Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's all a conspiracy

Listening to: 'Further down the Spiral'-Nine Inch Nails

Popular conspiracy theories I believe in:

I have seen enough to be convinced that there is definitely more governmental knowledge about this phenomenon than is in the public domain. This does not mean I think they are alien spacecraft. The automatic UFO=Alien association really hacks me off. Think about it. If an Unidentified Flying Object is an alien craft, well, its not unidentified is it? Lots of things could be UFO's. In the absence of decent evidence beyond observation, speculation is useless.

Area 51.
Very loosely tied to the above. There is likely to be lots of stuff going on there that we don't know about, and possibly never will. Top of my list of places to go if I had unrestricted access to anywhere. Do I think there is a secret alien base there? Possibly (in the sense that it probably isn't impossible), but I doubt it.

Oil as a pretext for invading Iraq.
No brainer.

Alternative technologies are being suppressed by Oil companies.
Again, a no brainer.

Popular Conspiracies I don't believe in.
To my mind, these make evidence fit hypotheses, and rely on too many assumptions. Good investigation is the other way around, making hypotheses and theory fit the evidence, with few or no assumptions. Scientific investigation was a big part of my tertiary training, and is a big part of my job also. The government and then DSIR reports into the 1978 Kaikoura UFO sightings are classic local examples of making evidence fit.

The moon landings were faked.
My stated opinion that I'll happily stand by and argue is that it would be easier to actually put astronauts on the moon than to fake it to the degree required to withstand intense scrutiny. EVERY piece of 'evidence' I have seen for this theory has explanations that don't require a conspiracy (think Occam's Razor. Simplest explanation with fewest assumptions is usually correct).

Various 9/11 theories like 'The missile', and 'The pod'.
Again, a lot of 'evidence' for these does not survive Occam's Razor. I'm not going to get into details but I have spent some time looking into these as they do intrigue me. There was a conspiracy that day, to hijack airliners and crash them into iconic structures. Two of them collapsed completely due to the damage caused by the collisions. I have seen no reason to doubt that this is what happened.
Before and after the event, however, I am open to skullduggery occuring.

The Masons/Illuminati/Knights Templar/Osmonds control the world.
Too many people required to keep too many secrets. Secret international treaties are much more likely, and infinitely more plausible.

Stealth and other high technology has been reverse engineered from alien spacecraft
We shouldn't sell ourselves short like this. Not plausible, and unnecessary (stealth for example isn't really that complicated at a theoretical level).

Conspiracies I am undecided upon.

Lone gunman is just as possible as Cubans/Mafia/Military industrial complex/whoever

The KGB orchestrated the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II
Both plausible and possible.

KAL 007 was allowed to be shot down.
This was the Korean airliner shot down by the Soviets in 1983. Murkiness and nefariousness in order to protect ongoing intelligence gathering operations is possible. Or that the Soviets were trying to make a point.

Aliens are among us
Too intriguing to dismiss entirely, how matter how unlikely

Pretty much all of human history will involve high level conspiracy in the form of secret plan making at some point. The problem is in the definition of 'conspiracy'. I am conspiring to go to Sydney for Labour weekend. Not-kate, Fi and I are conspiring to go to her 80's quiz on Friday. I am conspiring to leave work early in order to attend.
None of those things are secret but I'm sure you get the point by now. Are conspiracies such because they are secret? Lots of secret stuff exists that isn't necessarily conspiratorial. There are good reasons for some things to be secret. Conspiracies exist in the eye of the beholder I think, and people see what they want to see.
I am open minded, but demand proof, which a lot of 'conspiracies' either don't require (in the sense that they can neither be proved or disproved) or can't provide.
A lot of 'proof' I have seen is people encountering stuff out of context, saying 'WTF', and accepting it as unusual, when it often has completely prosaic explanations the observers were unaware of or simply hadn't encountered before.
I'll close with an observation. Every form of media is a conduit for what other people want you to see and hear. Newspapers, TV, the internet, all are identical in this respect.


Andrew said...

I think the thing about conspiracy theories is that regardless of whether they're right or wrong, they appeal to people who want the world to Make Sense in a very rigidly defined sense of the word "sense". Traditionally religion has provided this for some people, though in itself (itselves?) religion is capable of both more and less.

Sorry about the wonk, but I once saw a really good description of the difference between Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein: that the latter wanted Description to have "absolute clarity at the expense of certainty" and the former wanted it to have "absolute certainty at the expense of clarity". Conspiracy theorism strikes me as an example of seeking absolute certainty at the expense of clarity. This is why theorists are able to torture their evidence to fit their hypotheses - it seems incoherent to you, but it offers greater certainty than a descriptive model based on accepting the evidence as it stands.

NB: hopefully this post will act as an advert for my new I'm-out-of-town blog.

Not Kate said...

I'm with you on the oil ones. I'm also with you on the alien ones - though I'm sure they look nothing like the pictures we see. I think our imaginations are a bit fixated on aliens being like ourselves but green and with large heads. The chance of a species evolving in a climate that similar to ours that they end up as bi-peds wearing one-piece lycra bodysuits is..... unlikely...

Looking forward to your birthday!

My latest dilemma:
Is it more in the spirit of the party to wear a true old-favourite tshirt or use it as an excuse to buy a cool new one?