Thursday, August 27, 2009

The perils posed by consipracists

There is an excellent op-ed piece in this week's Economist about the perils of believing in conspiracies under every rock.

An excerpt:

Belief in conspiracy theories can be comforting. If everything that goes wrong is the fault of a secret cabal, that relieves you of the tedious necessity of trying to understand how a complex world really works. And you can feel smug that you are smart enough to “see through” the official version of events.
You can read the entire article here.

Of course there are actual conspiracies, and always have been, but the Economist is quite correct when it warns that conspiratorial fantasy can have dangerous real-world consequences, from Timothy McVeigh to Adolf Hitler (and, I might add, some well known UFO cults too).

Those who believe in a particular conspiracy have the burden of proof of showing that their belief is backed up by the facts. In some cases, usually tied to more mundane matters of the real world, that is not only possible, but has been done. Accordingly, one can't just casually dismiss all claims of conspiracy, particularly in the private sector where oversight is less stringent, and where the profit motive can be a powerful motivator for greedy people to cross the boundaries of ethical behaviour, and then hide their malfeasance.

But those people who believe in vast, government-sponsored conspiracies, whether it's the Cosmic Watergate, or 9/11 "truthers", or anti-Obama "birthers", represent a different type altogether - they are predisposed to believe in almost any and all conspiracies, and should be viewed with extreme caution. People like this should be challenged at every turn to prove that what they say is true beyond any reasonable doubt.

In my experience, they usually don't even come close.

Paul Kimball

Monday, August 24, 2009

Best Evidence - The Rendlesham UFO case

Here is the segment from my film, Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings, which profiles the 1980 Rendlesham UFO case.

What happened at Rendlesham almost three decades ago? Some people are convinced that it was an encounter with aliens from outer space. Others maintain that it was a psychological warfare exercise. And a few, against all evidence to the contrary, still argue that nothing much happened at all, except for some over-excited American military personnel letting their imaginations run wild.

I don't know what the answer is - I just know that, for me at least, the explanation has nothing to do with misidentified lighthouses and excessive partying, or a practical joke. People took it seriously back then, and the case should continue to be taken seriously now, as one of the best, and still unexplained, UFO encounters in human history. That doesn't mean that Colonel Halt and his men met aliens from Zeta Reticuli, or anywhere else, but I think it's pretty clear that something out of the oridinary happened to them, and that there has been no definitive answer offered for what it was that fits all of the facts of the case.

That kind of stance angers alien believers and disbelievers alike - which is usually a pretty good sign that it's the proper way to look at things.

Paul Kimball