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Old 22nd June 2012, 02:35 PM   #1
cjnewson88
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University focus on Philosophy and Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

According to a local news paper (section C1) the Victoria University (Wellington, NZ) is opening a philosophy course which aims to study the philosophy and psychology behind conspiracy theories, and why people believe them. It will look at events such as Moon landings, 9/11, JFK, all the way to Reptilian Humanoids, but not necessarily regarding fact or fiction, but more looking at why they existed, and why people believe them.

Thoughts?

Edit: News paper link seems to require a log in. Here is a link to the university website:
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Old 23rd June 2012, 04:25 AM   #2
uke2se
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Originally Posted by cjnewson88 View Post
According to a local news paper (section C1) the Victoria University (Wellington, NZ) is opening a philosophy course which aims to study the philosophy and psychology behind conspiracy theories, and why people believe them. It will look at events such as Moon landings, 9/11, JFK, all the way to Reptilian Humanoids, but not necessarily regarding fact or fiction, but more looking at why they existed, and why people believe them.

Thoughts?

Edit: News paper link seems to require a log in. Here is a link to the university website:
Probably the most interesting aspect of conspiracy theories. The theories themselves are easily dismissed as fiction, but the big question is why people buy into them. I don't think it can be explained by just labeling all CTs as nuts, so there's got to be something else going on in their brains.
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Old 23rd June 2012, 05:12 AM   #3
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I suspect this is related to the group that worked on this book with David Coady. At the time, Coady was at the University of Tasmania, but many of his colleagues are from that part of the world.

The book deals mainly with the idea of conspiracy, rather than what we here generally think of as conspiracy theory. There is some overlap, but much of it addresses the real conspiracies that lead to things like the Russian Revolution. etc. I found it difficult reading and not all that pertinent to my interests.

Then again, it may not be the same people. I'll be interested to find out if it is and what books they'll be using.
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Old 24th June 2012, 09:32 AM   #4
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I hope they concentrate on the psychology

of CT believers. (I almost wrote "pathology of CTers," but maybe that's a little premature.) Certainly the mind of the believer is the point of interest here; their actual beliefs, i.e., the stuff they assert, are hardly worth much study. Posters here shoot them down every day.

I would expect a similarity between religion and CTism to emerge -- or do I mean an indistinguishable identity? -- in terms of the believer's underlying neediness. Their readiness to get nasty when challenged certainly looks similar.

It would be wrong of me to gossip about our own Clayfeet Moore and Truthsinker, so I won't.
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Old 24th June 2012, 11:33 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by sackett View Post
of CT believers. (I almost wrote "pathology of CTers," but maybe that's a little premature.) Certainly the mind of the believer is the point of interest here; their actual beliefs, i.e., the stuff they assert, are hardly worth much study. Posters here shoot them down every day.

I would expect a similarity between religion and CTism to emerge -- or do I mean an indistinguishable identity? -- in terms of the believer's underlying neediness. Their readiness to get nasty when challenged certainly looks similar.

It would be wrong of me to gossip about our own Clayfeet Moore and Truthsinker, so I won't.
I was thinking myself that besides the usual suspect of paranoia, they should also check into phobia and narcissism, on the psychology front.
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Old 24th June 2012, 12:28 PM   #6
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It's my fascination with conspiracy theorists way more than the theories themselves that brings me back to this sub forum time and time again
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Old 25th June 2012, 10:07 AM   #7
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Yes, maybe pathololgy is the right term

Originally Posted by LSSBB View Post
I was thinking myself that besides the usual suspect of paranoia, they should also check into phobia and narcissism, on the psychology front.
Many of the CTers we get on this forum certainly seem to betray narcissistic traits. How they do love attention, and how they can drivel on! And how lofty and significant their beliefs make them!

Phobias? Hadn't thought of those, but a few poor souls who've shown up here seem to be genuinely fearful of -- what? All those sinister powers Out There who can victimise them, and therefore surely will?

B'golly, I think it's time I re-read Hoffer's The True Believer.
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Old 25th June 2012, 01:23 PM   #8
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I think with a lot of conspiracy theories, the key is not the event itself but the consequences (perceived or real) of that event. With the JFK assassination, the perceived consequence (often stated by the CTists) is that the war in Vietnam was escalated and became increasingly unpopular. The people who believed the CIA (or LBJ) had Kennedy assassinated claimed that JFK would not have escalated the war. This makes the CT more appealing, as it completely undermines the case for the war; indeed it short-circuits all the arguments in favor of the war. 9-11 CTs operate the same way, just substituting Iraq and Afghanistan for Vietnam. Both conspiracy theories gained their broadest support as opposition to the wars increased; both subsided quite a bit from public interest once the wars ended (largely in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq).

Of course this does not explain the CTs surrounding the Moon Landing as it is hard to imagine what supposedly horrendous consequence followed as a result.
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Old 25th June 2012, 03:46 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
I think with a lot of conspiracy theories, the key is not the event itself but the consequences (perceived or real) of that event. With the JFK assassination, the perceived consequence (often stated by the CTists) is that the war in Vietnam was escalated and became increasingly unpopular. The people who believed the CIA (or LBJ) had Kennedy assassinated claimed that JFK would not have escalated the war. This makes the CT more appealing, as it completely undermines the case for the war; indeed it short-circuits all the arguments in favor of the war. 9-11 CTs operate the same way, just substituting Iraq and Afghanistan for Vietnam. Both conspiracy theories gained their broadest support as opposition to the wars increased; both subsided quite a bit from public interest once the wars ended (largely in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq).

Of course this does not explain the CTs surrounding the Moon Landing as it is hard to imagine what supposedly horrendous consequence followed as a result.
Probably something involving the Cold War, since the moon hoaxers were largely rendered irrelevant after the fall of the Soviet Union and the veritable flood of information that followed, showing that the Soviets were pretty wide of the mark in the space race at that time.
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Old 26th June 2012, 08:22 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by twinstead View Post
It's my fascination with conspiracy theorists way more than the theories themselves that brings me back to this sub forum time and time again
I agree.
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Old 28th June 2012, 03:03 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by cjnewson88 View Post
According to a local news paper (section C1) the Victoria University (Wellington, NZ) is opening a philosophy course which aims to study the philosophy and psychology behind conspiracy theories, and why people believe them. It will look at events such as Moon landings, 9/11, JFK, all the way to Reptilian Humanoids, but not necessarily regarding fact or fiction, but more looking at why they existed, and why people believe them.

Thoughts?

Edit: News paper link seems to require a log in. Here is a link to the university website:
I wish they were offering the course by correspondence. I'd love to take it.
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Old 29th June 2012, 03:46 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by twinstead View Post
It's my fascination with conspiracy theorists way more than the theories themselves that brings me back to this sub forum time and time again
Thirded.

I have long wondered how the "Hertzsprung–Russell diagram" of conspiracy theorists would look like.

Identify N relevant psycological traits and dito social conditions, measure these amongst CT's and the general , plot the data in a N-dimensional diagram and see if, and if so, where the CT's cluster together.

I also wonder if, and if so, how, individual CTs evolve in this diagram.

I have my own pet theories about the above.
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Old 29th June 2012, 11:05 AM   #13
sackett
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
I think with a lot of conspiracy theories, the key is not the event itself but the consequences (perceived or real) of that event. With the JFK assassination, the perceived consequence (often stated by the CTists) is that the war in Vietnam was escalated and became increasingly unpopular. The people who believed the CIA (or LBJ) had Kennedy assassinated claimed that JFK would not have escalated the war. This makes the CT more appealing, as it completely undermines the case for the war; indeed it short-circuits all the arguments in favor of the war. 9-11 CTs operate the same way, just substituting Iraq and Afghanistan for Vietnam. Both conspiracy theories gained their broadest support as opposition to the wars increased; both subsided quite a bit from public interest once the wars ended (largely in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq).

Of course this does not explain the CTs surrounding the Moon Landing as it is hard to imagine what supposedly horrendous consequence followed as a result.
I agree that the theories (call them that) deserve study in their own right, i.e., that the content of these cults should be examined and classified. They aren't all alike, whatever the believers may prove to have in common.

Damn, I hope some publications come out of this endeavor!
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Old 29th June 2012, 05:51 PM   #14
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I 'd suspect some part of CT pathology (and yes, I think that word applies) is ego fulfillment. They "know something" or have information no one else has.

I'm sure there are as many flavors of CT motivation as there are beliefs but I find there are certain common threads that cross all CT beliefs. For example, I've heard any number of CT types claim even though they were being debunked constantly, there was an unseen audience of "lurkers" on the blog who were being swayed to CT by their unassailable logic.
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Old 1st July 2012, 08:13 AM   #15
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The professor teaching it should start the course with a quiz about logical fallacies, probability and statistics, burden of proof, etc, so when the CTs, who you just know are going to attend only to use the course as a platform to spread their pet theories, start mouthing off, the professor can show the class the CT's dismal score he got on his quiz.
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