Sunday, November 1, 2015

Finding Bad Programs in Good People

I have a very mild form of cancer.  My body makes too many platelets.  So I have an oncologist.  He asked if I had gotten my flu shot.  I said that I wouldn't get one because I think they would do me more harm than good.  He asked why, so I asked if he was aware of any graph showing a significant amount of history of disease prevalence both before and after a vaccination or other immunization was introduced.  I interrupted his pondering this after a few seconds to blurt out that there aren't any.  I told him my theory about why there aren't any: that such a graph would show that immunization is far less effective than advertised.

He mumbled something about conspiracy.

I chuckled at him a little and asked (disingenuously, I admit) why he brought that up.  I knew, and soon admitted it, that he realized that the prevention of such a graph would require a conspiracy. What made me chuckle was seeing that he, like myself and most other people who pay the least bit of attention to the world outside their immediate circumstances, had been successfully programmed with a mental trap door.

That was about a month ago.  Tonight I spoke with my father on the phone.  He just returned from an educational cruise on the Columbia River, on which he learned about the Lewis and Clark expedition.  I asked if he learned about any conspiracies, since conspiracy is what makes history interesting to me.

By now, you should have an idea of what I'm getting at, though it isn't because you're really smart.  It's because you've been programmed too. You may judge me as someone who tends to be bored, or that I have problems with authority.  You'd believe these things because a particular class of human beings has been studied in depth in recent years and found to have these traits.  As a matter of fact, I rarely get bored, and I recognize both reasonably justified authority as well as fake authority.  Of course I have a problem with the second kind.  Who wouldn't?

There's a word you may not have consciously recognized running around in your head right now, confusing you, perhaps.  It denotes an assertion about reality which may or may not be true.  It is the term used for that which scientists develop in order to come to an understanding about the evidence they have collected through experimentation.  It simply means "Maybe this is what's going on."  That word is "theory."

We can qualify the word "theory" in various ways to limit the scope of what it addresses.  For example, a "gambling theory" would suggest a way that a gambler could earn a profit.  A "scientific theory" would be an idea about how things work that scientists would offer.  A "fantasy theory" would be one that involves magic or other unreal things - things that are fantastic, or outside the realm of reality.  A "conspiracy theory" doesn't mean what we think it means when we fall into the trap. The trap says "conspiracy theory" means "LIE."

After I told my dad that history is full of conspiracies and that they are what makes history fascinating to me, he immediately re-phrased what I had said using the term "conspiracy theory."  I noted that he added the word "theory" and pointed it out to him, and asked what he meant by it.  He said that he doesn't believe in conspiracy theories.  We agreed that he meant to use "conspiracy theory" to mean "something that isn't true."

"Conspiracy" denotes a plan held in secret by a group of people, usually because if word got out, those people would be in trouble.  If the prosecutor in a criminal conspiracy case does his job well, he will prove that some group of people conspired to commit a crime.  This prosecutor must entertain a "conspiracy theory" and prove to the jury that it's true.  Sometimes, the theory is wrong, and sometimes it is right.  The assertion that it is right is what the term "conspiracy theory" means.  Every criminal prosecutor must be prepared to entertain conspiracy theories in order to do his or her job.

Contrast the denotation of conspiracy theory with what it means to the common person, and you can see the trap: The supposition that a group of people have cooperated in secret is the denotation.  Perhaps they did, and perhaps they didn't.  The commonly understood (programmed) meaning is "a fascinating but untrue story that tricks some people into believing false things."

Why do I call this a trap?  If you work in a courtroom, and you recognize the prosecutor's work as "putting together a conspiracy theory" and you describe it that way to others, you will see them become a little confused.  They may challenge you thus: "Why do you have to call it that??"  You are perceived as "accusing" the prosecutor of something bad: creating a deception.

The trap has a special mechanism created by the popularization (the author of that article seems to confuse origination with popularization) of the term "conspiracy theory" by the CIA in response to theories that grew out of the JFK assassination, and later by the movie Conspiracy Theory starring Mel Gibson.  How does that mechanism work?  The popularization of the term has created a word association between "conspiracy" and "theory."  The compound term, conspiracy theory has been presented in mainstream media in a way that has caused most people to misinterpret it as lie instead of theory that a group secretly cooperated.

So if you have a theory that a group has secretly cooperated, or if you actually know of a group that has secretly cooperated, you will probably feel like avoiding the best term to describe your theory.  However, because there is no way to describe any such theory without triggering your audience to think "conspiracy," and thus setting the trap for them to add "theory," making "conspiracy theory" and thus comprehend LIE, the trap can easily prevent you from spreading potential knowledge about this small secretive group.

Was this trap created intentionally?  What, are YOU a conspiracy theorist now??