Today George, a regular visitor to this blog, left a comment on a post which said, in part: "one thing i would like to know is how come all you guys are besotted with conspiracy theories and the occult?"
That got me to thinking again about why conspiracy theories are so attractive, even to people who decry religious beliefs that aren't evidence-based. A few months ago I wrote a post called "Conspiracy theories -- another form of blind faith."
No need to repeat why I said there. But who needs a need to do something? Here's how the post started out:
One person believes that Jesus was resurrected after dying on the cross. Another person believes that the Bush administration was behind the 9/11 attacks.
Each belief lacks a foundation of demonstrable evidence. Each belief almost certainly is untrue. Each belief has many adherents who vehemently hold to it, despite how bizarre their blind faith is.
I'm a religious skeptic. I'm also a conspiracy theory skeptic. What seems strange to me is how people who decry fundamentalist religion often cling to fundamentalist conspiracy theories.
Now, it's absolutely true that what currently seems to be true, may not be. So I'm not against wild, crazy, blue sky notions that turn consensal reality upside down. Or at least, would, if they were more than just notions.
Einstein often is used as an example of a solitary individual who looked at the world in a markedly different way and ended up overturning generally held beliefs that seemed to be solidly proven. Yes, he did. But here's the big difference between Einstein and conspiracy theorists:
Einstein backed up his theories with solid evidence that could be confirmed by other experts. After some initial scepticism, It didn't take long for the physics community to embrace the theory of relativity.
Why? Because it was true.
But when someone claims that a shadowy group of Jewish financiers (or whoever) are out to control the world economy and create a New World Order, this is a remarkable claim that deserves equally remarkable evidence to back it up.
Which, of course, doesn't exist outside of the minds of conspiracy theorists who believe that only they have been able to connect the dots and reveal a perspective on reality everyone else has missed --including professional historians, economists, and political scientists who devote their lives to understanding what is happening in their corner of the knowledge world, yet somehow are blind to truths that conspiracy theorists easily recognize.
Religious faith operates in the same fashion. The human drive to make sense of the world is powerful and innate. When things don't make sense, our brains love to conjure up stories that neatly organizes reality into something comprehensible.
Problem is, imagination isn't truth. Absent evidence, neither religious dogmas nor conspiracy theories should be looked upon as anything more than fantasies. Or more charitably, as hypotheses without factual support.