

    PS the <snip> thing is what I do to show where I've edited a post in replying to it. I don't like sneaky edits in a reply, so I try to make mine really clear.
  26. laptop

    laptop Freudenschade

    Are you phildwyer's other login? One of his themes (apart from some form of made-up religion and creationism) is that he resents the authority with which science gets to speak and wants [whatever-it-is-he-teaches] to get the same respeck'

    In fact, it's quite possible to apply to the study of human actions some of the lessons of the immense amount of thought that philosophers of science have put into epistemology (the attempt to answer the question "what do you mean, 'know'?").

    At the very least, and going back to the thread topic: there are:

    • care to be taken with gathering evidence, particuarly distinguishing measurement from first-hand report from hearsay;
    • the careful application of the right statistical methods in the weighing and summarising of that evidence;
    • concern that models or theories put forward should be consistent with existing models and theories - particularly those that, while still techinically provisional, are very well-tested, for example Newton's laws of gravity within their applicable scope;
    • determination that the models and theories put forward should be falsifiable - "here's another observation that, if you could make it, would prove this wrong".

    Conspiranoids typically fail to understand any of these points, let alone apply them.
  27. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time

    Well, I don't have a problem with your personal preference, so fair enough, I guess. But I have no clue how it could be possible to apply scientific method to understanding -present day human politics and current affairs-, (for want of a better way of describing the subject matter) when there's so much riding on what's going on that the key qualification for a successful politician is to be a good liar.
  28. Bernie Gunther

    Bernie Gunther Fundamentalist Druid

    Well, a good example of the scientific approach, not "pure" science maybe, but political analysis influenced by science is Chomsky and Herman's propaganda model.

    It talks about systemic behaviour rather than personalities, which I think it a more useful appoach in general, because in a lot of ways, the personalities don't matter, any Tory leader and his people would have acted much the same way as Tony Blair. Any other tool of big oil and the military industrial complex, in hock to the religious right, might have acted the way Bush did.

    It's more useful in my view to understand the systemic behaviour, with due regard for rigorous standards of evidence, than it is to do conspiracy theory.

    Conspiracy theory is a lot more *exciting*, and that's fine. But if one lets that excitement become an existential committment to having sole possession of the truth, it would appear that most of the other undesirable symptoms of true-beliver syndrome set in and such people start to act like dickheads.

    It's mostly the latter aspect I have a problem with.
  29. ZWord

    ZWord Freedom Next Time

    No I'm not as it happens, but it's a fair observation. :) I made it myself..we have a fairly similar intellectual outlook and worldview. I think it's mainly because of experience of a type that fundamentalist materialism denies the validity of. Modern physics, opposed to fundamentalist materialism has already proved that "the" universe is a very strange place, and pretty much anything is possible.

    • Almost your entire worldview is based on hearsay, and so is mine, as we haven't checked all the facts we base our worldview on ourselves, we haven't time, money equipment, etc. etc. (But in fact, I do have a fair amount of personal experience to base the less normal parts of my worldview on.) It's a matter of who do you trust? But in fact, it's a prerequisite for a career in most academic science that you play the game of materialism and keep your unorthodox opinions to yourself , if you want to get on, even though increasingly it's known in academic circles that that worldview is shot through with holes. So typically scientists these days report in academic journals what they experience when they're playing the science game, and leave philosophy to philosophers, who comment on older philosophers, and leave real philosophy to freaks and mavericks.
  30. laptop

    laptop Freudenschade

    And if you want to prove that politician X lied about Y - and to make the proof work for people who haven't already leapt to the same conclusion as you - which of my rough and incomplete list of criteria for rational investigation would you choose to drop?

    Or is it sufficicient for you to hold a "personal preference" to believe that X lied about Y? In which case why bother to debate anything, unless you're gathering a corpus for a thesis on pathological miscommunication?

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