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: and not .....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!


A much better model of human government is, I believe, “cock-up and cover-up” theory: Human beings are, for the most part, selfishly oriented incompetent idiots when it comes to any attempts at the kind of exquisite covert & subliminal control hypothesized by the conspiracy theorists; if humans do attempt this kind of quasi-omniscient control they end up cocking it up and then having to cover it up in order to save their skin! In contrast conspiracy theorism effectively posits government as quasi-divine beings not only far cleverer than ordinary mortals but also highly moral in so far as they are supposed to faultlessly serve the higher purpose of the conspiracy! I suggest that human beings are neither clever enough nor moral enough for an illuminati level of conspiracy theorism to work as a theory of society

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 believed to be incarnated either as a human anti-Christ or in an 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

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