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Conspiracy Theory

(also known as: canceling hypothesis, canceling hypotheses, cover-ups)

Description: Explaining that your claim cannot be proven or verified because the truth is being hidden and/or evidence destroyed by a group of two or more people.  When that reason is challenged as not being true or accurate, the challenge is often presented as just another attempt to cover up the truth and presented as further evidence that the original claim is true.

Logical Form:

A is true.

B is why the truth cannot be proven.

Therefore, A is true.

Example #1:

Noah’s ark has been found by the Russian government a long time ago, but because of their hate for religion, they have been covering it up ever since.

Example #2:

Geologists and scientists all over the world are discovering strong evidence for a 6000-year-old earth, yet because of the threat of ruining their reputation, they are suppressing the evidence and keeping quiet.

Explanation: The psychology behind conspiracy theories is quite complex and involves many different cognitive biases and fallacies discussed in this book.  In general, people tend to overlook the incredible improbabilities involved in a large-scale conspiracy, as well as the potential risks for all involved in the alleged cover-up.  In the above examples, those who stick with a literal interpretation of the Bible often experience cognitive dissonance, or the mental struggle involved when one’s beliefs contradict factual claims.  This cognitive dissidence causes people to create conspiracy theories, like the ones above, to change facts to match their beliefs, rather than changing their beliefs to match facts.

Exception: Sometimes, there really are conspiracies and cover-ups.  The more evidence one can present for a cover-up, the better, but we must remember that possibility does not equal probability.

Tip: Take time to question any conspiracy theories in which you believe are true.  Do the research with an open mind.

References:

Barkun, M. (2006). A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. University of California Press.



Registered User Comments

Petra Liverani
Wednesday, August 14, 2019 - 07:03:11 AM
Here's a wonderful debunking of conspiracy theorists by Gerard Holmgren, a 9/11 research and analysis pioneer, who sadly died of an aggressive brain tumour at the age of 51.
http://serendipity.li/wot/holmgren01.htm

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Wednesday, August 14, 2019 - 07:39:24 AM
sadly died of an aggressive brain tumour at the age of 51

Or did he????
:)

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Petra Liverani
Friday, May 03, 2019 - 04:09:36 AM
The Conspiracy Theory fallacy is misnamed I think. Some would say that you couldn't get more incriminating than the collapse of WTC-7 on 9/11. There simply is no more perfect implosion that you can watch over and over again on YouTube. Some conspiracy theories may involve information that's hidden but the claims about 9/11 being an inside conspiracy are all based on scientific fact and clearly available evidence. Scientifically, all you need is the 2.25 seconds of free fall acceleration in the collapse of WTC-7 (agreed to by NIST) to prove than 9/11 was an inside conspiracy. Free fall acceleration in the collapse of WTC-7 could only have happened if all its 82 steel support columns failed at virtually the same time and for that to have happened they must have been cut by charges. There is absolutely no other possible explanation and there is certainly no evidence to cast doubt on this fact.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, May 03, 2019 - 06:17:10 AM
Some would say that you couldn't get more incriminating than the collapse of WTC-7 on 9/11.

Yes, conspiracy theorists. I will let others take the bait here.

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Petra Liverani
Friday, May 03, 2019 - 09:06:09 PM
I feel as if there's a bit of ad hominem here in "take the bait". It seems to imply I'm not serious in my argument and can simply be dismissed as a "conspiracy theorist". There is no addressing of my actual argument.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Saturday, May 04, 2019 - 06:22:13 AM
@Petra Liverani: As stated, it is not the topic of this site to argue for or against conspiracy theories. This is a site about logical fallacies. See my comment above about posting in our forum. Members can evaluate your argument for fallacies and perhaps help you present it better.

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Petra Liverani
Saturday, May 04, 2019 - 07:39:03 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: I take your point, however, I think my point remains: it seems to me that the conspiracy theory fallacy is a version of the appeal to ignorance fallacy but conspiracy theories can often be based on scientific evidence and one clear example is 9/11 as indicated by the groups Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Scientists for 9/11 Truth, Scholars for 9/11 Truth etc. The trouble with the term "conspiracy theory" is that it covers conspiracies which are extremely different in nature although the same people people may believe the very different kinds. For example, many people who recognise that 9/11 was an inside conspiracy also believe that astronauts didn't land on the moon whereas evidence supports we did land on the moon and all hoax arguments fail for one reason or another. I think it's because people tend to either believe everything that comes from the authorities or they believe nothing. Very few people in my experience judge every case purely by the evidence and I see all the logical fallacies on display in how people judge (admittedly, I just used one myself as you point out, however, that was really more carelessness - my logic stands strong by the simple deletion of the first sentence). Just a couple of days ago a friend used the "millions of people" people argument with me. When I told her that was the bandwagon logical fallacy she replied that in the particular argument we were having it applied. I'm like, "No a logical fallacy can never be used as an argument."

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Saturday, May 04, 2019 - 07:58:44 AM
@Petra Liverani: I think you are misunderstanding what this fallacy is about. It is

Explaining that your claim cannot be proven or verified because the truth is being hidden and/or evidence destroyed by a group of two or more people. When that reason is challenged as not being true or accurate, the challenge is often presented as just another attempt to cover up the truth and presented as further evidence that the original claim is true.

If you are claiming that you have scientific evidence for your position, you are not guilty of this fallacy. You still would be a "conspiracy theorist" by most people's understanding because you support a conspiracy theory. This label is different from the fallacy. Hope that is clear.

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Petra Liverani
Saturday, May 04, 2019 - 09:08:52 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: I see. Thanks, however, I feel that the name of the fallacy does tend to, as do so many other things, help promote the idea that conspiracy theories are, by definition, bogus. I think of myself as a conspiracy analyst, not a conspiracy theorist. I'm not interested in potential conspiracies where I feel the available information is too little to make a judgement on, only those where it is sufficient - which, funnily enough, applies to many for a very counterintuitive reason ... but that's a whole other story.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Saturday, May 04, 2019 - 09:11:21 AM
@Petra Liverani: Your opinion is noted.

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David Blomstrom
Monday, May 06, 2019 - 12:12:45 AM
@Petra Liverani: I'll have to ask you to review my book Conspiracy Science 101 when it's finished (sometime in the fall, hopefully). ;)

That said, I both agree and disagree with much of what you say. 9/11 was clearly an inside job, and the logic behind that claim is staring us right in the face. The sheer number of red flags is mind boggling; you have to be a circus acrobat to juggle all the inconsistencies in a story that was fabricated by people who are effectively professional liars.

However, I don't agree with your statement that killing people isn't the U.S. government's modus operandi. I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker from NYC that suggests some people may have indeed been warned not to go to work that day. So you could be correct in this case.

If true, however, I suspect only certain people were warned. Liars can claim the Pentagon was hit by a commercial airliner that wasn't even photographed, and they can claim the magically collapsing World Trade Center was just a fluke, but claiming that 3,000 people died with no bodies to back it up would be quite a stunt - not impossible, perhaps, but it just sounds a little far-fetched to me.

In fact, the U.S. government has never been shy about throwing people under the bus when it suits their purpose. The most infamous "false flag attacks" involved some pretty heavy fatalities.

There are also a number of aborted or failed conspiracies plotted by the U.S. and Israel that would have been pretty bloody had they been carried out. Examples include Operation Northwoods and the Lavon Affair. These aren't "fringe theory;" they're well substantiated, and are widely publicized.

Thank you for your interest in conspiracy analysis. We desperately need more people who haven't drunk the Kool-Aid. ;)

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Petra Liverani
Monday, May 06, 2019 - 02:26:09 AM
@David Blomstrom: Hi David, We probably shouldn't continue this discussion here - I'm going to post a question on the Q&A site ... just to say that I have very good logic, reason and evidence to back up my claim that death and injury were staged which you can find here.
https://occamsrazorterrorevents.weebly.com/3000-dead-and-6000-injured-a-lie.html

The secret to 9/11 is in the propaganda campaign - so clever. They could not but have anticipated the truthers, right, in fact, they almost "fostered" us by giving us WTC-7's collapse on a platter - it was completely unnecessary for the terror story. And then they almost gagged us with the truth of controlled demolition - so very much about CD. The reason? They transformed the truth liability of CD into a propaganda asset by using it to suppress the other very important truth - staged death and injury. So we have the disinfo agent "loved ones" such as Bob McIlvaine calling "CD" and "my son, Bobby, was killed", etc. With only half the truth of 9/11, truthers are hamstrung because no one will believe the US govt would kill those people in the buildings and they're right - they wouldn't cos not their MO and, of course, if 3,000 people really had died and 6,000 had been injured (we're talking 9,000 people) there'd be way more people kicking up a fuss than Bob and the 9/11 "Family Steering Committee", way, way more. And they'd be kicking up much, more more fuss than the very polite way they're carrying on. While people swallow propaganda, if reluctantly, under normal circumstances when a loved is murdered they go nuts.

If you're writing a book on conspiracy science you really need to go to my website as you'll find information you certainly won't find anywhere else. Pearl Harbour, the 1980 Bologna station bombing, 9/11 and the 2017 Mogadishu bombing all have something very much in common - bombings occurred ... but they were in an evacuated area. And, of course, there's more than those four - no doubt Oklahoma and others were too but I haven't yet studied them.

You will also find something else not well known - the power elite always tell us what they're up to - that's the really counterintuitive thing that people seem to have so much trouble believing but for which there is so much evidence. I had no problem believing it myself on hearing it from staged event analyst, Ole Dammegard, because it explained so many things that had previously baffled me, eg, Larry Silverstein's "pull it" (not that he ever would have really said that, of course, but it's a sign they give us).

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JD Harness
Monday, September 24, 2018 - 11:26:42 AM
Perhaps one counter-argument is that there is a weaker form of this argument which may not be a logical fallacy:

1.A is true
2.B is why A cannot be disproved
3.Therefore, A is not a scientific theory

If so, then isn’t the real issue whether reducing the strength of conspiracy theories’ claims is fatal to conspiracy theories? Perhaps one way of showing it is not fatal is by showing that other credible propositions take a similar form. I think there are many claims that do not rise to the level of scientific theories, yet are reasonably endorsed by many credible people. For example, it seems like many if not most interpretations of history take this form, and yet the discipline of history is not universally discredited. And many legal claims – specifically, those propositions put to a court or jury as decider of fact – seem to take this form, as well, yet are nonetheless given the weight of law, up to and including capital punishment. More generally, how many of a given person’s beliefs about the world do not rise to the level of a scientific theory, yet are reasonably believed nonetheless? It seems that the proportion may be high.

If the counter-counter argument were to be that the counter argument is irrelevant to the initial claim, then perhaps a useful response to that counter-counter argument is that the initial argument is a red herring. Dismissing “conspiracy theories” in general is a not a good idea simply because they are misconstrued or misapplied by illogical people.

Clearly, the terms "conspiracy" and "theory" should not be co-applied, but I do believe there is historical evidence supporting the claim that the misleading term “conspiracy theory” was put forward and promoted by the CIA.

All this is to say nothing of another potential counter-argument, to the effect that a claim of conspiracy does not necessarily have to imply that the claim cannot be disproved.

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David Blomstrom
Monday, May 06, 2019 - 12:22:34 AM
Wow, this discussion has really probed the conspiracy maze.

We can see how the fallacy fallacy can be a sort of paradox: A person who claims an event was conspiratorial can further claim the logical fallacies in the official narrative bolster his case. If someone presents a counter-argument, he can claim they're working for the dark side.

It sounds pretty flaky, except 1) conspiracy is extremely common, 2) the official narratives are generally studded with fallacies, and 3) anyone who asks too many questions will very likely wind up going to head with a propagandist who knows how to play games with the truth.

Your statement that the term "conspiracy theory" was minted by the CIA is an interesting claim I've heard before. I wonder if it's true, or if it's just a bogus claim made in order to discredit conspiracy theory?

Either way, I think the term is perfectly acceptable. In fact, I think the best way to fight the propaganda machine is to get right in their face and not let them dictate our vocabulary.

The words conspiracy and plot are virtual synonyms, and anyone who has studied history knows people have been plotting against each other for thousands of years. As cultural evolution and technology advance, it's only logical that conspiracy/plotting has advanced from relatives trying to seize a throne to collusion between multiple agencies, multi-national corporations and diverse national governments.

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David Blomstrom
Thursday, August 17, 2017 - 08:45:29 PM
This is confusing, because there are genuine conspiracies (e.g. Watergate, 9/11). Imagine if you wrote a book and some organization really was trying to discredit it or limit its distribution. You tell your readers that there's a conspiracy to discredit your book, and someone then accuses you of exploiting the conspiracy theory fallacy?

How would you defend yourself? Would you just say, "I'm aware that some people exploit conspiracy theory, but this is the real thing - it's a genuine conspiracy"?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, August 18, 2017 - 06:08:56 AM
In the exception, I wrote, "The more evidence one can present for a cover-up, the better, but we must remember that possibility does not equal probability." Watergate is a genuine conspiracy because it has been objectively demonstrated as such (i.e., evidence has come out and been made public). 9/11 is far from a "genuine conspiracy" (unless you are referring to the Islam extremists conspiring against the US). One may end up being right and evidence may one day demonstrate one being right, but reason is a process, not a result. People can be right for all the wrong reasons—this makes them lucky; not reasonable. To demonstrate you are not involved in fallacious thinking, you have to demonstrate WHY you hold the views you do, why you accept the "evidence" you do, and as objectively as possible, see if your acceptance of weak evidence is motivated by your mistrust for authority/media rather than the facts speaking for themselves. And as with all alleged conspiracies, critically think about everything that had to take place for this to be kept a "secret" and how probable that is compared to it not being a conspiracy.

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David Blomstrom
Friday, August 18, 2017 - 06:32:07 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Well said. Thanks.

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Petra Liverani
Thursday, May 02, 2019 - 10:01:51 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: It is very easy to prove that 9/11 was an inside conspiracy by pointing out the logical fallacies in the official story.

The NIST report is all one big logical fallacy, the informal logical fallacy of assertion. Let's stick to the collapse of WTC-7, as the lack of involvement of planes makes it simpler.

NIST rejected study of the most obvious hypothesis of controlled demolition (CD) on the basis that the sounds heard were not loud enough to be of explosions resulting from explosives. This is a simply a made-up basis. Firstly, the sounds were quite loud and secondly, many other characteristics of CD were displayed while no signs of an uncontrolled collapse caused by fire were, so there was no legitimate reason to exclude study of CD nor any particular reason to study fire as cause.

Starting from that false premise NIST surmised that at column 79 "thermal expansion" pushed a girder off it seat which led to the collapse of the column which, in turn, led to a global collapse of columns throughout the building. There is zero evidence for this surmise. Completely zero - either from a precedent point of view or from data obtained from the collapse itself.

However, we do have the data showing the collapse of the building which exhibits every single characteristic of controlled demolition you can imagine. It's the full checklist.
See: https://occamsrazorterrorevents.weebly.com/collapse-of-wtc-7.html

The biggest secret of 9/11 isn't that it was an inside conspiracy, no, not at all, the biggest secret is that death and injury were staged so while it was an inside conspiracy the US govt did not kill the people in the buildings - which, of course, would never, ever be their modus operandi.
See: https://occamsrazorterrorevents.weebly.com/3000-dead-and-6000-injured-a-lie.html

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, May 03, 2019 - 06:20:38 AM
@Petra Liverani:

It is very easy to prove that 9/11 was an inside conspiracy by pointing out the logical fallacies in the official story.

This first sentence alone clearly demonstrates the problem with your reasoning. Logical fallacies don't make the claim false and certainly don't "prove" competing claims true. As for everything else you wrote, I will let others take the bait if they so choose.

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Petra Liverani
Friday, May 03, 2019 - 08:56:30 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: I screwed up, didn't I? But then in dismissing my argument perhaps you're guilty of the fallacy fallacy? Not included in yours but here it is:

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/the-fallacy-fallacy
You presumed that because a claim has been poorly argued, or a fallacy has been made, that the claim itself must be wrong.
It is entirely possible to make a claim that is false yet argue with logical coherency for that claim, just as it is possible to make a claim that is true and justify it with various fallacies and poor arguments.

Example: Recognising that Amanda had committed a fallacy in arguing that we should eat healthy food because a nutritionist said it was popular, Alyse said we should therefore eat bacon double cheeseburgers every day.

If we delete the first sentence that contains my logical fallacy I think my argument works - but perhaps you can detect another logical fallacy?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Saturday, May 04, 2019 - 06:18:28 AM
@Petra Liverani:

I screwed up, didn't I? But then in dismissing my argument perhaps you're guilty of the fallacy fallacy? Not included in yours

Actually, your claim

It is very easy to prove that 9/11 was an inside conspiracy by pointing out the logical fallacies in the official story.

is a perfect example of the fallacy fallacy, also known as argument from fallacy (listed on our site). Here is the important part: had I said anything remotely similar to you in that "because you made a fallacy everything you wrote was wrong" then I, too, would be guilty of this. I did not.

This isn't the place to argue for your favorite conspiracy theory and not my place to attempt to defend the default position. I do welcome you to post your argument on our forum to get feedback from the community: https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/qa/Bo/LogicalFallacies. I try to address only logical fallacies here and avoid taking a position on arguments when I can (but sometimes I do, because I am only human).

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Petra Liverani
Sunday, May 05, 2019 - 07:56:58 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Yes, you are right. You didn't dismiss my argument so you were not committing the fallacy fallacy (argument from fallacy). It's such a relief to have a discussion with someone whose beliefs oppose mine and yet have it stay on a logical basis. The vast majority of people do not keep their argument to a logical basis but are guided by beliefs and emotions - and that includes every self-styled skeptic I have engaged with whose narrow mindedness and complete lack of logic in argument is utterly shameful.
I have just bought your book on Kindle.

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