Conspiracy Theories


Conspiracy theories strike me as an attempt to hold on to a cherished idea when there is insufficient evidence to support it. Rather than consider that the idea is wrong, a person clings to it and invents reasons to explain the lack of evidence.

There seems to be a fairly well-defined sequences of steps. A person conceives of some notion. He finds that there isn’t enough evidence to support the notion. However, he just knows it’s true; so if there isn’t enough evidence, it is because the evidence has been hidden or destroyed, usually because someone is “afraid” of the truth coming out; or else, greedy factions who want to maintain their profitable arrangement. Or whatever.

The problem with conspiracy theories is lack of evidence. There is the original lack of evidence for the notion being preserved; but there is a lack of evidence for the existence of the conspiracy. Obviously – it’s a conspiracy. It’s hidden; the evidence is hidden, in order to preserve the secret.

In the spirit of Occam’s Razor, I dismiss conspiracy theories. They are complicated attempts to explain a lack of sufficient evidence for a claim. A lack of evidence is just that – a lack of evidence. It isn’t important why there is a lack; if it’s not there, then the claim is unsupported. Explaining the lack of evidence for a claim does not support the claim. Even clearly demonstrating a conspiracy doesn’t validate the claim, because the evidence that has been suppressed might still not have been sufficient to support it.

So without evidence, there is no basis for considering a claim. So I don’t.

There is a satirical conspiracy theory that helps to illustrate some of the objections to such theories. It’s known as the Bielefeld Conspiracy. The gist of it is the claim that there’s no such place as Bielefeld, Germany. To support this claim, the proponent will point out that you’ve never been to Bielefeld; that you’ve never met someone from Bielefeld; therefore, the place doesn’t exist. If someone does claim to know the town, then he is obviously part of the conspiracy, and should be ignored. If there are maps showing its location, those are also part of the conspiracy. There is no way to show that Bielefeld actually exists, that can’t be dismissed as being part of the conspiracy.

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