Tag Archive | Weird Things

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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Skeptefinitions: Pseudoscience & Antiscience


Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science

Image via Wikipedia

This is the first in what I find to be increasingly needed on this site: a compilation of working definitions of the terms I use on the Call to refer to, well, just about anything I post on with even a vaguely technical nature that requires a more precise meaning than those same terms often used in common parlance.

I’ve found that most words are notoriously difficult to agree upon concerning how to define them, especially if used informally, drastically increasing the chances of misinterpretation and straw-persons, most of it avoidable if a specific set of meanings and usage are stipulated beforehand.

It’s not enough to rely on most published dictionaries to provide these, as even published sources can vary substantially in their wording, potentially distorting interpretations of that wording, and the cultural and historical context of the period and date they are published.

They are also ripe for quote-mining.

Many such words, even when the sources agree in the wording of their descriptions, have multiple ambiguous and even conflicting meanings, further muddying the waters of discussion, encouraging fallacies of equivocation and presumption.

In this series of posts, which I shall link back to periodically, are the operative meanings of those terms in the sense, or set of senses, that I use them on this blog, sometimes prefaced by…Let’s assume for the sake of argument…

Note that I may in this series repeat those stipulated definitions posted separately in previous articles, for ease of immediate reference and to avoid the hassle of opening browser tabs ad nauseam.

These are the meanings I use. Period. I’ll warn you: I may be a bit pedantic with this, but it’s important to be thorough:

  • First, there is the specified meaning of the ever-so popular word, sometimes loaded, though not always, Pseudoscience:

n. Any tenet, doctrine, claim, or belief-system that attempts to present itself as science, but which does not abide by its benchmarks or criteria and makes often demonstrably false claims or in principle untestable or unfalsifiable ones, in rejecting scientific reasoning, method, or its process, and which because its claims are not in accord with compelling evidence must promote and perpetuate itself by way of a mix of fabricated propaganda, logical fallacies, conspiracy theory, and/or anecdotal reasoning.

If there’s any question, I don’t use this word for ideas with that have nothing to do with claims about physical reality, nor for unorthodox ideas that are genuinely scientific. If an idea makes no claim to be scientific, implicitly or explicitly, or it abides by the rules of science in the methods used to discover and test it, it ain’t pseudoscience. The term does have derogatory connotations, so I won’t be using it that much regarding specific doctrines.

  • And then there is another that gets abused a lot, Antiscience:

n. Similar in some respects to pseudoscience, sometimes a sub-set of it, but focusing on denying and/or hindering scientific research for political, religious, economic, or other ideological ends and/or for financial gain by way of personal attacks, legislative bans and funding cuts, physical, psychological, or legal coercion, propaganda, logical fallacies, conspiratorial reasoning, out-of-context *gotcha!* anecdotal soundbites, and in extreme cases (look up Lysenkoism under Josef Stalin’s rule), the imprisonment, exile or capital punishment of the offending researcher. Primarily characterized by a rejection, implied, denied, or explicit, of the core scientific values of curiosity, empiricism, and progress through the advancement of objective knowledge.

I try to base my beliefs on objective reality, and it doesn’t matter whether that reality sits well with me, so I don’t use that last term on ideas that don’t meet the above criteria just because they make me uncomfortable.

But (with a big hat-tip to fellow blogger Lousy Canuck…)while I’m just as susceptible to bias and fallacies, and to accusations of these, as anyone else, I’m potentially just as susceptible to accusations of being a 500-foot tall Tyrannosaurus rex in a holographic human disguise with a bad habit of indulging in late night snacks of unrefined plutonium to fuel my atomic death-ray breath…

*Rawr!*

Such is life.

Factionalism & The Art of Woo-Meistering


On this blog’s “about” page I’ve mentioned my tendency for arrogant and condescending diatribes…Well, this post is going to be one of those, and likely to offend some. But this is moi, speaking from the proverbial heart.

Still here? Oh goody…Let the tirade begin…

To be a successful proponent of woo, you don’t have to know a thing about science or concern yourself with such extraneous details as facts, evidence, sound reasoning, or those terrible inconveniences, reality or a concern for anything like truth.

In fact, you don’t need any qualifications, to know anything about anything, except the ability to make stuff up and enough skill and chutzpah to make it sound convincing to the uninformed.

Even the most scientifically incompetent among us can become an accomplished purveyor of nonsense, though it is also a big plus to have a massive ego, a persecution complex a mile wide, and a generous helping of a conspiratorial mindset.

Most pseudosciences are not even cosmetically tenable unless accompanied by a conspiracy theory involving suppression or willful ignorance of the doctrine’s claims by a dogmatic, entrenched scientific, corporate or governmental establishment, with the Evil Pseudo-Skeptics™ standing in as the New Inquisition, to substitute for any genuine explanation for the rather apparent lack of supporting evidence or valid argumentation in the doctrine’s favor.

After all, it’s trivially easy to argue that any evidence against a conspiracy is really evidence for a conspiracy if you’re good at pulling things out of your posterior. Why are there no files on record of the conspiracy’s existence? Of course! Because any incriminating data have been purged from the records! How can you possibly be proven wrong?

After all, if you’re willing to ignore the limits of what really is, you’re free to make up, believe and/or propound on whatever factually absurd or illogical claims you want, limited only by the blazing fires of your fertile imagination and your persuasiveness.

This lack of ability or concern for the requirement of scientific methods, epistemological soundness, consensus, thinking or competence has led to a pronounced tendency for factionalism and even mutual derision or demonization among competing groups of fringe-enthusiasts of the even same general sort of claim, like separate UFO or Bigfoot organizations, even different flavors of Creationist or pseudo-astronomical groups who vehemently disagree and denounce each other over even seemingly minor points of doctrine or belief.

Pseudosciences tend to blend into each other around the edges, with UFOlogy, as an example, having a spectrum of views ranging from the ostensibly scientific to those of New Age mysticism.

It’s been my experience that even within a given field of fringe-science, the various advocates of these ideas seem, due to an absence, even at times a willful disdain, for consensus and doctrinal coherence, to be as individuals unable to keep their claims consistent even within a faction.

One thing I’ve noticed though, is that many fringe proponents, the really good ones, tend to be highly proficient in polishing their arguments and their skill in delivering their baloney. They know their own bullpucky with masterful skill. My hat is off to them.

Why should pseudoscientists have to feel bound by rules of evidence, criteria of theoretical adequacy, or clear thought, when these merely serve to inconvenience their pet doctrine? Why dogmatically adhere to the way the world really works when they can just dream up whatever feels good without regard for what’s true?

Why use rigor of methodology and reasoning when fast-and-loose technique and fuzzy thinking are so much easier?

After all, if you don’t consider yourself bound by mere facts or logic that disagree with you, you can just ignore them whenever it’s convenient. This quality of pseudoscience coheres often with that of the world’s religions, where entire religions, sects, denominations and cults have often violently contended with each other and indeed, anyone else who disagrees with them, over what would be irrelevant differences of opinion to an outsider.

In my view, no ideology attempting to pass itself as revealed and eternal fact, whether political, religious or pseudoscientific, has been successful at self-correcting its errors, and sometimes, of washing off the metaphorical and sometimes literal blood on its hands from the misery, confusion, fear or death that has often accompanied it along the way.

Why?

Because none of these ideas has an adequate way of telling itself about its missteps, its mistakes, as with any sort of idea that relies on an uncritical acceptance of its assertions by way of its own authority.

Unlike science, none of these ways of believing, NOT ways of knowing, has a built-in set of methods for alerting itself to when it has been led astray by its own error by those working within it.