Intellectual Triage: Arguments Not Worth Having
Intellectual Triage – Conspiracy theories waste thought. Usually ignorance is harmless, but not always. I’m curious and love polemics, but there must be triage when seeking new views. Here are some that should be quashed before considered.
9/11 Conspiracy Theories – This Popular Mechanic article nails it, dozens of the people cited have advanced degrees, knowledge of engineering, physics, chemistry, science; and authority. To sum up, 9/11 happened because assdumb terrorists led by Osama bin Laden and cohorts hijacked airplanes. To believe, say, in a Truther conspiracy, you need to explain how hundreds of necessary participants kept silent afterward. Not one whistleblower. Sure, there are complexities and incompetence, but 9/11 Truthers, whether they are the Saudi population (80% think the Jews did it), Militia Survivalists, or Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, should be ignored.
Holocaust Deniers – Enough said.
Aliens – Okay, there might be life on other planets, even advanced life, but to think aliens fly spacecraft with cloaking devices, land on earth, build pyramids, or kidnap humans, is ludicrous. Those who say they have met aliens are equal to those who saw incubus back in the 16th century. (Buy your UFO Detector here at Amazon, or just read the comments for a laugh)
Birthers – Overturn the “natural born citizen” law, then we could stop hearing from these birther doobs. See “Trump Supporters”
Ron Paul Followers – Think birthers and truthers have a point.
Militia Survivalists – See Ron Paul. Preparing for…whatever.
Moon Landing – Van Allen Belt = Shman Allen Shmelt.
Trump Supporters: In 2012 Donald J. Trump ran on the idea that Obama was born in Kenya. In 2016 he has exploited Conspiracy Paranoia and will go down as the Father of the Conspiracy Fuck Nut. (See NY Times: “Donald J. Trump Pushes Conspiracy Theories”
Vaccinations – These people, unfortunately, are not so harmless, because they keep disease alive. Yes, some vaccinations need to be questioned, but I’d rather believe a doctor than an Internet researcher. People should question authority, but sometimes authority means years of research and education. Belief in vaccination conspiracies assumes incredulous faith in anti-science. (See CDC data on pre-vaccination morbidity. Source: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease)
Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, claims that it takes 10,000 hours to attain expertise. To excel. Most engineers, doctors, etc., have been-there done-that. They understand epidemiology and structural engineering. Conspiracy nuts, on the other hand, do not. They spend minimal hours, say twenty (which to them is a lot), and then repeat thoughts until they become cement. This gives the nut the illusion of expertise. (You may say I’m being condescending to conspiracy nuts, I’d say I’m not being condescending enough.)
Existential questions, as opposed to universal, when they concern morality, should lead to doubt and wisdom. Certainty is possible, but rare. There are some universal moral precepts, and religions and secular humanism cover them: stealing, murder, etc, are wrong/kindness, tolerance, and love are good. But when confronting evil the questions become existential. What to do when a woman is raped and pregnant? Should we execute murderers? When should we go to war? The valid position is to remain uncertain, and this does not mean not to act. Decide with compassion and with foresight. Conspiracy theorists generally do not apply these basics to their reasoning.
Where stupidity flourishes, atrocity reigns. Luckily, in the U.S., most stupidity attains cult-like status, and the violence that results, whether from the Heaven’s Gate Cult, or the FLDS murders, is small scale. But what happens in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, North Korea, Nazi Germany, and beneath the Taliban, is the result of extreme stupidity torched by human indifference, fear, and evil. The 9/11 terrorists acted on similar stupidity and hate. The desire to question 9/11 might originate from a genuine concern to solve questions of suffering, but too often devolve into madness.
Freakspiracy Nuts: Conspiracy Freaks, or F-Nuts, claim their “experts” know what they’re talking about. Whether “engineers” that validate 9/11, or “doctors” who discredit vaccines, F-Nuts trust these “experts” and pat themselves on the back for being skeptical, even though validated experts outnumber the F-Nut expert at ratios of over 1000 to 1. Skepticism is usually valid, especially when aimed at the F-Nuts.
UPDATE – PBS Documentary 9/11: Explosive Evidence, out soon, offers a sophisticated explanation. Director Richard Gage and his truther crew have had eleven years to find experts that validate their views. How much rehash? Can anyone say Kennedy conspiracy? Their argument will give truthers more juice to chase their dreams and decry world ignorance. Me? Intellectual triage, my friends, intellectual triage.
Seattle Times: Why you should vaccinate your child / Slate: Unvaccinated People Cause Measles to Triple in 2013 Vox: This one chart shows that the measles vaccine works Vice: I Tricked Conspiracy Theorists Express Tribune: Four vaccinators shot dead in Qetta Onion: Conspiracy Theorist Has Elaborate Explanation for Why He’s Single