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Archive for the ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Category

GMOs/Vaccines, Good! Conspiracy Theories, Bad!

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Conspiracy? Beliefs in Big Foot or that NASA faked the moon landing seem relatively innocuous, but ignorance should never be celebrated. At best, ridiculous theories waste time, at worst, they create egregious social disruption. These include claims that the U.S. government instigated the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, that the Israeli Mossad created Daesh, or that Jews caused 9/11. From The Guardian:

“…that 4,000 notified-by-Israel Jews didn’t turn up for work in the World Trade Center on 9/11 (a fallacy: 9.25% of people who died in the Twin Towers were Jewish, roughly the Jewish population of New York City) are, for many people, facts.”

Harmful ideas derive from good intent, positions against vaccinations an example. At The Daily Beast:

“Anti-vaxxers failing to vaccinate their kids is having a catastrophic effect on the herd immunity everyone relies on to keep preventable illness at bay.”

Bad ideas magnify. In Pakistan and Afghanistan paranoia partners with evil. The Wall Street Journal:

“The Afghan Taliban announced Monday a ban on polio vaccinations in a southern Afghan province.”

And Al Jazeera:

“The (vaccination) campaign faces…threats against polio vaccination teams issued by armed religious groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its allies. Such groups allege the vaccine is part of a plot to sterilise or infect children.”

The result? Murder:  National Geographic: “During the past two years, Taliban militants have killed 63 health workers and members of the security forces assigned to protect them.”

In the West anti-vaxxers aren’t the Taliban, but they share a common thread of ignorance. Now, responsible media counters with information, and most anti-vaxxers earn ridicule. Laws mandating vaccinations to attend public school, see California, are being implemented and popular. This trend, hopefully, will continue. A similar dynamic exists in the GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) debate.

GMOs:  Like anti-vaxxers, anti-GMOers distrust corporations. Their argument selects facts. For example, how big agriculture exploits, Monsanto the main culprit. But the conclusions suffer from dyslexia. Separate the excess of Monsanto from the science. Regulations must regard evidence that shows that GMOs create healthier and more abundant food. PhD Neil deGrasse Tyson offers this:

(GMOs) wield an awesome power to improve food in every way that matters to humans: yields, appearance, vitamin content, sweetness, resistance to insects, resistance to weather extremes, and so forth.”

Forbes dissects the paranoia: “’Monsanto teams up with Congress to shred the Constitution,’ shrieked one Huffington Post headline.”

1101000731_400GMOs, properly implemented, benefit humanity. After a year of investigative journalism William Saletan, at Slate, shows how “Golden Rice,” a crop that provides beta-carotene for Vitamin A deficient children in the developing world, has saved thousands of lives.

Conspiracies that blame Jews for every evil, or that suggest the U.S. government seeks to take its citizens’ weapons using a plot that involves massacring school children, should invite scorn. Misinterpretations of facts that counter developing technology and science should receive the same. In the future anti-GMOers will look as foolish as Jenny McCarthy and the anti-Vaxxers look today. If we regulate GMOs, we should focus on the science. Anti-GMO conspiracy theories must not influence politics. Let’s use this technology for the good.

Written by Caleb Powell

August 20, 2015 at 6:52 am

Intellectual Triage: Arguments Not Worth Having

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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.

TrumpThe Jews! – People blame the Jews for everything. Geeeeez. As soon as someone mentions Zionist conspiracy et al, walk out of the room.

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

Also check out Metabunk, Gerson Therapy, and NeonNettle