# Keeping it Small and Simple

## 2008.03.31

### Recursive conspiracy theory

Filed under: Humor — Tags: , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 02:20

I start off with this assertion:

Conspiracy theory x is a hoax to derail us from investigating the real truth about the incident y.

You could put in 9/11 truth for x and 9/11 if you like. But I will keep it general. I wouldn’t want to exclude the UFO crowd, the Elvis is alive crowd, or anybody else for that matter. As long as you have a conspiracy theory, I can make it recurs.

Now, let’s call my conspiracy theory CT1. I go on to make claim CT2:

Conspiracy theory CT1 is just a hoax to derail us from investigating the real truth about y.

I continue adding conspiracy theories, CT3, CT4, CT5, and so on, each one claiming that the previous one is just a hoax. I get the generalized form CTn:

Conspiracy theory CT(n-1) is just a hoax to derail us from investigating the real truth about y.

I’ve got a recursive conspiracy theory! Apply it to your favorite conspiracy and you can spend the rest of your life not only questioning the original fact y but yourself as well. There is no exit to the loop, so your children, grand-children, great grand-children, and so on, can continue with this pursuit. See? I’ve given meaning to your life and to the lives of many generations to come.

Oh, and never mind the fact that there is no evidence supporting any one of these theories. This are conspiracy theories, after all. Science is itself just a hoax to prevent us from investigating the real truth. Oops, That last sentence was a hoax. As was the previous one………

1. Surely if you need to investigate y, then y is yet to be proven, so y itself is a conspiracy theory, no?

Comment by Nick Ramsay — 2008.03.31 @ 14:34

2. Interesting point. However, I would not necessarily agree that everything that has yet to be proved is a conspiracy theory. But it sure would add to the fun if it were, specially if combined with skepticism.

Comment by Lorenzo E. Danielsson — 2008.03.31 @ 14:44

3. This is an interesting conspiracy. Many people should know about this. We all know that freemasons basically run everything from drugs, to oil, to military. Maybe one day the new world order will be exposed for what it really is.

Comment by adamvoh — 2008.04.07 @ 01:12

4. Actually, the difference between “conspiracy theory” and “theory” or “hypothesis” is worthy of more examination; is it scarcity of evidence? Well, proofs start as theories which start as hypotheses which don’t have a lot of evidence. Perhaps it is the ethical argument that does it — conspiracy theories can be defined as theories believed in by crackpots. The flaws in this definition are glaring, obvious, and rather amusing. Conspiracy theories defined as wrong hit the atheist/agnostic pitfall as well as the fact that we don’t call Ptolemy’s cosmography a conspiracy theory. If you said that the difference was in that conspiracy theories are obviously wrong, then you’d have to deal with stuff like a lot of modern science making very little obvious sense, starting with relativity. Perhaps conspiracy theories are deliberate misinformation, but I’m sure that conspiracy theorists are, on the whole, sincere.
What then? I seem to have exhausted my reductionist repertoire and now I await the exciting cut-and-thrust of philosophical debate, to inaccurately quote a Terry Pratchett footnote; perhaps reductionist methods are insufficient and one must resort to intuition — but here, I have another one: conspiracy theories are theories involving usually high-level conspiracy that the speaker does not believe in, although of course that is a dangerously unstable definition. To use 9/11 as an example,, I have recently been exposed to some 9/11 truth propoganda, and some of their arguments are, well, definitely arguable. It appears that some of the people arguing that 9/11 was, at least in part, an inside job are not crackpots and can argue persuasively. I have seen some evidence that definitely made me stop and think, despite the obviously propagandistic presentation. Even if one defines conspiracy theories as theories that fall afoul of Occam’s Razor, the Razor is a fickle tool — broadly, simplicity is not always apparent and its appearance can be misleading — frankly, I think that some of the 9/11 theories are acceptable even to a fervent student of medieval English philosophy.
And above all, I wouldn’t put it beyond them. I remain an agnostic, but my point is that rejecting things outright as conspiracy theories has a little bit of intellectual dishonesty — after all, the true skeptic must give every theory a consideration, however cursory, and although I did enjoy reading about the Recursive Conspiracy Theory, humor is a dangerous instrument with which do discount something, simply because it is so effective and free of the constraints of relevance.

Cheers,
Marc Trius

PS-OT: I think I’ve been reading your blog for two or three hours now, as it is highly entertaining, instructive, and allows me to procrastinate instead of trying to figure out the art of programming, in python. I think I’m done for tonight but I will be back =]

Comment by Marc Trius — 2008.08.16 @ 10:02