toxic thought waste site

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christianity as Conspiracy Theory

I have an off and on interest in various conspiracy theories. I think it comes from an interest in pseudoscience in general and how the mind works. Clearly there is something strange going on in the brain of someone who claims that the moon landing was faked. What's interesting about even one of the crazier conspiracy theories like this is that if you don't know much about space history and just listen to the case presented by moon landing deniers they can make a pretty compelling case. (If you look closely at some of the moon landing photos you can see the prop numbers. It's clearly a movie set!). There are a number of small facts and lines of reasoning which when combined clearly show we never went to the moon.

I'm not sure what drives these people. Perhaps they project their own inability to fly to the moon and assume no one else would be capable of it. Maybe some people are just contrary. Or maybe they like the feeling of being special; that they see something that others can't, a deep truth that others are blind to.

As I've been reacquainting myself with Christian apologetics and ID theory in the last year or so I've slowly come to the conclusion that Christianity (in particular the variety practiced by evangelicals and other literalists) is a close relative of the conspiracy theory genre. As I read early dater's theories about Daniel I get a whiff of the same sort of connect the sparse dot thinking. With Intelligent Design you have conspiracy theory out in full force. The vast majority of PhDs in biology, genetics, geology, paleontology, and information theory have been brainwashed into buying the lies of a superpowerful evolutionist cabal. Only the select few have been able to resist this brainwashing and are desperately trying to get the truth out. In both cases it's glaringly obvious to the casual observer that one side had made their minds up on the conclusions before even showing up to the discussion.

And the funny thing is I have a certain respect for those that will at least admit that. Clearly if the creator of the universe informed you that something is the case (bible is 100% true and evolution is wrong) then any apparent contradictions with your theory are just that, apparent. Unfortunately in both of these issues the proponents of literalism and ID have learned that people in general aren't very convinced if you admit you already knew the answer before even investigating the issue and that nothing could change your mind. It's just not a very convincing persuasion technique. That's why you find claims of people who were atheists and read the bible and then believed. Or people who were evolutionists and then really studied the issues and were swayed by ID (though in both cases there are a lot more going in the opposite direction). It's actually very comforting that this sort of persuasion is necessary. It means that people are becoming more resistant to argument from authority and at least want *some* evidence (however flimsy) that a given set of beliefs are based on facts.

One of the big open questions for me is whether a conspiracy theorist can ever change their mind. Is there a certain age after which it's impossible? If you do change is the resulting pain too much to ask of a person? Another interesting question is whether there is a certain psychological profile that is susceptible to these sorts of arguments. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a battery of tests you could give someone that would indicate whether they are likely to fall for a conspiracy theory. They could then bar these people from running for office or getting jobs as teachers.

I guess my main interest in studying religion (and Xian apologetics in particular) and looking at pseudoscience (and ID in particular) is that it forces me to really examine my beliefs and how I arrived at them. It's also good practice for when you hear someone spouting off some talking points for a bad opinion. There is often a gap between our ability to recognize BS and out ability to satisfactorily counter it in real time in conversation. So even though this little hobby of mine eats up time I could be sleeping or making money, it's both entertaining enough in itself (I've become rabidly interested in the history of Mesopotamia from about 2000 BC to year zero) and the exercise of critical thinking is just a great skill in all parts of my life.

But you are probably asking how I can be so sure that I know Christianity is a conspiracy theory and ID is not the victim of a vast campaign to hide the truth. How do I know? The voice in my head tells me it's true. The voice is never wrong. Only my interpretation is sometimes wrong. Now it is telling me that I need some chocolate right now. All praise be to the all powerful and knowing voice in my head.

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