Does the Latest Research Show that ‘Conspiracy Theorists’ are the Sane Ones?

Would the towers really have been pulverised like this were the official story true?

The Towers did not just collapse, they were pulverised.

Over the past fortnight, many blogs have reproduced and commented on this piece on Iran’s Press TV website, written by Dr Kevin Barrett, which begins,

Recent studies by psychologists and social scientists in the US and UK suggest that contrary to mainstream media stereotypes, those labeled “conspiracy theorists” appear to be saner than those who accept the official versions of contested events.

I have known this for years, but anyway, the article concentrates on this: the most recent study was published on July 8th by psychologists Michael J. Wood and Karen M. Douglas of the University of Kent (UK). Entitled “What about Building 7? A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories,” the study compared “conspiracist” (pro-conspiracy theory) and “conventionalist” (anti-conspiracy) comments at news websites.

Building 7, as you hopefully know, was the third skyscraper to completely collapse on 9/11, despite not being hit by a plane, and in exactly the same fashion as a conventional, deliberate demolition. For this reason, it is, for many people, the biggest “smoking gun” to the 9/11 attacks being an inside job.

Not keen to unreservedly trust this state-funded Iranian English language media outlet, I did a little digging (which wasn’t too difficult at all) and found that one of the authors, Michael Wood, was keen on “Setting the record straight” about how, in his opinion, his findings have been misrepresented. Or have they?

He admits that in his studies, anti-conspiracy commenters were often hostile. This has been obvious to me all along. The entire findings from their study on online debates on articles either side of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 by Wood and Douglas can be found here. In it, the authors conclude that,

Conventionalist comments (M = 2.08, SD = 1.02) were significantly more hostile than conspiracist comments (M = 1.44, SD = 0.79), t(2172) = 16.22, p < 0.001 (see Table 1).

This is hardly surprising, as “conspiracist” commentators have likely studied the events in far greater depth than those who believe the official conspiracy theory, which leaves the OCT defenders short on intellectual ammunition and so resort to insults.

I have found the same is true when I attempt to debate with Richard Dawkins’ adherents. I want to talk about the science, but they know little or nothing about it, so in what passes as defence of their beliefs, they resort to ridiculing scripture and personal attacks in an attempt to conceal their own lack of knowledge on a matter they vehemently defend for no other reason than that it suits their preferred worldview. I was banned from Dawkins’ blog for allegedly proselytising, when what I was doing was replying to the questions posed on scriptural matters by Dawkins’ little piranhas.

When Subrosa asked me to write a guest post on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I was happy to oblige and also delighted to discover that she was also unconvinced by the official story. The majority of the comments at her place were supportive of an alternative narrative to the official story and later on, one B.J Edwards hijacked the thread with plenty of hostility and accusations of “denial” against those who dared to disbelieve the government’s story, because as everyone knows, the government never lies!

Then, very interestingly, when I reposted the same article on this blog, a commenter called ewingsc wrote,

bjedwards has been using the same old crappy suppression techniques for years – trying to bully and ridicule people into shutting up about alternate theories to the official version of events …

The following quote from Victor Thorn sums him up pretty well :

“A paid back-room moles to infiltrate every possible 9/11 chat room, message board, and forum to create as much din, disruption, “noise,” and chaos as possible which constantly litters and pollutes the soup; effectively preventing most people from focusing on Israel’s central role in 9/11.

A seeming obsession with minutiae where researchers spend an inordinate amount of time endlessly fixating on the tiniest of details without stepping back and exposing the bigger picture and its subsequent ramifications.

Or else they’ll engage in rhetorical debates for debate’s sake; all of which is sterile, self-contained, and circular in nature.”

One thing he can’t / won’t talk about – is the fast and symmetrical collapse of WTC 7….

I have found him to be a despicable person – when I have dealt with him in the past.

Well, he certainly likes to avoid the actual issues. Clearly a “denier” himself.

Back to this latest study, and Michael Wood writes that, conspiracists mentioned more unrelated conspiracy theories positively than conventionalists did – conspiracists were more likely to say something like “9/11 was an inside job, just like the JFK assassination.”

This is patently obvious, as once you have developed a distrust of government – which is healthy and wholly natural, I would add – other events laden with inconsistencies are bound to be viewed with suspicion. JFK, despite his many faults, wanted to change how the country was run in ways which were totally at odds with the real power-brokers, so he had to go. In the polls which I have seen, most people now view the Kennedy assassination as a government operation.

What we do glean from “What about building 7?” A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories by Michael J. Wood and Karen M. Douglas is that those they call conspiracists are more able to debate without becoming hostile, so this could indeed be used as evidence that we are more sane than the so-called conventionalists (i.e. government/mainstream media believers).

This video from the first blog I linked to (orwelliania.wordpress.com) helps explain why people stick to the official conspiracy: cognitive dissonance kicks in. Talking to people face to face about this, I found that most agree that the government gets up to all manner of evil, but they have tried to come to terms with this by saying such things as, “There is nothing we can do about it, so there is no point worrying” and “Maybe it was done by the government for the greater good” and, “They wouldn’t do that, would they?” and everyone wants to change the subject! Cognitive dissonance is hard to deal with for most folk. As for me, I knew on 9/11 itself that what I was witnessing on television did not add up, so rejecting the official tale was easy, although it took me a couple of years to start looking at the alternative scenarios. Evidence of cognitive dissonance from yours truly, perhaps, or simple laziness. I sure made up for the lost time!

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61 Responses to Does the Latest Research Show that ‘Conspiracy Theorists’ are the Sane Ones?

  1. Could you be a mutant, Ian? Perhaps the ladies say “I wouldn’t want to mate with that mutant” and maybe that’s the reason you’re dying out? More intelligent life-forms could play ‘Mock the Mutant’ with you for a long time – but that would be cruel. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll realise you’re a created human being (and choose life in Jesus) before it’s too late. I do hope so, for your sake.

    It’s tragic watching you spewing out your silly evolution-mythology over and over. I’m just waiting for you to say something like, “I’m sacrificing myself for the sake of planet earth and the greater good of mankind. My decision not to mate means one less mutant amongst men and a lower carbon footprint for a better world.” Ian, your passion for evolution-mythology is on the same level as your keen interest in comic strips. It’s time to grow up and accept reality. You are a man, or you ought to be. Your mind is captive to arguably the greatest deception of modern times (the ev-myth), as well as every other contemporary nonsense, as shown by your belief in global warming propaganda and your belief in perviage. You exemplify the old saying, “When man rejects belief in God, he doesn’t believe nothing. Rather, when man no longer believes in God, he will then believe anything.”

    Try doing some serious reading on a subject you clearly know nothing about yet: http://ukstore.creation.com/catalog/books-c-4.html The truth is available to you, and that truth has the power to set you free. You’re not a mutant or a monkey, you are a man, created and sustained by God, and you live on a planet in a universe created and sustained by God.

    Evolution-idiocy is treatable. Complete cures are common. If you have the intellectual courage to read some of the many excellent scientific books on creation that are available, and the intellectual honesty to accept you’ve been deceived when those books lay it all out for you, then there’s hope for you. You can mock and deny the truth for a time, but in the end the truth prevails whether you like it or not. Receive the truth and He will receive you; reject the truth and He will reject you. That truth is Jesus.

  2. Ian says:

    Richard,

    I’m sure you think your attempts to insult me are clever, but they just make you look stupid and help you lose the argument. If I have to become as petty and narrow minded to get in with your imaginary friends then I’d rather stay here in reality, thank you.

    I’m not a mutant, I’m a potential transitional fossil. As is every other living creature.

  3. Steve says:

    Stewart,

    You’re stating this as fact, which it isn’t. There isn’t a single verifiable example, never mind “countless”. It’s mythology. Even evolutionists I’ve debated with (the few sensible ones) insist it is still a “theory”.

    Sorry Stewart, I have a point to concede to you. In my previous post I over-reached from the general point to the more specific one that you were making. The precise mechanism by which the ‘reptilian’ lung evolved into the avian lung is indeed still a matter of speculation among scientists. There are several interesting ideas about it although there are several complicating factors (not least the definition of ‘reptilian’) and you are quite correct that there is currently no scientific consensus on how this transition occurred.

    The general point, however, stands intact!

    Do we have evidence of everything in the fossil record, or know the precise stages by which every organ of one group evolved into the equivalent or closest organ of another? No.

    Do we need to have fossil evidence of everything and know the precise stages by which every organ of one group evolved into the equivalent or closest organ of another before we accept the theory of evolution by natural selection? No, not in light of the mountain of fossil evidence we do have and the non-fossil evidence that backs it all up (not available in Darwin’s time).

    But the other reason it wouldn’t be sensible to expect that is because we know that certain lifeforms at certain stages of the evolutionary process do not/did not lend themselves to fossilisation. Soft bodied creatures and soft body parts (such as the lung) are not things we would ever expect to see fossilised, for obvious reasons. You accept this much, I hope.

    To hold up these “gaps” (in the fossil record, not in the theory itself) as proof of the falseness of evolution by natural selection would be to ignore the fact that we should expect not to have fossil evidence of everything. Frankly it’s amazing that we have as much as we do. And it all points to one very clear mechanism by which life developed: natural selection.

    You seem to be resorting to the argument from ignorance in saying that just because we don’t know how X became Y (or we currently lack evidence that X became Y), that X therefore cannot have become Y. And yes there are several things that creationists will have available to them if they want to use that tactic.

    The problem is that it’s somewhat akin to seeing a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of the Eiffel Tower laid out in front of you, complete apart from 10 missing pieces, and saying “These missing pieces prove that it isn’t the Eiffel Tower”.

    What explains such an extreme rejection of the picture staring you in the face, in the face of such evidence? The answer lies in the strong correlation between religiosity and rejection of the theory. Religious people (at least the more literalist ones) have a vested interest in rejecting anything at odds with certain core claims of their ‘holy book’. That may be uncomfortable reading but it’s as clear as day to those of us who have not attached ourselves to any one religion.

    As I said previously, all of this is before we get into the evidence from the distribution of flora and fauna on islands and continents, the evidence of living examples of natural selection such as bacteria, the evidence from studying radioactive clocks and isotopes in nature, the evidence from plate tectonics, the evidence from molecular genetics (which confirm to a staggering degree all the knowledge gleaned from the above). If you choose to deny all of this, you have to accept that you are rejecting the bulk of modern science – because so much relies on it – in which case, why bother trying to rebut points with science at all?

    This, for instance…

    Just one wrong mutation (and very few mutations are beneficial) wipes out all the previous alleged advances and the creature cannot breathe, dies and of course cannot reproduce and pass on all those previous alleged advances,

    …shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how evolution works. If this is how you think it works, then it’s no wonder you disbelieve it.

    if it was previously thought that nothing could move faster than the speed of light, when some now believe material can move billions of light years per second then, if true, blows the lid off the whole charade.

    Who is saying material can move billions of light years per second? And what material? If you mean tachyons, they’re still hypothetical. Quantum mechanics? That doesn’t contradict the larger point being made. The Universe appears to be expanding at a speed greater than that of light, but that’s different to matter inside the Universe doing the same thing.

  4. Steve says:

    The Old Testament also alludes to a spherical earth many centuries before “scientists”/natural philosophers caught up.

    The Koran and other holy texts make similar claims about scientific phenomena that they couldn’t have known (empirically) at the time. Does this prove Islam is the correct religion? The point is, it’s easy to retrospectively turn verses into predictions – you just have to exploit common cognitive errors like selection bias that humans are prone to make. It’s how countless magicians and charlatans have worked throughout the ages, from Nostradamus to Uri Geller, it’s how the Bible Code and various prophecies are swallowed so credulously, it’s how people see the Virgin Mary in a slice of toast. Have a read of a book called Irrationality by Stuart Sutherland. Don’t worry, nothing to do with atheism (or evolution). It will shed some light on why, for instance, we underestimate the effects of probability, and why we pick out things that match our argument (spherical earth!) and overlook the ones that don’t. Not because we’re duplicitous or deceitful but because we’re humans with imperfect brains.

    And Darwin did have serious doubts – scientific ones – e.g. the aforementioned lack of evidence in the fossil record to back up the theory.

    I would be interested if you could quote me where Darwin expressed serious scientific doubts about the correctness of his theory.

    I would also be interested if you could explain how, even if Darwin had such doubts, that would counter the sheer weight of evidence that exists for evolution by natural selection, not just that known about in his time but also that subsequently discovered over the last century – the discovery of DNA, etc. And why should a doubt from Darwin be worth more than a certainty from Russel Wallace at the same time?

    Finally, I mentioned selection bias earlier. You are demonstrating another classic case of it here. By arguing that even Darwin had doubts, you are utilising Darwin’s correctness for your argument but ignoring the fact that any such doubts of his would have been dwarfed by his acceptance of the theory – and you are ignoring or overlooking that bit. Having your cake and eating it!

    On which point, I’m off for my tea…

  5. “I’m not a mutant, I’m a potential transitional fossil.” (Ian Pattinson)

    A tranny indeed. To laugh or cry?

  6. Steve says:

    Guess what? You’re a tranny too Richard ;-)

  7. Stewart Cowan says:

    Ian – No, you changed the subject on WTC7 because the weight of evidence is clearly against you and everything you say has been debunked totally. End of.

    My example of evolution you cite was of a particular case and you have misread it.

    And I didn’t threaten to block you for disagreeing with me. I threatened to block you for never admitting you are wrong when continually proven so, yet still insisting you are right, thus wasting my time.

    “We’ve moved on to green energy because….” you’ve lost every other argument.

    But, you know – it’s okay to be wrong, as long as you learn from it.

  8. Stewart Cowan says:

    Steve – your first bit can be summed up when you write, “You seem to be resorting to the argument from ignorance in saying that just because we don’t know how X became Y (or we currently lack evidence that X became Y), that X therefore cannot have become Y. And yes there are several things that creationists will have available to them if they want to use that tactic.”

    a) I do not argue from ignorance.

    b) That is a total simplification of my viewpoint. The fossil record does not contain what it should were the Theory correct (and I’m not talking about soft tissue).

    Religious people (at least the more literalist ones) have a vested interest in rejecting anything at odds with certain core claims of their ‘holy book’. That may be uncomfortable reading but it’s as clear as day to those of us who have not attached ourselves to any one religion.

    Well, there’s where you’re wrong, because for 4/5ths of my life I believed in the Theory as do many ‘religious people’ because it’s presented as fact. It’s when I started looking into the *science* that I realised how flawed the Theory was.

    I hope you appreciate the gravity of that statement.

    As I said previously, all of this is before we get into the evidence from the distribution of flora and fauna on islands and continents, the evidence of living examples of natural selection such as bacteria, the evidence from studying radioactive clocks and isotopes in nature, the evidence from plate tectonics, the evidence from molecular genetics (which confirm to a staggering degree all the knowledge gleaned from the above). If you choose to deny all of this, you have to accept that you are rejecting the bulk of modern science – because so much relies on it – in which case, why bother trying to rebut points with science at all?

    I told you that natural selection is real – hence the large number of species derived from basic ‘kinds’. Dating from radioisotopes is not nearly as straightforward as it appears because there are many factors taken for granted when an evolutionist attempts to date items. The more we learn from new scientific discoveries the more ridiculous the Theory becomes.

    Like I said to Ian – one bad mutation in that lung and it can stop working properly and the creature dies. That’s a fact. Even if it had managed a few successive changes from a reptilian to avian lung. It’s fellows would no doubt suffer a similar fate. It’s too far fetched when you cast off your preconceptions and really think about it.

    I would be interested if you could quote me where Darwin expressed serious scientific doubts about the correctness of his theory.

    Darwin famously said that the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record is a major problem to his theory.

    You’re going on about natural selection again, for some reason, which Creationists agree with, because it can be demonstrated to be true. The discovery of DNA disproves the Theory further still, as Darwin thought a living cell was a mere blob of protoplasm, not something as complex as a city.

    Finally, I mentioned selection bias earlier. You are demonstrating another classic case of it here. By arguing that even Darwin had doubts, you are utilising Darwin’s correctness for your argument but ignoring the fact that any such doubts of his would have been dwarfed by his acceptance of the theory – and you are ignoring or overlooking that bit. Having your cake and eating it!

    Don’t know where you get your amateur psychology from…

  9. Ian says:

    And I didn’t threaten to block you for disagreeing with me. I threatened to block you for never admitting you are wrong when continually proven so, yet still insisting you are right, thus wasting my time.

    Oh, right, you didn’t threaten to block me for disagreeing with you, you threatened to block me for not agreeing with you and telling you why I didn’t agree with you. Sorry I couldn’t see the distinction.

    I come down on the reality based side of the argument- The fire in WTC7 weakened the steel frame, leading to a catastrophic collapse. It’s something that can happen to steel framed buildings- like this one.

    You, on the other hand, insist that the building was brought down in a controlled demolition. This would have required charges placed years before, which somehow didn’t go off prematurely when the building was hit by flaming debris or at any point in the several hours it was alight. The charges would have to be connected by wiring which also survived the damage and fire. Or maybe the charges were laid whilst the building burnt- an operation which can take weeks under ideal conditions. Do you really think these are more plausible?

    The reason I will not agree with you is because your claims are ludicrous and you have not proven me wrong. Repeatedly claiming that you are correct and refusing to address all the evidence that proves you aren’t isn’t winning an argument.

    I didn’t misread your comment about evolution. There really was only one way to read it- as a misunderstanding of mutation and evolution. If you can cite the case you were referring to and explain more clearly how a mutation in an individual affects the population as a whole- immediately and irrevocably, apparently- I’ll consider it again.

  10. Steve says:

    Hi Stewart.

    your first bit can be summed up when you write, “You seem to be resorting to the argument from ignorance in saying that just because we don’t know how X became Y (or we currently lack evidence that X became Y), that X therefore cannot have become Y. And yes there are several things that creationists will have available to them if they want to use that tactic.”
    a) I do not argue from ignorance.

    ‘Argument from ignorance’ isn’t about you personally being ignorant. It simply refers to a type of argument that uses the gaps in current scientific knowledge (where “ignorance” here simply means a universal lack of evidence) to arrive at or otherwise predominately support a conclusion. The next point you make characterises this…

    b) That is a total simplification of my viewpoint. The fossil record does not contain what it should were the Theory correct (and I’m not talking about soft tissue).

    Just reflect on this for a minute. Don’t you think it’s a little revealing that, in order to try and disprove the theory of evolution by natural selection, creationists are having to rummage around what isn’t there? Let me expand on this a bit. All it would take to disprove the theory of evolution by natural selection is ONE incorrect fossil. The proverbial rabbit fossil in the Precambrian, or the equivalent thereof. It’s not as if creationists have been short of opportunities here. Millions of fossils have been discovered – a LOT of chances for the theory to be blown out of the water. But it hasn’t happened. So far, every single fossil find has been consistent with the theory. Not one is at odds with it. Over all the years that we’ve been unearthing them. Doesn’t that ever strike you as… weird?

    It’s unsurprising that creationists usually stay silent on this and instead choose to focus on what isn’t there. They argue that the fossil record lacks things that it should contain for the theory to be correct. Problem is Stewart, that’s the argument from ignorance right there – and the reason it’s spurious is nothing to do with evolution, nothing to do with belief in God – it’s simply a well-known fallacy in informal logic. It’s fallacious because it excludes the other possiblity, that there’s been insufficient investigation and incomplete evidence. And staying on this for a minute, since you cited Darwin on this, I will jump forward to that part of your post before returning to the rest…

    Darwin famously said that the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record is a major problem to his theory.

    Here is Darwin writing about this in On The Origin of Species…

    “Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.”

    Notice that last bit. In other words, the worst that can be thrown at my theory is that there is an incomplete fossil record – but it can be explained by the fact that the geological record is imperfect.

    Not quite a case of Darwin having “serious doubts” about the theory.

    (If you weren’t referring to that particular passage, perhaps you could point to where you are citing his serious doubts?)

    Incidentally if you’ve read OTOoS, as I’m sure you have, you’ll probably recall that Darwin devotes three chapters to possible objections to the theory. He does this not because the objections reflect “serious doubts” on his part, but because he is doing what all good scientists do and addressing the possible objections. Stress-testing his theory as we might say nowadays.

    Let me back up a bit and focus on the religious element…

    Well, there’s where you’re wrong, because for 4/5ths of my life I believed in the Theory as do many ‘religious people’ because it’s presented as fact. It’s when I started looking into the *science* that I realised how flawed the Theory was.

    What you have said hasn’t negated the point I was making:

    “Religious people (at least the more literalist ones) have a vested interest in rejecting anything at odds with certain core claims of their ‘holy book’

    Insisting that you personally were governed by the science rather than what (just coincidentally) happens to be written in your particular religion’s holy text – doesn’t alter the fact that this vested interest exists, irrespective of whether or not you personally are succumbing to it.

    Nor does it alter the entirely predictable strong correlation between people who refuse to accept the theory of evolution by natural selection and people who take a more literal approach to their holy texts. More and more religious people are now happy to accept the theory. That’s not in dispute. But of the people who don’t accept the theory, an overwhelming majority of them are religious. That’s the correlation that’s very telling, don’t you think? I don’t have the sources to hand but I will search for it when I have a spare moment. I recall people were asked why they don’t accept the theory. By far the most popular reason: it didn’t accord with their religion. You’re probably not surprised by that, but there’s the vested interest right there. Or rather the prior ideological convictions.

    You may at this point be tempted to try and draw a parallel with the atheist’s vested interest. I can only speak for myself on this when i say that my non-religiosity is not a set-in-stone dogma. You lack any beliefs in Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism, etc – whereas I just go one further, I lack belief in yours too, ie. all of them. Now I have no vested interest in lacking a belief in God. Life would be a lot more bearable for me if I believed in God. But the arguments – and I’m very familiar with them – just don’t add up.

    On a related note…

    Like I said to Ian – one bad mutation in that lung and it can stop working properly and the creature dies. That’s a fact. Even if it had managed a few successive changes from a reptilian to avian lung. It’s fellows would no doubt suffer a similar fate. It’s too far fetched when you cast off your preconceptions and really think about it.

    Preconceptions? My only driving concern, and the concern of any good scientist, is to go where the evidence takes me. Losing arguments, changing my mind, conceding errors – these don’t bother me in the slightest. (If I was the kind of person to let preconceptions and established truths steer my path, I would not be holding the positions I currently do on Syria, 9/11, etc ;-) )

    On the substance of what you wrote though, you appear to be repeating the same misunderstanding of the theory that you demonstrated in your previous assertion that “Just one wrong mutation (and very few mutations are beneficial) wipes out all the previous alleged advances and the creature cannot breathe, dies and of course cannot reproduce and pass on all those previous alleged advance.

    A single bad mutation can of course result in the individual dying. But if an individual survives to pass on their genes to their offspring, the probability that those genes will then be passed on again in more than one individual increases exponentially. Exponentiality is a funny thing that we as humans have a hard time getting our heads around. Same with spans of time greater than what we’re used to working with. Exponential increases in probability combined with an enormous number of individuals over an enormous span of time explains how good mutations can incrementally work their way through a population even though it seems, intuitively impossible, far-fetched, counter to common sense.

    Don’t know where you get your amateur psychology from…

    Finally, I just want to stress that my point about selection bias wasn’t intended to be in any way insulting to you (we are all of us susceptible to cognitive errors although we can learn to become better at spotting them) nonetheless I hope you weren’t offended by it. I appreciate you taking the time to post all your responses here.

  11. Stewart Cowan says:

    Ian,

    You still don’t get it, do you? I threatened to block you for consistently wasting my time with false information and when proven wrong every time, totally ignore the fact and present your next folly.

    Of course Building 7 was wired up to detonate long in advance.

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