Losing Faith in Conspiracy Thinking

Half-formed posts, inchoate philosophies, and the germs of deep thought.

Re: Losing Faith in Conspiracy Thinking

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Tue May 19, 2020 10:36 am

Carleas wrote:KT, there's a distinction between the rational justification of a belief and the causal explanation for a belief. We have to be able to talk about the latter.

Sure. And I don't have a clear solution for this. But 1) to whatever degree, this is also a social community so the two conversations running in parallel, it seems to me, ends up making this ad hom. 2) I think the discussion needs to be more concrete. Which belief? which means 'which conspiracy'?' We could also have the why do people believe authorities in general version, and go into that psychology, which obviously some conspiracy theorists and anyone believing in controversial for the mainstream opinions, also may do. I think both dicussions need to be careful because they end up being incredibly condescending and since the topic is general it's fairly easy to paint with broad strokes and nearly impossible to contradict.

In a sense the psychology i this thread, the diagnoses, have as much support for them as what critics say conspiracy theories have.

These hidden things must be happening in the minds of conspiracy theorists (in general or all of them). I see little qualification in the thread about how many this would apply to.

There is no evidence presented that these diagnoses are the case. The participants here know what is going on behind the scenes in other minds. (as in the other minds in the problem of other minds). Now the thread starts with the idea that each will share what led them out of believing in certain conspiracies. But it rapidly degenerating into why people believe in them period and/or what diagnoses can we make about conspiracy theorist's mental flaws.

It seems ironic in the extreme that people who are skeptics about conspiracy theories (except for Peter K regarding actual alien spacecraft since he does believe in that conspiracy theory) are drawing conclusions the way they are here. They see behind the veil.

The OP asks about how people changed their minds, i.e. causal explanations for a change in belief.
Well, it asks how they lost their faith. How did you change your beliefs has quite a different openess. It does not presume the epistemology. The OP presumes that those who belief, belief because of faith, which would be a surprise, for example, to the many scientists in Architects and Engineers for Truth about 9/11 or for the whistleblower from NIST who approached the shoddy science he found and the pressure to accept that science by the body who came up with the official 'scientific' version of the event. Pehaps these people are wrong, but if they are wrong it seems likely to me it is not because they based their conclusions on faith, but rather there was something incomplete in their reasoning or data. Perhaps Peter K.'s conclusion about alien spacecraft is not based on faith, whether he is right or wrong.

Karpel Tunnel wrote:I do see the no true scotsman, but that seems different from the assertion that if isn't accepted it isn't true. Also that if it is not accepted then no one has good reasons to believe it. This presumes that any true theory will be confirmed. I think that is unfalsifiable. I think it also includes a lot of not demonstrated assumptions about society's openness to all ideas, regardless of how uncomfortable.

I do not mean to assert any of those. Let me try to be yet more precise.

Given that, I'll say that a 'conspiracy theory' becomes a 'theory about a conspiracy' when the evidence about the fact claims at issue are supported by evidence sufficient to make their truth likely. They may in fact be either true or false, and they may even be more likely to be false than true, so long as their truth is supported by the available evidence.

In practical terms it becomes a theory about a conspiracy when it is accepted by people and that process is not rigorously scientific nor is it rigorously legal. Paradigmatic, political and power concentration (in media for example) issues play into this all the time. Some things get through. The assumption it seems to me is that true theories (or better, well justified theories) will be given a fair case and come to light. I think that is unfalsifiable.


That's a very vague standard when worded precisely, and that's OK. There are borderline cases, and that's OK. But the fact that something changes from 'conspiracy theory' to not-a-conspiracy-theory with the introduction of evidence does not make the initial claim unfalsifiable: it can be falsified by looking at the evidence.
You're conflating two things. Here you are saying that the conspiracy theory itself is falsifiable. I am saying that the implict and explicit claim that if it was true and also if the evidence was strong enough, it would become accepted. That is unfalsifiable. You can certainly point to conspiracy theories that were considered nuts and then became confirmed, and say, see even if it is extremely controversial it will come out. But that only shows (potentially, for example) that some get out.

It seems to me you didn't respond to some things.....

You'll note that I didn't use the words "immature" or "irrational".
I think this is implict in the title of the thread and the op, as mentioned with losing faith.
Further the other posters very much implied these things and as the OP writer your responses seemed to accept these as on topic answers. I put some effort into quoting things that clearly fit that type of diagnosis and similar ones.

I could, of course, start a thread with the topic:

What changed your mind about the possibility or the what you now perceive as a fact that governments can marginalize data, whistleblowers, differing opinions, evidence, etc. to such a degree that a well justified position stays out of the mainstream, potentially permanently?

Or when did you lose faith in unfalsifiable belief that if something is true and important it will become consensus opinion amongst experts?

But I think such threads - which I would assume you would consider valid, even if I must get in there and tease out a better wording - will degenerate and perhaps they should. I thin in a sense they should because they function in the community as ad hom threads. I am sure universities have done research where they take a full on sociological look at CT believers and I would not rule out such a thing, even if it could be perceiving as as insulting. At least there you are dealing with data, rather than what is happening in this thread which is people who participate in parallel threads get a chance to say that they are rational and the others are not, they are mature and have grown up and the others have not because of the categories of believers they fall into.
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Re: Losing Faith in Conspiracy Thinking

Postby Carleas » Tue May 19, 2020 7:00 pm

Karpel Tunnel wrote:The assumption it seems to me is that true theories (or better, well justified theories) will be given a fair case and come to light.

I don't believe that assumption is implied. Rather, if sufficient evidence comes to light and is given a fair case, then it will no longer be a conspiracy theory. So not, "X will happen", but "if X happens, then Y".

I take acceptance to be a type of evidence, e.g. if all we know about a claim is that 99% of all living humans accept that it's true, we have a good reason to take its truth as a prior.

Karpel Tunnel wrote:Here you are saying that the conspiracy theory itself is falsifiable.

I'm not. I'm saying that the claim, "X is a conspiracy theory" is falsifiable by looking at the sufficiency and reliability of the evidence.

Karpel Tunnel wrote:It seems to me you didn't respond to some things.....

My opening paragraph was my response, and I have nothing to add.
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Re: Losing Faith in Conspiracy Thinking

Postby Del Ivers » Thu May 21, 2020 6:22 pm

Carleas wrote:Do you think that conspiracy thinking is a style of thought, or is it more like an article of faith, where everyone has their own and finds everyone else's facially absurd?

Defensibility is based on those particular references one has chosen as defensible. When the 'grounding' of those references is eroded by time with no conclusive proof then it's only natural that attention will wane as it does with any focus; except of course for confirmation-bias junkies. If it happens that the conspiracy is proven, thus brought to the level of actual proof, then confirmation allows for a kind of retroactive satisfaction.

Of course, there are those who profit from operating 'between' the conspiracy and the proof of it. D.C., the media, Pentagon, and others have been doing this for some time now. In short, they profit more from the general public not knowing either way. Needless to say, lawyers and other types enjoy since it gives them flexibility without the hindrance of conclusive proof.

Thus, it's more losing faith in the earnest effort at truth. Again, truth is not profitable for some interests.
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Re: Losing Faith in Conspiracy Thinking

Postby Meno_ » Thu May 21, 2020 8:13 pm

As long as recognizable limits of approbable reason can lead to a neutral assessment, that there may be a modicum of possibility of either position becoming even minimally possible, ( given the set assumptions that any possible state of affairs can become probable within those limited contexts); an absolute contradiction between fact and non-factual assertions can never arise.
The higher the stakes, the more inversely possibility and (im)probability can manifest.
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Re: Losing Faith in Conspiracy Thinking

Postby Fixed Cross » Fri May 22, 2020 12:54 am

The strong do what they can, the weak accept what they must.
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Re: Losing Faith in Conspiracy Thinking

Postby Carleas » Fri May 22, 2020 4:59 pm

Del Ivers wrote:Thus, it's more losing faith in the earnest effort at truth. Again, truth is not profitable for some interests.

An interesting and plausible take, if I understand it correctly. While I think claims that imply that almost everyone is mistaken about reality are almost always wrong, it does seem that the attempt implies a desire to find the cracks in "common knowledge". And any novel hypothesis worth a damn implies that kind of ignorance.

But aren't many people committed to particular conspiracy theories are also not earnestly working to find the truth? Conspiracy theories often strike me as easy answers, where the truth is messy and complicated, and most importantly boring. There's a distinction between belief in a conspiracy theory and a conspiracy theory as a hypothesis, in terms of truth-seeking: hypothesizing is a good way to seek truth, believing is a good way to avoid finding it.

And of course you are right that conspiracy theories are often advanced by those seeking to obscure the truth. But note that that is itself a part of most conspiracy theories, to the point of being part of the definition: some shadowy cabal doesn't want the truth out about X (such truth being [conspiracy theory]). It's a kind of meta-conspiracy theory to say that the conspiracy theories themselves are the work of a shadowy cabal seeking to hide the truth -- though it needn't include the same kind of deliberate agency and god-like prescience that conspiracy theories posit.
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Re: Losing Faith in Conspiracy Thinking

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Sat May 23, 2020 10:17 am

Carleas wrote:I don't believe that assumption is implied. Rather, if sufficient evidence comes to light and is given a fair case, then it will no longer be a conspiracy theory. So not, "X will happen", but "if X happens, then Y".
Then generally we agree. I think there are also paradigmatic issues and other factors that can potentially be included in 'fair' which are often assumed to be taken care of but are not or may not be. Of course we can only do the best job we can, but we shouldn't ignore these possibilities.
I take acceptance to be a type of evidence, e.g. if all we know about a claim is that 99% of all living humans accept that it's true, we have a good reason to take its truth as a prior.
So, we don't have a good reason to believe that time is relative yet, for example. I mean, I do think there is validity in this position, though it is a specific extension of ad populum arguments. I think it is a good heuristic in general, but one can also be undecided.

Karpel Tunnel wrote:Here you are saying that the conspiracy theory itself is falsifiable.

I'm not. I'm saying that the claim, "X is a conspiracy theory" is falsifiable by looking at the sufficiency and reliability of the evidence.
Right. All I meant was that you were focusing on conspiracy theories and THEIR potential falsifiability. This was in response to me. My point, that it seemed like you were responding to, was not the falsifiablity of conspiracy theories, but rather the falsifiablity of the hypothesis that if any of these conspiracy theories were true, this would come to light and be accepted by the mainstream. I think that, and its related hypotheses, is unfalsifiable.

Karpel Tunnel wrote:It seems to me you didn't respond to some things.....

My opening paragraph was my response, and I have nothing to add.[/quote]

OK, well, I'll keep my stand that what was happening at that point in the thread was a lot of diagnoses/negative judgments of people based on little evidence and, seemingly, given the positions of the people involved, self-congratulatory. And further that these judgments were, consciously or unconvsciously, aimed at and in reaction to community members likely to check out this thread: that is people in other threads who may be irritating those making these diagnoses here. And that the assumption that conspiracy theories in general are faith-based is a mindreading claim, and one that goes against a great deal of evidence.
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Re: Losing Faith in Conspiracy Thinking

Postby iambiguous » Sun May 24, 2020 10:19 pm

He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

Start here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=176529
Then here: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=185296
And here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=194382
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Re: Losing Faith in Conspiracy Thinking

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Mon May 25, 2020 7:35 am

I didn't believe in any CT when I was young. I suppose I had some vague skepticism about the Kennedy assassination - a skepticism now supported even by the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations which considers it likely there was a conspiracy (and yes, nothing yet as exotic as some of the CTs) - but I had no particular hypothesis and wading through the vast amount of evidence and interpretations was just too boring. So I came into my twenties and almost out of them not having a specfic opinions as to the merits of conspiracy theories (as they are generally classed). Given what I mention below I did not consider them automatically worthy of dismissal however.

In the spirit, generally, of the thread, I can describe how I have decided not to be convinced by a ‘conspiracy theory’. First, generally, I have had some underlying skepticism about the official story OR there is something just plain fascinating about the ludicrousness or oddness of the conspiracy theory, otherwise I probably wouldn't find or look for alternate explanations.

I then try to find the smartest versions of the conspiracy theory: could be online, could be books. It's easy to find people who believe for weak reasons or at least present weak reasons to believe in anything. So, I want to find the smartest most careful presenters.

Also there are often a number of versions of a conspiracy theory, so I need to sift through these to find the ones I think are the most plausible or least implausible. This overlaps with the processes of finding the best advocates for a alternative theory.

At that point I am left with a complicated process. I may not find anything convincing. Or little. Or I may find quite a bit. At that point I generally try to find the best debunking for that specific sub-theory. Often I find that the debunkings are also of low quality, but if one keeps searching one can find better ones that actually address anomalies and specific arguments of the better CTs. I may also try to find secondary sources: other videos/articles backing up or countering scientific or other evidence presented by the CT. IOW some refutation, often a lot, can or can potentially come simply by examining scientific evidence that is not aimed at the CT, but is there in general. If the CT says that steel melts at X degrees and it doesn’t, then I learn something.

A back and forth process may take place. There are responses to debunkings, there are always other advocates who may counter assertions in debunkings. At any point I may find I just haven’t found enough to go on.

Those CTs that fail to convince me (including, for example, not being able to counter debunking) fail to convince me.
I decide some are not true, or extremely unlikely to be true or not yet demonstrated. Sometimes I end up thinking that both the official story and the CT seem implausible or have significant holes. (and my feelings and thoughts about official theories play a role here. Sometimes these seem very fishy to me, so my agnosticism is much stronger. I haven’t taken on the CT, but I haven’t ruled out that CT or some of them or that something is wrong with the official story.

Some of these I will go back to as more evidence or ‘evidence’ comes in over time.

I can lose faith or stop believing in an official story without taking on a CT.

As a tangent: one of the reasons I am likely much more open to CTs than other people is when I was young I found out that a consensus of experts can be wrong. It impacted my family and it took years of research to really get a grasp on how experts, supposedly basing their position on science, can be wrong and the mainstream does not realize this.

Once I realized that, I realized that other such phenomena might be the case.

And, then, the earlier in this described post can lead to me accepting a CT or accepting that the official theory does not hold.
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Re: Losing Faith in Conspiracy Thinking

Postby Fixed Cross » Tue May 26, 2020 12:49 am

The strong do what they can, the weak accept what they must.
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