Conspiracy theories

(Reprinted from DamnNearEverythingPedia)

Conspiracy theories, in a general sense, are the idea that bad things happen in the world because bad people want them to happen, and they get together to make sure they do happen.

At first glance, this is a fairly reasonable position. Its supporters point out that it is difficult, for example, to imagine anything as awful as the Dubbya (George II) administration occurring just by chance.

However, critics argue that conspiracy theories raise more questions than they answer, such as: Why are some people bad? and Wouldn’t even bad people be happier if good things happened? and Couldn’t bad things happen even if no one wanted them to?

Conspiracy theorists reply that life is like that: just about everything raises more questions than it answers. Some of them add that this situation was itself created by a conspiracy, although they don’t all agree on who was involved in it.

People who are generally dismissive of conspiracy theories say that it seems unlikely, for instance, that the CIA is responsible for every bad thing that is happening in the world, or even most of the bad things. These people point out that bad things happened even before the CIA was established in 1947, or 1942, or whenever it was.

They argue that, therefore, even if the increasing use of torture as a standard implement of statecraft really is a result of a conspiracy between the CIA and various US and foreign officials, this is not significant in a historical sense because torture was invented much earlier, well in time for the Spanish Inquisition, which is what the Vatican prefers to call what was really the Catholic Church Inquisition.

Furthermore, the anti-conspirators add (this sort are always adding furthermores), your conspiracy theories are a sign of rampant paranoia, and if you don’t stop talking about them, I’m going to have you confined to a mental asylum in Iowa for the rest of your life.

I knew it! reply the conspiracy theorists. Who did you plan that with?

Or maybe in Texas, say the anti-conspirators, which causes a pause among all but the bravest conspiracy theorists.

Some philosophers advocate a counterfactual way of investigating the question. They say we should ask: Are there other explanations for the situations that some people say are the result of conspiracies? For example, could the Obama (George III) administration be the result of some sort of misunderstanding, or an outbreak of mass delusion in the US population, or the intervention of extremely powerful and hostile aliens, rather than a conspiracy between the backers of George II and George III to create a model-for-all-occasions George, a George X?

Both sides in this debate at least agree that, if the current situation is not the result of a conspiracy, it’s bad enough that it ought to be. This is a frightening thought if you ponder it a bit. Could we be living in a system that produces bad results so automatically that there’s no need for bad people to conspire about them?

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