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The genesis of conspiracy theories..

So I started reading about conspiracy theories a few days back, and to be honest, they are fascinating. It's like almost every big story has to have another side to it. Maybe its just human tendency to create a second story and make things convoluted.

One conspiracy theory that really stupefied me was the discovery/'invention' of HIV/AIDS. Some people believe that the CIA agents actually created the virus to wipe out homosexuals and African Americans. This is still one of the most debated topics, like JFK's death and the Moon landing.

My questions is, do you think these conspiracy theories are actually legitimate or nothing but concocted BS?

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  • Nov 27 2012: Conspiracy theories share most of the characteristics of religion and they have the same origins as well: people want to explain complicated stuff with simple theories, people intuitively don't believe in coincidence (we're smart animals promgrammed to always look for a reason behind something) and people can't accept that important events can "just happen" without being planned by powerful people or that important people can "just get killed" by an average person or by a common type of disease or accident. Like religion conspiracy theories try to fit evidence to an already made up conclusion, dismissing, or bending evidence that points to the contrary, unlike science which follows all the evidence and constructs a conclusion from it, a conclusion that will be adjusted as soon as eve one piece of evidence is found that contradicts the current conclusion.
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      Nov 27 2012: I completely agree, but sometimes people tend to explain relatively simple stuff with (absurdly) complex theories to a point where Occam and his razor would turn in their graves.

      Two examples that I have encountered is religious creationists who believe that the earth is 6000 years old; and people who believe that the earth is flat and this is being covered up by a NASA lead conspiracy(!)

      The lengths these people will go to refute observed data in order to uphold their beliefs is mindblowing. There is a whole forum where people discuss Flat Earth Theory and in the the discussion board you'll frequently find outrageous statements like "Flat Earth Theory is a fact and is not up for discussion", which I find equally tragic and comical.

      One thing I've discovered with these two theories is that the supporters of both theories tend to involve Einstein's Theory of Relativity in their arguments without having the slightest understanding of it.
      • Nov 27 2012: Do you include silent conspiracies? What happens when everyone knows his place, allows some sequence of events to occur that could be prevented, and then benefits from the silence? If the truth got out, then the individual would fare less well. In the case of Einstein's theory of relativity, "everyone" knows that Poincare and Lorentz were two major players in relativity, but the press is only interested in Einstein. Why is that?

        Was it a conspiracy when scientists studying the Eclipse of 1919 went in front of the Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society and "canonized" Einstein and the theory of relativity based on bogus data? Anyone familiar with the primitive equipment, the hostile viewing conditions and the fact that Eddington, the scientist in question, was an ardent admirer of Einstein would readily have admitted that the data were too equivocal to make any valid scientific argument, yet the story had to be told that Einstein had overturned Newton's view of the universe. Many scientists knew otherwise but said nothing.

        Once Einstein became a superhero, he became a cash cow to big physics. Just look at CERN, look at the $16 billion spent on hot fusion, the billions spent on neutrino detectors and you can readily see how the silent conspiracy works. The third rail in physics is Einstein's reputation; challenge that and you will lose a tenure track position, your funding, the best graduate students, you will be denied access to the trade journals and you will be ostracized by your peers. If the American public knew how they have been "played" the massive funding for these projects might have been questioned.

        Thousands of physcists know how much others contributed to relativity but say nothing lest they dull the shine on Einstein's halo.
        • Nov 27 2012: "The third rail in physics is Einstein's reputation"

          As a physicist I can tell you that his reputation is wholly deserved: his contributions are simply everywhere, from cosmology to solid state physics to quantum mechanics, even though he's only known to the public for relativity, he was also a keen philosopher who practically invented the falsifiability principle years before Karl Popper became famous for it. Einstein is only known for a small part of his work and he never took credit for things he didn't think of first.

          "Just look at CERN, look at the $16 billion spent on hot fusion, the billions spent on neutrino detectors and you can readily see how the silent conspiracy works."

          Or maybe, you know, a planet with a GDP of $70+ trillion figures it might be a good investment to spend some billions on fundamental science...
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          Nov 28 2012: Hi Richard

          I'm not denying existence of conspiracies. The ones that I have encountered have supporters who wants to believe and therefore are immune to logic or reasoning. An example is David Icke and his followers who believe that a reptilian race operates in a "dimension" just outside the visible light and the politicians are half reptilian half human. You'll be surprised at how many followers he has.

          I do know that Lorentz and Poincare contributed to Special Relativity, but are you saying that Einstein didn't? You do hopefully give him credit for General Relativity.

          One person getting the credit for collective work is not uncommon. The story of one man making a discovery is an easier story to sell. I don't see the conspiracy.

          How would looking at CERN, hot fusion and neutrino detectors give me any insight in how this alleged conspiracy works?

          All conspiracies are silent by default, wouldn't you say?
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      Nov 27 2012: Mr. Smith and Mr. Butt seem to agree that religion is responsible for most, if not all, conspiracy theories. I wish to suggest that that is a conspiracy theory in the making. You both seem to hold God/Religion in great contempt and assert that they are inconsistent with Science and Truth. May I list some scientists you might be familiar with who would certainly, IF they had nothing better to do, dispute your rather sophomoric claims: Bacon; Boyle; Copernicus; Descartes; Einstein; Faraday; Galelei; Kelvin: Kepler; Mendel; Newton; Planck; Pascal. For your consideration. Thank you!
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        Nov 27 2012: None of us have stated that religion is responsible for the majority of conspiravy theories. Please read the threads before you comment.
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          Nov 27 2012: Why do you suggest I did not read your remarks prior to commenting on them? How would I possibly have known what to say if I had not read them? You think I made a lucky guess choosing to comment on the very words you wrote without ever having read them? That's just silly. Also, since the subject is conspiracy theories what purpose is served by all the denigration of people of faith and people who believe the Holy Bible explains a young Earth? Why did you and Mr. Smith sing your duet against religion if it is not implying that religion is responsible, to some extent, for conspiracy theiories? Are you now saying people of faith and people who believe the Holy Bible teaches a young Earth are not responsible for conspiracy theories? Please restate your position so I can apologize if I misinterpreted your intent. Thank you.
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          Nov 28 2012: RE: "Mr. Long this is a response to your. . . "This is your third denial that you are equating conspiracy theorists and flat earthers to people who believe in God. In the response you do it again! QUOTE: "I do not understand how you can ridicule Flat Earth believers, when you are so protective of Young Earth believers. I fail to see the difference." In one of the seven languages you speak there must be sufficient clarity to see the inconsistency of your position. You don't see any difference between a person who insists the earth is flat and a person who insists there is a god? Really? Have you considered the reason both groups believe what they do? It is easy to prove the earth spherical. It is impossible to prove there is no God. Is that enough difference for you? Conspiracy theories offer alternate possible explanations for an event. Sometimes those theories are plausible, sometimes they are too fantastic to consider. Oops, here comes the drain. Good luck sir.
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        Nov 27 2012: ...and by the way listing the names of a bunch of people - whoever they might be - who you assume would disagree does not qualify as an argument.
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          Nov 27 2012: You and Mr. Smith ridicule people of faith for having a low view of science. The list of names of people you find so unfamiliar are people of faith who played key roles in establishing the foundations of all science. It is an acceptable argument, in terms of logic, to challenge the sweeping generalization that says religious people despise and disregard science. I really think you should be able to see the relevance of the list. I recommend you find out who those people are and what they contributed to science.
        • Nov 28 2012: Edward, most of the people you listed were theists (they didn't believe in the bible) or lived in societies where being openly atheist/agnostic was pretty much a death sentence, so for all we know they faked their beliefs (this is pretty likely considering the vast majority of exact scientists from the 20th century on are atheists with most of the remainder being agnostic or theistic, and this is true worldwide). Besides, arguments from authority are logical fallacies (did you know Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan were agnostic while Stephen Hawking is an atheist as were Niels Bohr, John Bell, Chandrasekhar, Steven Weinberg, Alan Turing, Erwin Schrodinger, Richard Feynman, Pierre Laplace, Andrei Sakharov, Carl Gauss, etc...).
      • Nov 27 2012: Mr. Edward, that is critical but doesn't make sense here. No one here stated anything that holds Religion or God in contempt.
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          Nov 27 2012: I beg to differ sir. Does the following quote from Mr. Smith- about which Mr. Butt says, "I completely agree"- strike you as contemptous toward religion or God?. . . " Like religion conspiracy theories try to fit evidence to an already made up conclusion, dismissing, or bending evidence that points to the contrary". That is a grievous. mnalicious assessment of people of faith and clearly holds them in contempt.
        • Nov 28 2012: "" Like religion conspiracy theories try to fit evidence to an already made up conclusion, dismissing, or bending evidence that points to the contrary".
          That is a grievous. mnalicious assessment of people of faith and clearly holds them in contempt"

          Truth hurts, doesn't it? Are you going to stone me now or deliver me to the inquisition?

          Anyway, what Faisel stated here correctly is that we're not saying religion causes conspiracy theories (which seems to be what you think we said), we're saying religion and conspiracy theories share a common origin in the human mind: the same thought patterns that make people believe in spirits, demons and bearded skygods also make people believe in conspiracy theories.
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        Nov 28 2012: Dear Mr. Long

        I did to some extend ridicule individuals who refute logic and the reality they live in for the sake of a belief system that exists in their head. I did also call it tragic. You then assume that I am singling out religious people. To put those words in my mouth is not only unfair - it is to lower the standard of this conversation.

        You are making the assumption that supporters of Flat Earth Theory are religious. As far as I understand it is a movement of theists and atheists.

        Regarding "believers of a young earth " I see no reason to restate my position. I fail to see what they can contribute to science, as they have already made up their minds regardless of how much data or evidence you put in front of them. And the ones I have been fortunate enough to talk to do see the theory of evolution and The Big Bang as an atheist conspiracy - at least the moderate ones. Others see it as a conspiracy lead by the devil.

        I am very aware of who the people you mentioned are, thank you. Yes, it does qualify as an argument in the context you just described. But an argument against what? Against an imaginary statement that I never articulated and for some reason only you see.
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          Nov 28 2012: I bundled you with Mr. Smith on the basis of your emphatic remark about his anti-religious diatribe. You said, "I completely agree". Three simple words free of ambiguity. You are saying that you only intended flat earth folks? If so, I agree and have no discrepancy with you, and no I do not assume flat earth people are religion driven, I think they are driven by a desire to be different. I agree with you that people who ignore and/or deny proven facts ought to be ridiculed. If you were expressing condemnation of people of faith then my rebuff stands. Also, if you are aware of the people I mentioned why did you say "whoever they might be"? Just because you don't see what young earth beliefs have to offer to "contribute to science" does not mean they have nothing to contribute. If you are like most of us there are probably many things in the universe you "fail to see".Not all people of faith view evolution and the BB as an atheist conspiracy. Many view them as an alternative explanation of the universe which works without God. Peace to you sir.
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        Nov 28 2012: @Mr. Long
        RE: "This is your third denial..."

        Mr. Long, Please stick to the subject matter and refrain from cheap shots involving my language skills. This is not youtube.

        You said that Flat Earth Theorists (FET) should be ridiculed for their dismissal of facts and evidence. As I see no difference between them and Creationists (CRE) in that sense, I ask you: Why ridicule one and not the other? You interpret this as me ridiculing CRE. You then make the false assumption that CRE equals religious people and magically you come to the conclusion that I ridicule religious people.

        And you in fact introduced the term "ridicule". My original statement was that I found CRE and FET's denial of facts and evidence equally tragic and comical.

        If this is acceptable reasoning to you, I don't see any point in continuing this discussion, as you must have a definition of logic that differs fundamentally from mine. If that is the case I believe we have reached the Nash equilibrium of this discussion.
    • Nov 27 2012: Thanks for commenting John. That was very knowledgeable and helpful.

      It seems like arguing over conspiracy theories are never ending. Everyone's entitled to their opinions.

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