randombio.com | science commentary
Monday, May 04, 2020

We need better conspiracy theories

The latest batch of conspiracy theories are almost pitiful enough to deserve censorship

A conspiracy theory is a reinterpretation of events that challenges the official version, typically in a way that's provocative and unscientific. Often the theories contain many falsehoods.

Because they're often fabricated by people whose credibility is not as high as we might like, the term has a negative connotation. So, big internet companies have started calling anything they disagree with a conspiracy theory as an excuse to censor it. But it's an impossible task: there is no sure way to distinguish a true statement from a false one.

Is the claim that the government “knows” about flying saucers a conspiracy theory? If so, then what about the claim that the oil companies “know” that carbon dioxide is destroying the environment? Or that scientists “know” that 467 different kinds of disasters will happen if CO2 continues to increase? Or the claim that our foreign enemy du jour is “interfering” in our elections?

These days there's little difference between a conspiracy theory and a news report. Neither provide any tangible evidence for their claims. Both mix unsubstantiated opinions with facts. As deep fakes—phony videos created by computer—become more realistic, the difference will disappear entirely.

Good conspiracy theories provoke discussion and rebuttal. They stick to your brain like glue. They can stimulate the imagination, challenging the brain's narrative of how the world works. A good conspiracy theory is a cultural myth: it inspires people to write books about it, and it's plausible enough to make people wonder whether such a thing is possible.

But there's a problem. The so-called conspiracy theories we have today—for example, the theory that 5G cell phone networks increase your risk of catching the Wuhan coronavirus—are so pathetic that they hardly qualify as conspiracies at all. You wacko conspiracy nuts are letting us down.

Perhaps the greatest conspiracy theory of all time was the one about the Reptilians. We've all heard it. There are not one but two species of aliens: the Grays, who are short with big eyes and no souls. Grays are slaves of the Reptilians, who are larger than humans and have conquered the Grays. The myth is so elaborate that the 34-volume online “Dulce Book” was created to collect the tales.

It was a masterpiece of myth creation. One chapter talks about how the US military fought a pitched battle with the Grays, leading to a stalemate and a modus vivendi that continues today. Another talks about enormous transcontinental underground tunnels in the southwest US, whose walls were painted by American Indians. The Indians, of course, knew all about them, but kept it a secret. Then there's something called the Draconian Collective where humans are kidnapped and turned into green organic goop for hideous DNA experiments.

Now that was a conspiracy theory. It had all the elements:

  1. Fake high tech details involving alien technology. It's so alien our scientists and engineers can't figure out how it works.
  2. A reason why we have never heard of it before: the military classified it Top Secret.
  3. An explanation of how we are hearing about it now. Perhaps a local sheriff stumbled on the base but was ordered to remain silent, and the secrecy drove him insane.

By contrast, the 5G conspiracy theory is pitiful. After those 5G towers in the UK were burned down, what happened?

  1. Cell phone service was mysteriously turned off.
  2. The virus started spreading even faster.

Did anyone bother to invent a theory to explain this? How about maybe the 5G radio waves controlled the virus and somehow prevented it from spreading? Or maybe once a person is infected, they could then transmit the virus via radio waves to others, like on that Doctor Who episode where the recipient was forced to say “Contact has been made!” in a British Estuary accent.

How would that work? Simple: it's alien technology, no one knows. Or maybe you could say the SARS-CoV-2 virus was invented by Hitler, who took it with him to his base on the far side of the Moon. Then the Chinese sent their lander there to retrieve it, and they were using 5G in an attempt to control it while they studied it, but Hitler discovered the plot and . . . oh I don't know, maybe mutated it somehow to make it backfire.

But 5G radio waves interfering with oxygen binding to hemoglobin? That's so easy to test that it hardly qualifies as a conspiracy. If it's falsifiable, it's not a true conspiracy theory but a hypothesis.

When conspiracy theories get busted, they only get bigger and more elaborate. It's probably only a matter of time before the global cooling deniers, or should I call them global-not-warming-all-that-much deniers, start imagining that Michael Moore was brainwashed by the CIA into making that movie disproving the claim that green energy is commercially feasible. Now there was a theory for you—alas, all too easily falsified. But I have next Tuesday in the pool for when YouTube censors it.

Update, May 27 2020 It was censored on Monday, May 25. A bit off but close.

may 04 2020, 6:13 am

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