|Conspiracy Theories and Weird Science|
onspiracy theories, and their prevalence in society. Of course they are only "theories" if you don't believe in them. If you do, they are secret truths that "they" are conspiring to keep from the public knowledge. Who "they" are varies by the situation, but one thing about modern life is that you can always find some powerful business group or government or secret society with a reason to suppress whatever truth you think you've happened upon.
Most sensible people would conclude that most conspiracy theories are bullshit. At the same time, most sensible people know of two or three things that were at one point considered conspiracies... until they turned out to be true.
I post about this every now and then, when a news item comes up that motivates me. Also included are weird science stories, such as Loch Ness Monster hunts. They aren't exactly conspiracies, but both require the same suspension of logical disbelief, so it's close enough.
A BBC production team just finished an extensive survey of Loch Ness, trying to find some evidence of the fabled Loch Ness Monster. Their methodology was impressive; their results were predictable.
I can't think anyone will be too surprised to hear that there's not really a bunch of 70 million year extinct dinosaurs in a 10,000 year old pond in Scotland, but some people do seem to still be clinging to the hope. I would love there to be mysterious monsters in lakes around the world myself, but I'm realistic enough to accept that there aren't. It's like bigfoot; it's fun to pretend, but don't go wasting any real time or effort on the fantasies. One mysterious creature somewhere is possible, but for things to persist over time there has to be an ecology that supports them, and a viable breeding population. Just one individual obviously isn't going to last that many years, and Adam and Eve fairy tales aside, a male and a female of a given creature is not a viable population. The inbreeding would lead to genetic disaster in just a few generations.
As for the Loch Ness Monster, all of the best sightings and pictures have been debunked, studies have shown that there's not enough fish in the loch to support any large aquatic life forms, much less a family of them, etc. However since lots of people really want to believe in Nessie (as well as other popular myths such as Bigfoot, UFOs, dinosaurs in Africa, Yeti, the risen Baby Jesus, Bush's excuses for the Iraq Attack, and so on...) it's unlikely that any amount of "proof" will ever dissuade them.
As the article on the BBC show says:
I personally still want to go to the Loch, at least as part of my whole Scottish castle/wilderness tour, someday. It's the homeland of my peoples, after all, at least according to my surname, and I want to walk through the gloomy moors and windswept crags and all the rest of the prototypical highland landscapes. And I'd love to sit in a murky forest at the edge of a cold, deep loch, and think about the mysterious creatures that might be swimming deep below the placid surface.
Even though I know they really aren't.
The top 10 conspiracy theories about 9/11 and other such events in recent years. Very interesting read, whether you believe any of it or not.
Funny article about a man who basically started the Bigfoot craze in the Pacific Northwest by laying down fake footprints in the 1950's. He and his family have been sitting back and smirking for 50 years, as other hoaxes have come up and various kooks arrive and try to find evidence that would seem to support the bigfoot theories.
The whole concept is really ridiculous. There would have to be hundreds or thousands of these Bigfoot creatures in the wild, to maintain a viable breeding population. Every animal larger than a mouse that lives in the US has been extensively documented and studied and analyzed by now, but some would have you believe that unknown mystery primates, larger than humans, live in and around densely-populated areas. People sit in the woods for weeks at a time to get a good look at birds the size of your finger that only nest 100 feet up in certain kinds of trees. Every wolf in the area was hunted to extinction nearly 100 years ago, and bears almost went the same way. Backpackers and miners and hunters and loggers and others travel the area constantly, and everyone is looking for a Bigfoot.
But not one of the creatures has ever been captured, or shot, or roadkilled, or photographed in believable fashion, or died and had their body found? Please, give it up. Stick to UFOs or at least pick a conspiracy that you can somehow work the UN or NWO or black helicopters into, since then you have some adversary to blame the mystery on.
NASA is having to pay for a book to be written to prove that they did indeed land on the moon. Some of the most off the wall conspiracy theorists have fixed upon the moon landing as something to go on about, and the always-reliable FOX network produced and aired a laughably-scientific special about it. Lots of science sites have fun debunking it, but I think BadAstronomy slaughters it most efficiently.
It occurs to me that perhaps denying the moon landing like the holy grail of conspiracy theories. There are more convoluted and implausible ones, but they tend to be ones that an individual basket case cooks up; Nazis running the government (any government) and controlling the drug trade to get money to research AIDS to kill black people so that Jews can rule the world along with the Aliens who have replaced your local school board. But for a single event, is the moon landing the biggest one? There are a billion theories about JFK's assassination, but it's not like anyone is insisting it never actually occurred, and was all staged for some nefarious reason. (Actually, someone probably is, but there's no organized movement behind it, unlike the moon thing.)
The whole thing is pretty similar to people who argue against evolution/for creationism, where the only way you can deny moon landing/evolution is if you are just profoundly ignorant of the science of the whole thing, which requires you to be equally fervent in your faith. If you really know about the science you see things like this page discusses; (half way down) with the telemetry of radio signals. The official moon hoax reasoning seems to be that the US couldn't do it, but needed to look powerful and trick the people and the Russians into believing they had done it, to win the race to the moon. What this overlooks is that there are a lot of evidences of the moon trip over than photographs and videos.
So the hoax to fool the Russians involved the Russians, the US' bitter Cold War enemies. Not to mention every single amateur radio astronomer on earth, every other major country with a scientific team on earth, etc.
As I said, it reminds me of the evolution debate, where people who disbelieve it focus on superficial things that are hard to believe, and just have no idea at all of how more complicated things like a couple I quote near the bottom of the Evolution article, ascorbic acid and vestigial feature mutation.
Yesterday this essay portion of the blog was all about Aliens,
UFOs, human supernatural belief, and other such things. I hardly remember
it myself at this point, to tell you the truth.
Whatever I went on and on about, a friend of mine read it and
had this to say in email about it.
Yesterday this essay portion of the blog was all about Aliens, UFOs, human supernatural belief, and other such things. I hardly remember it myself at this point, to tell you the truth.
Whatever I went on and on about, a friend of mine read it and had this to say in email about it.
Hard to explain why stuff don't grow where saucers crash, and why the govt. is so quick to hush...check them out, if not for just more ammo for your debunking...
Above Top Secret by Timothy Good
Alien Agenda by Jim Marrs (the same guy who wrote Crossfire about JFK assn...and Rule By Secrecy...the dark govt book.
I have started the Alien Agenda book and it is interesting... even accounting 1897, yes 1897 news article of a saucer crash, and days of news clippings across the US as to multiple witness to the craft in flight...and the town and the govt. trying to call it a hoax...interesting read even for the skeptic like you.
Check them out.
Here's my reply to him, very slightly edited.
I don't have a whole lot to add to that, but I thought it was an interesting-enough exchange to post it here. If you read something on this site that you disagree with, feel free to email your thoughts. I'd be happy to post more opinions and PoVs on stuff, but I don't get many mails of that nature.
Something I meant to add but didn't, is the basic observation that we tend to believe in things we are inclined to believe in. I'm a skeptic and a rationalist, and automatically regard any claims of conspiracies, magic, bizarre phenomena, etc with skepticism. I think it's bullshit, and am open to changing my mind, but I need damn good proof of that. Bill is not the opposite, he's not some sap who believes everything, but he's much more inclined to lend credence to accounts of supernatural happenings than I am. So he and I (or any 2 people with similar PoVs) could view the same phenomena, and afterwards both could pass lie detectors describing what they saw, and have very different accounts.
While looking around on the CSICOP website after finding the UFO article I mentioned to Bill, I saw another good article. By Paul Kurtz, it discusses supernatural beliefs. Occasioned by the Heaven's Gate cult suicides, you can see it here. He discusses the Heaven's Gate beliefs, UFOs in general, the way the media (uncritically) presents UFO mythology, how such "new age" beliefs fill a need in humans, and how they compare to traditional religions.
He doesn't go so far as to suggest it, but what do you suppose the odds of current cults growing to be popular religions over the next 50 years? Will Scientology, even with the utter lunacy of most of its core beliefs, become accepted? Or Aum Shinri Kyo, if it tones down the apocalyptic stuff? Or will the central UFO beliefs become codified and unified? It's sort of a cliché to see the fanatical splinter sect leader out in some desert with a pack of human sheep, waiting for the Revelation, or UFO, or meteor, or whatever. But what if everyone believes it?
I find this an extremely pessimistic possibility, even worse than the continued idle religious belief evinced by most people.
As I optimistically wrote yesterday, I sort of expect religion to die off over the coming years, as humans grow more technologically advanced and scientifically aware. The problem with this is that there's not much evidence of it over history. True, most scientists are atheists, but most people aren't scientists, and never will be. The average technical knowledge of most people in the Western world today dwarfs that of a scientist from 30 or 40 years ago, but that's just because we've grown up with microchips. Knowing how to operate a phone or microwave or computer isn't any special intellectual breakthrough, it's just a learned behavior, and not one that's especially amazing. Humans 5000 years ago knew how to hunt, grow food, make clothing, skin game, cook food, stay warm in the night, light a fire from rocks and wood, etc. Can you do that? I certainly couldn't, at least not much of it, and not very well. They couldn't program my digital answering machine, but I'd starve to death in a week in their world. So who is the smarter human?
Now admittedly, I wouldn't think the wind blowing was the spirits of the dead whistling their anger, and I wouldn't think thunder was the gods fighting in heaven, and the caveman here would think all blinking lights were magic, or fireflies, would run in terror from the sounds coming from my stereo (actually most modern humans would also, given my musical preferences) and the pictures on the television. Anyway, my point is that most human superiority over our distant ancestors is just in the form of learned behaviors, rather than any higher state of being, or elevated level of knowledge.
So there isn't human intellectual evolution. People today are nearly as likely to believe in magical invisible gods or spirits as they were thousands of years ago; it's just that such belief today is inculcated from childhood by religious parents, churches, etc. The human mind seems to be very susceptible to superstition, and there is a strong need in most people to believe in something more than the observable, physical world. People want there to be more, they want heaven, or reincarnation, or alternate dimensions, and they aren't real picky about the scientific basis of the belief system that gives it to them. As Paul Kurtz says in the Heaven's Gate article:
You can apply this psychological reality to many aspects of life, in my observation. Not just the intensely-held beliefs, but other lesser beliefs. People like to believe things, and when they hear about something new, they'll often start to believe it as well. Check out this excellent article with a run down of the of the major mass delusions of the past millennium.
Some rather obvious parallels to UFO sightings of the modern era in that one, eh? Of course that was before Roswell incident, which proved once and for all... how eager to believe bullshit people are?
This was initially the "Flux Says No" item of the day. Which means it was the one popular news item that I found dumb, and only commented on here to point out that it was dumb. You know, the daily feature I do twice a month.
Anyway, the only thing less convincing than the actual reports of cattle mutilations is the new "official" explanation for them.
This is fishy on numerous levels. I regard all UFO sightings, especially ones of the "strange lights" variety, as little better than bigfoot sightings; 80% hoaxes, 19.9% confused people, .1% unexplained. And when you throw in mysteriously mangled corpses, it just complicates things. True, you've got some actual physical evidence, but evidence that's so easily falsified. The explanation sucks also though. Farmers have seen dead, scavenger-gnawed animals their whole lives; why wouldn't they be able to recognize it in this instance?
The whole concept of aliens mutilating cattle is so dumb anyway, I wonder where it came from. So imagine you're an astronaut, and you travel to another world, where the people are technologically advanced, but don't have interstellar flight yet. You're landing and exploring, etc, but trying to keep from being seen. What possible reason would you have to land, mutilate livestock, and then leave the evidence around? I mean what could the possible scientific benefits be? If you wanted to experiment on an animal, you'd take it with you, and have a lab on your ship, not out in some field somewhere. And if you were trying to land in secret, wouldn't you turn off the ship lights?
If this is really happening, I.E. it's not just animals and superstitious farmers, I'd say they're doing it themselves for some sort of insurance scam, or whip up interest in something for a financial reason, or there are local pranksters. Maybe someone with a vendetta against a farmer, and wanting to hurt him by killing his animals, and clever enough to disguise it somewhat by making it look supernatural, to throw off suspicion?
It would be cool if there were Bigfeets out there, but to believe that there are thousands of creatures out roaming the wilderness areas of the US and Canada, creatures that we've never ever found one dead, or anyone has shot or captured, or gotten in a credible photograph, is just too big a suspension of disbelief for me. They say that Bigfoot is just sneaky and shy and hides. Well so do hundreds of other animals around the world, jaguars in the jungle, wolverines in bushes and burrows, etc. Yet naturalists have had no problem staking out and finding those when they come to water holes, to hunt prey, etc. And keep in mind we're not looking for one or two Bigfeet somewhere; we're talking about a population large enough to breed and perpetuate itself. That requires lots of them. Thousands. Funny how 500 people a year find their footprints, but no one finds one of them. Must just be bad luck...
The article is more about the existence of such theories, especially the newly popular ones about September 11th, such as the vanishing Pentagon plane crash the French are currently flogging. A theory that's been totally debunked, not that factual issues ever really slow down such things.
I find conspiracy theories interesting, mostly in terms of why people believe such things in the first place, or feel a need to create and maintain their illusions. In some cases there is strong evidence for them; I've yet to see any realistic explanation of how Oswald fired 3 shots so quickly and accurately while using such a crappy rifle.
And even if you accept what might have been the single greatest feat of marksmanship in the history of rifles, the so-called "magic bullet" that hit Kennedy in about 7 places is just ridiculous.
But the plan here isn't to talk about JFK's murder. At least it wasn't initially.
My point is that there are always conspiracy theories, often ones that are patently absurd. Why? What is it in people that wants to believe such things?
Obviously humans have a deep need for self-delusion. There have been religions created ever since humans could think well enough to invent gods. Virtually all religions serve the same purpose, as a way to explain the mysteries of life, and usually to provide comfort with concepts about divine retribution, punishment for crimes or rewards for good deeds, usually after death. Most religions also have lots of rules and regulations, intended to regulate the lives of the believers.
Anyway, discussing the foundations of the need humans have for myth is another essay. But as I see it, this same sort of need plays into conspiracy theories. Humans don't want to believe in simple answers for apparently complicated events. "God did it." is probably the simplest explanation for anything, but in general that's not enough for adults, where magical thinking tends to perish in a battle with analytical rationalism.
It's no fun to think that Princess Diana and Dodi were killed by their drunken limo driver going way too fast as he fled from the paparazzi vultures. So vast conspiracies must be invented, and of course motivation for them must be found. Apparently Arabs believe in this conspiracy, that British agents killed them since they didn't want Diana... doing something. Screwing an Arab? Disgracing Britain? Marrying a heathen? The actual logic of it is secondary to the desire to believe in it, and the people who do feel persecuted by those they see as the conspirators. In this case it's a sort of defense mechanism, and the same holds true for the Sept 11th events. Arabs want to think the world is against them (and they're often right), so they come up with conspiracies to keep the white woman away from them, and the Jews to blame them for the terrorist attacks.
In another way, conspiracy theories give us control over the uncontrollable. It's painful to think that random events or one lone individual can do such horrible things. It's spooky to think that an evil cabal orchestrated them from behind the scenes, but at least that way there's something to oppose or fight or worry about. Better that the evil government is spreading AIDS, or selling crack to blacks, than that those phenomena are forces of their own. If you are going to be suffer something, it's nice to have someone to blame for it.
Conspiracy theories are also fun to think about. Even if the events or outcome of them is gruesome and horrible, such as the Pentagon crash, it's interesting to speculate about how it might not really have happened. You get to analyze photos and indulge in wild theorizing and make stuff up. Instead of just thinking about the hundreds of innocent people who died in a hijacked plane, you can spend your time thinking how it might have been faked, or an illusion, or a cover up, etc.
I don't really have a conclusion to this, it's just some thoughts I have on the topic. Feel free to email and tell me I'm full of shit, if you are of that opinion. Or perhaps I know exactly what secret forces created all of these events, and I'm just dismissing them to throw you off the trail...
Fascinating page of the day can be seen here. It's a wild-eyed conspiracy thing that appears to show the damage done to the Pentagon Sept 11th was far less than a crashing plane would have done. If you'll recall the original report was that a truck blew up next to the building, and from these pictures, all from military and other official sites, all apparently un-edited, the damage certainly looks a lot more like what a truck would do than a plane. The site doesn't really argue the case, just presents the evidence and it's very interesting to look at it.
Of course the arguments come in with why would the government cover it up, where did the plane go if not into the Pentagon, how did they get the air traffic controllers who tracked the plane from multiple airports to go along with it, etc. Interesting pictures though.
I posted some weeks ago about the very interesting Hunt the Boeing website, which is a compilation of photos of the Pentagon after the 9/11 events, when one of the 4 hijacked planes (allegedly?) crashed into it. From the photos it looked like there was a good case to be made for no plane having hit the building, just since the damage appeared to be very insubstantial, certainly compared to the utter disaster that was the WTC crashes. You expect a huge, gaping hole going through the building, 50 foot trenches dug, etc. Nothing like that is visible in the shots, and they are real shots, taken from government and news sites.
So the Hunt the Boeing page is well worth a look, but I didn't really take it seriously at the time. It's more of an illustration of how mysterious the damage of a crashing plane can be. By the photos you can't see that it hit really, but as there's no real conspiracy to follow up on that, it fizzles out. I mean if the plane didn't hit there, where did it go? It didn't crash anywhere else or we'd have heard about it. I didn't fly to Hangar 18 and get interned with the Aliens, it wasn't tractor beam'ed in by the time traveling USS Enterprise, it didn't fly through the Twilight Zone. It was seen on radar by dozens of air traffic controllers and stations, there were eye witnesses of it hitting the Pentagon, etc. So theories that it didn't hit and that a truck bomb was the source of the Pentagon destruction weren't real believable, but that doesn't make the photos less interesting to view.
A site that does it's best to debunk the Hunt the Boeing presentation is here.
So how did a plane hit the Pentagon and not do more apparent damage? The roof still standing in the overhead shots hides damage to the B and C rings, past the A ring which was totally demolished. All 3 have been completely removed and are being rebuilt now, so there was obviously extensive fire damage beyond what's visible overhead. A good quote from the debunking site:
There aren't any pictures of the plane coming into the Pentagon, at least none that I've seen, but there are some amazing security camera shots. Click the arrows on the page to go back and forth through the half dozen images. You don't see a plane or a truck, for that matter, but by the shape of the enormous fireball, it certainly looks like a plane crash. Unless the imaginary truck was full of jet fuel.
On the destruction theme, there are some amazingly clear shots of the Pentagon and WTC site from space.
I know I should throw in various remarks about how cool pictures don't mean diddly compared to the horrible loss of life and human catastrophe, etc. But I'm not real good with those, as they call them, "human emotions". I mean I was sad at the time, horrified by the scenes, but I've managed to forget all of that now, and it's just a cool topic for discussion.
And yes, I'll say "hello" to Satan for you after the inevitable lightning bolt strikes my callous ass down.
have read articles about how the US government used the UFO hysteria of the 50's and 60's as a propaganda tool. One of the main reasons they allowed all the insane stories about a UFO crash in Roswell, NM to continue was because they had been testing a special high altitude weather balloon, that was of a type being used for spying on the Soviets. There are also reports that numerous other US spy plane testing flights and such were reported as UFOs, sometimes apparently by the Air Force or other branches of the government themselves. It was a handy way to cover their tracks. An interesting article about some researchers who have concluded that UFO sightings began as a form of Cold War hysteria can be seen here.
Of course conspiracy theorists will point out that this is just what "they" want us to think.
One funny thing you'll hear is that NASA knows all about aliens, but is keeping it secret. Given that their funding is continually threatened, and they have to cancel projects all the time, and the fact that the public is fascinated by life on other planets, why on Earth would NASA cover it up? If they had any evidence of life on Mars or elsewhere, much less actual UFOs on earth, they'd use that, and argue that due to our need to investigate it, prepare for it, etc, we must boost the NASA budget 100x. Instead we're left with plans for missions to Mars to poke around in rocks to try and find fossil evidence of bacteria from three billion years ago.
Other people are just as convinced that UFOs to exist, and that there's a huge government cover up, and media conspiring with them to keep things quiet. An article here opinions that of course UFOs are real and all but proven, but mysterious media forces are conspiring to keep it quiet by not reporting on it, or interviewing ex-pilots, etc.
"But," you say, "aren't there about 20 network shows about aliens, such as The X-Files, and regular "news" features about UFO sightings, specials perpetuating the Roswell landing myth, Fox airing Alien Autopsies using special effects dummies while claiming it's a real corpse, or absurd specials about Aliens building the pyramids? (Which isn't even open to debate, they've found unfinished-pyramids with the ramps used to drag blocks up still around them, and demonstrated how blocks of that size could easily be moved with tools of the age.)
And don't the tabloids, which are arguably read by more people than mainstream media, constantly talk about alien landings, abductions, etc?"
Well yeah, and oddly the article doesn't really address that issue.
In fact there is a long history of mainstream media promoting anything sensationalistic, and ignoring skeptical arguments or evidence to the contrary. This article, for instance, talks about the vastly skewed (towards the conspiracy theorists) TV shows.
That's just one of dozens of examples listed in just that one article, by a skeptic.
Perhaps the mainstream media and government cabal that's suppressing news of the Aliens all around us allow the tabloids and Fox News to report on them, since that automatically brands it as bullshit to people, who know that their every word of celebrity gossip and predictions of the future and such are utter bullshit?
So mainstream media doesn't want to admit there are Aliens, because...? It would give them a huge story to cover, and guarantee enormous ratings more or less forever. You think they were all camp out around every unimportant celebrity trial for fun? They'll do anything that gets them ratings, and if there were any actual credible evidence they'd be all over it. Especially in this day and age of lowered journalistic standards, from cable, Fox News, the Internet *cough*, etc.
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