There’s a new blog about; so new, in fact, that only the author has heard of it. It’s call ‘All Embracing But Underwhelming’ and it’s a blog about Conspiracy Theories. Well, it’s a blog on the study of Conspiracy Theories. The author, someone rather close to me, is working on a research project on whether belief in conspiracy theories is warranted and he plans to throw a lot of the raw meat of the project on to the number ne home of Conspiracy Theories, the Internet. Go have a gander and, while you’re at it, add it to whatever RSS-related thingamajig you are using.
Iâ€™ve been interested in â€˜Beliefâ€™ now for several years. As a former dualist theist turned quasi-deist materialist Iâ€™m both curious as to how people form beliefs and hold on to them. Iâ€™ve moved from believer to sympathetic believer to skeptic and Iâ€™ve come to the conclusion that people are irrational no matter which side of the fence they actually sit. Conspiracy Theories (probably likely to be known as CTs hereafter on this blog) are a good example of exactly this kind of â€˜thing.â€™ Whether you are a believer or a skeptic, right wing or left, Penn Jillette or Lyndon LaRouche you have likely bought into at least one conspiracy theory. If you havenâ€™t… Well, you just arenâ€™t paying attention. Fact: conspiracies have occurred, are occurring and will occur again in the future.The question is whether it is rational to believe in them.Ontology and Epistemology is my game; ontology tells you exists, which events are occuring versus those that arenâ€™t. Epistemology (well, theories within epistemology) explain which of these ontological facts you can be said to have warrant, or rational belief, in. Thought experiment: assume that there is a God (ontological fact in this experiment) but that this God has given us no evidence of its existence. God exists but there is no reason to believe in it. Second thought experiment (an historical one): Observing the heavens you realise that the Sun is stationary and it is the Earth that orbits it. Prior the invention of the telescope you would be hard pressed to show that this theory is better than its rival, geocentric model. Belief is contextual; without a telescope to show that the orbits of the inner planets and outer planets support the idea that the Earth is between them and orbitting around the Sun the rival theory is equally as rational. Wrong but rational.Rationality, as a philosopher will tell you, isnâ€™t all that itâ€™s cracked up to be.Iâ€™m writing a PhD dissertation on Conspiracy Theories. Iâ€™m curious as to whether we should, or should not, believe in a) the existence of Conspiracy Theories in general and b) the existence of specfic Conspiracy Theories. My research is primarily on the philosophical material, i.e. the epistemology, but you canâ€™t help but read about and into the pyschological and sociological aspects of Conspiracy Theories. As I canâ€™t really deal with that material in my dissertation Iâ€™m going to blog it instead. Think of â€˜All Embracing but Underwhelmingâ€™ as a series of research notes that, I hope, will be written up in a nice, easy to understand manner.So, without further ado, let the blogging commense.
I’m not really here; I’m on week three of my EU trip (tomorrow I may well be meeting the Pope. Well, the other Pope). Travelling alone is interesting; travelling solo in a nation of foreign language users is, well, just strange. This fact is compounded when they become inordinately insistent that you buy their cheap umbrellas despite the fact it is hardly raining.
Obviously Italian men haven’t wintered in Auckland.
Anyway, all this travelling has meant meeting normal and fairly uninteresting people, all of which want to know what I do and where I come from (obviously answers to the last question to be sent to Apathy Jack’s posts). The latter question I let people guess at; I’m apparently American-cum-French-cum-Norwegian-cum-Londoner (never English; always ‘You sound like a Londoner’). The former question… Well, I’ve stopped saying ‘I’m a PA’ and gone back to saying ‘I’m a lecturer.’ It’s not strictly true at this point in time but it feels much more me than ‘PA.’ I just don’t find the exploits of rich people interesting. I certainly don’t enjoy explaining that I am their glorified courier or cut-price accountant. So ‘Academic’ it is.
There is no doubt in my mind that I will return to being a teacher. I’m already working up adult education course teaching plans and the details of my next research project is already before the University for its consideration. So, for the time being, I may not be a teacher and thus I may well be lying to complete strangers, but at least its more fun than being asked to describe what you do and having to sound even more pretentious than usual by saying ‘I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to actually say…’