So let's start off our discussion with defining 'conspiracy.' Wikipedia defines it like this: "A conspiracy theory is an explanatory proposition that accuses two or more persons, a group, or an organization of having caused or covered up, through secret planning and deliberate action, an illegal or harmful event or situation." Interesting that this definition has no bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim. Here are some doozies (that's the technical term) that I can think of myself that I know some people actually believe, this is in no particular order: The assassination of JFK (specifically that more than Lee H. Oswald was involved), the moon landing (it was totally faked), the holocaust deniers, the birth certificate of sitting president Barack Obama, any number of Biblical conspiracies including numerology and "Jesus mythicists," vaccination hysteria (the far extreme being the operative position), the 9/11 cover up, and the Erin Brockovich and the PG&E Hinkley groundwater contamination cover up. This is just my own list of conspiracy theories that I've been thinking about in regards to this entry; it is by no means meant to be comprehensive here's another wiki article (nearly all the previous links were to wiki articles) that has a much more interesting list.
Starting off with the most difficult one, the JFK assassination. First off, what is the question? Is the conspiracy that more than one assassin was involved? So what? That doesn't really affect the world in any way. If the conspiracy is that the US government intentionally covered up the fact that someone in power wanted to oust JFK by assassination, and blame it all on one lone gunman, that's more significant. Here's my basic answer to that kind of conspiracy: Two people can keep a secret, if one is dead. This old saying applies to the USG as well! I recently commented on a video on Facebook about this, "The US can't keep ACTUALLY SECRET things secret (Snowden ring any bells?)! How in the world could someone believe that the US government could keep a secret so huge that thousands upon thousands of people would have to be in on it?" The same critique applies to the moon landing hoax claim. Do you really believe that the USG could collude with thousands of people to hide a lie that huge, and get away with it?
The moon landing is so much clearer to me. Though the actual artifacts left on the moon by the Apollo missions cannot be seen with the Hubble telescope, it can be measured. So, how much disbelief are you willing to suspend? Does the movie Watchmen convince you that there really was a JFK conspiracy? Then maybe the lunar laser ranging retroreflector experiment won't convince you that people really walked on the moon.
Another totally crazy one, basically this one gives even ordinary conspiracy theorists a bad name, is that people that deny the holocaust. While WWII is fading into memories there have been enough actual eye witness testimonies and legitimately researched and peer reviewed historical texts that clearly document the truth. How can people really close their minds to truth?
The reason I listed the Erin Brockovich case is this. The plaintiffs were dismissed as conspiracy nuts at first. Then, after a thorough investigation, they settled for somewhere around $333 million! While technically a settlement is not an admission of guilt, it doesn't lend credibility to their counter-claim that there was nothing wrong. My point was that not all conspiracies are false. I'm not trying to claim that all seemingly crazy claims are false, but here's the deal, what will you accept as evidence and what will convince you that something is true (or false)? Also, what will happen to your epistemology? If your epistemology is foundational and one of these conspiracies is part of your belief system you could be in a world of hurt if it's proven untrue. Foundational epistemology is dangerous!
Since this post is getting too long and I need some rest, I'll complete this discussion some other time.
|If this characterizes your epistemology, you're doing something wrong.|