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