“It is as irrational to reject all conspiracy theories as it is to accept them.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Conspiracy theories are similar to religious superstitions.
They offer comfort to the emotionally insecure and create a meeting ground for the like minded.
Unlike full grown religions they lack a proper structure but that doesn’t mean their main ideas are not used for propaganda purposes, just as all religious dogmas have been. And still are….
Another difference between conspiracy theories and religions is that while both have been produced by human minds some of the conspiracy theories had been proven true while the most that can be said about religions is that they had been useful …
But what is a conspiracy theory and what does Utopia have to do with anything?
“Conspiracy theories as a general category are not necessarily wrong. In fact as the cases of Watergate and the Iran-Contra affair illustrate, small groups of powerful individuals do occasionally seek to affect the course of history, and with some non-trivial degree of success. Moreover, the available, competing explanations—both official and otherwise—occasionally represent dueling conspiracy theories, as we will see in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing…[but] there is no a priori method for distinguishing warranted conspiracy theories (say, those explaining Watergate) from those which are unwarranted (say, theories about extraterrestrials abducting humans).” (Brian Keely, Of Conspiracy Theories)
According to this definition a conspiracy theory is a ‘shape-shifter’. The notion covers both the true and the bogus ones while it can be used both ‘admiratively’ and disparagingly.
Again, just as it happens with religion, the mind set of those who consider each of them is of paramount importance.
Meanwhile ‘Utopia’ is, yet again, another creation of the human mind.
While religions and conspiracy theories are shared mental constructions that try to explain something which already exists Utopia is a shared mental construction which describes the ‘ideal’ state of something that already exists and is perceived by those who experience it as being ‘perfectible’.
The link between all these being that the only two roads that lead to Utopia are, of course, ‘religion’ and ‘conspiracy theories’.
Am I being too harsh?
Utopia, “an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect“, is a word coined by Sir Thomas More “for his 1516 book Utopia, describing a fictional island society in the Atlantic Ocean.“. It “comes from the Greek: οὐ (“not”) and τόπος (“place”) and means “no-place“, and strictly describes any non-existent society ‘described in considerable detail’.”
Now why would a reasonable person attempt to reach a ‘no-place’ unless conned into it by a ‘conspiration’? No matter how desirable that ‘place’ might be…
The way I see it this is yet another argument that rationality is not at all the perfect ‘balancing’ tool some of us believe it to be. In fact we are not ‘rational’ at all but ‘rationalizers’. Since it is impossible to gather and analyze all pertinent information before making a decision we try to convince ourselves, and others, that the decision we are about to make (or have already taken) is the right one. In order to do that we marshal all arguments we can find that confirm our hypothesis and we (honestly?) try to water-down those who are contrary to our views.
Until our coveted utopia becomes a real-life dystopia…