Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Conspiracy Theories Are Weeds

Conspiracy theories are weeds growing at the periphery of the currently-best-available explanatory web, finding sunlight only because of the gaps and tensions in the web. Conspiracy theorists forget the basic epistemological fact that such gaps and tensions are inevitable in any explanatory enterprise, and that empirical truth is defined only provisionally as the web of theories that currently has the most explanatory power and least amount of contrary evidence. Conspiracy buffs almost never attempt to set forth a coherent and consistent theory with anything like the explanatory power and conceptual economy of the theory they criticize. They see an accumulation of curiosities and one-sided criticisms and just-so stories and mistake them for the sort of dispositive Popperian falsifying evidence that is pardigmatic in the laboratory sciences but is so rare in the social and historical sciences.

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