Tuesday, April 17, 2018

North American IDists Screw Up Irreducible Complexity Definition

This post has exactly the same title as a previous post where I criticized de facto Intelligent Design's concept of "irreducible complexity". The original post was here:

Because the ID community have taken on board such a poor definition of irreducible complexity it is no surprise that a serene but sarcistic sounding PZ Myers has a field day:

The de facto ID community don't appear to understand how hard it is to determine if irreducible complexity, when  properly defined, is a feature of the configuration space of our physical regime.  This is how I defined it in this post

Irreducible/reducible complexity: I don’t use these terms in the sense of Micheal Behe’s flawed concept of irreducible complexity. Irreducible complexity and reducible complexity as I conceive them are to do with how stable organic structures are laid out in configuration space. If a set of structures are reducibly complex they form a connected set in configuration space: This means that the diffusional computational process of evolution can bring about considerable change in organic structure. Irreducible complexity, on the other hand, is the opposite. That is, when such structures are widely separated in configuration space it is not possible for evolutionary diffusion to hop from one organism to another. Irreducible complexity, if defined properly (that is, not in the Behe sense), is an evolution stopper.

I'm going do a quick recap of the line of argumentation that I have presented more fully in the following blog posts:


If we take a large collection of "hard" particles like, say, marbles and we imagine them to be agitated so that the particles display a random walk dynamic clearly no organised structures will persist long enough for there to be any hope of self-perpetuating, self-replicating structure forming. For if by chance order should come about it would immediately start to evaporate. But in our real world the component parts aren't just hard particles - the particles interact by attraction as well as repulsion; these interactions are such that particles stick together. This is a bit like taking a set of meccano  parts and then adding "nuts & bolts"; these extra "particles" we call nuts and bolts imply that certain configurations will hold together once formed. Adding particles that act as a kind of "glue" is a way of constraining or limiting the number of possibilities in favor of order. But for standard evolution to work these constraints of "interaction" must:

1. Sufficiently reduce the size of  configuration space.
2. Concomitantly define a sufficiently large set (relative to the size of configuration space) of self-perpetuating, self replicating structure,
3. ...so that the class of self-perpetuating, self replicating structures forms a connected set in configuration space (the "spongeam") allowing for a diffusion dynamic to diffuse through this class.  

My own intuitions are that our physical regime is not constraining enough and therefore the spongeam is too attenuated a structure for it to return a realistic probability for the evolution of life: Hence my speculative Meloncolia I project. But in the absence of strong theoretical treatment I suppose we are rather thrown back on the empirical evidence that the PZ Myers of this world are telling us about.  We also need to remember that they are certainly not claiming that "evolution is just chance": See here for example:


It is because standard evolution must tap into an a priori source of information, a source even acknowledged by atheists, that Christian scientists like Ken Miller, John Polkinghorne and Denis Alexander can not be accused of  claiming that "blind natural forces" (sic) created life. Ironically what scuppers the de facto IDists argument that "blind natural forces" (sic) can't create life is an internal inconsistency in their argument; namely, that "natural forces" created, managed and sustained by an omniscient intelligence are not going to be either "natural" nor "blind"!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Gravity from Quantum Non-Linearity: New Edition

It's probably wrong but it's worth a try.
A new edition of  Gravity from Quantum Non-Linearity can be accessed from here.  Below I reproduce the prologue.


Prologue to the fourth edition
Gravity from quantum non-linearity first appeared in May 2012 as a 20 page paper. This latest edition represents a lengthened book format of the paper (It stands at 32 pages). This book contains a treatment of my theory of gravity that is a shortened and, I hope, cleaner version of what I presented in my book Gravity and Quantum Non-Linearity; although the latter did contain details which need attention and which are not found in this current book. In Gravity from quantum non-linearity I develop a non-linear quantum equation from the starting point of the Klein-Gordon equation whereas in Gravity from quantum non-linearity I developed my equation from what I refer to as complex number diffusion. Both approaches can be used although I believe the complex number diffusion approach to be more fundamental and meaningful. In a future publication I plan to return to the complex number diffusion approach.

I have to confess that looking back on my ideas since developing them during the 1990s and early 2000s I have a much greater doubt about them than I did during the heats and optimism of first discovery. These doubts have increased mainly because as yet I have been unable to give a clear and cogent account of the origin of the medium which is supposed to support energy diffusion through apparently ‘empty’ space. This basic diffusion dynamic is required by my theory to explain the presence of a gravitational field. This energy diffusion creates a kind of atmosphere surrounding a mass, an atmosphere in which the gravitational field is rooted. If this atmosphere of energy is assumed to surround massive objects, gravity as a modification of the space-time metric follows from the nonlinear quantum equation developed in the text (This energy diffusion is not to be confused with the complex number diffusion which is the basis of my non-linear quantum equation).

Finally my usual disclaimer: This book is entirely speculative and makes no strong claim to being the solution to the gravity vs. quantum mechanics problem. As a hobbyist I do this sort of work for its own sake and don’t necessarily expect a successful outcome. As I always say; one must endeavor to enjoy the journey because the destination may not be up to much: At least one can come in from a good journey feeling that one’s sightseeing has been stimulating even if providence only takes one back to where one started; it’s much more interesting than crosswords or Sudoku. And there is always a chance that it is one’s turn to stumble across something interesting….

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Forget the epistemic demarcation problem: it's a fuzzy ill-defined boundary.

The so-called demarcation question between science and non-science is a human invention. A natural epistemology imposes on us objects of differing epistemic distance resulting in no clear cut-off  allowing us to define a sharp category distinction between objects which are the subject of  science and objects which are not.  Some objects are readily amenable to observational testing. Other objects only lend themselves to retrospective best fit explanation analysis. And in between these extremes are many shades of grey as determined by epistemic distance.

The de facto Intelligent Design web site Uncommon Descent has done a series of posts (by "News", aka Denise O'leary) informing us that at least some people in the science establishment are trying to circumvent the rigorous strictures of science by suggesting that highfalutin theoretical science need not be bound by the criterion of "falsifiablility". Falsifiability" is, in my opinion, a poor term because  it is seldom, if ever, possible to absolutely falsify a theory;  the human imagination is fertile ground for the conjuring up of quite bizarre and baroque explanations which retrospectively save a theory from absolute falsification. So, much better to my mind is to talk of the observation based  testing of theories rather than falsifiability as the main criterion defining science. With observation based testing a theory's ability to predict outcomes is assessed. For reasons given in this recently revised paper, successful prediction enhances a theory's probability of being right. So the criterion for rigorous science is not "falsifiablilty" but rather potential for "prognostication". But if a theory continues to fail in its predictions and these failures have to be constantly shored up by retrospective ad hoc narratives which attempt to explain away the failure, one's suspicions about the theory start to grow. Like any prognosticator no theory gets a blank cheque of belief. Often when people talk about "falsification" they really mean observational based testing and therefore I will proceed on understanding that this is what is meant by"falsification".

I have followed O'leary's  posts with interest. The latest post (by "News") can be see here:

This post is entitled Does a "fetish for falsification and observation" hold back science? In it O'leary quotes astrophysicist Adam Becker who proposes that the falsifiabilty criterion be relaxed on the basis that falsifiability can never be absolute. Becker then goes on to give the example of the orbit of Uranus which at first appeared to falsify Newton's theory of gravity. But contrary to what Becker is leading us to expect this anomaly wasn't explained away with untestable special pleading; rather it became the basis of a prediction of the position of Neptune, a prediction which was tested by astronomical observation and proved correct. Becker's example is therefore a poor one; he really needed to show how an apparently falsified theory can be endlessly shored up with the addition of ad hoc narrative. Instead he gives us an example of rigorous science in action!

I think O'leary (and perhaps Becker as well) have missed the nuanced distinction between falsifiability and testability - they are not quite the same. However, I probably do agree with the general drift of O'leary's thought: Theories that either can't make predictions or whose predictions fail do don't have the authority of those that successfully prognosticate.

Going on what O'leary has written on this topic in past she has more than hinted that the attempt to move away from so-called "falsifiability" (i.e. observation based testing) is motivated by those working in the fields of string theory and multiverse theory, theories which are not (as yet) amenable to observation based testing (and the prospect is they may never be!). Currently these theories have more the character of retrospective sense making structures which attempt to explain a body of accepted data. Naturally enough theoreticians who have a vested interest in these theories might like to promote them as prestigious hard science; a status they cannot have while they fail to generate forward looking predictions.  

Although I probably fall on the side of O'leary on this one, there is an aspect of the attempt to broaden the epistemic remit of science that I sympathize with. As I have said so often on this blog, in the face of a spectrum of epistemic distances, we find that at increasing epistemic distance retrospective fitting of a narrative to the data in hand may be all we can do. I'm sympathetic, but only provided we carry this retrospective analysis through with self-awareness,  epistemic humility and with the appropriate disclaimers attached; especially so as the human mind is adept at inventing plausible retrospective explanations that really have the status of mythology; mythology acts as a kind of "coping" device; it provides a background story that we find amenable to our emotions and outlook.  

String theory and multiverse theories can be expressed with some mathematical precision and yet in spite of that their supporting world view narratives can be decidedly fuzzy.  Take for example the justification given by Brian Cox for his favoring of the many worlds hypothesis. Fair enough Brian, one can understand the compelling nature of the mathematical symmetry which leads one to favor the multiverse hypothesis, but in the final analysis it is the same idea which motivates Max Tegmark's extravagant mathematical universe. Some of us may not find symmetry so compelling that we feel the need to elevate symmetry to a "sense making" world view. 

Epistemic distance:The identity of Jack the
Ripper is probably beyond recovery,
Nevertheless some theorists think they
know the answer!
Nevertheless I really have no objection to people who attempt to join the data dots with a speculative  theory; it's a line of business I'm heavily into myself. As I've already said epistemic distance is often such that "best fit" analysis of data already in hand is the best we can do and it may be that like string theory the "best fits" are very intuitively compelling. I wish string theorists well in their endeavors.

The trouble arises, however, when attempts are made to foist these theories on us as definitive and authoritative, giving them the kudos of observation tested science. This should certainly be opposed. This kind of bumptious world view attitude has a track record of trying to gain an intellectual hegemony; it's almost as if their backers, in the absence of predictive evidence, feel the need for universal assent to make good that absence. We've seen it time and again; Marxism, Nazism, Maoism, fundamentalism...all headed up by intellectual control freaks who claim to know the authoritative answers.  Perhaps this is the danger that O'leary has in mind; if so I agree with her. When a world view comes with exclusive authoritarian backing you know you're in for a rough ride; I've seen far too much of that among Christian communities of one form or another.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Premium on Prediction

I have updated my short essay "The Premium on Prediction": This is an application of Bayes Theorem to the question of why a theory that is used to successfully predict outcomes enhances its chance of being right. This contrasts with theories which are retrospectively fitted to the data in hand with imaginative "dot" joining narratives, an activity which if achieved succinctly only amounts to a kind of data compression. The new edition of this essay can be found here. I have a feeling that this essay may be useful in the not too distant future as I look into related topics. Below I reproduce the introduction of this essay.


The following is a back of the envelope analysis that attempts to shed some light on why theories which make correct predictions enhance their chances of being right.
Before I proceed, however, I must add this caveat. It is not always possible to use our theoretical constructions in a way that makes predictions; historical theories in particular are not easy to test at will and sometimes we have little choice but to come to terms with the post-facto fitting of a theory to the data samples we have in hand. In fact with grand theories that attempt to embrace the whole of life with a world view synthesis, abduction and retrospective “best fit” analysis may be the only epistemic option available. If we are dealing with objects whose complexity and level of accessibility make prediction impossible, then this has much less to do with “bad science” than it has with an ontology which is not readily amenable to the scientific epistemic. However, in this post I'm going to look at the case where predictive testing is assumed to be possible and show why there is a scientific premium on it. To this end I'm going to use a simple illustrative model: Credit card numbers.
Imagine that valid credit card numbers are created with an algorithm that generates a very small fraction of the numbers available to, say, a twenty digit string. Let us imagine that someone claims to know this algorithm. This person’s claim could be put to the test by asking him/her to predict a valid credit card number, or better a series of numbers. If this person repeatedly gets the prediction right then we will intuitively feel that (s)he is likely to be in the know. But why do we feel that? Is there a sound basis for this feeling?
I’m going to use Bayes' theorem to see if it throws any light on the result we are expecting – that is, that there is a probabilistic mathematical basis for the intuition that a set of correct predictions increases the likelihood that we are dealing with an agent who knows the valid set of numbers; or rather the algorithm that generates them.
In this paper entitled “Bayes Theorem and God” I derived Bayes' theorem from a frequentist concept of probability and then went on to consider an example taken from the book “Reason and Faith” by Forster and Marsden where they use Bayes' theorem to derive the probability of God. As I remarked in “Bayes Theorem and God” there are certainly issues with the interpretation of the terms used by Forster and Marsden, issues which compromised the meaningfulness of their result. However, although the problem addressed in this paper is isomorphic with F&M's “probability of God” calculation, in this more mundane application of Bayes' theorem the terms are less cloudy in meaning. Both the Venn diagram and the mathematics used in my previous paper on Bayes and God can be taken off the peg and Forster and Marsden’s terms reinterpreted.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Twenty One Reasons Noah's World Wide Flood Never Happened

...and one very big reason why it never happened.

I thought I would promote this article, Twenty One Reasons Noah's World Wide Flood Never Happened by Christian geologist  Lorence G Collins.  If it should go offline I also have a copy here.  It even got a recommendation from evangelical atheist PZ Myers who said:

A geologist gives 21 evidence-based reasons why Noah’s Flood never happened. It’s nice, short, succinct, and clear, and is going to be useful in future discussions about creationism. It’s also all really obvious — we have a few hundred years of observations by geologists, who were mostly Christian, that made it irrefutable that, in the most charitable interpretation, the book of Genesis was a metaphorical fable.

Also enthusiatic is the friendly atheist: see here:

Professor Collins has succeeded in building a bridge to the atheist community by having his article published in the Skeptical Inquirer. He has also published some very useful material here:

Near the beginning of his article Prof Collins says this:

I realize that readers of Skeptical Inquirer accept modern scientific views on this subject, but this examination of the creationist claims might be useful when communicating with others less imbued with scientific thinking

Well yes, we know all about the "less imbued with scientific thinking" on this blog.

In response to Prof Collins' work my text-book fundamentalist, Ken Ham, provides us with yet another essay on how the fundamentalist mind responds to this kind of bridge building. Needless to say Ken is foaming at mouth with righteous indignation and issues the standard spiritually threatening missive which presumably would have some God-fearing folk quaking in their boots. Read Ken's outburst calling down hell and hamnation here:


I'll follow my usual practice of quoting Ken's post and  interleaving my comments

Apparently Dr. Collins must think that if someone disagrees with the naturalistic model that rejects God’s Word and is an interpretation imposed on the evidence, the person is “less imbued with scientific thinking” than those who do accept this framework.

MY COMMENT:  Change "God's Word" here to "Ken's Word"; Ken believes in the divine authority of his opinions - after all he thinks he can simply extract those opinions from the Bible with little or no interpretative and epistemic responsibility, as all fundamentalist think they can.  For the old "naturalistic" vs "supernaturalistic" dualism see here. If the thinking of fundamentalists like Danny Faulkner and John Sarfati has become so imbued by fundamentalist anti-science strictures, in spite of their scientific training, you can rest assured so too will be the thinking of the fundamentalist rank-and-file.

Many creationists love science, of course, and are quite knowledgeable. Indeed, many hold degrees—even PhDs—in their field, including several who work here, such as Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson who holds a PhD from Harvard; Dr. Andrew Snelling who earned a PhD from the University of Sydney, Australia; Dr. Georgia Purdom who holds a PhD from The Ohio State University; Dr. Tommy Mitchell with an MD from Vanderbilt; Dr. David Menton with a PhD in biology from Brown University; and Dr. Danny Faulkner who received a PhD from Indiana University. To round out this group, we also have a historian of science, Dr. Terry Mortenson with a PhD from Coventry University.

MY COMMENT:  Fundamentalists do not "love science" - they only love the kind of destructive take down of science and rationality that we see among the John Sarfati's and Jason Lisle's of this world; they don't want to do positive science but only negative science - ergo, they are anti-science. I note that the same familiar old names crop up in Ken's list of PhD's; evidently scientifically trained fundamentalists are in short supply. In comparison I'm always coming across new names from the Christian academic establishment; in fact Prof Collins is new name to me and I'm very pleased to hear it. 

Now, we’re used to hearing false claims like that. What made me sad was that Dr. Collins was specifically writing this article to give Skeptical Inquirer magazine readers counter-arguments to use against Christians. And who are the readers of this magazine? Most are skeptics and atheists! A professing believer (who claims on his website that he has “sought to bring people to Christ”) is trying to equip unbelievers to tear down the faith of believers! Ultimately, he is helping atheists attack God’s Word and the Christian faith. I would not want to be in his shoes standing before our holy God—he will give an account one day!

MY COMMENT:  Collins claim is utterly true; Fundamentalists are in general less scientifically savvy especially those like Ken Ham who are swayed less by scientific argumentation than they are by the letters after the names of his small minority of tame scholars whose chief "scholarly" activity is anti-science. Notice the spiritually threatening language in the last two sentences. So imbued with a belief in the divine authority of his opinions we find Ken threatening a Christian bridge builder with divine displeasure, perhaps even a threat of hell. This is very reminiscent of the incident recorded in my VNP blog herehere and here where a Christian bridge builder, Bishop Harrison, was condemned by Ken and I too was then attacked by Ken for condemning his attack!

As believers, we are commanded to tear down arguments that are against the knowledge of Christ and make our thoughts obedient to him (2 Corinthians 10:5). Dr. Collins certainly isn’t doing that when it comes to origins. Instead, he’s taking man’s ideas and reinterpreting God’s Word in light of them. No longer is God the authority—instead Dr. Collins has made evolution-believing scientists and their interpretation of the evidence (and thus, even himself) the authority.

MY COMMENT:  Here Ken effectively affirms the divine authority of his opinions. According to Ken, Prof Collins is merely opining "man's ideas" whereas Ken, of course, believes his opinions to be God's very word. Yes Prof Collins' ideas are man's ideas but then so are Ken Ham's ideas; the difference is that Ken has an inflated opinion of his authority. Ken fails to see the symmetry: Ken sees himself as "interpreting God's Word" and Prof Collins as "reinterpreting it" rather than seeing two people before God, one a fundamentalist and the other a free-thinking Christian, coming up with two very different interpretations. 

Ken Ham puts me off Christianity so completely that I can't imagine how atheists feel! Moreover, vicious fundamentalist infighting is another turn-off. It's a good thing that there are a lot of Christian academics out there like Prof Collins, a lot more than Ken's small band of tame fundamentalist anti-scholars, otherwise I might have given up the faith. 

Monday, April 09, 2018

A fundamentalist finally agrees with astronomers!

Christian fundamentalists are still struggling to make
sense of the cosmos.

This post on Panda's thumb drew my attention to the following articles on the Christian fundamentalist website Answers in Genesis. They were written by Ken Ham's tame astronomer Danny Faulkner:


Here's the conclusion of the first of these articles (My emphases):

Among recent creationists there is much suspicion of the Hubble relation, the expansion of the universe, and the assumption of cosmological redshifts. Unfortunately, much of this suspicion is motivated by a lack of understanding of the data involved and a fear of possible evolutionary implications. The Hubble relation is well supported by much observational data, so outright dismissal of the Hubble relation is not an option. The expansion of the universe is an interpretation of the Hubble relation, but it appears to be the only viable interpretation. Furthermore, rejection of that interpretation amounts to a rejection of general relativity, one of the most successfully tested theories in the history of science. If the universe is expanding, then it follows that the redshifts of extragalactic objects, including quasars, are cosmological. Among astronomers, there is virtually universal acceptance of all three propositions, with just a few notable exceptions to the third proposition. Those astronomers opposed to all extragalactic redshifts being primarily cosmological have focused on quasars, with that opposition appearing to be motivated by belief in the steady state model of cosmology. The work of this opposition to cosmological redshifts of quasars remains popular among recent creationists, though the philosophical underpinning of that opposition contradicts biblical creation. Many recent creationists who doubt that quasar redshifts are cosmological also reject the idea of an expanding universe. This indicates a misunderstanding of the work of the astronomers they cite. Rejection of universal expansion seems to be motivated by opposition to the big bang model. If the universe is not expanding, then the big bang model is not viable. However, the big bang is just one possible expanding universe cosmology. This short-cut way of undermining the big bang model could be a huge mistake, for if the universe is expanding, but we reject this, it would be impossible to construct a correct biblical cosmology

If quasars truly are very distant objects, then they probably are powered by supermassive black holes, as are many other, much closer, but less energetic, AGNs. Even if they are much closer than their redshifts indicate, other properties suggest that quasars likely are powered by supermassive black holes. Rejection of the model to explain the high luminosity of quasars fails to recognize the need for a similar mechanism to power AGNs. Therefore, it is not clear what is to be gained by doubting that quasar redshifts are cosmological. If quasar redshifts are cosmological, then local quasar density is very low (zero?), while quasar density is much higher at greater distance. Within a big bang model with distance corresponding to look-back time, this trend is explained by galaxy evolution. Since recent creationists reject the big bang model and a timescale of billions of years, how do we properly interpret quasars? The answer to that question is not obvious. The answer likely will be related to how one answers the light travel time problem. If recent creationists continue to argue against cosmological redshifts for quasars, it is unlikely that a satisfactory understanding of quasars will come about. Furthermore, it is unlikely that we can develop a correct cosmology.

I don't intend to spend time reading these articles in their entirety (I feel I spend too much time studying fundamentalist "science" as it is), but reading Faulkner's abstracts and conclusions it seems that many "recent creationists" (as Faulkner calls them) are loath to accept the expanding universe model and the apparent quasar distribution because both are readily interpreted as evidence of a universe which has evolved over a long period of time. This is, of course, anathema to most Christian fundamentalists. But now Faulkner is admitting what astronomers have been telling us for a long time; namely, that the universe is expanding and that quasar density increases with distance (which equates to look-back time assuming c = 3x108m/sec). Faulkner then advises "recent creationists" not to contradict this well established science but rather to incorporate it into a "recent creationist" model. But Faulkner is not underestimating the difficulties "recent creationists" face as they try to interpret the meaning of the quasar distribution given the Christian fundamentalist world view: In regard to this he says: "The answer to that question is not obvious. The answer likely will be related to how one answers the light travel time problem". That sounds like out of frying pan into the fire! The Christian fundamentalist's problem with star light travel time has never been satisfactorily solved and there seems to be as many fundamentalist solutions to it as there are fundamentalist astronomers.  

None of this, of course, means that Faulkner is giving up on his "recent creationist" world view. As Faulkner says "... the big bang is just one possible expanding universe cosmology...", but fundamentalist "science" clearly isn't in a position just yet to give us a cogent alternative interpretationAs Faulkner also says, if his fundamentalist friends are not going to accept the established theories of cosmic expansion and the observed quasar distribution then  "....it is unlikely that we can develop a correct cosmology". But since they have never solved the star light travel time problem, then it looks as though they've got their work cut out!

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Anti-conspiracy theorism theory

I know I shouldn't but I find myself laughing as I read this!
I wonder what the total percentage is of those who believe in one kind of conspiracy or other.

I have done several blogs on conspiracy theorism over the years and given reasons why I believe it to a false world view. However, I have never pulled together my thoughts into one place. In response to a Facebook inquirey I found myself writing some notes that would form the basis of an anti-conspiracy theorism theory. The following blog post is based on these notes.

Firstly some general observations on human society:

1. Social reality is chaotic and/or random with only occasional periods of relative predictability (it’s like the weather).

2. Reality in general is, epistemically speaking, not very tractable, although some of the simpler objects studied by the physical sciences are reasonably tractable and even allow successful predictions to be made. Needless to say sociological objects are among the most intractable; and as for making techno-socio-political predictions - forget it. 

3. Given the foregoing human beings are necessarily opportunistic organisms who try to adapt to what the environment throws at them (technically they are “Complex adaptive systems”). This involves mostly responding to feedback from an otherwise uncontrollable environment and reacting accordingly: Our world has little respect for control freaks and planners:  In the balance between planning and adapting humans are necessarily skewed toward the latter; that is:   feedback...adapt...feedback....adapt...etc and not PLAN...feedback....control...feedback....control. .....etc. 

5. One solution, however, to this information and control problem is to create a predictable environmental bubble around oneself; e.g. a shell, a house, a multi-cellular or multi-organ community or even a religious cult. This environmental bubble is linear in behavior and therefore predictable (but there still lurks the unpredictable chaos monster beyond the bubble's boundary)

4. When it comes to relating to one another humans are caught between self-interest, tribal interests and the interests of others and other tribes; this means that many human actions result of ambivalent motives. It is this ambivalence and double mindedness which is one of the factors helping to make the social environment unpredictable; it leads to tensions, paranoia and the positive feedback loops of runaway conflicts. 

Anti-conspiracy theorism theory

The following is a list criticisms of conspiracy theorism:

1. The putative protagonists behind a conspiracy theory must remain secret otherwise it wouldn't be a conspiracy. They therefore effect control via deceived agents. A big conspiracy theory must multiply the number of secret protagonists and/or the number of deceived agents who operate it. Big conspiracy theories may have large numbers of both kinds of personnel. But the bigger the conspiracy the greater the chance that its cover will fail

2. Contrary to Occam’s razor agents and actions can be arbitrarily multiplied to fit the conspiracy  narrative. Occam's razor works because positing large numbers of entities means that there are far more ways a complex of hypotheses can be wrong. If on the other hand we a dealing with a small number of entities (i.e. a simple system) there is a greater chance of rumbling the right combination because there are far fewer possibilities to choose from. 

3. Human beings are very imaginative and can do wonders in contriving baroque post-facto ad-hoc narratives. Conspiracy theories are exactly these kinds of narrative. They really belong in the fictional world of Agatha Christie. 

4. Long term environmental chaos disrupts plans: The putative protagonists behind a conspiracy theory seem to have perfect control and are immune to chaos; instead they control...control...control... and  appear to do it successfully contrary to principle No 3 in the first section above. 

5. Social reality is in fact highly random, chaotic and throws up the unexpected (cf the Biblical chaos monster). Conspiracy theorism is motivated by a desire to bring a kind of Agatha Christie order and sense to the otherwise meaninglessness of the messy unpredictable world of socio-political reality.

6. Conspiracy theorism, often the stamping ground of alienated individuals and cranks, has striking resemblances to the pathological fantasies of the paranoiac.

7. The conspiracy theorist, wallowing in his baroque Agatha Christie narratives, can feel a certain amount of one-upmanship on those of us who he believes to have fallen for the deception with our much more prosaic and mundane take on reality, a reality absent of Agatha Christie intrigue. 

8. Conspiracy theorism seems to have a tribal vengeance element to it: It portrays one’s antagonists as malign thoroughly scheming evil intelligences and successful to boot. And yet not so successful that they have outwitted the clever conspiracy theorist who thinks he’s seen through the facade and can take pride in this apparent unlocking of the social riddle set up by evil geniuses.  It’s the old ego trip of glorifying one’s enemies in order to magnify one’s self and place one's self in the role of the hero of the movie. Also, portraying the antagonists as being so evil stores up a supply of wrath to be released at the appropriate opportunity. The text-book example of this kind of behavior is seen in Hitler's successful attempt to motivate people by infecting them with his own conspiratorial delusions.

9. There is an inner contradiction in conspiracy theorism: Operators that are so evil could not, by definition, maintain the posited ongoing, unified, purposeful, coordinated and covert action required of conspiracy theorism. Take a look at Germany’s Nazi war effort; in spite of the many technical advantages Nazi efforts were so often undermined by a combination of stupidity, ego tripping, self-delusion, competitive infighting and jostling for positions. 

10. I feel that I have a much better Biblical model of socio-political man than conspiracy theorism’s hidden highly intelligent Machiavellian players. In my experience political man is neither evil enough nor intelligent enough for the demands of conspiracy theorism but is more likely to be a sleazy, bumbling, incompetent selfish idiot who is forever having to cover his slimy tracks. – not exactly the model of the smooth operator able to maintain a covert large scale conspiracy year after year!

Heroic Christian Conspiracy theorism

I'm ashamed to say that many Western Christians fall for conspiracy theorism just as many Christians in the 1930s Germany fell for Hitler's delusions.  This is in part, I think, a reaction to the intellectual and cultural marginalization of Christianity that started to became apparent at the folk level during the second half of the 20th century. Christians with a fundamentalist psychology then found solace in a literal apocalyptic reading of the scriptures. Fear and alienation drove them to picture Satan not as another feedback and adapt opportunist like the rest of us but rather a scheming genius of quasi divine powers capable of the most exquisite feats of control. This control is sometimes seen as incarnated either as a human anti-Christ or in the Illuminati who pull all the strings behind the scenes. I contrast this with my own view of satanic powers as immoral & incompetent players whose disconnected actions more often than not result in random disruptions of good order rather than the execution of successful plans. The Biblical chaos beast and/or serpent from the deep is an apt metaphor for Satan and his work. But seeing oneself as a victim of malign super-intelligences rather than the mean capriciousness of the heartless is just too mundane for high minded Christians who see themselves locked in a struggle against all but omniscient forces.  Glorifying and magnifying one's enemies is one way of satiating the ego's need for that sense of heroic destiny one finds in the epic struggle of good vs. evil. 

I present below my own anecdotal evidence of a (fundamentalist) Christian weakness for conspiracy theorism: 

a) A Christian acquaintance of mine who over the years touted a succession of conspiracy theories Viz: Barry Smith's millennium bug conspiracy,  Alex Jones' 9/11 "false flag" operation,  the contrail conspiracy and the establishment's suppression of cancer cures: The latter probably reduced the life expectancy of the person concerned; this person died of cancer whilst on an "alternative treatment" of apricot pips. 

b) I once had email contact with a Christian who claimed the government is using mind reading and mind controlling technology. He tried to enroll me as one of his small following.

d) A Christian acquaintance who seems to fall for a wide range of "prophetic ministries" found on the web, ministries promoting narratives of impending apocalypse and often bound up with satanic conspiracy.

c) I have posted several blog articles on Christian conspiracy theorism: Use the Quantum Non-Linearity "conspiracy theory" label to select the appropriate posts. 

I think it's true to say that much of the above come out of fundamentalist versions of Christianity, versions where there is a strong belief that beyond the culture of one's own brand of fundamentalism one's fellow humans are in a graceless state of total depravity and quite capable of perpetrating the utmost sins against the true believers. 

Christian susceptibility to conspiracy theorism is also evidenced by the following Christian web site pages which plead with Christians not to fall for the deception of  conspiracy theorism. These websites wouldn't feel the need to do this if conspiracy theorism wasn't a problem among Christians. My publishing the links to these websites, however,  doesn't necessarily imply I have a wholehearted  acceptance of their views.


Finally my favorite text-book fundamentalist, Ken Ham, must get a mention.  He's not a conspiracy theorist per se but has some of the prototypical personality traits such as a distorted paranoid view of those beyond the pale of his subculture. See here and here