When I began the online journal I wanted to name it Occam’s Razor. This is the principle that in layman’s terms says that if you have two theories with the same evidence, the simpler is the one most likely to be true. Occam’s Razor is one of the must useful tools one has at one’s disposal. I think of it as the Swiss Army knife of logic that can be used to pry the Truth from fiction in most situations.
Occam’s Razor is particularly useful against conspiracy theories. In fact conspiracy theories are pretty much the opposite of Occam’s Razor. Where the razor cuts away the superfluous, conspiracy theories add it in order to protect the kernel of truth they rest upon. Once the razor exposes that truth, the conspiracy theory tends to fall apart under its own weight.
Unfortunately when I set this journal up in October 2001 all the domain names having the word “Occam” or “Ockham” were taken, so I had to make due with therazor.org.
Anyhow, here’s an interesting story from a recent issue of New Scientist which discusses why conspiracy theories tend to thrive in our culture.
Source: New Scientist: The lure of the conspiracy theory (subscription necessary)
Was Princess Diana the victim of drunk driving or a plot by the British royal family? Did Neil Armstrong really walk on the moon or just across a film set in Nevada? And who killed President John F. Kennedy – the Russians, the Cubans, the CIA, the mafia… aliens? Almost every big event has a conspiracy theory attached to it. The truth, they say, is out there – but where exactly? Perhaps psychology can help us find at least some of the answers.
Article removed at request of copyright owner. See New Scientist, “Lure of the Conspiracy Theory.”