“If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts [or beliefs], he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.” — Bertrand Russell (1929)
I opine that this is the single most profound statement on how the human mind “works” in regard to one’s beliefs. It’s dreadfully difficult if not downright impossible to convince a person of some fact or another when it conflicts with an instinct or belief of theirs which has caused them to conclude that such a thing is impossible or so implausible that it might as well be impossible. Evolution is a great example as the debate is currently raging in the Southern U.S. on whether or not the theory of evolution by natural selection should taught at schools, and whether or not creationism should be taught as fact as well. There is absolutely no doubt that evolution occurred and is occurring as the evidence is absolutely overwhelming, yet only 15% of Americans believe this to be the case with regard to humans, and their “evidence” is a chapter in a book written 3000 years ago by barely literate peasants who had no knowledge of mathematics or science and thought the Earth was flat and the Sun circled around it. And that’s without mentioning these peasants could have literally had zero knowledge about as, if we are to take these Bible literalists at their word, the Earth is about 6,000 to 10,000 years old, and were therefore 3,000 to 7,000 years removed from this event. This chapter also contains a talking serpent, yet, if I tried to convince someone who already believed that the serpent in this book talked, that I could in fact hold conversations with serpents, he’d likely think I was insane. (Rightly so, I might add!) That’s the power of belief without evidence, or “faith” as it’s known.
So, what does this have to do with conspiracy theorists, you ask? Well, Scientific American published an article recently with regard to a recently published scientific paper in Psychology Journal, “NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science,” in which the authors “investigated the relation between acceptance of science and conspiricist thinking patterns.”
“A national poll released just this month reports that 37 percent of Americans believe that global warming is a hoax, 21 percent think that the US government is covering up evidence of alien existence and 28 percent believe a secret elite power with a globalist agenda is conspiring to rule the world. Only hours after the recent Boston marathon bombing, numerous conspiracy theories were floated ranging from a possible ‘inside job’ to YouTube videos claiming that the entire event was a hoax.”
“While it has been known for some time that people who believe in one conspiracy theory are also likely to believe in other conspiracy theories, we would expect contradictory conspiracy theories to be negatively correlated. Yet, this is not what psychologists Micheal Wood, Karen Douglas and Robbie Suton found in a recent study. Instead, the research team, based at the University of Kent in England, found that many participants believed in contradictory conspiracy theories. For example, the conspiracy-belief that Osama Bin Laden is still alive was positively correlated with the conspiracy-belief that he was already dead before the military raid took place. This makes little sense, logically: Bin Laden cannot be both dead and alive at the same time. An important conclusion that the authors draw from their analysis is that people don’t tend to believe in a conspiracy theory because of the specifics, but rather because of higher-order beliefs that support conspiracy-like thinking more generally. A popular example of such higher-order beliefs is a severe “distrust of authority.” The authors go on to suggest that conspiracism is therefore not just about belief in an individual theory, but rather an ideological lens through which we view the world.”
I definitely remember that! I remember Ron Paul supporters on Facebook trying to tell me that Osama bin Laden couldn’t have been killed by the SEALS because he had been killed, and this is the good part, seven or eight times prior to that. They concluded, then, that he was still alive. Needless to say, I was shocked by the stupidity of these people. I tried to point out that their evidence for bin Laden not being killed during the SEAL raid in Pakistan and still remaining alive was that he had been killed a number of times previously, but whoa…! That prompted some downright hateful responses in my direction (which I wish I would have kept). I wasn’t able to change a single person’s mind about it, which speaks a great deal in regard to just how deluded these people are. (Not to mention herd mentality…) Continuing on,
“Interestingly, belief in conspiracy theories has recently been linked to the rejection of science. In a paper published in Psychological Science, Stephen Lewandowsky and colleagues investigated the relation between acceptance of science and conspiricist thinking patterns. While the authors’ survey was not representative of the general population, results suggest that (controlling for other important factors) belief in multiple conspiracy theories significantly predicted the rejection of important scientific conclusions, such as climate science or the fact that smoking causes lung cancer. Yet, rejection of scientific principles is not the only possible consequence of widespread belief in conspiracy theories. Another recent study indicates that receiving positive information about or even being merely exposed to conspiracy theories can lead people to become disengaged from important political and societal topics. For example, in their study, Daniel Jolley and Karen Douglas clearly show that participants who received information that supported the idea that global warming is a hoax were less willing to engage politically and also less willing to implement individual behavioral changes such as reducing their carbon footprint.”
Well, we already knew that: if one believes global warming is a hoax it’s because they don’t respect science and the scientific method. Ironically, these are the same people who spout their balderdash theories using a computer or cell phone over the internet or wireless network which is connected to a satellite (in space, I might add) which beams the information to someone else. They are blissfully oblivious to the fact that their entire lives are based around technologies made possible because of scientific progress.
“A conspiracy theory is usually defined as an attempt to explain the ultimate cause of an important societal event as part of some sinister plot conjured up by a secret alliance of powerful individuals and organizations… Since a number of studies have shown that belief in conspiracy theories is associated with feelings of powerlessness, uncertainty and a general lack of agency and control, a likely purpose of this bias is to help people “make sense of the world” by providing simple explanations for complex societal events — restoring a sense of control and predictability. A good example is that of climate change: while the most recent international scientific assessment report (receiving input from over 2500 independent scientists from more than a 100 countries) concluded with 90 percent certainty that human-induced global warming is occurring, the severe consequences and implications of climate change are often too distressing and overwhelming for people to deal with, both cognitively as well as emotionally. Resorting to easier explanations that simply discount global warming as a hoax is then of course much more comforting and convenient psychologically.”
I can still hear the shouts of, “Wake up, sheeple! The NWO and Bilderberg Group are taking over the world. They want to kill 90% of the world’s population and make the rest of us slaves,” etc., etc. I love when they talk about the Illuminati, however. Anyone rich and/or famous who appears on TV or on a commercial with a triangle of some sort anywhere in the picture is automatically a member of the Illuminati. I’ve yet to hear someone coherently describe to me what it is they believe the “Illuminati” is doing or wants to do, however. They just say, “He’s a member of the Illuminati,” and it’s expected that you know exactly what it is that means. I’m not sure if anyone really knows exactly what they mean when they say it, however, which makes it all the more hilarious. Putting my head back in the sand.
P.S. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Alex Jones… Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwURLwd8pEA