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Conspiracy Theories
"A Black Hole of Critical Thinking"

The year 2000 is an arbitrary marker in Earth’s timeline, yet exerts considerable emotional weight among the populace at large. For most it is nothing more than an excuse to celebrate. For others - searching for some solid ground to base their public persona with a view to gaining leverage through proprietary knowledge (available for a price), it is an opportunity to focus on a host of conspiracy theories. "End of the world" conspiracies are common and useful. After all, if the world’s going to end, you won’t need to pay your credit card bills. Wonderful for selling books! I want to propose four dictums usually present in these writings which should instantaneously raise red flags:

1) The Emperor's New Clothes clause: This clause usually appears very near the start of the book. In Hans Christian Anderson’s fable, as you may remember, the Emperor’s ambition was to be always well dressed. The swindlers from the story posed as weavers claiming their colors and patterns were not only exceptionally beautiful, but the clothes made of their material possessed the wonderful quality of being invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid. The Emperor, not wanting to seem either unfit for office or stupid, submitted to the proposition and paraded around in the nonexistent suit. Subsequently, everyone else also claimed to see the suit also not wanting to be exposed themselves. Let’s call this the ENC clause - you can find it near the start of many "Mystic" books in one form or another. On Page 1 of David Icke’s "The Biggest Secret" UFO conspiracy book (Bridge of Love 1999), he writes "Of Course the theme of the book will attract ridicule from those with a vision of possibility the size of a pea…" That is a classic ENC clause, but sometimes the clause is buried when used by more astute writers. Often the writer will deplete the reader’s cynical reserves by accusing them of being credulous in regard to the established view. Imagine if Einstein were to preface his theory of relativity by saying "If you don’t believe this you are a complete moron"

2) The Meta conspiracy: Challenge a Christian about evolution and as the layers of nonsense are stripped away and addressed, (scientists don’t know what they’re doing, etc.) occasionally you can persuade one to comment on the fossil remains of the dinosaurs. They are sometimes explained away as demons from hell, but more often the creationists just attack the scientific method (although they are generally very quick to quote any scientific sounding sound bite which lends any comfort to their beliefs). If you have the time and the creationist is somewhat literate they will have to, eventually, deal with the evidence. Then, rather than abandon the premise they’ve based their life on, or even modify it, they can go as far as claiming it is god’s joke! (Strange that the almighty would have such an underdeveloped sense of humor) This infinite level of denial is even more evident with conspiracy theories. How many times, when confronted with evidence, (particularly in the field of UFO research), are the facts ignored because the source is part of the so-called cover up. If, then, an outside investigation debunks the claim of a UFO sighting, they are working for the "Aliens" or worse they are the "Alien Shape Shifters." Then what’s the point in discussing it and how can you counter these claims. Your best bet is to find the contradictions within their own sources.

3) Prove a negative: Why not cry wolf? The boy who cried wolf learned about credibility the hard way. Yet throughout the ages fraudulent healers and fortune tellers have plagued the gullible. Why hasn’t humanity learned the lesson of credibility? One reason is that it’s impossible to prove a negative. Because every claim of paranormal abilities from the beginning of history has disintegrated under scrutiny, doesn’t prove the next one is not genuine. So I would say to you, "You don’t need to always prove it, just look at the credibility of the claim."

4) Where’s the gain? - Finally, how is the guru, astrologer, author, water diviner, UFOlogist, mystic of whatever persuasion, gaining from what he or she is doing? Look for the pay off. For example, if a fortune teller says "I see a curse over you," it’s usually followed by "for $1000 I can lift it." Beware, even bright people can be taken in by a good set up. Let me give an example: If you received during the first week of each month a letter from a mystic giving you a prediction which on the last week of the same month came true, how many times would this have to happen before your interest was peaked? I can show you how this can be done not once or twice but guaranteed six times or more in a row! Here’s how it works: All you need is a PC with a mailing list type database. Buy a list of names from a new age type magazine or catalog, the bigger the list the better. Divide the list into three equal lists - A, B & C. Ensure each city bordering on each other has a different letter assigned to it. Week one, make your first prediction which has three possible outcomes, maybe a three-way election race. For A give outcome 1, for B outcome 2 and C outcome 3. Send out postcards to the whole list - A = Madam Zelda, B = The Great X, & C = Mystic Fred. For the incorrect ones, let’s say B & C, you dump them off the data base. Now you have cities that have one correct postcard. Divide these up again into A, B & C and repeat the procedure. After you have done this six times you end up with say three cities separated across the country who have had six consecutive correct predictions. Imagine a gullible new-ager getting a mysterious post card from Madam Zelda six times in a row with a completely accurate prediction. But wait, where’s the gain? The seventh postcard is an invitation to a seminar where, for only $5,000, they can have their personal fortune told. Now remember everyone on the list from that city has also received the six correct predictions so getting coverage in the local natural healing mag wouldn’t be hard. (Hell, put the editor on the list!) Just don’t send me a card.- I won’t fall for it.

- Nicky Garratt 1999