The Four, FOUR Postulates of Conspiracy Theories, Ah, Ah, Ah!

I recently came across some old fractal memes in my files, and decided to do an update to Three Postulates of Moonbat Conspiracy Theories and three followup posts Here, Here, and Here. I thought it would be fun to give them facelifts and reformulate them in light of current understanding. In all truth, the original memes could have looked better, and been much easier to read…

I do not call them laws, much less name them after myself, as I think that presumptuous.

These memes will read as dismissive, and that is exactly as intended. Claims offered with no evidence beyond illogical connections of invisible dots are well-deserving of being dismissed without needing evidence against them. Hitchens’ dictum, my peeps.

Yes, conspiracies do sometimes happen, but the vast majority that frequent the Internet and make the rounds in chain emails and 24 hour political news cycles ought to be called out as what they are: baseless nonsense and propaganda, spread with a paranoid fervor to deliberately misinform and mislead.

So here they are, the Four Postulates of (Moonbat) Conspiracy Theories, using better images and new fonts.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

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That Mitchell and Webb Look – Moon Landing Sketch

This is brilliant!…It’s the perfect comedic rebuttal to Moon landing denialism, what would have to be the case if it were a hoax…not that I expect the deniers to be convinced — you can’t convince a denier of anything when their denial is based only on ideology, not evidence.

Three Postulates of Moonbat Conspiracy Theories

Awhile back, I had come up with a set of heuristics, or general rules of thumb to judge the relative plausibility of conspiracy theories, first only one, then two, and just recently completing them as a full set of three, in the spirit of Clarke’s three laws, as well as Isaac Asimov’s laws of Robotics and his semi-humorously intended laws of Humanics.

But these are postulates, not laws, though they have shown themselves remarkably consistent and useful predictive guides indeed.

The postulates are general observations on the characteristics of conspiracy theories ranging from the seemingly sound to the completely kooktastic ones, and of what things to look out for and sound the shenanigans alarm when dealing with the claims of those chaps wearing tinfoil hats.

The 1st:

  • The likelihood of any given conspiracy theory being true is inversely proportional to the amount of bat-shit insane rationalization that goes into it.

The next involves what’s known as “cascade logic,” fallacious reasoning in which the conspiracy must be ever-widened with increasingly enormous numbers of people “in” on it to support its attendant theory.

Never mind that it’s extremely illogical to claim that a conspiracy can involve thousands or millions of people, all of them comically evil and as obedient to their masters as Daleks, with not one of them ever blowing its cover even once for personal gain or ethical qualms, or any of the other reasons people often have for blowing big secrets wide open.

If the United States government can’t even keep the secret of the atomic bomb, or more recently, the scandals of even the secretive political administration of president Bush II, though conspiracies do happen, and secrets are often successfully kept, as well they sometimes should be, it’s the successful conspiracies that no one, and I mean no one uninvolved, ever hears about until said conspiracies become unsuccessful and thus no longer pose a threat.

The 2nd:

  • The plausibility of any given conspiracy theory is inversely proportional to the number of people allegedly involved in it.

This last one is a variant of Godwin’s Law, dealing with the invective that flies when unsupported claims of conspiracy are challenged by those of us less inclined to be taken in by or promote them.

The 3rd:

  • The probability of being accused of implication as a craven shill, stooge, or dupe in a conspiracy is directly proportional to the degree of implausibility a critic attributes to the alleged conspiracy’s attendant body of theory and to the level of self-righteous hostility of the theorist.

I find these useful for separating the absurd theories from the more likely ones, and best used together in looking for fallacious and baroque chains of argument, including cascade reasoning, special pleading and ad hominem arguments of motive and knowing or naive involvement in the conspiracy by proponents.

I hope you find these amusing if nothing else…but never forget that the most important thing is the evidence for a claim — these postulates are only intended to raise the proverbial red flags, to note when something sounds fishy, but are a good indicator of nonsense if evidence is not forthcoming from the claimant.

Considering Conspiracies

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

Image via Wikipedia

I was looking through the January-February 2011 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, and was especially interested in the issue’s feature article, The Conspiracy Meme, written by sociologist Ted Goertzel.
Rather than rehash the article here, I thought I’d add a little commentary and a couple of observations I’ve made about conspiracy theories in general.

Now, while it would be silly to suppose that conspiracies don’t happen–after all, anytime you have two or more people secretly gathering to plan something, that could be considered a conspiracy–there is no one universally accepted definition of a conspiracy, and everybody has their own take on what constitutes one.

Most such theories, however allege something outright evil, or in the more likely theories, merely illegal, or at the very least classified, about the nature of the conspiracy.

To me, in any claim of a conspiracy, it’s more parsimonious to attribute incompetence to a serious f*ck-up than sinister intent by agencies unseen unless there is a good reason to suppose the latter.

As one of my commenters pointed out in an earlier post, the terror attacks of 9/11, 2001 couldn’t have been an ‘inside job’ by the Bush administration because of the simple and graphic fact that they succeeded as well as they did.

Interestingly, those fingered as conspirators are attributed with both incredible intelligence and incredible stupidity at the same time–smart enough to cover their tracks to the rest of the sheeple, but somehow just not bright enough to hide their diabolical plans from the intellectually superior conspiracy theorists themselves.

I’ve found it useful to be suspicious of such claims unless they are reasonably supported and the following may be of some value in assessing them:

The likelihood of any given conspiracy theory being true is inversely proportional to the amount of unsupported rationalization that goes into it,

…and the corollary of this observation:

The successful, well-organized and secret conspiracy is the one that nobody not ‘in on it,’ even you, know about–After all, it’s a secret, and if you know about it and are not part of it, it’s no longer successful nor well-organized nor a secret.

Regarding those who claim poorly substantiated and often implausible conspiracies and who think themselves ‘skeptical’ of large institutions, I think that it’s a good idea to be skeptical of their skepticism.