Round Up of the week: Why all the Conspiracies?

Only one this week, but we think it’s rather important:

Maybe those old Enlightenment guys, Adam Smith and the others, were on to something. Their findings were painfully simple. Facts would be collected and subjected to Reason. Conclusions could be drawn, and Right Action initiated. It gave us such things as soap, democracy, mass education, telephones, scientific medicine, even space travel. Well, it had a good run, but now its day seems to be coming to end.

Because facts and reason are not how most people guide their lives. The history of the last ten years has seen freedom fall to tyranny, conspiracy theories surge, and explosions of irrational popular rage. Most peoples’ decisions aren’t made through reading learned articles in The Economist, but through a bundle of competing grievances, unmet needs, insecurities and obsessions. Readers, we’re not asking you to abandon fact and reason. But they must be applied urgently to understand the raw dark matter of human unreason, or we are all lost. Dazzled by our progress in things like space and computers, this has been left in its infancy. Better roll up our sleeves and get started.

One such place is an intriguing paper in Nature Behaviour :Conspiracy Mentality and Political Orientation across 26 countries by Roland Imhoff and his collaborators [1]. We liked it for many reasons. The size of the data sets. The thoroughness of the statistics. The quiet humility in the face of the facts. Above all for the questions it posed. What is an Authoritarian personality? Why are conspiracy theories more common among the defeated and the lower-educated? Why did the phrase “deprived of political control” keep coming up? If you believe one conspiracy, do you believe them all? Do conspiracies offer the bewildered a chance to restore a feeling of control, of understanding? That the terrible task of having to engage with complexity has been magically staved off?

For us, this work is a jumping-off point, a source of questions, not answers. But it lays down themes which we will be coming back to, with your help of course. To end, a little quote from Proverbs 3:12, always one of our favourites in dark times:

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding; For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her

As David Brent would say; “It starts here!”

#conspiracy theories #climate change denial #Qanon #religion #alternative facts #illuminati #political left #political right #Donald Trump #anti-vaxxers

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