Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Weak Thinking and Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theories are a sign of weak thinking.  Weak thinking is bad for you.

You can tell when you are talking to a weak thinker as he will bring up some sort of conspiracy theory in the conversation, often just stating it as if it was a known fact.   If other people in the room nod their heads in agreement, quietly slip out of the room and never go back.   You need to find new friends.

On the other hand, if you have no scruples whatsoever, you could probably make a quick buck off these fools by selling them a chain-letter or pyramid scheme or whatever.

People like conspiracy theories for a number of reasons.  First, they get to play the role of the person "in the know" and for once in their lives, they are a "smart guy" as they explain the "facts" to the great unwashed.   Called "stupid" their whole lives in school, they finally are the smart guy!

Second, it is a way of externalizing their problems. With so many conspiracies in the world, no wonder they can't get ahead in life!  If not for the trilateral commission or the Federal Reserve, they would be Billionaires and never have to work.   But alas, the conspirators have won, so you might as well hunker down in Mom's basement and do another bong hit - and swap conspiracy theories with your friends.

In other words, it is loser talk.

There are conspiracy theories galore.  How they get started is beyond me (I suspect marijuana is involved).   Maybe someone starts one as a joke (for example, "chemtrails") just to see if someone is idiotic enough to actually believe it.   And then it takes on a life of its own.

The "faked moon landing" theory started out around the 1980's.  There was even a made-for-TV movie based on the theory, which may have lent credence to it.   Who believes this stuff and why?   And who promotes it?

I notice online that you see a lot of people from overseas who believe this theory fervently.   Landing on the moon is one of those really amazing things that mankind has achieved, and the USA achieved it.   Folks in other countries like to run down the US, and saying the moon landing was "fake" is one way to do this.

But a simple exercise in logic illustrates that the moon landing was hardly faked.

1.  Too many people: The big question conspiracy theorists always fail to address is "how can such a conspiracy exist if so many people are involved?"

To begin with, the Apollo program employed hundreds of thousands of people, within NASA as well as with outside contractors.   In addition, many in the military were involved in recovery, tracking, and communications efforts.   That is an awful lot of people to keep quiet.   Even if only say, 10,000 knew it was a fake, this would be a very large group. 
You'd have to swear to secrecy everyone in mission control, everyone at Cape Canaveral, all the people on the recovery ship, the astronauts, the people doing tracking, communications - the works.   Plus all the supposed technicians who filmed the "fake moon landing."

The problem is, human nature.   People are blabbermouths, and eventually the truth will out (as Bill Cosby is finding out, the hard way).   By now, hundreds, if not thousands of people would have come out of the woodwork denouncing the moon landing as fake.

But, alas, they have not.   All we have is some very unbalance people with "theories" and manufactured evidence.   And all of the "evidence" is faked.   Some theorists actually point to "videos" which are actually excepts from the made-for-TV movie as "proof" that the entire thing was a hoax.

That is the problem with weak thinkers- they believe what they want to believe, and never follow up on facts.

2.  The Russians:  Even assuming you could hoodwink the entire USA by gagging the thousands or tens of thousands of people necessary to the conspiracy, what about the Russians?  The Soviet Union was in a desperate "space race" with us at the time - and they were our sworn enemy.   It would have been perfect propaganda to say the entire thing was faked.   And the Soviets had the tracking equipment and communications equipment to prove the project was a fake.   But they said nothing of the sort, as they knew they such a story would laughed at, without data to back it up.   If it was fake, the Soviets would have had the data.  But of course, it wasn't.  Why?

3. It wasn't impossible:   The best argument that the moon landing wasn't faked was made by one NASA engineer.  As he put it, "It would have been harder to fake it than to actually go to the moon!"  Rocketry was not a new science.  Hitler demonstrated that rocketry was practical with the V-2.  After the war, the Soviets and the US scrambled to snatch up their scientists.

It was not long before inter-continental ballistic missiles were made.   And in the "space race" much of this hardware (Atlas, Redstone, Titan) was used to launch early "space capsules".   If you are going to argue the moon landing was "fake" then you'd have to argue that the V-2 rockets were fake, Sputnik was fake - it all was fake - right up to the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station today.

Why is it that for some reason, these other rocketry projects are deemed "real" and the moon landing was "faked"?  It makes no sense, to build these enormous rockets and all that hardware and then not go.  And there is no technical reason not to go once you have all this hardware in place.  It would have been harder to fake all of this than to actually go.
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But all that being said, you can't convince a weak thinker of anything.  For every logical argument you raise, they raise yet another incredible nonsensical argument.   They say a missile hit the Pentagon.  You mention to them the thousands of commuters who saw the plane fly up I-295 and hit the Pentagon.  They counter with "mass hallucination".  You can't win an "argument" with someone like that.

They saw something on YouTube and that, as they say, is that.

When I was a kid, my friend's brother got this book called "Chariots of the Gods" by Eric von Daniken.  The premise of the book was that every major accomplishment of ancient man - from the Pyramids onwards, was actually the work of extraterrestrial aliens.   And the book is a typical propaganda tome.

What von Daniken does is emphasize (and distort) a few "facts" as well as just make up a few more out of whole cloth and then simply not discuss, mischaracterize, or de-emphasize any conflicting data.  If you read such a book with a uncritical mind, well, you come away thinking everything he said is true.  And a lot of people have uncritical minds.   That is how cults can recruit.

For example, he argues that human beings could not have moved the huge stone blocks that make up the pyramids in Egypt, and thus aliens must have done it.   But people have demonstrated that with a few rollers and a lot of people, even huge blocks can be moved (and tomb paintings illustrate this).   By simply ignoring this data, he in effect refutes it.  People who read his book, never know otherwise.

In another chapter, the mountaintop city Machu Picchu is said to be built by aliens, as the stones in the walls are so closely put together than "no human" could have built them.   But as one archeologist demonstrates - in the nearby quarry where the stones were cut - that such stones could be very accurately fit, using simple stone tools (which were also at the quarry).   But again, this is not in the book, so it had to be aliens.

I should have realized that my friend's brother was losing his mind at that point - or was a highly suggestible idiot.  He did tend to fall for a lot of stupid tricks over the years.    He sent away to an ad in the back of Rolling Stone that claimed you could buy surplus Jeeps at government auction for $50 (today, these ads are online and claim you can buy confiscated "drug cars" for $500!).  He sent in $5 and a self-address envelope and got back a mimeographed sheet that said if you want to buy a Jeep, to go talk to the government, figure out where they auction off the Jeeps, and go bid on one.

In other words, he was ripped-off.   And you'd think that would make him stop being a true believer but he got snookered in a number of scams over the years, all caused by weak thinking.  He thought you could get something-for-nothing and that is how all the big boys did it.   Hard work and sacrifice were for chumps!  Sadly, he never learned.  And maybe that is what drove him a little crazy.

Crazy people tend to believe in conspiracy theories and also tend to be weak thinkers.   Which came first, the chicken or the egg?   Did my friend's brother lose his mind because he believed in the alternate reality of conspiracy theories and thus went schitzo when these theories conflicted with reality?   Or did he believe in these theories because he was crazy?

Good Question.   I believe mental hygiene is something you have to work at.   And one way to be mentally fit is to eschew nonsense like chemtrails and 9/11 theories, and other conspiracy nonsense.   Maybe it is just treating the symptoms, but if you stop believing in nonsense, maybe you can start making sense.

It can't hurt to try, right?   What have you got to lose, other than a lot of conspiracy-theory baggage that is not helping your personal bottom line, anyway.