Skeptic Project

Your #1 COINTELPRO cognitive infiltration source.

Page By Category

Blogs - Science

Users that have been posting for a while can create their own articles on the fly by using our built-in blogging service. Below are the most recent entries.

Skeptic Project responding To Prison Planet: (why we haven't given up on life because we don't believe in conspiracy theories)

Author: Clock
Date: Jul 31, 2013 at 14:32

By Clock
Skeptic Project is a debunking website, and one of the more popular ones I may add. It really is a website that is on the same level as the JREF forums, Screw Loose Change, and Debunking 9/11. We are known mainly for debunking Zeitgeist or the Bohemian Grove. Once in awhile, like other debunking websites, we make it onto the conspiracy circuit, and that circuit seems to be the Prison Planet Forums, by calling Skeptic Project a "Cointelpro source."

Now this is obviously a play on the bottom of the website's title: "Your #1 COINTELPRO cognitive infiltration source." which is obviously a joke.
The thing is, Theorists do not like debunking sites because it disagrees with their opinion on 9/11, for example. (There are also other reasons, such as debunkers making fun of them for their beliefs, but that's another story for another time) which is why they often tend to call us disinformation agents. (If you do not know, Disinfo agents are supposed workers for the government who are stopping conspiracy theorists from exposing the "truth" on such event, like 9/11, for example)

A fellow colleague of mine on this website, known as The Burger King posted an article entitled 'COINTELPRO! COINTELPRO! COINTELPRO!' This forum post depicts what the Prison planet frequenters had to say about our website, but more specifically about the Alex Jones articles that were written by Edward L. Winston which debunk 3 of his most popular movies. In this prison planet forum post contained many replies by conspiracy theorists, calling all debunkers Brainwashers, government lovers, ignorant, and even insane, despite that fact that everything we say contains many, many sources.

Most of the things that they've said about us have been adressed in this excellent article by Muertos that can be found here.

What interested me the most about this forum post was about that reply sent in by "infowarrior_039". The idea of this blog is that I will respond to his comment in order to clear any misconceptions. The green is "Infowarrior_039" and the black text is me.

Yes, it is too bad people can attack this information and the information about the New World Order as best as we can know. It is a very complex system of power, politics, banking, secret societies and control.

The first line already determines a flaw in the whole New World Order conspiracy theory. As explained into lengths in this article on Thrive Debunked, there is very little evidence to prove the existence of the NWO. Therefore, why believe in it? The thing about conspiracy believing is that you should never trust what the government says. Which means that whatever they will say is a lie.

Of course people like Alex Jones, Webster Tarpley, Gerald Celente and others are not right 100% of the time.

Yup, and far from it. (this, this) Do I need to say more?

Often they are not able to articulate the machine known as the New World Order accurately enough, in and in the aim of getting to the root of the issue, may on occasion make a seemingly erroneous statement, or one that is both correct and incorrect at the same time,

Alex jones has been talking about conspiracy theories since the mid-90's. How long has it taken him to talk accurately enough about the NWO? Yes, Alex Jones is right sometimes, but on alot of things, he tends to take insignificant and highly subjective occurrences as the proof of the nwo existing, or that America is going to become a huge police state. Look here for example.

A real researcher of the NWO knows that the New World Order is ALWAYS engaging in a continual battle for the minds and souls of humanity, including even their own highest ranking members.

That is a baseless argument, without any proof, but I suspect that this is talking about the so called "Illuminati" symbols in the media such as award shows or music videos. here is a video of rapper 2pac saying that he does not believe in the Illuminati and that it is not real. If an artist from the so called 'evil' music industry says that it is BS, can it exist? No! Of course, that would be assuming that 'they' were hiding themselves from him, despite the fact that they're have been other artists that have been considered to be 'tools' for the NWO in order to brainwash people. But again, how would 2pac not know this? Isn't it an 'insider' secret? Also, does a 'good' NWO researcher depicts going on websites like Natural News, who constantly predict that martial law is coming in america (here).

Another aspect where this skeptic attack has some merit is regarding some qoutes made by famous politicians and figures. Well it is possible that someone present took note of what people like David Rockefeller and the Rothschild and others have said in Bilderberg meetings, there does not seem to be a solid source for some of the qoutes that are attributed to him. Likewise, research on some other well known qoutes involving liberty and the revolution are very poorly sourced or are miss attributed or on occasion even misquoted.

I do agree with this here. Many quotes are used by CT's because they justify it as proof to the NWO, although most of the time they are fake or out of context. If you lookup the quote on google,the source of most of these are from conspiracy websites.

Well in my opinion none of these quotes are necessary in order to prove the activities of the New World Order, if they could be better sourced and verified then it would be of great help to wake others up. Indeed, many of these powerful quotes have woken countless numbers of people up including my self.

Wait, what? You've said before that there are lots of phony quotes, but then say that they are an excellent way to make people believe in the NWO by using quotes THAT DO NOT EXIST? If I would say a man can fly than show skeptics that the man is not flying but jumping, would that be a convincing reason to believe that the man is flying? (The term "waking up" means to believe in the nwo and know the "truth") I would say that that is very hypocritical on his part, to believe in these made up quotes, but I think the term Ironic fits better.

All having been said, we need to realize the well established military tactic of fog of war. Indeed the majority of things INFOWARS, Alex Jones and other truth seekers talk about is well sourced, well researched, and based from the most accurate source available.

No comment. I will just post this link up: (it proves how right Alex Jones has been)

The problem with skeptics and "debunkers" of truth seekers like Alex Jones and others is that no matter what, something we have said or done is wrong, or currently inaccurate based on the information that is publicly available, and therefore nothing we say has any value because we have "no idea what we are talking about". These skeptics hurl attacks on truth seekers, caught up in their quest to prove us all wrong, become exactly what they are accusing us of. Indeed expect for the very few mistakes or misunderstandings we may have made, they offer very little evidence or proof that they have a better idea, a better understanding or explanation, nor do we have any solid proof or evidence that backs our claims.

Infowarrior_039 makes no effort to prove if we were wrong on any of the Alex Jones topics. Also, if there information was correct, then we would not need to have to correct it, would we? The final statement is interesting. He says that he knows that conspiracy theorists have very little proof to back up their claim, which is again, ironic. (why believe in something with very little proof? [Religion is not the same thing])

IN the eyes of skeptics, their are no books, no documents, no whitepapers, no treaties, no declassified briefings, no evidence of any kind that proves a "monolithic and ruthless conspiracy". In fact in thier closed off minds, the word "conspiracy" does not exist. Even when hundreds and thousands of people around the world are criminally charged for "planning or committing an act of conspiracy" against various entities, their is no conspiracy.In the eyes of skeptics bound to prove everyone with an open mind wrong, they accept the full force of 1984 thought control and convince them selves that conspiracy simply does not exist. That power does not corrupt. That greed and control do not corrupt. They love denial, and thier is nothing we can do to prove them of anything. These skeptics would argue if you tried to tell them the sky was blue.

Can you show me a book, that proves the existence of the NWO? Of course, this taken entirely out of context, but it's another classic conspiracy theorist line: "You don't believe anything is wrong in the world! You just think everything is fine and dandy!
As usual with other conspiracy theorists, they love putting words in our mouths, because we disagree with them. They think that we 100% support awful 1984 type governments, which they love quoting so much.

If you really were about knowledge, truth and information, you would accept that almost everything we say is as accurate or as credible as we possibly can.

Quote from member emcada: In other words, you have zilch. We already understand this part.

Skeptics and debunkers out their, please know, we are in this together. Humanity is in this together. If you love being poisoned, fine. If you love dieing and death, fine. If you love being bankrupt, fine. If you love tyranny, fine. If you love your oppresses, fine. If you disown your own humanity and your own mental and spiritual power, fine. But if you really are ready to watch humanity disappear into insanity and extinction, go ahead. Just look at your children, parents, grandparents, and ancestors, and tell them you have given up on life. Tell them you have given up on humanity, that you have forsaked your own brain, your own gift of life on this marvelous planet. If you really think serving the full blown evil of the NWO is something you want to have on your name and your soul through eternity go ahead, just dont try and drag others into your hell hole, we are good people who care about our lives, our species, our home. We are trying to defend humanity while we are on our last legs. Thank you helping save humanity. You're doing a great job. Keep it up.

We are mean people because we disagree with them. These are the people that will keep on insisting that 9/11 was faked, and will use it as an attempt to push their anti-Semitic, paranoid and intolerant world view to you. These people don't really care that 3000 innocent men and women had died on that day, but do you really think they care about? No. They only care about their termite on the metal, WTC 7 being a "smoking gun", or proving that Bin Laden is innocent. These are the people that tell you that Global Warming is not real and that is a lie pushed by the government, despite the various articles that say otherwise, including that if the CO2 level goes above 2.0 by 2050, we will be screwed. But they only care about the 31'000 scientists sign a list that it is a fraud.This is ironic because he tells me that I am abandoning my unborn kids, my parents, and other family because I don't believe in something that will potentially screw us over as being able to live in this planet. I've given up on life because I don't believe in conspiracy theories. It must really suck living in the world that infowarrior_039 is living in, it seems awfully paranoid, and quite scary.
If you people want to have a discussion with us about the New World Order theory, that is fine, but don't ask us to prove that it is fake. There is already no evidence for the theory in the first place, so it is up to you to prove that it is real.

There was nothing really scientific about this article, but mainly to refute infowarriors_39's points.
Thank you for reading.

Discuss the article here!

Herding Cats: How And Why Conspiracy Theorists Are Wrong About Experts and Academicians

Author: Clock
Date: Jul 24, 2013 at 18:17

Written By Muertos

reposted by Clock

If you have any questions or opinions about this article, read the Disclaimer page.


It is a question that drives conspiracy theorists, and other traffickers in fringe beliefs, batty:

Why don't more experts and academicians agree with me?

It's a fair question. If a conspiracy theorist or other fringe believer, who is typically not an academician him or herself, has been convinced of something nutty--that 9/11 was an inside job, that Christianity is a false construct, that aliens visited the earth in ancient times, that global warming is a hoax, that colloidal silver cures cancer, etc.--it is difficult to understand why experts in various fields aren't convinced by the same "evidence." Usually the answer in the conspiracy theorist's mind comes down to a dismissal of the value, independence, or honesty of experts and academicians: "They are all part of the Establishment. The truth I believe in fundamentally challenges the Establishment. Therefore, they're either unable to recognize that it's true, or afraid to endorse it."

This blog will explain why this position is incorrect, and even absurd. I will do so by utilizing three case studies of fringe believers who can't get any legitimate experts to sign on to their theories: Acharya S./D.M. Murdock, who claims that Christianity is a hoax; Erich von Däniken, who promotes the "ancient astronaut" theory; and Steven Jones, who maintains that the World Trade Center towers were blown up on 9/11 by "controlled demolition."

1. How Academia Really Works

First, the groundwork. Conspiracy theorists and fringe believers generally think that academia and the world of experts is a small, close-knit, elitist club where an "official" orthodoxy is rigidly enforced and extreme peer pressure maintains order. In this ivory tower that conspiracy theorists think academicians live in, the slightest deviation from the "official line" is a career-destroying move for any expert. He or she will be blacklisted, unable to publish, drummed out of faculty departments and brutally ridiculed by his or her former colleagues. In the world of conspiracy theorists and fringe believers, this orthodoxy holds fast even if the facts it is based on are demonstrably false--comparisons are often drawn to the geocentric view of astronomy that Copernicus challenged in the sixteenth century, or the (actually incorrect) assertion that "before Columbus, everyone thought the world was flat."

There's just one problem with this view. It simply isn't true.

I am formerly a lawyer, but I now work in academia. My colleagues and superiors are well-trained and respected historians. They have put in years of research and are well-versed in the methodology of history in everything from medieval Japan to U.S. nuclear policy in the 1960s. But getting them to agree on anything is impossible.

Academics have a reputation for being idiosyncratic and curmudgeonly. Sometimes that is true. Anyone who's ever attended a faculty meeting, though, knows immediately that trying to drive academicians in any particular direction is like trying to herd cats. You just can't do it. So the idea that there is some sort of rigid orthodoxy, especially one that's artificially imposed by a government or other "Establishment" actor, is simply laughable.

Furthermore, not only is the research of academicians not intended to reinforce any sort of "official line" on anything, but most of them actively seek to expand the boundaries of their field in new and previously undiscovered directions. After all, being the pioneer of a new line of study ensures academic immortality. Einstein is famous, and justly so, for being the first physicist to describe relativity. Everyone's heard of Maynard Keynes because he pioneered a new type of economics. Doing something new, different and revolutionary is every academician's dream. They constantly seek new avenues of inquiry in all fields from science to sociology. Closing yourself off to new ideas is the kiss of death for an academician.

But what is also the kiss of death--an even quicker and more final death--is to commit academic malpractice. Academicians are, after all, professionals in their field. They don't get there by ignoring the tenets on which their expertise is based. If those tenets turn out to be flawed, part of the academician's job is to question and reexamine them. But if the tenets are sound, ignoring them is, by definition, the mark of a bad expert.

Let's use two quick, simple examples. Suppose I break my arm and go see a medical doctor. How bones break, and how they heal, is clearly understood by medical science. It is not inconceivable that in the future medical science may develop some technology to re-grow broken bones faster or in a more efficient and healthful way. Perhaps, if I was lucky and willing to take a risk, my broken arm could be healed by such a revolutionary new method. But that method would rest upon, and be consistent with, what's already known about how bones break and how they heal. Whether the doctor puts my arm in a cast (the old-fashioned way) or grows me a new humerus with fancy stem cells (the revolutionary new way), my arm is still going to heal using the same biological processes as have been understood for a long time about how broken bones heal.

Now say, instead of going to a doctor for either an old-fashioned cast or a new-fangled cure, I see a doctor who promises that my bone will heal by doing nothing other than dabbling colloidal silver on it. Perhaps the doctor has some arcane theory as to how colloidal silver re-grows bones. Obviously my arm isn't going to heal. Equally obviously, the doctor who prescribes colloidal silver for a broken arm is a quack. Why? Because colloidal silver as a treatment for broken bones does not rest upon, and does not comport with, anything that medical science knows about healing bones. A doctor who prescribes colloidal silver, and nothing else, for broken bones isn't going to remain a doctor for long. He'll be drummed out of the profession quickly because--no matter how fervently he may believe his theory about colloidal silver--he's committing malpractice.

Think of it this way: if colloidal silver really did work to heal broken bones, wouldn't medical science have at least some inkling of it? Why would the quack know this and no legitimate doctor wouldn't? Even if they couldn't explain how or why it works, wouldn't somebody in the medical profession be saying, "Hey, you know, I'm not sure how this colloidal silver works, but it appears to be effective"? In short: if there was anything to the quack's theory, wouldn't someone other than the quack have said something about it?

This is an extreme example, but keep the principle in mind as we examine the following case studies.

2. Acharya S./D.M. Murdock: Pseudohistorian.

"Acharya S." is the pen name of one D.M. Murdock, an author from Seattle whose claim to fame is the advancement of the "Christ myth theory:" basically the idea that Jesus never existed and Christianity is a hoax constructed by ancient political and religious leaders from various pagan practices, especially sun worship. Murdock first advanced her theory in a 1999 self-published book The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold, which she has followed up with numerous books since then which all harp on the same theory. Murdock/Acharya is well known to conspiracy theorists. Her views on the supposed nonexistence of Christ were a cornerstone of Peter Joseph Merola's 2007 conspiracy theorist film Zeitgeist: The Movie, which itself spawned the Zeitgeist Movement, a movement whose main (but not officially acknowledged) goal is the dissemination of conspiracy theories.

Murdock is not really an academic in the classic sense. She holds no advanced degrees. She has a bachelor's degree in classics from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and attended for a year an archaeological institute in Greece. (cite) As she passionately espouses on her website, she believes these credentials are sufficient to qualify her to rewrite the history of Judeo-Christian civilization. (In fact, at the start of her passionate defense of her own credentials, she charges that any attempt to question her work based on her lack of them is an "ad hominem attack." Conspiracy theorists love the words ad hominem).

Murdock believes Christ never existed and that evil power-hungry political and religious leaders thought him up, cribbing from Egyptian sun myths, the life of Buddha and other sources. She gets there, as all pseudohistorians do, by cherry-picking sources and drawing very strained interpretations of ancient history and astronomy. Her books are not peer-reviewed. They are self-published through her own press, Stellar House Publishing. So far as I can tell, Stellar House Publishing publishes no other authors other than Murdock. Searching on JSTOR and other academic databases at my university, I couldn't even find a review of any of Murdock's books--not even to denounce them. The legitimate academic community doesn't even care enough about Murdock to waste a page in some journal refuting her.

Yet, there are thousands of historians, archaeologists and researchers out there with advanced degrees in classics, ancient history, archaeology, and religious studies--degrees that Murdock does not have--and each and every one of them would love to have something new, cutting-edge and revolutionary to write about. Strangely, not one of them is writing about what Murdock is writing about. No dissertations or research theses are being churned out of the Notre Dame or Berkeley history departments that even remotely comport with Murdock's theories. With as desperate as academics are for cutting-edge stuff, you'd think that one of them would have found her by now, or would at least be nibbling at the edges of the body of work she claims to have interpreted correctly. But they aren't. Why? Because to advance the "Christ conspiracy" theory is academic malpractice. Why is it malpractice? Because it isn't true.

Murdock and the Zeitgeist conspiracy theorists would have you believe that the reason legitimate academia pays no attention to her is because her theories are "too radical" and violate the orthodoxy of academic study in ancient history, or because it's somehow "taboo" to claim that Christ never existed or isn't holy. One need not remind Murdock and the Zeitgeisters that there are more than just Christians researching ancient history. Learned universities in the Islamic world and in Asia employ historians, archaeologists and researchers every bit as competent as the ones in the West. Strangely those people--who, being Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Shintos or atheists, certainly have no personal or professional attachment to the idea of Christ--haven't picked up on Murdock's theories either.

So the idea of Christ not existing is so taboo that the devout Muslim head of the history department at the University of Cairo is quaking in his boots to take on the topic? Who's not going to publish him for taking that stance? Who's not going to give him a grant for doing that sort of research?

There must, therefore, be another reason why no one in the academic community is talking about Murdock's ideas. You don't have to look hard to find it: they're not talking about her ideas because her ideas have no factual merit. They're so obviously identifiable as false, the unvetted work of an amateur, that even the devoutly Muslim head of the history department at the University of Cairo wouldn't touch them. Any academic advancing them would be advancing a falsehood. If they weren't false, somebody other than Murdock would be working on them. Just as if colloidal silver cured broken bones, somebody legitimate within the medical science field would be working on it--somebody, somewhere, at some institution.

Because the total academic indifference to Acharya S. cannot be explained by anything other than the notion that her ideas and research are so wrong as to constitute academic malpractice to assert them, it is entirely legitimate and appropriate to dismiss them. Acharya S. isn't ignored by the academic community because her work violates some "taboo." Even if that were the case--and remember I told you that academia doesn't work that way anyway--ancient historians and archaeologists would be writing article after article dismissing her. Acharya S. is ignored by the academic community because her theories are ridiculous. She's the classic example of a pseudohistorian.

Acharya S. has a lot of supporters, especially conspiracy theorists in the Zeitgeist Movement. I will probably get hate mail regarding this blog to the effect of, "You haven't debunked anything! You haven't disproven a single claim of Acharya S.!" This criticism is asinine and betrays the fundamental misunderstanding by conspiracy theorists such as Zeitgeisters of the academic process. In academia, someone's assertions are not judged on a "true unless proven otherwise" standard. In fact, it's exactly the opposite. Your assertions are judged to be a tissue of lies until they've been thoroughly vetted by the peer-review process. This is why graduate students have to defend their dissertations. You're judged to be a liar until you prove you are correct.

The question, therefore, is not, what does Acharya S. get wrong, but what does she get right? The burden of proof is on her to show that her theories hold any water. She cannot meet that burden. Until she can, no one is obligated to give her the time of day.

3. Erich von Däniken: Pseudohistorian and Pseudoarchaeologist.

D.M. Murdock is one in a long line of pseudohistorians whose work strikes a chord with the public but who is shunned by the academic community. The granddaddy of them all is Swiss author Erich von Däniken, whose famous 1968 book Chariots of the Gods? proposed the idea that extraterrestrials visited Earth in prehistoric times, helping primitive humans build such things as Stonehenge or the Nazca Lines. Chariots of the Gods? was a runaway bestseller and is still in print. The "ancient astronauts" idea has achieved such cultural resonance that it has become a central plot element of many books and movies, most notably the 2008 film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The most amazing thing about von Däniken is that he's taken as "seriously" as he is. His credentials are even thinner than D.M. Murdock's--in researching this blog I looked for some notation of any professional degrees held by von Däniken and have found nothing. Even his own homepage doesn't list any degrees. You would think if he was trained, for instance, as an archaeologist or an Egyptologist he'd trumpet it from the rooftops. So we can assume, unless someone can correct me, that von Däniken has no degrees in what he claims to specialize in.

As for his claims themselves, they scarcely need refutation here. (If you want refutation trythis and this). Suffice it to say that von Däniken's theories rest upon shallow and ethnocentric assumptions about ancient peoples: that, simply because they were ancient and more "backwards" than we, they couldn't have built the pyramids or Stonehenge with the technology they possessed. Of course this is ridiculous. They could, and they did. The belief that modern technology is the sina qua non of civilization is a dangerous ideology called "high modernism," a viewpoint that I blogged on at length earlier (here). The Egyptians were no less brilliant architects and engineers than the people who built the World Trade Centers. In fact they may have been considerably more so. Von Däniken's reasoning is shallow and simply silly.

Yet he sells books. Still, more than 40 years later. Again think of the quack doctor and his colloidal silver. If von Däniken had a point, wouldn't someone other than von Däniken be making it? If there really was any evidence of "ancient astronauts," wouldn't Carl Sagan, the founder of Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), have been interested in that? Wouldn't it have validated his entire life's ambition, which was to find evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence? In fact Sagan denounced von Däniken publicly and notoriously. If von Däniken's theories had any credibility, Sagan could have built his career on bringing them into the mainstream. He didn't. Ever wonder why that is?

4. Steven Jones: Pseudoscientist.

Our final case study involves Steven E. Jones, the former Brigham Young University physicist who had, not one, but two high-profile flirtations with pseudoscience, the latter resulting in the end of his career. If you troll in the conspiracy underground you've no doubt heard of Jones. He's one of only two people with significant scientific degrees who are out there claiming that 9/11 was an inside job. The other, for the record, believes the towers were destroyed by super duper beam weapons from outer space.

Jones, unlike Murdock and von Däniken, at least was a real academic. He earned a Ph.D. in physics from Vanderbilt University and once worked at the Stanford Linear Accelerator. Long before 9/11, though, he got into a bit of trouble by claiming he and some other BYU professors had observed "muon-catalyzed fusion"--popularly known as cold fusion. Whether or not cold fusion is a scientific possibility, the bottom line was that Jones's experiments couldn't be replicated, although other scientists later discovered why they thought Jones came to the conclusions that he did. ( Jones would not be known as a pseudoscientist if he'd left it at this, though he probably wishes he could have.

Then, 12 years after the cold fusion controversy, Osama bin Laden's hijackers attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Jones became the poster boy for the 9/11 Truth movement when he began advocating for the "controlled demolition" hypothesis and then later published a paper claiming he found "iron microspheres" in paint chips from the World Trade Center, which he convinced himself was somehow evidence of controlled demolition. What happened? BYU cashiered him in 2006.

You can read all about why Jones's theories are wrong here ( That's not the point of this blog. Note, however, that Jones's paper was not published in a peer-reviewed journal--he paid $800 to have it published in an obscure Korean journal that does not use traditional peer-review processes--and that his thesis has been denounced by other scientists who (curiously) have not been canned from their universities. Here we have the same pattern as Acharya S. and Erich von Däniken: either academic indifference, or active refutation by legitimate academics. But nowhere is there the hint of legitimate academia finding any support for Jones's theories.

Conspiracy theorists claim that academics are afraid to support Jones, even though he is supposedly right, because they fear some sort of official retribution. Once more this assumption is revealed as silly when you think of who actually comprises academic departments. Conspiracy theorists would have you believe that scientists exist in total lockstep with government orthodoxy, and any deviation from the "official line" brings horrible consequences. (Some even claim what happened to Jones is an example of those horrible consequences--as if somehow George W. Bush or whoever is supposed to have blown up the WTC towers called the BYU faculty and told them to can Jones. Yeah, right). If 9/11 was an inside job, though--meaning, if Jones's theory had any validity--the scientist(s) who exposed it would be lauded as national heroes and brave patriots. Why would they have any interest in helping the government cover up the murder of 3,000 innocent people? In all of academia there isn't one scientist--excepting Steven Jones--who has one ounce of decency or morality? Not one?

Steven Jones's own behavior demonstrates the fallacy of this argument. We can assume that Steven Jones honestly believes the towers were brought down by controlled demolition. Look how tenaciously he defends the conspiracy theory. Despite years of being debunked, Jones continues to hammer his tinfoil hat theories. He seems to have no problem going against "orthodoxy," so why should other academicians? In order for the conspiracy theorists' conception of academia to be true, Jones must be, by definition, qualitatively different in ethics, morality and professional courage than every other physicist in the United States (if not the world). If you assume that Jones's theories are actually true, he is automatically more moral, ethical and courageous than every single other physicist in the world. If you accept Jones's theory as fact you have no choice but to believe this no matter how arrogant it sounds. What, then, sets Jones apart from all his other colleagues--the "sheeple" who are supposedly so cowed by this official academic orthodoxy that they'll avoid speaking out against a factually untrue story and a monstrously unjust act of murder? Is Steven Jones that different, in courage and moral character, from all of his other colleagues?

He may believe he is--and 9/11 Truthers would certainly maintain that he is--but I venture to say that what's different about Jones as opposed to his colleagues isn't the same thing. The difference is this: all of them realize he's wrong, but he doesn't. For whatever reason he can't see the scientific, logical and empirical flaws in his ridiculous theory. He is the outlier--whereas, to hear conspiracy theorists tell it, Jones is the only one who's right and every other physicist in the world is wrong. Yes, every other one.

Let's assume there are 8 million physicists in the world total. Which is more likely? That Steven Jones is factually correct and more morally and professionally courageous than 7,999,999 of his colleagues? Or that Jones is the one that's wrong, and the 7,999,999 physicists who don't believe in controlled demolition have the better argument?

What's really happening here is very clear. Jones got drummed out of the profession because he committed academic malpractice. None of his colleagues want to follow him out on that limb, not because they're afraid of peer pressure or the big bad government, but because they can't get behind a demonstrably false theory. Jones is wrong. The academics who shun him are right.


The real world of academics and experts bears little resemblance to the one imagined by conspiracy theorists and fringe believers. In reality there is no rigid orthodoxy, no brutal peer pressure to conform to false realities, no swift and terrible retribution for standing up against an arbitrary officially-derived "party line." Academics hunger for something new, different and paradigm-shifting. If there was any possible chance that the routes of inquiry urged on them by conspiracy theorists and fringe believers had any validity, academics would jump all over it in an attempt to be the first to expand the boundaries of their own discipline, and thus attain academic and intellectual immortality.

In our world of increasingly specialized functions and mountains of information, expert opinion does matter. Academics exist for a reason. Advanced degrees are difficult and expensive to get on purpose, to make sure that the people who obtain them have what it takes to do good work in their respective fields. Conspiracy theorists and fringe believers see none of this. To them, amateur understanding is on par with, or even superior to, expert opinion. The divinity of Christ can be disproven by a self-published author from Seattle. A Swiss ufologist with no expert training can rewrite all of human history. A screwy physicist who fell for a conspiracy theory can be morally and ethically superior to every other one of his colleagues on the planet.

That is the Bizarro world in which conspiracy theorists dwell. They may take great comfort in their delusions, but the real world should be left to the experts. It just might be that they're experts for a reason.

Anatomy of a "Debate" With a Global Warming Denier and 9/11 Truther (Part II).

Author: Clock
Date: Jun 28, 2013 at 15:07

This is a post from Clock's Muertos Blog on Skeptic Project. If you have any questions, check out the Disclaimer

By Muertos

Back to my "debate" with a global warming denier and conspiracy theorist on Twitter.

So now I know I have not only an AGW denier, but a 9/11 Truther on the hook. I probably shouldn't have changed the subject but I couldn't resist.

RT @[Name Withheld]

Get a clue

<-Ironic statement coming from someone who believes 9/11 is an inside job. You tinfoil hatters are all alike.

I actually kind of regret that last bit, because it did sort of poison the well. Nothing gets a CT madder faster than mentioning tinfoil hats. So, [Name Withheld], sorry about that.


Before she responded to my 9/11 Truth jab, she posted this link to an anti-AGW story from Newsbusters, which is a conservative "news" website devoted to tearing down mainstream media and hyping the whole Tea Party movement. This site loves to find critics of conservative policy and expose them for "outrageous" statements. Sorry, that's not very persuasive.

@muertos 911 was an inside job I am sorry that you like being a puppet for the new world order.

Yes! Now we're getting at it! First off, she admits she's a Truther. Most CTers, even if they are Truthers, tend to try to avoid that label if they're debating something other than 9/11, because it makes people crazy. (I can't imagine why! Disrespecting 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11--not a single one of whose families, I might add, supports their movement--should never be cause for disdain!) Furthermore, we now have our second invocation of "New World Order," and the accusation that I'm a "puppet." Anyone who disagrees with CT'ers is one of these things: puppet, shill, sheeple, disinformation, CIA plant, or brainwashed. Remember that.

I'm thoroughly enjoying this, so I decide to have a little fun with her. Again going for the RT, I'm curious exactly how nutty this Truther is, so I mention the latest silly theories to see if she'll bite:

RT @[Name Withheld] @muertos 911 was an inside job

<-Let me guess...exploding paint? Beam weapons? The planes were holographic projections?

"Exploding paint" refers to a bizarre theory by noted 9/11 Truther Steven Jones, a sometime physicist fired from BYU staff for promoting his lunacy and who is tenaciously clung to by deniers as an example of a "scientist" who believes in 9/11 conspiracies. Jones's obsession is an imaginary substance called "nanothermate" which he claims is a super-explosive that must have been used in the WTC disaster. How did it get there? He hypothesizes paint containing this super-duper explosive was applied to WTC structural beams sometime before 9/11, though when, how or by whom he can't quite say. Jones wrote a "peer-reviewed" paper (more on that later) claiming he analyzed some WTC debris, for which there was no proper chain of evidence, and discovered spherical structures he swears are consistent with "nanothermate." Evidence? Um...well, we'll get back to you on that...

"Space beams" is another wacky 9/11 theory, championed by Judy Wood, who says that the failure to find any trace of explosives in the WTC wreckage must be because the gubbermint used some kind of spooky beam weapon to destroy the towers. Mr. Chekov, please analyze said theory and report to me on the bridge of the Enterprise.

"Holographic projections" is a reference to an early 9/11 theory, now not widely held even among CTs, that there were no planes at all, despite hundreds of thousands of eyewitnesses. Dylan Avery, director of the conspiracist Internet film Loose Change, was once a "no-planer" but seems to have changed his position, probably because he realized people think it's ridiculous. Nowdays the CW among CTs is that the "no-plane" theory was trumped up by skeptics--you know, those sleeping sheeple like me who spread disinformation on the Internet--so it could be easily debunked and discredit the 9/11 Truth movement.

@muertos Physics do not lie. You are being fooled. Look into history and our monetary system and economics. Authority is NOT truth

@muertos its called nano thermite look it up ! and all the other stuff you mentioned is utter nonsense.

"Physics do not lie." Yes, but Steven Jones does; his theories have been debunked many times and yet he continues to push them as if they have a shred of truth. At least she admits space beams and no planes are nonsense, but she evidently accepts the exploding paint theory. I still can't get my head around it. Exploding paint, people! Do you see how far off in la-la land these conspiracists are? And to think, this all started with a discussion about global warming!

@[Name Withheld] "Nanothermate" is the exploding paint theory. Steven Jones is a liar. No scientific basis for it whatsoever.

@muertos thats ridiculous 1,000 scientist and 1,000 architects support his theory. He is not a liar.

Like those nice round 1,000 numbers? She's referring to the "Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth," an organization founded by San Francisco architect Richard Gage to desperately try to drum up a few experts who ignored the overwhelming scientific evidence (such as the NIST report) as to why the Towers collapsed. Gage embarked on a well-publicized quest to get 1,000 people to support him and try to get a petition drive going. He did eventually, but some 2 and a half years after he said he would, and most of the architects on its list have questionable credentials--such as the guy who claims to have designed the Transamerica Pyramid when records show he was a college undergraduate at the time. Yeah right, like college undergrads regularly get gigs designing skyscrapers.

And, for the record, Jones maintains that his articles on superdupernanothermite/thermate are "peer reviewed." They are not. The "peer review" process to which he supposedly subjects his papers is nothing more than review by fellow CTs, not the scientific community (which will not publish him). Claiming that this is peer review is simply a lie. Ergo, Steven Jones is a liar.

9/11 nuttery is not the first brush Steven Jones has had with weird theories. In the late 1980s he was the only scientist who claimed that "cold fusion" could and did work, in his laboratory. He could not replicate the experiment that he said did it, which led all other respectable scientists to the conclusion that the experiment he was referring to either did not take place (in which case Jones is a liar) or was badly misconstrued by him (in which case he's not a very good scientist). Either way, Jones's grasp of physics is extremely questionable.

@[Name Withheld] Ah yes, the nut brigade known as "Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth"...or should I say "Twoof"...

The link is to a good debunkers blog, Screw Loose Change, rounding up some of the looniest news on AE911. Click it if you dare, but prepare to laugh (or cry). "Twoof" is a name debunkers often call 9/11 CTs, and it refers to fringe or "woo" beliefs, such as the ludicrous notion that the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolition.

@muertos I suppose your one of those "the government couldnt possibly do this to us!" types right?

This is setting me up to be called "sheeple."

@muertos A&E 4 9/11Truth have put their careers on the line to support something greater then you obviously r capable of being able 2 fathom

Yeah, right. I'm sure there's an NWO hit squad out there ready to take down these idiots. Why bother? Just expose their lack of credentials and no one will believe them anyway. Wait, no one does believe who's career is on the line anyway? Steven Jones? His career was toast in 2006 when he started this supernanothermite nonsense in the first place. He has no career left to destroy, which is why he's out there on the conspiracy circuit.

@[Name Withheld] Why cant I fathom it? Let me guess, I'm "sheeple"...I've been brainwashed by CNN and fluoridated water. Typical Twoofer crap.

She didn't respond to this, and then turned back to AGW denial with the usual spurious links:

@muertos Run Al Gore Run! Former student claims Climategate University 'often' falsified data. #global warming

Link to an anti-AGW site screeching about the CRU emails. Remember I said we'd get to those later? I'm not even going to bother explaining why two hacked emails are supposed to (in CT eyes) negate over 20 years of scientific study, I'll post a link a bit later on that summarizes the "controversy" neatly.

@muertos Climategate: This time its NASA #global warming

This link is to a tiresome article on The American Spectator, another conservative blog dedicated to throwing poo at President Obama, blaming ACORN for everything and hyping the Tea Party movement. Jeez, these CTs always go over old ground.

@muertos Study Al Gore doesn't want you to see. Most "global warming" not due to man

Link is to World Climate Report, another anti-AGW blog run by conservatives. The scientific arguments are easily refuted in various pages on this, one of the blogs">I linked her to earlier.

@[Name Withheld] "Climategate" emails don't say what deniers, conspiracy nuts want you to believe they mean:

This link is to an article that explains why the CRU emails are not what AGW deniers hoped they were. The whole thing was newsworthy because of a "dog bites man" quality: evidence coming to light that humans are causing global warming is so commonplace that it doesn't make news, but, oh boy, find something to the contrary and it's front page news. The CRU is not the only source of climate change information, and AGW deniers themselves implicitly acknowledge this whenever they switch from waving around the emails as "proof" that AGW is a hoax, to throwing poo at Al Gore who in the next minute is the source of all information on climate change.

I'm still on about Steven Jones, though, so here's my last shot:

@[Name Withheld] Of course anyone (Twoofers) who thinks Steven Jones is a reputable scientist has a pretty low bar where science is concerned.

[Name Withheld] takes her toys and goes home with this pithy comment:

@muertos that shows what you even know about history and science in the first place

Of course not. I have a degree in history (and am going for another one), so I know nothing about history; I don't credit the "scientific" conclusions of oil industry funded front groups and a fired physicist who believes in cold fusion and exploding paint, so I know nothing about science. The sneer "You don't know anything!" is another variation on CTers famous conversation-enders, calling someone "sheeple" or "brainwashed." Anyone who disagrees with lunatic theories gets this treatment, and I'm used to it by now. Always, as it did in this case, it ends the discussion on the note that the CT is no longer going to waste her time on you because you're so far gone into the clutches of the New World Order that you can't possibly be brought back over to reason.

You may think all of this has been a waste of time, and to some extent you're right; conspiracists, trained as they are to ignore evidence, twist arguments and cherry-pick quotes, usually can't be dissuaded from their quasi-religious beliefs that the whole world is out to get them and if we would only listen to them peace, love light and harmony would shower down upon us like manna from Heaven. However, although it's a waste of time to convert them, conspiracists have a virtual monopoly on the Internet, because no one on the Internet actually checks sources and most information there tends to be believed as truth, which is why the idiocy of AGW denial has gotten such traction in popular culture. I think it's important to let people know, people who may not yet be taken in by Alex Jones and the conspiracy underground, that they do not have a monopoly on the truth; far from it. [Name Withheld] may be a lost cause, but if so much as one person comes away from this thinking, hey, you know, global warming might not be a hoax, or those crazy Truthers and their exploding paint and beam weapons might just be fruitcakes after all, the time I spent debating her (and writing this blog) is well worth it.

Anatomy of a "Debate" With a Global Warming Denier and 9/11 Truther (Part I).

Author: Clock
Date: Jun 28, 2013 at 15:03

Written by Muertos

So, most people who know me know that I really hate conspiracy theories. I mean, I really hate them, to the point where I feel morally compelled to argue with them on the 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000 chance that I might actually be able to change their minds. (Contrary to popular belief, it does happen--many prominent debunkers are former conspiracy theorists who realized the idiocy of their beliefs and turned their attention to arguing the other side). But when you get into the conspiracy debunking business you are bound to encounter some truly remarkable people. I encountered one such person this morning on Twitter, and it turned into one of the more entertaining exchanges I've had with the conspiracy crowd in quite a while. I thought I would post about it just to show you an amusing example of just how far out there conspiracy theorists really are, and how quickly they resort to their stock tired arguments about why the rest of us just don't get it.

This exchange was started by a re-tweet of a friend of mine, let's just call him "The Dude" (as in The Big Lebowski), who's one of my favorite posters on Twitter. So far as I can tell, The Dude is an outspoken Libertarian, which is fine, and he is as amused and appalled as I am by some of the crazier conspiracy theories out there, such as HAARP (supposedly a secret beam weapon that causes earthquakes). Evidently he does not believe in anthropogenic global warming, a subject we've disagreed on before in relatively good humor. He was the one who re-tweeted this, early this morning:

RT @[Name Withheld]:

man made global warming is a fraud look into it.

In Twitter parlance this is a "re-tweet," where essentially you re-broadcast something you want others to read for whatever reason (not necessarily expressing agreement). My anti-conspiracy instincts kicked in here, so I did an @ reply to both, also as a RT. {Clock Comment:The green represents the Theorists tweets.} (if it were not, only those people who follow me and who also follow The Dude would have seen it, with a simple statement:

RT @[The Dude] @[Name Withheld]:

man made global warming is a fraud look into it.

<-I have looked into it, and it's not a fraud.

[Name Withheld], who I'd never heard of before this exchange, who doesn't follow me and whom I don't follow, replied within a few minutes:

@muertos yes it is

Uh-oh. Sounding the call to battle! Well, I probably shouldn't have taken the bait, but I did. So, I did the first thing any good debunker does: ask what evidence the conspiracy theorist relies upon. This is a good move for a couple of reasons. First, it separates the men from the boys, so to speak; most of the lightweight CTs (conspiracy theorists) bug out at the mere mention of the word "evidence," and they won't be around for long. Second, the answer will tell you what kind of CT you're dealing with--whether they're an Alex Jones groupie, a tax protestor, an NWO/secret society believer, or (a rare breed) a non-conspiracist conservative who disagrees on global warming. Almost all CTs are Alex Jones fans, and Old Leatherlungs is a notorious source of lies and obfuscation on climate change as well as every other conspiracy theory under the sun, so I sort of begged the question in my reply:

@[Name Withheld]

@muertos yes it is [global warming a hoax]

<-What's your evidence for believing so? Hopefully not Alex Jones!

[Note: the way you will tell in this blog who's talking to who, is the person to whom it is addressed is referenced at the beginning of the tweet with an @ symbol.]

@muertos id love to hear you opposing thoughts and why it is not a fraud. It is a fraud seriously. Welcome to global government, wake up!

"Wake up!" is one of those phrases you hear a lot from CTs. It goes along with "sheeple," their favorite word for people who don't believe conspiracy theories. Both buzzwords play into the concept which is the very bedrock of conspiracist belief: that the majority of people are "asleep" or unaware of what's really going on, but they, the CTs, are enlightened enough to understand the true nature of the world, and altruistic enough to try to bring this "truth" to the rest of us. This is the classic roleplay of conspiracism: the valiant, picked-on, everyman (or woman) theorist who boldly refuses to accept government and media "disinformation" and is out there fighting the good fight against the dark forces who supposedly control the world. At the mention of the words "Wake up!" I knew I had a live one on the hook.

So, I replied with a barrage of links. You don't need to click them all but of course I encourage you to do so, especially if you're a global warming denier yourself; they're generally links to scientific peer-reviewed studies of climate change data, blogs and online articles by scientists explaining them in plain language for non-scientists, and numerous other examples of the overwhelming scientific consensus that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is real and a urgent problem. Note specifically: not a single one of these links has anything to do with Al Gore. I also fashioned all of these as RT's, again so my followers could see them whether or not they were following the CT.

RT @[Name Withheld] "Where's the evidence for global warming?" Try here and here for starters...

RT @[Name Withheld] "Where's the evidence for global warming?" I suggest you look at this & this

RT @[Name Withheld] "Where's the evidence for global warming?" You should also read this and this

RT @[Name Withheld] "Where's the evidence for global warming?" Don't forget this and this

She replies:

@muertos no its not just Alex Jones its all the other evidence. Al Gore is full of shit and has NO scientific background

As usual whenever AGW deniers argue with debunkers, Al Gore is quickly trotted out and just as soon shot down. AGW deniers to a man (or woman) believe that Al Gore is the source of most climate change data--except when they believe that the East Anglia Climate Resource Unit is the source, for other reasons (see later on)--and attacking Al Gore's scientific credentials is usually a first step. Well, thanks, but Al Gore is not a scientist, he's a politician, and I don't think anyone would seriously maintain otherwise, so this is a silly objection.

@muertos ok first off FYI NASA is owned by the government and is a part of this scandal which is being confronted first off know ur facts

One of the links in my barrage did reference a NASA study, and NASA has been on the forefront (especially on Twitter) of combating AGW denial online. But note again the instinctive play to conspiracist orthodoxy. NASA, as part of the government, is evil and automatically distrusted. [Name Withheld] also brings the word "scandal" in--which is a clear telegraph that eventually she'll bring up the CRU emails--and ends with "know [yo]ur facts," another CT meme meant to establish the inherent superiority of her information.

@muertos i think there has been a lot more actual and factual scientific data collected since 2001. Look it up.

Yes, there has been, and all the scientific (not opinion) evidence collected since 2001 validates the conclusions of the International Panel on Climate Change, whose 2001 report was one of my first links. The IPCC released a second report in 2007 confirming their initial conclusions. There has been no change in scientific consensus on AGW since 2001, and if anything it's gotten even more pronounced. What few peer-reviewed studies that have come out since 2001, such as the infamous 2007 paper by Gerlich and Tscheuschner that claims (hilariously!) that global warming violates the second law of thermodynamics, have been roundly denounced as pseudoscience and quackery, and their perpetrators exposed as fronts paid by large corporate interests to desperately create the illusion that AGW is scientifically controversial. Gerlich and Tseuschner is a very dull topic, but if you want to read about why they're quacks, go to this link and knock yourself out.


Well, this certainly looks definitive! However, let's just take a couple of the names on this list at random and see how they pan out. Sourcewatch (, a watchdog website of AGW denial front groups, is a good place to check out the credentials of scientists who oppose AGW:

Robert M. Carter (claims AGW is not happening at all): not a climatologist; member of Australian think tank funding "research" to impeach IPCC conclusions.
Sallie Louise Baliunas (claims climate change is natural): astrophysicist funded by the Western Fuels Association, a consortium of coal industry leaders.
Tad Murty (claims AGW is a hoax): outspoken member of an organization called Friends of Science, an oil industry-funded group that was recently under investigation in Canada for electioneering without registering as a political lobby group.
Need I go on?


Whenever you argue with a CT, you know Ron Paul is going to come into it somewhere, as he's basically the only politician CTs like (although most of them have no idea of the 30-year history he has of hawking conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism, racism and homophobia in his infamous newsletters). This link is to an article pushing the "Oregon Petition," which was an online petition dating from 1998--yes, that's right, 1998, twelve years and two Presidential administrations ago--of "scientists" claiming to oppose AGW theories. Mind you, this was before the IPCC report, and since 1998 very few of the "scientists" whose names appear on the petition still support it, or are even verified to be scientists. The Oregon Petition is, quite simply, a fraud. Don't take my word for it. Collected debunkings of this ancient turd are here, but don't count on the infallible Representative Paul to tell his thousands (millions?) of gullible followers that what he's pushing is, from start to finish, a sham.

@muertos hmmm more and more evidence because 31,000 scientist are totally wrong right! Get a clue

The "31,000" number is right off Ron Paul's website, and refers to the Oregon Petition which I've already shown to be a fraud. Note again the use of "get a clue," as if I'm the one who's misinformed.

This argument has already turned into more entertainment than I ever hoped to have when I signed on to Twitter this morning, but it got better when I clicked on [Name Withheld]'s profile just to see what else she was talking about. In the "information" section of her profile she describes herself thusly, omitting irrelevant details:

"Bio... 911 Truth Activist, and I expose the N.W.O."

9/11 "Truth" is, of course, the so-called "movement" that wants to try to convince you the World Trade Center towers were destroyed by [fill in the blank--George Bush, Israeli intelligence, Larry Silverstein, the Illuminati, or all of the above] as a "false flag" operation to justify...well, exactly what I'm not sure, because the story changes all the time. Only the most lunatic of the lunatic fringe believes 9/11 "Truth," a movement whose leaders include serial wife-batterer Charlie Sheen, former trash TV host Rosie O'Donnell (who lost her show The View in part because she couldn't shut up about nutty conspiracy theories) and the infamous Steven Jones, who we'll get to in a minute. In case you know little of the conspiracist underground, "N.W.O." means "New World Order," supposedly the totalitarian society a shadowy group called "the Illuminati" is trying to imprison us in. Never mind the fact that the Illuminati, a secret society that never had much influence anyway, has been defunct since the 1780s. No, that doesn't stop CTs from insisting that we're this close to total world domination by...well, again, not sure who, though you can be reasonably certain George H.W. Bush has something to do with it, because he used the words "new world order" in a speech in 1991. We're really zooming off into nutbar territory here, but that's what we signed up for.

I'm not even including the link to [Name Withheld]'s Myspace page which was included in her bio. Let's just say it involves lots of American flag and Statue of Liberty graphics along with impassioned pleas to expose pedophiles in the White House among other shocking things, and contains video embeds of the infamous packed-with-lies conspiracist film Zeitgeist, which itself spawned another whole creepy subculture of paranoid nonsense. We won't go there.

There's more to the story. Stay tuned for the hilarious conclusion!

This entry was posted in Conspiracy Debunking. Bookmark the permalink.

AUTISTIC SKEPTIC: The Logical Fallacies of Conspiracy Theories

Author: Clock
Date: Jun 10, 2013 at 19:01


I am Clock, I am not the author of this article, I am simply reposting it as the authors blog went down.

Repeat, I am not Autistic Skeptic
Please enjoy,


Most conspiracy theories don't make sense nor withstand any scrutiny. They usually involve operations so immense that it's basically impossible for them to be kept secret, and all the proof given by conspiracy theorists usually have a very simple explanation (usually much simpler than the explanation given by the theorists).

Yet conspiracy theories are very popular and appealing. Even when they don't make sense and there's just no proof, many people still believe them. Why?

One big reason for this is that some conspiracy theorists are clever. They use psychology to make their theories sound more plausible. They appeal to certain psychological phenomena which make people to tend to believe them. However, these psychological tricks are nothing more than logical fallacies. They are simply so well disguised that many people can't see them for what they are.

Here are some typical logical fallacies used by conspiracy theorists:

Appeal to the "bandwagon effect"

The so-called "bandwagon effect" is a psychological phenomenon where people are eager to believe things if most of the people around them believe that too. Sometimes that thing is true and there's no harm, but sometimes it's a misconception, urban legend or, in this case, an unfounded conspiracy theory, in which case the "bandwagon effect" bypasses logical thinking for the worse.

The most typical form of appealing to the bandwagon effect is to say something along the lines of "30% of Americans doubt that..." or "30% of Americans don't believe the official story". This is also called an argumentum ad populum, which is a logical fallacy.

Of course that kind of sentence in the beginning of a conspiracy theory doesn't make any sense. It doesn't prove anything relevant. It's not like the theory becomes more true if more people believe in it.

Also the percentage itself is always very dubious. It may be completely fabricated or exaggerated by interpreting the poll results conveniently (eg. one easy way for bumping up the percentage is to interpret all people who didn't answer or who didn't know what to say as "doubting the official story"). Even if it was a completely genuine number, it would still not be proof of anything else than that there's a certain amount of gullible people in the world.

That kind of sentence is not proof of anything, yet it's one of the most used sentences in conspiracy theories. It tries to appeal to the bandwagon effect. It's effectively saying: "Already this many people doubt the official story, and the numbers are increasing. Are you going to be left alone believing the official story?"

Appeal to rebellion

Conspiracy theories in general, and the "n% of people doubt the story" claims in particular, also appeal to a sense of rebellion in people.

As Wikipedia puts it, "a rebellion is, in the most general sense, a refusal to accept authority."

People don't want to be sheep who are patronized by authority and told what they have to do and how they have to think. People usually distrust authorities and many believe that authorities are selfish and abuse people for their own benefit. This is an extremely fertile ground for conspiracy theories.

This is so ingrained in people that a sentence like "the official story" has basically become a synonym for "a coverup/lie". Whenever "the official story" is mentioned, it immediately makes people think that it's some kind of coverup, something not true.

Conspiracy theorists are masters at abusing this psyhcological phenomenon for their advantage. They basically insinuate that "if you believe the official story then you are gullible because you are being lied to". They want to make it feel that doubting the original story is a sign of intelligence and logical thinking. However, believing a conspiracy theory usually shows, quite ironically, a great lack of logical thinking.

This is an actual quote from a JFK assassination conspiracy theory website. It's almost as hilarious as it is contradictory:

In the end, you have to decide for yourself what to believe. But don't just believe what the U.S. Government tells you!

(In other words, believe anything you want except the official story!)

Shotgun argumentation

"Shotgun argumentation" is a metaphor from real life: It's much easier to hunt a rabbit with a shotgun than with a rifle. This is because a rifle only fires one bullet and there's a high probability of a miss. A shotgun, however, fires tens or even hundreds of small pellets, and the probability of at least one of them hitting the rabbit is quite high.

Shotgun argumentation has the same basic idea: The more small arguments or "evidence" you present in favor of some claim, the higher the probability that someone will believe you regarldess of how ridiculous those arguments are. There are two reasons for this:

Firstly, just the sheer amount of arguments or "evidence" may be enough to convince someone that something strange is going on. The idea is basically: "There is this much evidence against the official story, there must be something wrong with it." One or two pieces of "evidence" may not be enough to convince anyone, but collect a set of a couple of hundreds of pieces of "evidence" and it immediately starts being more believable.

Of course the fallacy here is that the amount of "evidence" is in no way proof of anything. The vast majority, and usually all of this "evidence" is easily explainable and just patently false. There may be a few points which may be more difficult to explain, but they alone wouldn't be so convincing.

Secondly, and more closely related to the shotgun methapor: The more arguments or individual pieces of "evidence" you have, the higher the probability that at least some of them will convince someone. Someone might not get convinced by most of the arguments, but among them there may be one or a few which sounds so plausible to him that he is then convinced. Thus one or a few of the "pellets" hit the "rabbit" and killed it: Mission accomplished.

I have a concrete example of this: I had a friend who is academically educated, a MSc, and doing research work (relating to computer science) at a university. He is rational, intelligent and well-educated.

Yet still this person, at least some years ago, completely believed the Moon hoax theory. Why? He said to me quite explicitly that there was one thing that convinced him: The flag moving after it had been planted on the ground.

One of the pellets had hit the rabbit and killed it. The shotgun argumentation had been successful.

If even highly-educated academic people can fall for such "evidence" (which is easily explained), how more easily are more "regular" people going to believe the sheer amount of them? Sadly, quite a lot more easily.

Most conspiracy theorists continue to present the same old tired arguments which are very easy to prove wrong. They need all those arguments, no matter how ridiculous, for their shotgun argumentation tactics to work.

Straw man argumentation

A "straw man argument" is the process of taking an argument of the opponent, distorting it or taking it out of context so that it basically changes meaning, and then ridiculing it in order to make the opponent look bad.

For example, a conspiracy theorist may say something like: "Sceptics argue that stars are too faint to see in space (which is why there are no stars in photographs), yet astronauts said that they could see stars."

This is a perfect example of a straw man argument. That's taking an argument completely out of context and changing its meaning.

It's actually a bit unfortunate that many debunking sites use the sentence "the stars are too faint to be seen" when explaining the lack of stars in photographs. That sentence, while in its context not false, is confusing and misleading. It's trying to put in simple words a more technical explanation (which usually follows). Unfortunately, it's too simplistic and good material for straw man arguments. I wish debunkers stopped using simplistic sentences like that one.

(The real explanation for the lacking stars is, of course, related to the exposure time and shutter aperture of the cameras, which were set to photograph the Moon surface illuminated by direct sunlight. The stars are not bright enough for such short exposure times. If the cameras had been set up to photograph the stars, the lunar surface would have been completely overexposed. This is basic photography.)

Citing inexistent sources

There's a very common bad habit among the majority of people: They believe that credible sources have said/written whatever someone claims they have said or written. Even worse, most people believe that a source is credible or even exists just because someone claims that it is credible and exists. People almost never check that the source exists, that it's a credible source and that it has indeed said what was claimed.

Conspiracy theorists know this and thus abuse it to the maximum. Sometimes they fabricate sources or stories, and sometimes they just cite nameless sources (using expressions like "experts in the field", "most astronomers", etc).

This is an actual quote from the same JFK assassination conspiracy theory website as earlier:

Scientists examined the Zapruder film. They found that, while most of it looks completely genuine, some of the images are impossible. They violate the laws of physics. They could not have come from Zapruder's home movie camera.

Needless to say, the web page does not give any references or sources, or any other indication of who these unnamed "scientists" might be or what their credentials are. (My personal guess is that whenever the website uses the word "scientist" or "researcher", it refers to other conspiracy theorists who have no actual education and competence on the required fields of science, and who are, like all such conspiracy theorists, just seeing what they want to see.)

Citing sources which are wrong

A common tactic of conspiracy theorists is to take statements by credible persons or newspaper articles which support the conspiracy theory and present these statements or articles as if they were the truth. If a later article in the same newspaper corrects the mistake in the earlier article or if the person who made the statement later says that he was wrong or quoted out of context (ie. he didn't mean what people thought he was meaning), conspiracy theorists happily ignore them.

Since people seldom check the sources, they will believe that the statement or newspaper article is the only thing that person or newspaper has said about the subject.

This is closely related to (and often overlaps with) the concept of quote mining (which is the practice of carefully selecting small quotes, which are often taken completely out of context, from a vast selection of material, in such a way that these individual quotes seem to support the conspiracy theory).

Sometimes that source is not credible (because it's just another conspiracy theorist) but people have little means of knowing this.


Cherry-picking is more a deliberate act of deception than a logical fallacy, but nevertheless an extremely common tactic.

Cherry-picking happens when someone deliberately selects from a wide variety of material only those items which support the conspiracy theory, while ignoring and discarding those which don't. When this carefully chosen selection of material is then presented as a whole, it easily misleads people into thinking that the conspiracy theory is supported by evidence.

This is an especially popular tactic for the 9/11 conspiracy theorists: They will only choose those published photographs which support their claims, while outright ignoring those which don't. The Loose Change "documentary" is quite infamous for doing this, and pulling it out rather convincingly.

The major problem with this is, of course, that it's pure deception: The viewer is intentionally given only carefully selected material, while leaving out the parts which would contradict the conspiracy theory. This is a deliberate act. The conspiracy theorists cannot claim honesty while doing clear cherry-picking.

Just one example: There's a big electrical transformer box outside the Pentagon which was badly damaged by the plane before it hit the building. It's impossible for that box to get that damage if the building was hit by a missile, as claimed by conspiracy theorists (the missile would have exploded when hitting the box, several tens of meters away from the building). Conspiracy theorists will usually avoid using any photographs which show the damaged transformer box because it contradicts their theory. They are doing this deliberately. They cannot claim honesty while doing this.

Argument from authority

Scientists are human, and thus imperfect and fallible. Individual scientists can be dead wrong, make the wrong claims and even be deceived into believing falsities. Being a scientist does not give a human being some kind of magic power to resist all deceptions and delusions, to see through all tricks and fallacies and to always know the truth and discard what is false.

But science does not stand on individual scientists, for this exact reason. This is precisely why the scientific process requires so-called peer reviews. One scientist can be wrong, ten scientists can be wrong, and even a hundred scientists can be wrong, but when their claims are peer-reviewed and studied by the whole scientific community, the likelihood of the falsities not being caught decreases dramatically. It's very likely that someone somewhere is going to object and to raise questions if there's something wrong with a claim, and this will raise the consciousness of the whole community. Either the objections are dealt with and explained, or the credibility of the claim gets compromised. A claim does not become accepted by the scientific community unless it passes the peer reviewing test. And this is why science works. It does not rely on individuals, but on the whole.

Sometimes some individual scientists can be deceived into believing a conspiracy theory. As said, scientists do not have any magical force that keeps them from being deceived. Due to their education the likelihood might be slightly lower than with the average person, but in no way is it completely removed. Scientists can and do get deceived by falsities.

Thus sometimes the conspiracy theorists will convince some PhD or other such person of high education and/or high authority, and if this person becomes vocal enough, the conspiracy theorists will then use him as an argument pro the conspiracy. It can be rather convincing if conspiracy theorists can say "numerous scientists agree that the official explanation cannot be true, including (insert some names here)".

However, this is a fallacy named argument from authority. Just because a PhD makes a claim doesn't make it true. Even if a hundred PhD's make that claim. It doesn't even make it any more credible.

As said, individual scientists can get deceived and deluded. However, as long as their claims do not pass the peer review process, their claims are worth nothing from a scientific point of view.

Argument from ignorance

In this fallacy the word "ignorance" is not an insult, but refers to the meaning of "not knowing something".

Simply put, argument from ignorance happens when something with no apparent explanation is pointed out (for example in a photograph), and since there's no explanation, it's presented as evidence of foul play (eg. that the photograph has been manipulated).

This can be seen as somewhat related to cherry-picking: The conspiracy theorist will point out something in the source material or the accounts of the original event which is not easy to immediately explain. A viewer with no experience nor expertise on the subject matter might be unable to come up with an explanation, or to identify the artifact/phenomenon. The conspiracy theorist then abuses this to claim that the unexplained artifact or phenomenon is evidence of fakery or deception.

Of course this is a fallacy. Nothing can be deduced from an unexplained phenomenon or artifact. As long as you don't know what it is, you can't take it as evidence of anything.

(In most cases such things have a quite simple and logical explanation; it's just that in order to figure it out, you need to have the proper experience on the subject, or alternatively to have someone with experience explain it to you. After that it becomes quite self-evident. It's a bit like a magic trick: When you see it, you can't explain how it works, but when someone explains it to you, it often is outright disappointingly simple.)

It might sound rather self-evident when explained like this, but people still get fooled in an actual situation.

Argument from (personal) incredulity

In its most basic and bare-bones from, argument from incredulity takes the form of "I can't even begin to imagine how this can work / be possible, hence it must be fake". This is a variation or subset of the argument from ignorance. Of course conspiracy theorists don't state the argument so blatantly, but use much subtler expressions.

Example: Some (although not all) Moon Landing Hoax conspiracy theorists state that the Moon Lander could have not taken off from the surface of the Moon, because a rocket on its bottom side would have made it rotate wildly and randomly. In essence what the conspiracy theorist is saying is "I don't understand how rocketry can work, hence this must be fake", and trying to convince the reader of the same.

The problem of basic rocketry (ie. how a rocket with a propulsion system at its back end can maintain stability and fly straight) is indeed quite a complex and difficult one (which is where the colloquial term "rocket science", meaning something extremely complicated and difficult, comes from), but it was solved in the 1920′s and 30′s. This isn't even something you have to understand or even take on faith: It's something you can see with your own eyes (unless you believe all the videos you have ever seen of missiles and rockets are fake).

Argument from coincidence

In the real world things that can be considered coincidences happen all the time. Sometimes even coincidences that are so unlikely that they are almost incredible. Of course most coincidences are actually much more likely to happen than we usually think.

Just as a random example, suppose that an asteroid makes a close encounter with the Earth, and the same day that this close encounter happens, a big earthquake happens somewhere on Earth. Coincidence? Well, that's actually very likely: Every year there are over a thousand earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher on Earth. The likelihood that on a very specific day a significant earthquake happens is actually not that surprising. The two incidents may very well not be related at all, but just happened on the same day.

In conspiracy theory land, however, there are no such things as coincidences. Everything always happens for a reason, and everything is always related somehow.

For example, did some politician happen to cancel a flight scheduled on the same day as a terrorist attack involving airplanes happened? In conspiracy theory land that cannot be a coincidence. There must be a connection. (It doesn't matter that all kinds of politicians are traveling by plane all the time, and cancelling such flights is not at all uncommon, and hence some random politician cancelling a flight for the same day as the terrorist attack happens isn't a very unlikely happenstance. Except for conspiracy theorists, of course.)

Or how about the Pentagon having blast-proof windows on one of its walls, and a plane crashing precisely on that wall? Given that the Pentagon has 5 outer walls, the likelihood of this happening is roughly 20%, which isn't actually all that small. One in five isn't very unlikely, except of course in conspiracy fantasy land, where it cannot be a coincidence.

It's not impossible for even extremely unlikely coincidences to sometimes happen, but conspiracy theorists just love to take even the likeliest of coincidences and jump to conclusions. Just to add another piece of "evidence" for their shotgun argumentation.


Pareidolia is also not a logical fallacy per se, but more a fallacy of perception.

Pareidolia is, basically, the phenomenon which happens when we perceive recognizable patterns in randomness, even though the patterns really aren't there. For example, random blotches of paint might look like a face, or random noise might sound like a spoken word (or even a full sentence).

Pareidolia is a side effect of pattern recognition in our brain. Our visual and auditory perception is heavily based on pattern recognition. It's what helps us understanding spoken languages, even if it's spoken by different people with different voices, at different speeds and with different accents. It's what helps us recognizing objects even if they have a slightly different shape or coloring which we have never seen before. It's what helps us recognize people and differentiate them from each other. It's what helps us reading written text at amazing speeds by simply scanning the written lines visually (you are doing precisely that right now). In fact, we could probably not even survive without pattern recognition.

This pattern recognition is also heavily based on experience: We tend to recognize things like shapes and sounds when we have previous experience from similar shapes and sounds. Also the context helps us in this pattern recognition, often very significantly. When we recognize the context, we tend to expect certain things, which in turn helps us making the pattern recognition more easily and faster. For example, if you open a book, you already expect to see text inside, and you are already prepared to recognize it. In a context which is completely unrelated to written text (for a completely random example, if you are examining your fingernails) you are not expecting to see text, and thus you don't recognize it as easily.

Pareidolia happens when our brain recognizes, or thinks it recognizes, patterns where there may be only randomness, or in places which are not random per se, but completely unrelated to this purported "pattern".

As noted, pareidolia is greatly helped if we are expecting to see a certain pattern. This predisposes our brain to try to recognize that exact thing, making it easier.

This is the very idea in so-called backmasking: Playing a sound, for example a song, backwards and then recognizing something in the garbled sounds that result from this. When we are not expecting anything in particular, we usually only hear garbled noises. However, if someone tells us what we should expect, we immediately "recognize" it.

However, we are just fooling our own pattern recognition system into perceiving something which isn't really there. If someone else is told to expect a slightly similar-sounding, but different message, that other person is very probably going to hear that. You and that other person are both being mislead by playing with the pattern recognition capabilities of your brain.

Conspiracy theorists love abusing pareidolia. They will make people see patterns where there are none, and people will be fooled into believing that the patterns really are there, and thus are proof of something.

More later.

Next Page