Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dogpoop Pie

I have quite a few friends who are really into certain conspiracy theories.  That's not really anything worth writing about, I'm sure everyone has some intelligent, well educated friends who nevertheless believe some pretty strange things*.  What gets me though is not so much what they believe but the sources they use.  So many of them tend to get their "facts" from total nutbags like Alex Jones or dubious internet documentaries like Zeitgeist.  Now if they were ignorant of just how untrustworthy their sources are it would be one thing, but this is simply not the case.  Most, if not all, of them readily admit that most of the claims their source makes is overblown or often downright incorrect, except of course for all the stuff they happen to agree with.  I especially hear this regarding Zeitgeist.  The argument is usually something along the lines of "Yes I agree that [the section(s) I don't agree with] are riddled with errors and outright lies, but [this one section I like] really opened my eyes"**.  All this despite the fact that the part they like is as illogical, unreasonable and demonstrably wrong as the rest of the stuff they are willing to discount.  So I thought that perhaps it would be different if I put fact and reason aside for a second and tried a different approach.

Suppose I baked you a delicious pie.  It's your favourite kind of pie too, the kind of pie you just can't get enough of.  Now before I bake it, I also add some dog poop.  Now tell me, how much dog poop would I have to add for you to say, "No I don't want any of what you are offering, you're feeding me dog shit!"?  Is there a limit or would you just eat it anyway no matter how much canine excrement I add because it is the kind of pie you really like?  Somehow I don't think so.

Look, I get it.  Confirmation bias is common to all humans.  We seek out sources that affirm what we believe and we instinctively avoid those who can prove us wrong.  So it's not like I expect people to never be wrong and always have the correct information from the word go - that is simply unreasonable and unrealistic.  But I don't think it's too much to ask that you stop trusting a source that has repeatedly proven untrustworthy.  If you find yourself defend a source with something along the lines of "Yes everything else they've said is bullshit BUT..." then maybe you need to reconsider your position.  Just think about it.


*If you don't have any friends like that, you may be that friend.  Just sayin'.
** Alternatively: "OK, I admit that the previous 12 times Alex Jones predicted that a facist dictatorship taking over in the US is immanent turned out to be fearmongering bullshit but this time I think he's really on to something!"


GumbyTheCat said...

It's strange - I regularly subject myself to the most vile dregs of Christian fundamentalism, but I have absolutely no stomach for the conspiracy theory tinfoil hat crowd. In my favorite discussion forum site, there is a long-running thread titled "Was 9/11 a Conspiracy?" that the looney-tunes flock to in droves. They make the most zombie-fied of the fundies look perfectly rational. And they all just swoon over Alex Jones. The brave rational people that bravely wade in there and try to reason with these wild-eyed "Twoofers" usually leave in short order. Only a few have stuck it out for a year or more. Me, I read along occasionally but avoid commenting. I know, I know... I'm a wuss! Ha ha.

Eugene said...

I don't blame you Gumby, the crazy is strong with those folks! I have a friend who tries to reason with them on a regular basis. No idea how he holds on to his sanity!