A review by joshuaemccoy
Conspiracies & Conspiracy Theories: What We Should and Shouldn't Believe - and Why, by Michael Shermer


Last week, a conspiracy theory about Wayfair spread amidst a resurgence of #PizzaGate and "the Rothschilds." It is helpful to have constructive paranoia and skepticism, especially these days with the social internet. It's a fact that some conspiracies are actually true. (See: Fred Hampton; MK Ultra; PORTLAND.) I thought it'd be helpful to have a framework and approach to vet theories.

The world is chaotic. Our brains want to move away from the cognitive dissonance that makes us uncomfortable to cognitive harmony. We wonder how some things could happen. Could it really be that simple? Our brains try to make sense of things by creating an explanation that matches the cognitive scale of those things. We're especially vulnerable when we feel we lack power or the agency to control our own outcomes or life situation.

Are we seeing random clusters as some type of orderly, meaningful pattern? Do we attribute those patterns to some someone or something with power?

Michael Shermer provides a framework to sift through the incessant flow of conspiracy theories and gives us the tools that help us quickly sniff out what has legs and what should be dismissed. Expeditiously.

"Never attribute to malice than can be explained by randomness or incompetence." Everything should start with a null hypothesis meaning not true until proven otherwise. Many people let their conclusion dictate their evidence instead of their evidence dictating their conclusion.

Remember, burden of proof is on the person asserting a claim not on the skeptic to disprove it. We generally are not very good at probabilities, and have a hard time explaining random occurrences.

Most of the time stuff just happens, and our brains just connect the dots.