Conspiracy Theories and meta chat

I think there’s a lot of nuance out there too. I actually am halfway to wondering whether organisations like the CIA or FBI intentionally fan conspiracies to levels that make them seem utterly untenable via covert actors.

Once you have people going on about second shooters on the grassy knoll that somehow no one saw and ‘magic bullets’ and the rest, or indeed ‘jet fuel can’t melt steel beams’ you make it hard for anyone to try to dig into any actual hand someone in ‘the govt/deep state’ had in these proceedings, no matter how small, without looking like they are hugely delusional.

@Owensmaterob’s post here is sort of a classic example (and I’m not having a go man because it’s part of the thing)

Why is it always a package deal? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who thinks, say, 9/11 was perpetrated by the US government but concedes that on balance, we probably did go to the moon a few times. Or that Covid is a hoax who doesn’t also think 9/11 was an inside job, etc etc

If you listen to @ghostalo’s podcast you can see how people can actually believe there are questions around 9/11 (say) without believing the other stuff you mention. But the majority of people are exactly as you describe and it helps to muddy those waters.

(I also think there’s a huge amount of chaos out there that affects things. E.g. if we imagine the idea the US Govt got wind of the 9/11 attacks happening and let it happen because they thought it would be useful as an excuse for war, then we can also accept they absolutely wouldn’t have expected it to result in two huge buildings falling and so many deaths. This is also part of why conspiracy stuff wigs out so much, I reckon, because no one really ever stops to think that decisions and consequences are very rarely going to be strongly controlled/expected.)

Anyway, I try to balance my cynicism with Occam’s Razor as much as possible and stay grounded.

ahhhhhhhhhhh sweet, adopting this one for sure :smiley:

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I need to do some googling but I seem to recall there is a documented case of this happening - I’ll butcher the details here but broadly, someone was sharing information about UFOs which may or may not have been extraterrestrial, or possibly experimental government craft. Either way, they were contacted by someone from the US government who basically said, “Yeah, you got us. We’re going to give you some more information” and then gave them a whole load of complete bunk info which they published, was instantly debunked, and discredited everything they’d done beforehand.

Prior to the Sandy Hook lawsuit I could actually have been convinced that Alex Jones was some kind of government plant but between the stories Jon Ronson has told and his actions during his various court cases (including the one where he claimed he was playing a character) I have no idea what to believe (which, again, would be exactly the point).

So yeah, I actually agree with you here. I guess I’m talking about people I’ve actually met IRL, which of course is a huge sampling error.

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Yeah I mean as I say, you are right in the sense that what you say definitely covers 99.99% of people maybe an even larger percentage.

I just wanted to highlight the edge cases. Typical tin foil stuff :wink:

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What’s the podcast you’re referring to please?

Ghost Stories for the End of the World.

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For example, one explanation for the fact that the horizon appears flat to the eye of observes at sea level is that the Earth is a flat surface. It is quite a simple explanation insofar as only a single plane is involved and thus the geometry required to calculate a number of related distances, angles, trajectories, etc. is relatively simple . A bit more complicated explanation is that the Earth is a sphere and that the apparently flat horizon is due to its immense diameter in combination with our vantage point. Yet more complicated is an explanation involving a geoid, as proposed by Gauss. Even more complex is the modern concept of a geoid pear-shaped figure with a triaxial ellipsoid with an ellipsoid of revolution as a reference ellipsoid.

I don’t think the guy who wrote this article understands what complex and simple are.


I find it interesting that ‘smart people’ (whatever that means) are potentially more susceptible to fake news and conspiracy theories because they think they’re too clever to fall for it.

More here (CW: it’s in The Guardian)

I’m too smart to fall for that article :wink:


I’m also interested in the idea that if something is believed, it can affect the believer profoundly, whether it is rationally true or not. Also magical realism.

This Philip Pullman article is quite good

I’m not sure I follow, what was wrong with what he said?

The geometry used to calculate distances on a plane is simpler than doing it on a sphere, but that’s not relevant to whether a plane is a more simple explanation than a large sphere for a flat horizon.

And he’s ignoring the fact that other observations exist and for those to be explained by a flat earth would require more complexity than a simple sphere.

e.g. Turtles all the way down - Wikipedia

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the bit about people believing stuff that fits with their sense of self chimes with my thoughts that if your sense of self is something you’ve ended up interrogating deeply + regularly, you’re less likely to have that misleading confidence

(but then also what does the guy mean by ‘brainpower’? is he just referring to IQ? hmmmmm)


will read this now

is the geometry not somewhat relevant? like, a factor, albeit not the only factor?

I’m guessing this link will cover some of the other factors!

Being able to calculate angles and distances with marginally more simple maths on a plane than a sphere does not have anything to do with how simple or complex a plane is as an answer to the question of why is the horizon flat. It’s a meaningless thing to discuss in that context.

the link is really just my thoughts that a simple solution isn’t necessarily simple if it’s supported by a load of other stuff.

The guy is right that people use Occam’s razor in pointless and meaningless ways, he does it in his article :smiley:


Often the simplest use of Occam’s Razor is the correct one.


he obviously spent that time conducting his research, mate.