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The Nature of Conspiracy, whether planned or not

 
 
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 05:51 am
Conspiracy theory has a bad name. It is associated with paranoid delusion and fringe lunacy. But when we look at nature and the patterns that emerge from it, whether in economics or ecology, we can interpret it as fundamentally disordered or organized, even when the organization is spontaneous and devoid of central control.

Religion is a culture of interpreting nature and human behavior in a way that recognizes a deeper order. 'Armageddon,' for example, is a term that refers to an eternal war between forces of good and evil. The assumption is that no matter how organized or disorganized (planned or spontaneous) acts of good and evil are in the world, they link up in ways that make them appear to be more than coincidence, even if they aren't planned as such by human minds.

Evolutionary theory and the economics of the invisible hand are similar in that they take observed facts that emerge from what at first might seem like random chaos; and explain them in terms of a unifying narrative of patterned cause-and-effect. Behavior seemingly originating at the individual level results in larger patterns that take shape as if they were structured by some kind of central controller.

The human mind has evolved to recognize and interpret complex patterns, which may or may not be significant outside the mind; but patterns also emerge from nature, as well as from human behavior. So the emergence of (self)organization at all levels of reality is striking and significant.

So whether we agree with a particular conspiracy theory or not, we should appreciate that the ability to discern and interpret patterns in the observations we gather is human nature and fundamental to our relationship to a universe in which patterns occur objectively outside our perception and sense-making of them as well.

So instead of arguing over whether such patterns and the human observation of them should be attributed to intentional agency (divine and/or human), we should first just acknowledge that the appearance of conspiracy is inherent in the patterned nature of existence at various levels and then realize that attributing patterns to God and/or human conspiracy and/or spontaneous-emergence is a secondary issue to the fact that the patterns are there to attribute in the first place.
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 08:12 am
@livinglava,
I think you have this backwards Lava.

Someone who has a conspiracy theory is finding a pattern that isn't justified by the evidence. This is different than a scientific theory where there is a conclusion that is tested and supported by the data.


- Conspiracy theories generally don't rely on mathematics (science is mathematical)
- Conspiracy theories ignore data that doesn't fit the theory (in science you have to take all data into account).
- Conspiracy theories put great weight on single measurements (in science you have to look at the whole)
- Conspiracy theories rely on "common sense" (in science you rely on testable assertions)
- Conspiracy theories don't provide any test that could possible prove the wrong (in science you come up with an experimental result that would cause you to reject your theory)


The human brain does have a remarkable ability to find patterns even when the patterns don't exist. This is why it is so important in science that something is testable and reproducible. You need to be able to test what the brain come up with... because often your first instinctual conclusion is wrong.

livinglava
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 09:12 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:

I think you have this backwards Lava.

Someone who has a conspiracy theory is finding a pattern that isn't justified by the evidence. This is different than a scientific theory where there is a conclusion that is tested and supported by the data.


- Conspiracy theories generally don't rely on mathematics (science is mathematical)
- Conspiracy theories ignore data that doesn't fit the theory (in science you have to take all data into account).
- Conspiracy theories put great weight on single measurements (in science you have to look at the whole)
- Conspiracy theories rely on "common sense" (in science you rely on testable assertions)
- Conspiracy theories don't provide any test that could possible prove the wrong (in science you come up with an experimental result that would cause you to reject your theory)


The human brain does have a remarkable ability to find patterns even when the patterns don't exist. This is why it is so important in science that something is testable and reproducible. You need to be able to test what the brain come up with... because often your first instinctual conclusion is wrong.

I really don't like reading you go on and on about the difference between science and the way the human mind works more generally. It just keeps focusing attention back to certain kinds of analysis, primarily quantitative data and math in your case, because that is your primary interest.

What I find more interesting to think about is how conspiracy theory mixes factual/observable patterns with other factors that may or may not be accurate, because they are not readily testable.

It's interesting, for example, to think about a protest as a social phenomenon with so many different individuals and paths of causation for each person's participation. There are so many different individuals being influenced in various ways and influencing each other. It is not conspiratorial in the traditional sense of premeditated planning, at least not for most participants probably; but in the course of interacting and talking with lots of people, collective patterns of thought and intention start to resonate and there are both heterogeneities and resonances that emerge.

So there can be people 'conspiring' in a non-traditional, non-premeditated sense, while also resonating with ideas and feelings that were cultivated prior to the current protest in prior political meetings, through the media, etc. So there is culture influencing thoughts and actions, as well as individuals influencing culture in various ways prior to the protest; and so there is something like a broad conspiracy going on, but it's not a conspiracy in the traditional sense of being a small number of individuals secretly plotting to carry out some hoax or caper that is designed to pass as something else than what it actually is.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 09:14 am
@livinglava,
Quote:
I really don't like reading you go on and on about the difference between science and the way the human mind works more generally. It just keeps focusing attention back to certain kinds of analysis, primarily quantitative data and math in your case, because that is your primary interest.


Give me a break, Lava! You started this thread about how conspiracy theories relate to "cause and effect".
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 09:20 am
@livinglava,
I am trying to understand your point. Honestly I don't see how this relates to "conspiracy theory".

Usually the term "conspiracy theory" means somes a belief that people hold that doesn't make sense when you look at all the facts. In a conspiracy theory, people then grab onto a few facts and push there theory based on "coincidences" they find.

An example of a conspiracy theory is that "Vaccinations cause Autism". There was a study that said this (now debunked). You can show correlations between an increased vaccination rate and an increase of autism.

If you look at all the the facts (including controlled scientific studies) this conspiracy theory is clearly false. But people take the facts that support their ideas and manufacture the rest.

I don't see how this relates to what you are saying.
0 Replies
 
livinglava
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 09:22 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:

Quote:
I really don't like reading you go on and on about the difference between science and the way the human mind works more generally. It just keeps focusing attention back to certain kinds of analysis, primarily quantitative data and math in your case, because that is your primary interest.


Give me a break, Lava! You started this thread about how conspiracy theories relate to "cause and effect".


Your way of talking about science is skewed and you go on and on about abstract research issues like data, analysis, publication, peer-review, etc. Your science-talk is reads more like a list of academic chores.

I mentioned Evolutionary Theory because that is a way of looking at ecological behavioral patterns in tandem with the changing physical form/structure of organisms and their DNA. So Darwin and others look at how organisms survive, reproduce, and die and identify patterns related to how the shapes and appearances of their bodies change to adapt to certain foods, habitats, predators, etc.

That is what I mean by science identifying and explaining patterns, not platting curves through a data spread that fit the data best, although that is another example of how humans discover and analyze patterns.

I actually wouldn't be opposed to discussing the identification, analysis, and explanation of patterns in quantitative data, but it's not really what I was going for in this thread, which is more about whether unplanned conspiracies are similar to the more traditional image of covertly-planned conspiracies and how.

There was a sociologist called Goffman, for example, who used the terms, 'front stage,' and 'back stage,' to describe different ways people code what they're talking about. So when they switch to the 'back stage' tone, they get a little quieter or otherwise signal that what they're telling you is more secret/private than 'front stage' talk. So in that sense, people are always engaging in quasi-conspiratorial talk, e.g. because they are gossiping about colleagues or talking about personal issues that they don't want circulating freely as public information.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 09:25 am
@livinglava,
Do you agree with my definition of the term "conspiracy theory"?

The reason that conspiracy theories are bad is that they are not testable.
livinglava
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 09:42 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:

Do you agree with my definition of the term "conspiracy theory"?

The reason that conspiracy theories are bad is that they are not testable.

No, I think that is certainly an interesting aspect to consider, but I would say it makes a theory better or worse that it's not testable; and I'm not sure that you can generalize about all 'conspiracy theories,' being untestable, because I'm not sure there's that much homogeneity in the structure and content of conspiracy theories. 'Conspiracy theory' itself is a very subjective term that is used to label basically anything that people want to criticize, so it is applied in a fundamentally biased way most of the time.

There are things that are true that aren't testable. For example, you know that every single individual in a crowd is having their own thoughts and feelings, but you can't test that because it would be too difficult to gather all the data, etc. More importantly, though, it's just not important to test it because you already know it's true without testing it. It would be like coming up with a theory that all humans hold their breath when going underwater. There's no point in testing that because you already know what the outcome of testing would be.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 09:50 am
@livinglava,
Anything that I label a "conspiracy theory" is something that deserves derision. These are ridiculous theories that are sometimes harmful.

- NASA faked the moon landings (I suppose this isn't harmful).
- Vaccinations cause autism (this is absolutely harmful)
- George Bush faked 9/11.
- The Earth is flat.

When I use the term "conspiracy theory", it is a term of derision. I only use this therm for theories that deserve to be ridiculed.
livinglava
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 10:16 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:

Anything that I label a "conspiracy theory" is something that deserves derision. These are ridiculous theories that are sometimes harmful.

- NASA faked the moon landings (I suppose this isn't harmful).
- Vaccinations cause autism (this is absolutely harmful)
- George Bush faked 9/11.
- The Earth is flat.

When I use the term "conspiracy theory", it is a term of derision. I only use this therm for theories that deserve to be ridiculed.

I don't condone the culture of ridicule and deeming that certain people/things are worthy of it. I think it's good to think critically and explain your reasons for believing something is bad, but not pro-actively ridiculing. I also ridicule, but it is more of a defensive response to get people to back off with ridicule or other pushiness.

I use 'conspiracy theory' to describe any theory/hypothesis for how something might be planned/executed in a way that goes beyond the immediate explanation. Basically it is a collective lie, where people are saying something in order to get away with doing something different than what they say, without talking about what they're doing.

Now let's look at the examples you listed:
Quote:

- NASA faked the moon landings (I suppose this isn't harmful).

This is an interesting one because it raises all sorts of issues of how and why they would have done it. There is plenty of motive in the Cold War rival industrialism. There is also some plausibility in the fact that it is dangerous to put human beings in a rocket, let alone sending them out of the atmosphere, so there would be good reason to fake the manned part of the missions. Anyway, my point is that whether they were faked or not, it is interesting to consider how/why it would/could have happened.

Quote:
- Vaccinations cause autism (this is absolutely harmful)

I see conspiratorial aspects in this, but also simply widespread cultural bias where the modern trend of doing things more clinically leads to a loss of traditional exposure to normal pathogens to build up immunity in the natural way.
I think there is also conspiracy theory where people believe that flu shots and other vaccines could contain genetically-engineered genetic material that some conspirators would be trying to broadcast throughout populations for social control and/or eugenics purposes. This seems outlandish, but given the history of eugenics and covert efforts at social control, it is not as far out as something like Area 51 housing aliens.

Quote:
- George Bush faked 9/11.

I've read and listened to theories about free-fall, detonation, steel melting, etc. but there's no way to test them, as you say, because you'd have to reproduce the conditions and even if you built an entire replica of the towers and flew jets into them, how would you know if there were some other factors causing things to happen one way and not another. It's like setting up the same house of cards and throwing a tennis ball at it over and over at the same angle and having it fall differently each time. Maybe there are engineers who see it more clearly than that, but how can you trust them not to be biased in one way or another unless you yourself have the engineering knowledge to think for yourself, and even then YOU might be biased by some assumption that misleads your analysis.

Quote:
- The Earth is flat.

That's a fun one to contemplate because the evidence that shows it's round is so blatant. I like thinking about how sea level is gravitationally flat in the sense you don't go up or down hill when you're in the ocean, unless of course you consider the tidal mound facing the moon. Could 'space' be warped in some way that makes roundness and flatness converge at far distances? I think there is good reason to explore these kinds of questions, but most people don't want to go beyond the common sense definition of roundness that if Earth and other planets look spherical through a telescope, then they are, period.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 10:27 am
@livinglava,
Ridicule is a powerful, and useful, form of speech. There is nothing wrong with ridiculing things that are ridiculous.

In the case of anti-vaxxers, you have the clearest example of a ridiculous theory causing real harm. Their conspiracy theory is causing people to not get vaccinations for themselves and their children. This is leading to outbreaks of harmful diseases.
livinglava
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 10:39 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:

Ridicule is a powerful, and useful, form of speech. There is nothing wrong with ridiculing things that are ridiculous.

It biases people's minds against thinking in an exploratory/critical way. E.g. if you've listened to a lot of ridicule against anti-vaxxers, you're not likely to think in an open-minded, unbiased way about their theoretical claims. You recognize this when you think about the way people are biased against GMO because of how it has been ridiculed. You don't want people to mindlessly accept GMO but just to review without bias how organisms are modified and what the effects are (or not) but you can't because people automatically start parroting ridicule they've internalized from anti-GMO culture, right?

Quote:
In the case of anti-vaxxers, you have the clearest example of a ridiculous theory causing real harm. Their conspiracy theory is causing people to not get vaccinations for themselves and their children. This is leading to outbreaks of harmful diseases.

Maybe, but it's worth understanding what the theories are about why to reject (certain) vaccines and look at how/why these diseases work when people are just exposed to them as natural pathogens/diseases instead of as vaccines.

Remember the Tuskeegee syphilis experiments? That is an example of a terrible situation where people weren't treated for a very harmful disease, and I don't think there were even any theories about acquiring natural immunity through exposure or something like that.

Chicken pox was something every child used to have to endure to gain immunity, and parents would have parties to share the infection with other kids. So there is really no harm with a disease like chicken pox in opting not to vaccinate, and if you can figure out other diseases that are similarly harmless, why should you prevent people from getting vaccinated the old fashioned way, i.e. by catching the disease?

Personally I think flu shots are bad because they immunize large numbers of healthy people against normal pathogens and then they end up catching and passing on other rarer diseases that don't make it into the flu shot, which then mutate as they spread and evolve into new, unknown threats.

It's sort of like when you are used to dealing with normal mosquitos or other bugs that are a pest, but then something is done to eliminate them so some other bug population expands and evolves to fill their niche, and that bug turns out to be bad in ways that are new, different, and harder to deal with.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 11:05 am
@livinglava,
I disagree about ridicule.

- The anti-vaxxers are ridiculous. Science has already spoken about vaccination, there is clear data and no real question.

- If you are open-minded about an issue, you go and look at the actual scientific theories. There is actual data, studies and papers from real experts. There is no reason to look at conspiracy theories when you can look at real data.

Open-minded doesn't mean that you accept every crazy theory that comes along. That is where critical thinking and education come in.

jespah
 
  2  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 11:54 am
@livinglava,
livinglava wrote:

....
Quote:
In the case of anti-vaxxers, you have the clearest example of a ridiculous theory causing real harm. Their conspiracy theory is causing people to not get vaccinations for themselves and their children. This is leading to outbreaks of harmful diseases.

...

Chicken pox was something every child used to have to endure to gain immunity, and parents would have parties to share the infection with other kids. So there is really no harm with a disease like chicken pox in opting not to vaccinate, and if you can figure out other diseases that are similarly harmless, why should you prevent people from getting vaccinated the old fashioned way, i.e. by catching the disease?

...
Chicken pox harms people, big time. Pregnant women (who tend to get worse infections) can pass it onto their offspring. And it can cause shingles later in life, which is absolutely no picnic. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722564/
https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/chicken-pox.html
https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/chickenpox-varicella-a-to-z

Per the last article:
Quote:
Chickenpox is an uncomfortable infection that, in most cases, goes away by itself. However, chickenpox also has been associated with serious complications, including death. About one of every 100 children infected with chickenpox will develop a severe lung infection (pneumonia), an infection of the brain (encephalitis), or a problem with the liver. Dangerous skin infections also can occur.
Walter Hinteler
 
  4  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 12:09 pm
@jespah,
Conspiracy theorists are usually rock-solidly convinced that they know the truth. They see it as their task to convince the many gullible people who believe the official "lies" of their truth. In their perception, therefore, they belong to a small circle of missonaries and missionaries who travel on behalf of the good.

Conspiracy believers, on the other hand, look for a reason for everything. And the theories do them the favor of providing simple explanations for a world that seems chaotic.

Strange as it may sound, conspiracy theories can give people stability (otherwise some of them wouldn't post here so much).
livinglava
 
  -1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 12:44 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:

- The anti-vaxxers are ridiculous. Science has already spoken about vaccination, there is clear data and no real question.

You don't get it. Theory is not about coming to a conclusion. It's about exploring the basis for the theory and why reasons there are for different perspectives to regard it differently.

You are to eager to close the case, when the purpose is to understand different perspectives, think about the issues, and come up with reasons to overweigh. You're like a person who doesn't want to have a balanced trial because you're afraid the lying side will win.

Quote:
- If you are open-minded about an issue, you go and look at the actual scientific theories. There is actual data, studies and papers from real experts. There is no reason to look at conspiracy theories when you can look at real data.

The moment you call them, "actual scientific theories," you are already biased toward a conclusion. What you should be doing is looking for facts, arguments, and reasons to consider various aspects and different possible conclusions. Stop assuming that established science should be the beginning and end of every discussion.

Open-minded doesn't mean that you accept every crazy theory that comes along. That is where critical thinking and education come in. [/quote wrote:

Exactly, but you don't know the difference between considering and thinking critically with an open-mind vs. accepting as true.
livinglava
 
  0  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 12:56 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:

Conspiracy theorists are usually rock-solidly convinced that they know the truth. They see it as their task to convince the many gullible people who believe the official "lies" of their truth. In their perception, therefore, they belong to a small circle of missonaries and missionaries who travel on behalf of the good.

So your opinion is that people should keep their ideas to themselves unless they are institutionally validated in some way? Basically, you want people to let the professionals be the only ones who can discuss their thoughts publicly?

Quote:
Conspiracy believers, on the other hand, look for a reason for everything. And the theories do them the favor of providing simple explanations for a world that seems chaotic.

Doesn't everyone look for reasons for everything? Why would you think there are things that happen without reasons for them to happen? Do you think that causation only occurs in some ways and there are other aspects of reality that are not governed by cause and effect?

Quote:
Strange as it may sound, conspiracy theories can give people stability (otherwise some of them wouldn't post here so much).

Yes, even if you disagree with some (conspiracy) theory, it helps to be able to understand and explain it in order to clarify what about it you disagree with and why, even just within your own mind.
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 01:44 pm
@livinglava,
Theory is about coming to a conclusion. Otherwise, what is the point. In science, we start with a hypothesis. Then we figure out how we test it. Part of this includes defining how we could prove it is not true.

In science it becomes a theory only after it has been tested, reproduced and accepted by the people with the expertise and deep understanding of the topic.

Yes, after a theory has been tested, I am eager to close the case. That's the whole point.

Sure. I am biased toward theories that have been tested. Conspiracy theories don't fit that standard.

I have no problem saying that I am biased towards scientific theories and that I am biased against conspiracy theories.

livinglava
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 02:23 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:

Theory is about coming to a conclusion. Otherwise, what is the point. In science, we start with a hypothesis. Then we figure out how we test it. Part of this includes defining how we could prove it is not true.

In science it becomes a theory only after it has been tested, reproduced and accepted by the people with the expertise and deep understanding of the topic.

Yes, after a theory has been tested, I am eager to close the case. That's the whole point.

Sure. I am biased toward theories that have been tested. Conspiracy theories don't fit that standard.

I have no problem saying that I am biased towards scientific theories and that I am biased against conspiracy theories.

That's why you are not a true scientist but rather a worshiper of established science. True science is about keeping the case open and only making tentative assumptions and conclusions in order to explore theory ever further and build up more evidence and reasoning to overweight so that at any point you can make a further tentative conclusion, working hypothesis, etc. and proceed further without ever closing the case.

Science isn't about winning or excluding, it's about searching for more relevant information to include in the research so that you can formulate as many bases for theoretical lines of reasoning as you can justify.

I think you understand this on some level, you just like keeping the process as closed as possible because you're protecting established authorities and theories from being questioned except by people who are vested in the system and thus biased in favor of keeping friends and not making enemies.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 06:51 pm
@livinglava,
"True Scientist" hah!

I don't think you would want to fly on an airplane designed by what you are calling a "true scientist".

 

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