- adj. a made up word meaning "of pleasing sound."
- n. the personal weblog of Cameron Spencer.
Here is a deeply misguided article by Tom Rogan arguing that conspiracy theories are good for America.
Bogus theories that America faked the moon landing evoke such fascination that they lead to information discovery. As a result of conspiracy-fueled curiosity, each new class of 10th graders may discuss fluttering flags and secret film sites, but in the end, the desire to know leads to the great majority's acceptance of reality. And in that journey of discovery, this amazing story of human adventure is renewed again and again. The conspiracy becomes the servant of history.
Rogan's argument boils down to this: conspiracy theories are good because they incite our curiosity and encourage us to learn more about our history. Do you see the problem there? It's akin to saying that terrorism is good for America because it encourages us to make our country safer. Wouldn't it have been better to not experience the terrorism in the first place? Wouldn't it be better to not have to waste resources battling stupid conspiracy theories?
I suspect the source of Rogan's positive attitude towards conspiracy theories ("just about everyone kind of enjoys hearing about them") is that he underestimates the corrosive effects of conspiracism. Conspiracy theories are generated by arrogant and irrational thinking. They are often fueled by racism and radical ideologies (anti-semitism is rampant among 9/11 conspiracy theorists, for example). They short-circuit our critical thinking skills, causing us to bypass mountains of evidence in search of the handful of isolated facts and anecdotes which, taken out of context, superficially support our pet theories. This tactic of conspiracy theorists is often called anomaly hunting. It is the opposite of the scientific process in which the quality of a theory is judged by the degree to which it is supported by evidence, rather than the quality of the evidence being judged by the degree to which it supports the theory. It is one of the many processes by which false ideas are reinforced by non-scientific thinking.
Interestingly, Rogan doesn't argue that conspiracy theories are good because they sometimes uncover the truth. Well, he almost doesn't. He weakly offers Watergate as an example of "conspiracy theorists find[ing] great malfeasance." While the Watergate scandal certainly involved a conspiracy, I don't think it counts as a conspiracy theory. Watergate was uncovered by professional investigators and journalists following a clear trail of evidence. A conspiracy theory is an explanation of events that specifically contradicts the accepted explanation, and is generally constructed by amateurs.