258: Conspiracy Theories
Title text: There are a lot of graduate-educated young-earth creationists.
A conspiracy theory purports to explain a social, political, or economic event as being caused or covered up by a covert group or organization. A typical example is the moon landing conspiracy, which asserts that no human has ever reached the Moon.
Once a conspiracy theory starts, it often grows stronger. Facts agreeing with the theory are, of course, evidence for the theory. Facts disagreeing with the theory are considered part of the cover-up, and thus prove there is in fact a cover-up, so they're also evidence for the theory. In the Moon landing case, videos of men walking on the Moon are assumed to be faked by Hollywood studios, so the existence of the assumed fake videos proves the cover-up. Also, the absence of filming crew or anything else needed for faking a video is considered further proof of how carefully the cover-up was planned. No matter what happens next, it will be evidence for the conspiracy theory.
People promoting these theories belong to a small minority but they gain attention by many people — often without much knowledge on that specific matter. People who have actual knowledge about a given subject just get frustrated by this, because it seems like smart or educated people should reject conspiracy theories for lack of proof. In the comic, Hairy (who is considered "smart" by Cueball) starts pointing out errors in the "official" 9/11 story, obviously starting to describe the 9/11 conspiracy theory. Cueball cuts his speech sharply, and his heart is broken because he's seeing his smart friend wasting his great intelligence in a foolish conspiracy theory, instead of doing something useful.
In the second panel, Cueball rants about conspiracy theories in general. He mentions Young Earth creationism, the Moon landing and Perpetual motion machines. In the third panel, Hairy mentions that of course we never landed on the Moon. This frustrates Cueball so much that he just walks away with no further comment.
In the last panel, Cueball asks God to fix the bug he committed when creating smart beings capable of believing such foolish things as conspiracy theories. This is a not-so-subtle joke as, to atheists, God himself is quite similar to a conspiracy theory. Indeed, a good portion of evidence against God's existence put forward by an atheist is met with a "whatever happens, it's God's will" by believers' side. This is much like any other conspiracy theory, so in this last panel Cueball is pictured as contradicting himself by complaining that other people believe in foolish conspiracy theories when he himself is very plainly believing his own foolish conspiracy theory.
Of course, from the believers' perspective, atheism also has many characteristics of a conspiracy theory. In particular, atheism and agnosticism are a small subculture — actually smaller in the U.S. than the 9/11 Truth movement — that thinks a large majority of people (about 95% of Americans believe in God) have been deluded into believing something ridiculous by conspiracies (i.e. churches and conservative politicians) that benefit from spreading misinformation on the subject. Some atheists are rational in that they take evidence against this position seriously and adjust their beliefs to fit all the facts, but some are quite willing to make claims that have been decisively refuted.
A "bug report" is a description of some error that occurred when using a computer program, to inform the developer of a problem that needs to be fixed. Filing a "bug report" to God should be unnecessary, as God is generally understood by believers to be omniscient, and thus already aware of the problem and, presumably, be allowing it to exist for explicable reasons of "God's will" .
The title text refers the large number of educated people who believe in Young Earth creationism, stating that the earth is only thousands of years old, instead of the billions of years evolutionary scientists suggest.
- Hairy: The official story of 9-11 is full of holes. Take the—
- Cueball: Please, stop, because seeing this happen to you breaks my heart.
- Cueball: Conspiracy theories represent a known glitch in human reasoning. The theories are of course occasionally true, but their truth is completely uncorrelated with the believer's certainty. For some reason, sometimes when people think they've uncovered a lie, they raise confirmation bias to an art form. They cut context away from facts and arguments and assemble them into reassuring litanies. And over and over I've argued helplessly with smart people consumed by theories they were sure were irrefutable, theories that in the end proved complete fictions.
- Cueball: Young-Earth Creationists, the Moon Landing people, the Perpetual Motion subculture — can't you see you're falling into the same pattern?
- Hairy: You don't seriously believe we landed on the moon. Do you?
- [Cueball flees.]
- [Cueball praying:]
- Cueball: Dear God.
- [Booming from the sky:]
- God: YES, MY CHILD?
- Cueball: I would like to file a bug report.
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