The latest myths and legends that need to be debunked:
Global warming caused Hurricane Michael. Nope. It was a normal hurricane following a normal path during the annual hurricane season. There was nothing special about it as a hurricane per se. It was so destructive because of where it hit: Places where there are lots of people and many expensive buildings and assets. Thankfully, most of the people were evacuated and the death toll has been low.
Taking a knee during the national anthem isn’t disrespectful. If it wasn’t disrespectful, it would have no value as a symbol of protest! There would be no controversy, it wouldn’t make the news, and no one would be talking about it.
Violent crime is at an all time high. Again not true. In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, ratings wars, and alternative media, reporting of crime is pervasive, because it gets ratings.
The now solidly conservative Supreme Court (SC) will overturn Roe v Wade and multiple gun laws. It might, but not on a whim. First, a relevant case would have to be appealed through the lesser courts, then appealed to the SC, then the SC would have to agree to hear the case – then it might overturn a law, or it might not. Much depends on the exacting details of the case and what precisely is being argued.
There are more than two genders. Not quite. Homo sapiens reproduces sexually, thus, as with other mammals, we come in two sexes: male and female. No doubt masculinity and femininity are scales. No doubt there are transgender people and intersex people and people with chromosome disorders. They might feel “non-binary,” or they might be hermaphrodites, or they may feel that they want to be the opposite of what their genitalia indicate. I’m not hating on any of them. But nothing suggests there is anything other than male and female characteristics being desired or undesired, hormone levels to manipulate, and male and female organs available for surgical manipulation. Humans haven’t evolved new sex organs, new methods of reproduction, or new genders, we’ve just reached a level of technological development and affluence where it’s possible to play mix-and-match between the two existing ones.
You’ve probably heard of the concept that computer speed doubles roughly every 12-18 months. This concept is called Moore’s Law, named after Gordon Moore, one of the co-founders of the computer chip company Intel. He made his observation in 1965, and it has largely been accurate. Moore’s law is part of a larger phenomenon, something called the accelerating rate of change.
Think of it this way: A farmer from the 1500s transported 200 years into the future would not have been amazed by the technological advancements to farming in the 1700s. For the vast majority of people, technology simply didn’t change during their lifetimes. Fast forward to the late 1800s: My maternal great grandmother crossed the plains in a covered wagon in the 1890s and settled in what is now the little town of Kiowa, Colorado. Steam technology existed then; she had probably heard of, or may have even ridden on a steam locomotive. She might have sent and received telegrams. But most of the new technology of the day was concentrated in the coastal cities. Pioneers and settlers were still using wagons and draft animals. A Roman Centurion from 1800 years in the past might have been amazed by a steam locomotive or a telegraph, but he would have found her Conestoga wagon unremarkable. This same great-grandmother lived to watch men walk on the moon.
In her lifetime, gasoline and diesel-powered cars and trucks replaced the horse as the primary means of personal travel. The automobile industry disrupted the horse culture; now horseback riding is primarily a hobby for people who can afford to keep horses. Telephone, radio, and television grew to become the primary means of sending and/or receiving information. These technologies disrupted (but didn’t eliminate) mail service. She was born at the tail end of the Industrial Revolution and lived through the Gilded Age, the Jet Age, and the Space Age.
She died in the early 1970s. Since then, the rate of change has only accelerated. The computer network that would become the internet was just getting started in the 1960s when Moore made his observation; now it is the predominate feature of modern life. Television and radio gave rise to the “mainstream media,” i.e. the big three networks: ABC, CBS, and NBC. Satellite and computer technology allowed cable upstart CNN to join the club in 1980, followed soon after by other cable networks. CNN disrupted the status quo and initiated the 24-hour news cycle. The “big three” had to play catch-up. Advances in internet speed and the invention of “hypertext mark-up language” (HTML), gave us the World Wide Web. Within a decade of CNN disrupting the existing main-stream media, “the Web” enabled even more disruption. News aggregators. Blogs. Online magazines. Email and RSS feeds. And now: Streaming media. Smart phones. Wi-fi. Digital currency. AI. Fusion. Nano-tech. DNA editing. Laser weapons. Robots. Self-driving cars. With the accelerating rate of change has come the accelerating rate of disruption. In our lifetimes, we will experience more technological advancement than has been accomplished in the previous 20 millennia – if we can successfully ride the waves of disruption!
To start with, homo sapiens are indeed predators – the most successful predators on the planet. In a very real sense, we are animals: vertebrates, mammalians, primates, at the very top of the food chain. Or at least we still have all of the genetic traits of animals, including the drive to survive – both as individuals, which we fulfill by eating, seeking shelter, etc., and as a species, which we fulfill via the individual drive for procreation. With a few specific exceptions, we use the same physical equipment and engage in similar behavior for both drives: We use our senses and our appendages to seek out suitable “subjects.” This makes it is easy to equate predation for food with “predation” for sex.
Much more recently we evolved the capacity to reason. Some animals can adapt their surroundings to themselves in very limited fashion. A variety of animals make nests. Termites can make temperature-controlled mounds. Various other animals have some rudimentary problem-solving skills. They can use a stick to dig, or a rock to smash open a nut. Some very bright primates can even use sign language to communicate with humans. But no other animal can derive abstractions from concretes and principles from abstractions. No other species has mastered fire, or the ability to make more complicated tools out of simpler ones, or to make written language, or to do any of the myriad other things that only humans do.
This highest function has given humans something no other animal species has: the ability to consciously override our most basic drives. In contravention of the drive to survive, humans can commit suicide, go on hunger strikes, and take crazy physical risks. In contravention of the drive to procreate, humans can be chaste, or they can resist the full force of the sex drive in subtler ways, such as monogamy and self-restraint, for example. Holding our animal natures under a degree of restraint has enabled the rise of civilizations.
On the other hand, the actions of sexual predators are easy to interpret: they are the actions of people (usually men) that have chosen to give in to their animal urges. Some of their actions are completely natural in the context of animal behavior, but they are abhorrent in the context of civilization, and absolutely destructive in the context of rights-respecting societies. Perpetrators of such acts deserve to be ostracized and punished.
In the case of the ongoing sexual misconduct revelations in the mass media: clearly, many powerful men have either chosen to stop being civilized, or they felt entitled to take such liberties as reward for their prominence, or both. Dozens (and perhaps hundreds, by the time the dust settles) of men will be implicated. This is not typical of all, or even most, males. If most males engaged in such behavior, there would be no such thing as civilization; we would be stuck at the hunter-gatherer stage of technological advancement.
So, what about women? Just as surely as men, women have animal drives. In females, the drive to procreate manifests in attraction to males who are best suited to ensure their offspring achieve physical maturity. The preferred indicators of such suitability vary among women, but they boil down to “Alphaness.” A suitable male might be regarded as such for his dominance (not domineering) behavior, wealth, physical appearance, intellect, confidence, prominence among others, or some combination of such factors. Regardless, a male with a high degree of “Alphaness” will be more attractive to more women than a male with less.
Sexual predators choose to ignore civilizing restraint and act on baser animal drives. This often results in criminal conduct.
Most victims of sexual assault are not random. They were selected based on giving some combination of “victim” signals the predator found enticing. The victims might not have been aware they were giving off such signals. “Victim signaling” is not criminal. We shouldn’t blame or punish the victims for it. But it’s not undetectable; we can identify it and teach people to avoid it.
I am pro science. Really, I am. I’m with you on evolution, medicine, fusion research, etc. and so on. So, I want science to tell us what is really going on with the climate and to come up with a rational response. You might be tempted to tell me that you already have, but here’s the thing: It’s hard for most folks to to tell where your good climate science ends and leftist environmental dogmatism begins.
We are told that the hypothesis “human activity is the cause of global climate change” is “settled science.” Hmm. The fact that the climate is changing is certainly settled science. The climate has always changed, even before humans existed, and certainly before human industry emitted extra CO2 into the atmosphere. Even so, it does sound plausible to us lay folk, given the amount of greenhouse gasses human industry produces, that humans are changing the climate – but the entire body of climate science becomes suspect when, every so often, “scientists” and/or politicians are caught “cooking the books,” i.e. exaggerating the evidence for human-caused global warming, or altering or evading evidence that may contradict the hypothesis.
We lay people are taught in primary school that good science happens as a result of following the scientific method. This includes testing hypotheses with repeatable experiments, and submitting one’s findings to critical review. If one’s experiments can only be done on climate “models” that necessarily can’t accurately replicate the actual climate, and/or if one’s hypotheses requires “cheating” the scientific method for “validity,” and/or one labels other scientists (much less lay critics and skeptics) who have found flaws in your work as “deniers” (i.e., heretics), one is not doing good science.
The unparalleled ability of humans to adapt our surroundings to ourselves is one of the things that makes us unique among species. Technological and industrial advancement has led to steadily increasing human life spans. Surely, the answer to human-caused climate change, if indeed an answer is even required, is for humans to employ technology to adapt ourselves to the changed environment or adapt it to ourselves – or both. This requires unchaining human minds and harnessing the power of the free market, not the pseudo-scientific dogma and choking restrictions of enviro-socialism.
“You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” Those are the words of Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago and former Chief of Staff under President Obama. Plenty of people are taking him up on that advice by exploiting notable natural disasters (presently, Hurricane Irma is their wellspring) to further their own agendas. Curiously, people on (supposedly) opposite spans of the ideological spectrum are finding ways to blame Irma (and Harvey before her, and Katrina before both) on human activity they don’t like:
The first variety are stories that repeat the oft-heard statistic that Hurricane Irma is the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history and that she is a result of human-caused global warming. Let’s break this down. First, whether or not a given natural phenomenon is the “most powerful” in recorded history makes good headlines, but it’s almost irrelevant – because recorded history is a vanishingly small slice of time on the geologic clock. If we scale the lifetime of the earth to be represented by a human lifespan – say eighty years, then all of recorded human history represents the span of an eyeblink or two. Indeed, reliable recordings of meteorological phenomena such as hurricanes have only been commonplace for perhaps the last 150 years or so.
Another angle: Right now, there are three hurricanes: Katia in the western Gulf of Mexico, Irma, and Jose east of the Caribbean. Some articles are noting this as another bit of evidence that global warming is to blame – but there have been at least two recorded occasions when four hurricanes existed at one time, and the earliest of those dates to 1893.
Then there are the religious extremists who claim that natural disasters are God’s punishment for our sins, especially homosexuality and abortion. This pastor claims Hurricane Harvey is God’s punishment of Texas for failing to pass an anti-LGBT law. Actor Kirk Cameron claims Harvey and Irma have been sent by God to teach us humility and to make sinners repent. The same tone was on offer from some of the more extreme branches of the religious right for Hurricane Katrina over a decade ago.
Bottom line: We have no way to know whether Irma is in fact the most powerful hurricane in Atlantic history, ergo we can’t possibly know if her notable strength is truly the result of human-caused global warming, or of natural climate change, or if she is merely a “normal” large hurricane among the millions that have crossed the Atlantic over the eons. Since the conditions that cause hurricanes pre-date human industrial activity, we can safely assume the sin of emitting too much carbon dioxide is not the cause of Irma. What about biblical sin? As the late Christopher Hitchens once pointedly observed, Hurricane Katrina, allegedly sent to punish us for the sins of homosexuality and fornication, destroyed almost every part of New Orleans except the French Quarter, wherein lies the red-light district!
The jury is out on the effects of humans on climate change, but the fact that the climate is changing is irrefutable – it is always changing. Likewise, the idea that God punishes us through disasters is ancient, but “disasters” only result when humans are affected by specific incidents of naturally occurring phenomena that have been occurring since before the rise of humanity. The real tragedy of disasters is that we continue to put faith ahead of reason. Reason tells us that if you occupy a place that is in a hurricane zone, you are at risk. You can either mitigate that risk by being well-prepared to evacuate or to survive, or you can deal with the consequences of failing to make such preparations. Neither God nor global warming are responsible for that, you are.
Overall rarity notwithstanding, the eclipse on Monday was unique in at least two ways. It was the first solar eclipse since the late seventies to cross nearly the entire US, and thus it was the first one in the US to be covered by millions of cell-phone and Go-Pro toting Americans in the age of social media.
This led to an amazing phenomena the news media have largely ignored: Far more Americans, of all colors, creeds, and classes, voluntarily gathered in peace across the country to observe the spectacle of nature than ever willingly gather together to hate and destroy, a la Charlottesville or Phoenix.
So we have at least two cases of the media presenting an alternate reality: One is in perpetuating an inaccurate understanding of astronomical phenomena in order to increase excitement…so that they can be seen to be reporting on the excitement of the “once in a lifetime” event, in the hopes that if you weren’t out looking at the eclipse yourself, you’d be tuning in to catch it on live TV.
The second case is more insidious. The mass media, so jaded by their constant purveyance of crises, largely neglected to report on, or even notice, the good news that Americans can be far more united in common cause than we are supposed to believe. No, it might even be worse than that. The second case may be an example that the media actively ignores, or even tries to “reverse engineer” facts and events that run counter to the lie narrative that America is being destroyed by greedy, right-wing, white, trans-, homo-, and Islamo-phobic, Christian middle-class men, as alluded to in several political cartoons about the eclipse:
Instead, too many media personalities have been indoctrinated to believe, and worse, promote, the idea that the solution to all our ills is to let the anointed class do our thinking for us and lead us to more “diversity” (of grievance groups), more “rights” to the time and/or property of others, and more restrictions on freedom and liberty. That idea has proven to be destructive in every time and place it’s been tried.
I started out thinking I had several disparate items for this week’s post, but they all seemed to tie together:
It’s science-project season at my son’s school. He brought home an information/instruction packet. He had to get a parent to sign the first page – which is a letter to parents explaining that the kid has to do the science work on his own, but parents can help with the non-process portions of the project (e.g. helping the kid get materials) etc., etc. On the reverse of the first page is a progress tracker. The kid has to get his parents to sign each time he hits a milestone on the project. My son got dinged on the first milestone because I didn’t sign it. The first milestone is to have a parent sign the letter to parents. Yes, that’s right: The purveyors of the science project’s hand-out material failed to notice they are requiring a parent sign the back of a form in order to certify that the parent signed the front of the form…and they make the kid take the hit if the parent doesn’t jump through the hoop. On a science project. You know, Science? The subject where they teach kids logic, critical thinking, precision, peer review, attention to detail, right? Little things like that.
Speaking of science, I work in a small office with five other people. All five are scientists and/or engineers. Our office serves as a kind of internal think-tank. We do quantitative and qualitative analysis, among other things. I am the only one in the office who does not have a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). My colleagues can run rings around me on any kind of math-based reasoning or problems. On the other hand, I usually get the better of them when it comes to verbal expression. I like to tease them that they are all experts at qualitative reasoning, while I am the quality. At any rate, our work sometimes involves (mathematical) models and simulations. Someone in the field once quipped that “all models are wrong, but some models are useful.”
Given the public’s current fascination with the phenomena of “fake news,” I think an adaptation of the “models” aphorism is apropos as a guidepost for judging the efficacy of anything in the media: “All news is fake, but some news is useful.” Two cases in point:
“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,”
Note that she stops short of stating that the current global economic development model that must be changed is capitalism (it isn’t, by the way – it’s a mix of capitalism and controls), or describing what model should obtain. I would not be surprised to learn that Figueres is indeed anti-capitalist, nor would I be surprised to learn that UN efforts to combat global warming are indeed a smokescreen to hide the destruction of capitalism, but Figueres’s statements fall short of being a smoking gun – more like an eyebrow-raiser. The subject bears watching.
Meanwhile, on the left side of the fake news spectrum, we have the New York Times’ headlines for Friday’s attack at the Louvre in Paris by a “lone wolf” Islamic jihadist. Their first headline read: “Louvre Museum Evacuated after French Soldier Opens Fire.” At best, this headline leads you to believe the incident revolved around the actions of a French soldier. At worst, it leads you to believe a French soldier went nuts and started shooting up the Louvre. A few hours later, the headline had changed to read: “Assailant Near Louvre Is Shot by French Soldier” Again, the French soldier’s actions seem to be the focus. As mentioned previously, context matters, and what is not being said matters. What the vaunted New York Times neglected, or purposely refused to highlight in their headlines, was that a man shouting “allahu ackbar!” (i.e. “God is great” in Arabic) and wielding knives attacked some French soldiers and was shot by one of them in response.
It would not do to depart from The Narrative by highlighting yet another attack by a Muslim against Western targets, even as the militant arm of the “tolerant” left is convulsing over President Trumps’ recent “anti-Muslim” immigration restrictions, now would it? Instead, the “Newspaper of Record” felt it must mislead readers with deceptive headlines. I’m not suggesting the Times should have gone with “Islamo-Fascist Nut-Job Takes Knives to a Gun Fight in Paris; Wins Darwin Award Nomination,” but something like “Assailant Shouting in Arabic Shot by Soldier At Louvre” might have hit the right balance between not jumping to conclusions about the attacker’s religion, intentions, and connections, and the response of the soldiers. All news is fake, some news is useful.
We have global communications and transportation. In Europe, most of the Americas, and most of Asia at least, we have enough food to eat and wondrous technological gadgetry. Anyone labeled “middle class” today lives a far more luxurious lifestyle than royalty did less than a century ago.
Some of our most basic problems, such as bigotry, racism, and other social ills have been at least partially resolved, for at least part of the world. Will we ever be able to finish the job?
I submit the answer does not lie within the bounds of governments and politicians, It lies in diminishing the mismatch between the relatively steady pace of evolution and the accelerating rate of technological advancement. Our species may be on the cusp of such an advancement.
Human beings evolved on the plains of Africa. We were smaller, slower, weaker, and had less effective sensory apparatus than the alpha predators. We didn’t even have biological “weaponry” (such as fangs, horns, or claws) to defend ourselves. How did we achieve mastery over lions, leopards, and hyenas?
For example: We vilify adults who engage in any kind of sexual activity with minors, but the concept of “minor” is a modern legal distinction, not a biological one. Girls reach physical maturity well before we consider them to be of sufficient emotional maturity to have children – because adults now live long enough to accumulate much more knowledge and wisdom from the ever-increasing store of knowledge and wisdom available that the gulf between a 25, or 35, or 55 year old man and a 13 year old girl renders a sexual relationship between them abhorrent to us. But before the advent of civilization and the division of labor, humans that made it to 30 were elderly! Most people died in their 20s or earlier of disease, tooth decay, or child birth. It was necessary for a girl who was physically old enough to bear children to start doing so – for the sake of the survival of the clan or tribe. The modern concept of maturity didn’t enter into it. Our distant human ancestors didn’t have to worry about homework, getting a job, health insurance, paying the rent, career advancement, global warming, elections, or taxes. They had to worry about finding food for themselves even as they sought to avoid becoming dinner for a big cat.
ALL humans lived like that as recently as 10,000 years ago – a mere eye-blink in evolutionary timescales, and a few, isolated, human cultures still live that way to this day. Culturally, we have had varying degrees of success in putting aside our physical differences in gender or coloration or belief and living together, but there is still friction, conflict, and in parts of the world, warfare over these differences. It takes enlightenment to put aside the tribalism that defined our social development for untold millennia and behave at a higher level than out stone-age ancestors, who’s DNA still forms the cornerstone of our genetic makeup.
Q: How is the nuclear power industry like shaving cream?
A: We’ll get to the answer in a moment, but a little background is in order. According to the video above, the “energy density” from nuclear fission (splitting atoms of heavy radioactive elements, like uranium and plutonium) is a million times greater than from chemical reactions, such as occur with conventional explosives or burning fossil fuels. A nuclear reactor perhaps the size of your thumb could power your car. Yet there is a huge fear factor with nuclear power because nuclear fission is also the same energy source in atomic weapons, and because of incidents like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.
That’s right: even solar and wind energy are more hazardous to workers than nuclear power.
So if nuclear power is safer and more energy-dense than any of these other forms of power, why aren’t we using more of it, and burning less fossil fuels? Cost, mainly. Because nuclear power scares people, and because a reactor safety failure can lead to radioactive contamination, the industry is heavily regulated and plants are very expensive to build. (By the way, the coal industry releases far more radioactivity into the atmosphere than the nuclear industry!)
But some of that problem is due to the business model followed by the industry. Power plant reactors are designed to use radioactive uranium or plutonium isotopes in their cores. Very little of the uranium that occurs naturally in the earth is of the required isotope. The necessary isotope can be made by “enriching” regular uranium through various processes, all of which lead to a very expensive (on par with gold or platinum in price per ounce) final product. Plutonium doesn’t even occur in nature, but it can be man-made, or “bred,” in nuclear reactors using enriched uranium…for about the same price per ounce. Both enriched uranium and plutonium can be made “weapons grade” and used to make the cores of atomic bombs. In fact, the weapon industry, inaugurated by the Manhattan Project, gave rise to the power industry as we know it today.
So how is the nuclear power industry like the shaving industry? Some time ago, Gillette came upon the idea of selling razor handles cheaply, at or below cost, or even giving them away, and charging prices with high profit margins for shaving consumables (disposable blades, creams, and gels). A perpetual profit engine was born.
Nuclear power companies often work the same way. They might build a power plant for a utility for little or no profit, but then reap a profit stream via the consumables (enriched uranium and plutonium) end of the business.
There is another business model that might make nuclear power much more palatable to the average customer, if the corporations in the industry could be convinced it would be as profitable. It involves using a much more widely available radioactive material to generate the fission reaction: thorium. In this model, the thorium would be mixed with fluoride and circulated in the reactor as a molten salt. The acronym the industry uses for such a system is LFTR (“lifter”). The benefits are worth considering:
Thorium is far more plentiful and far cheaper to obtain than uranium or plutonium
The reactor can’t “runaway” and “melt down” through its own containment – the fuel is already molten, but it’s at ~700 degrees, not the thousands of degrees needed to melt through steel and concrete
The fuel can be used much more efficiently (there would be far less radioactive waste)
A power plant that used it would not be cheap, but it wouldn’t need to cost any more than a standard nuclear plant
The reactor operates at ambient pressures, which means the plant doesn’t need expensive pressure containment “vessels,” such as the ones that failed at Fukushima
There is increasing debate about using the LFTR model in the nuclear power generation industry. It may or may not be a better system, but to have a chance at replacing the current standard, proponents will have to convince the industry that they can make as much or more profit from LFTR than they can with traditional reactors. They may get two boosts from unexpected quarters: magnets and China.
Not just any magnets, but strong, rare-earth magnets made from a metal element called neodymium. Neodymium magnets are used in such applications as microphones, speakers, and computer hard drives. Where thorium may be plentiful and cheap (compared to the desired uranium isotope), neodymium is relatively scarce and expensive…but it is often found in the same geological areas (in other words, a thorium mine might produce some significant quantities of neodymium as well, according to an extended version of the video above). China currently has a corner on the world market for neodymium, and China, and a few other countries, are looking into building LFTR nuclear plants. Switching the US nuclear power generating paradigm from uranium to thorium might not generate the same kind of profitable consumables stream, but obtaining the neodymium might make up for the loss – and break China’s near-monopoly on neodymium to boot.
As we saw last week, Occam’s razor is one tool for helping us avoid falling into the trap of believing in every conspiracy theory that comes along. Another way to evaluate conspiracy theories for credibility is by asking the simple question: Who stands to gain? In 1998, when Hillary Clinton was First Lady, she alleged that there was a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to besmirch her husband over the Monica Lewisnky scandal. The political right certainly made every attempt to tarnish her husband for his indiscretion, but that was not a conspiracy, it was simply opposition politics. The right stood to gain by impeaching the president, but it didn’t take any secret cabal to put together a smear campaign; each individual pundit and politician was able to drum up outrage on his own! On the other hand, Mrs. Clinton stood to gain if she could rally support by painting herself as the embattled victim fighting for truth and dignity, so she let fly with the allegation, and it became one of the most often-cited Hillary quotes. When the president from one party provides his opposition with the ingredients of a scandal, OF COURSE the opposition will take advantage of the opportunity! That’s not a conspiracy, it’s an axiom!
Like the “vast conspiracy” against the Clintons, sometimes the activity of a conspiracy theory is credible, but the motives and/or competence ascribed to the perpetrators are dubious: The political right is fond of alleging that the left controls the education system and is intentionally dumbing down our kids through Common Core, campus speech codes, revisionist history curricula, etc. As with the right’s non-conspiratorial opposition to the Clintons, the state of our education system need not be attributed to a conspiracy of the left. Instead, the state of our education system is the accumulated results of long-term government control. OF COURSE a government-controlled education system is going to promote and advance a pro-government agenda! That’s not a conspiracy, it’s an axiom!
Let’s look at another example:
Some allege that the wars in Iraq (Desert Storm in 1991, Iraqi Freedom beginning in 2003) were all about oil. It is easy to fan that flame, as Dick Chenney (President Bush Sr’s Secretary of Defense, and Bush Jr’s Vice President) was the CEO of Haliburton (a huge company that provides all manner of services to the oil industry) in between the Bushes presidencies. In the sense that the Bush administrations conspired to go to war in order to gain personal control of Iraqi oil, the answer is doubtful, as Iraqi oil remains under Iraqi control. However, there is a more credible context under which “oil” can be held as the reason for the wars: Saddam Hussein took over Kuwait and threatened to invade Saudi Arabia (his forces actually did cross the border at Najaf). That meant he held a significant portion of the world’s oil reserves (and therefore the lifeblood of international commerce) at risk. OF COURSE the Iraq Wars were about oil! That’s not a conspiracy, it’s an axiom…but not the same one some conspiracy theorists would have us believe.
Often, though, the conspiracy theories are just ludicrous. From the 1990s onward, the term “black helicopters” has picked up the connotation among believers that nefarious forces under the auspices of the United Nations patrol the US and engage in clandestine activities designed to bring about a “New World Order.” IF such forces exist, and IF they used helicopters for transportation, it is highly unlikely they would adopt a “signature” that would defeat their efforts to remain hidden.
“Chemtrails” is another ridiculous theory. Supposedly, “they” are using jet airliners to spray mysterious chemical agents across the nation for unknown purposes. The evidence: Contrails. Occam’s razor leaves us no guesswork here: The simplest explanation for contrails is that they are CONTRAILS, not weaponized chemical clouds. Who stands to gain? The charlatans selling “reports” on chemtrails.
Probably one of the looniest has to be the flat earthers. Yes, there are still people out there who believe the world is flat. In order to swallow that pill, you have to ignore or evade absolutely proven scientific facts. For example, you have to believe that every photo and bit of video from orbit showing the curvature of the earth has been faked. That would require that all space programs across the globe have conspired to tell the same lie to billions of people since the USSR launched Sputnik in 1957. The real conspiracy here is the one being perpetrated by the theorists themselves in furthering this drivel.
“What is more likely, a complicated scenario that requires tortured logic to arrive at, or the simple explanation?” “Who stands to benefit, the alleged conspirators, or the person alleging the conspiracy?” When you examine a conspiracy theory and ask a few simple questions, OF COURSE you’ll get a much better sense of the theorists’ credibility!