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parallaxicality
2011-Apr-30, 10:45 AM
Political facts first, non political post, promise.

Barack Obama's release of his birth certificate in the hopes of silencing the birther movement have led to laughably predictable results: Orly Taitz has complained that his birth certificate says "African" and not "Negro" and Donald Trump has now asked for his college records to see if he really qualified for Harvard without affirmative action.

If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk etc etc etc.

Given this, what's the point of debunking conspiracy theories? I used to think that the point of debunking wasn't to assuage the committed fringe, as that was impossible, to to sway the non-committed middle, to starve the fringe of oxygen by denying them credibility. But now I realise that as long as the fringe have enough backing, they can keep stoking the middle for ever. So are we doomed? The Dawkins/Dennett/Hitchins types seem to think that they can beat the odds by shouting louder, but all they're doing is playing their own crowds.

Has modern technology rendered debunking pointless? Since anyone can now surround him or herself with voices that agree with whatever lunatic theory he or she happens to espouse to the exclusion of everything else, is there really any point in promoting objective reality?

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-30, 10:57 AM
Years ago I had entrenched views (which I won't go into here on BAUT) which changed completely after reading a Richard Dawkins book (River out of Eden). His mastery of language and his clear reasoning made me rethink my position. Not straightaway, but it was the main cause.

Selenite
2011-Apr-30, 11:22 AM
Given this, what's the point of debunking conspiracy theories? I used to think that the point of debunking wasn't to assuage the committed fringe, as that was impossible, to to sway the non-committed middle, to starve the fringe of oxygen by denying them credibility.

I do think we sway the fence-sitters. That's all you can influence. The ones who have their preferred version of events and lock out any contradictory facts out are a lost cause. Some are too invested in terms of money or their perceived "celebrity" to quit. (Yes, there some who think themselves stars in the cloistered world of their particular conspiracy, and it's all the celebrity they've ever known.) However, they do look more ridiculous as they dig in even deeper to avoid unpleasant facts. In the end we're talking about a small minority here. The vast majority of the world moves on. They end up sort of like Dr. Seuss' Zax who stand so long face to face in unbudging stubbornness that eventually a highway overpass is built around them.

Buttercup
2011-Apr-30, 11:45 AM
...But now I realise that as long as the fringe have enough backing, they can keep stoking the middle for ever. So are we doomed? The Dawkins/Dennett/Hitchins types seem to think that they can beat the odds by shouting louder, but all they're doing is playing their own crowds.

Has modern technology rendered debunking pointless? Since anyone can now surround him or herself with voices that agree with whatever lunatic theory he or she happens to espouse to the exclusion of everything else, is there really any point in promoting objective reality?

Added to that the ongoing (and growing, it seems) delusion of many that simply because they're entitled to their opinion, that makes them RIGHT. Opinion = FACT.

I see that a lot in U.S. society, especially in the past 10 years, and frankly it scares me. Just because you think you're right doesn't mean you are!

Swift
2011-Apr-30, 01:46 PM
Political facts first, non political post, promise.
Gosh, I wish you had picked something non-political for an example. To even bring it up is to supply a big can o' worms and a can opener.

Though everyone has been right on target so far, Please, no responses to the political example given. There will be no further warnings.

Sardonicone
2011-Apr-30, 02:17 PM
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke (1729-1797).

Garrison
2011-Apr-30, 02:31 PM
I used to be big on Berlitz and Von Daniken. What changed my mind was a Horizon documentary on the BBC that demolished Von Daniken's claims, I still remember them showing that the Nazca 'landing bays' were actually part of a birds wing. Maybe you can't persuade everyone to to look at the facts but the alternative is just to leave the field clear for all the CTs and that's bound to be worse.

Gillianren
2011-Apr-30, 04:41 PM
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke (1729-1797).

Funnily enough, this one's been debunked, too. No one has ever found that quote, or even anything similar, in Edmund Burke's writing. William Safire did some looking into it in one of his books, but I don't remember which one.

Still, the sentiment is exactly right. What's the point of educating anyone about anything? Some people are never going to be interested in learning various things. But you have to keep teaching anyway.

Luckmeister
2011-Apr-30, 05:01 PM
....is there really any point in promoting objective reality?

Why take a bath? -- you'll just get dirty again.
Why mow your lawn? -- it'll just quickly grow back again.
Why vote? -- yours won't significantly influence anything.
Why do anything? -- you're just going to ultimately die anyway.

I prefer thinking I can have a small positive influence in the world.

profloater
2011-Apr-30, 07:21 PM
Why take a bath? -- you'll just get dirty again.
Why mow your lawn? -- it'll just quickly grow back again.
Why vote? -- yours won't significantly influence anything.
Why do anything? -- you're just going to ultimately die anyway.

How true, we all live in illogical denial of the pointlessness but it's such fun. Getting debunked yourself is a salutary experience, rather like discovering you are boring, and if an active debunker, if you turn just one person around, that might be the seed of a wave. Nihil illigitimi desperandum.

Hlafordlaes
2011-Apr-30, 08:55 PM
While the willfully ignorant may dismay me, those who prey cynically upon them for gain utterly disgust me.

While yellow journalism has a long history, I do find the modern mechanisms for disseminating truths-by-repetition and for slinging mud far and wide downright scary.

Tensor
2011-Apr-30, 09:02 PM
There are also those who are supporters of the conspiracy theory, but HONESTLY believe it because they have not been exposed to the actual facts (or it has not been explained to them why the "facts" presented to them are wrong) . When presented with the actual facts, they repudiate (or just simply quit supporting) the conspiracy theory. You only have to look to Apollohoax for an example of this.

Which is why faulty conspriracy theories and faulty ATM ideas have to be exposed as wrong as much as possible.

parallaxicality
2011-Apr-30, 10:17 PM
Why take a bath? -- you'll just get dirty again.
Why mow your lawn? -- it'll just quickly grow back again.
Why vote? -- yours won't significantly influence anything.
Why do anything? -- you're just going to ultimately die anyway.

I prefer thinking I can have a small positive influence in the world.

What positive effect you may have in those instances is dependent on a cumulative element; either positive (the more people vote, the more likely the vote will reflect the will of the people) or negative (if you don't wash for extended periods, you will eventually become dirty enough to cause physical illness). What bugs me in this case is that the cumulative effect seems to be absent. No matter how much or how often rationality blares the obvious, it appears to have no effect not only on the True Believers, but also those who are "not sure".

Garrison
2011-Apr-30, 10:29 PM
What positive effect you may have in those instances is dependent on a cumulative element; either positive (the more people vote, the more likely the vote will reflect the will of the people) or negative (if you don't wash for extended periods, you will eventually become dirty enough to cause physical illness). What bugs me in this case is that the cumulative effect seems to be absent. No matter how much or how often rationality blares the obvious, it appears to have no effect not only on the True Believers, but also those who are "not sure".

You have to bear in mind that as frequently happens here on BAUT those who claim to be 'not sure', or 'just asking questions' are often actually die hard CTs trying to duck the burden of proving their case.

Gillianren
2011-Apr-30, 10:54 PM
What positive effect you may have in those instances is dependent on a cumulative element; either positive (the more people vote, the more likely the vote will reflect the will of the people) or negative (if you don't wash for extended periods, you will eventually become dirty enough to cause physical illness). What bugs me in this case is that the cumulative effect seems to be absent. No matter how much or how often rationality blares the obvious, it appears to have no effect not only on the True Believers, but also those who are "not sure".

I think the true believers are just really loud on a lot of these things. I think the average person starts getting disgusted with them after a while. "This? Again?" Sure, they may attract more people to their screwy ideas, but the pool of people keeps getting smaller. The people who want to believe will find a reason. The people who just haven't been told that what they believe is wrong and will listen when they're told is a larger group.

Luckmeister
2011-Apr-30, 10:57 PM
What positive effect you may have in those instances is dependent on a cumulative element; either positive (the more people vote, the more likely the vote will reflect the will of the people) or negative (if you don't wash for extended periods, you will eventually become dirty enough to cause physical illness). What bugs me in this case is that the cumulative effect seems to be absent. No matter how much or how often rationality blares the obvious, it appears to have no effect not only on the True Believers, but also those who are "not sure".

I think the cumulative effect seems to be absent because results aren't always evident in this type of venue. I've been in non-internet discussions with people who argue their point throughout the conversation but the next time I see them, they've changed their tune. I really do think BAUT has been an important influence for critical thinking.

moonfunk
2011-May-01, 02:29 AM
This door swings both ways. Whenever someone is confronted with facts that do not fit their perception of reality, they lash out.

I was "Banned" for posting NASA's definition of "Space" since the moderator(s) knew what was coming next.

Swift
2011-May-01, 04:05 AM
This door swings both ways. Whenever someone is confronted with facts that do not fit their perception of reality, they lash out.

I was "Banned" for posting NASA's definition of "Space" since the moderator(s) knew what was coming next.
You were not banned, you were suspended. And if anything, it was because we had no clue what you were talking about (I still don't know what that had to do with the moon landings) and you deliberately didn't answer when directly asked. Do not renew that discussion in this thread - if you wish to discuss your thoughts about the moon landings further, ask and we will reopen your thread (but you will be expected to follow the rules if you do).

WhoSaysSo
2011-May-01, 04:22 AM
I've read a number of boards where people discuss the Apollo Hoax theory's, and one thing seems clear to me: Those who make posts pointing out "flaws" that "prove" we never landed on the moon never answer specific questions being made to them, or acknowledge facts as they are pointed out.

Here on BAUT, there was a discussion about imaging the Apollo landing sites by telescope. A person asked the question, how can we not image 200 tons of waste we left on the moon. Every time someone would point out that mass has nothing to do with surface area, the complainer would ignore this fact and reiterate their claim.

This leads me to believe that these people are:

A) Not interested in facts, they just like to see how many people they can convince of their theory. This gives them a feeling of power.
B) Trolls, making posts just to upset people or get them to react.
C) Regurgitating stuff they read elsewhere without looking into the facts, and not knowing how to deal with the real facts once they are presented.
D) Missing one hemisphere of their brain.

Just my observations.

worktroll
2011-May-02, 02:01 AM
I used to be big on Berlitz and Von Daniken. What changed my mind was a Horizon documentary on the BBC that demolished Von Daniken's claims, I still remember them showing that the Nazca 'landing bays' were actually part of a birds wing. Maybe you can't persuade everyone to to look at the facts but the alternative is just to leave the field clear for all the CTs and that's bound to be worse.

Garrison, I just wanted to chime in and say I had exactly the same experience. As a callow youth, I wanted to believe in aliens visiting Earth, and fell headlong into Von Danikenism. I even had first editions of most of his paperbacks. But the Horizon documentary totally brought me up in what I would now call a "WTF" moment, and I stopped accepting what I wanted to hear, and started thinking about claims for myself. Alas, odds are it never made it to digital storage. It'd be worth running even today.

I'd still love to meet an alien (other than those who work in my office; surely they can't be human!), and I still feel cheated that there's no Moonbase (not even a nuclear dump on Farside! Shame!). So I read 'Fortean Times', which (while containing articles by some genuine 'true believers') is mainly for people who'd like to believe in aliens, psi powers, witchcraft etc, but who demand genuine hard proof - while enjoying some of the more diverting claims.

And Sardonicone has the right of it. The tree of rationality has to be watered with the blood of skeptice?

W.

Sardonicone
2011-May-02, 09:00 PM
Funnily enough, this one's been debunked, too. No one has ever found that quote, or even anything similar, in Edmund Burke's writing. William Safire did some looking into it in one of his books, but I don't remember which one.

Still, the sentiment is exactly right. What's the point of educating anyone about anything? Some people are never going to be interested in learning various things. But you have to keep teaching anyway.

Really? Well there goes some more egg on my face. But as you mentioned, the sentiment still stands. Sure, we could all just collectively give up and let the woowoos have control of the internet....Just as we could all stop worrying if people obey the law as well. Exciting times indeed.