Saturday, October 24, 2020


498. Conspiracy theories revisited

 I wrote about conspiracy theories before (item 490 in this blog), and here I expand on it. I thought it was a matter of a lunatic fringe that reinforced each others’ ideas in the ‘echo chambers’ of social media, but in an article on conspiracy theorists in the London Review of Books, James Meek reported that ‘The latest survey by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation suggests that in Germany, as in Britain, as in the US, about half of the population tends to the view that malign sercret elites are directing events’. I find that astonishing.

 Such theories are not new and are widespread. Meek: ‘The French revolution was a Masonic conspiracy, the WHO is a Chinese conspiracy. British Labour Party and trade unions are a communist conspiracy, the EU is an anti-British conspiracy’. One could add that according to the Nazi’s capitalism was a Jewish conspiracy.

 Apparently, people need conspiracy theories to assuage their uncertainty in threatening times. The Covid crisis has stimulated those theories, with phantasies of the intended dire effects on health, including covid, of 5G, the latest mobile telephone technology. Covid is also ascribed to the machinations of a secret cabal of elite groups such as the illuminati or , again, Jews. In ‘Q-anon’ conspiracy theory, Covid is attributed to a coven of pedophiles who drink the blood of children The theories satisfy an urge towards clear causes, and give clarity in terms of ill-intending groups, after the loss of the devil as the cause of all evil.

 Conspiracy theories also exhibit a loss of trust in public institutions such as the government, health care, the professional media and science.

 They exhibit a shocking loss of regard to facts. Meek recounts a case where someone defended the thory of the dire effect of 5G with the claim of the precedent that the Spanish flu was caused by radar, regardless of the fact that the flu was in 1918, and radar was invented in the 1930’s

 In the previous piece on conspiracy theories, I observed that while science is aimed at falsification, of finding the failures of theories, conspiracy theories are focused on confirmation, no matter how much they have to twist facts and logic to achieve it. To be acceptable, theories should adhere to the principle of pragmatic philosophy of ‘warranted assertibility’, promoted by John Dewey, as discussed earlier in this blog. The warrants are logic, facts where they can be agreed upon, and viability of the theory in practice.

 What complicates the issue is that conspiracies do occur, and one should be sceptical of  power. I have a theory of how big business practices lobbying to force advantages of low energy prices, wage restraint, tax benefits, cheap labour conditions and lax environmental rules, with the threat that otherwise they will move their employment elsewhere. Why is that not a conspiracy therory?.The lobby is hidden and therefore difficult to prove, but the theory is open to facts.

 The disregard of those warrants is caused, in part, by the view that science claims absolute, indubitable, fixed truth, while it regularly failed and was corrected. Therefore, conspiracy theorists argue, they have a right tot heir view of ‘alternative facts’ and unscientific reasoning. Scientists did not try enough to admit publicly that science is fallible and temporary

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