Thursday, October 12, 2006

South Park, Skepticism, and 9-11

For those of you who may have missed it last night, the new South Park episode did a great little take on 9-11 conspiracy theories. It wasn't that the government was behind 9-11, the real conspiracy was trick the gullible 1/4 of the American population into believing that the government was really behind 9-11. In an insane way, it makes a lot more sense than most conspiracy theories. (And in reality, it would be a lot more difficult to debunk.)

Penn and Teller did a show on conspiracy theories, and in that show they talked about there being a difference between being skeptical and "just making shit up." It's an important concept far too many of us don't seem to get.

Being skeptical simply means questioning what doesn't fit with a scientific understanding of the world. I say scientific, because there are two ways we can look at the world. One is to demand evidence- this is the scientific model- and the other is to rely on faith. Skepticism and faith inherently collide, but this is not much of an issue if faith is restricted to your belief in God. The existence of God could never be scientifically proven or disproved, so religious beliefs ultimately come down to whether or not you have faith.

When it comes to everything else in our lives we are either skeptical or have faith (or we don't care at all). We'll use 9-11 as an example. Skepticism about 9-11 would mean questioning the explanations given by the government and the media. Ultimately, if you took the time to look in to the issue, you'd decide scientifically as to whether there were any other explanations which made more sense.

Faith means you are not looking at an issue scientifically, rather, you are placing a belief beyond the need for proof. Again, note the distinction. There is a difference between being skeptical of what George Bush says, and having faith that George Bush is a liar who will always lie to the American people. Skeptics search for evidence, while those that rely on faith don't need evidence. When it comes to 9-11, the official explanation is the only one that makes any sense. All the conspiracy theories, at some level, rely on people making shit up. Again, not trusting the government in general is being skeptical. Believing that the government was involved in the 9-11 attacks, absent any evidence, is making shit up.


Blogger A Fan For All Seasons said...

As someone who has spent many hours arguing conspiracy theorists, I must say kudos to South Park. Sometimes people just hear what they want to hear, and that's what is happening with the growing number of theorists. People don't like Bush, so they are willing to believe anything they hear bad about him or the administration. In South Park, characters spend hours looking for some sort of clue, and when they find the tiniest bit, it expands and expands, with no real evidence. People hear one thing, but they don't back it up. For example, one character says steel doesn't melt at the temperature the jet fuel was burning at, so there had to be explosives in the building. In reality, steel in deed does not melt at that temperature, but it does warp and lose strength, and with tons of steel on top of that, it was inevitable that the towers would fall. South Park does a great job of making fun of people who believe these theories and why they believe them. There's a movie titled "Loose Change", which I'm sure Matt Stone and Trey Parker have seen, and used as inspiration for their episode. Basically, if you believe "Loose Change", you believe that explosives were placed in small fire drill evacuations several weeks before 9/11, and that the towers falling were a precision take down. You would also have to believe that the owner of WTC agreed to this and gave the word to take down WTC 7. It gets better. You'd also have to believe that all the fighter jets were purposely scrambled else where, that a small plane, the kind that Cory Lidle flew, or a missle, flew into the Pentagon and caused that much damage. You'd have to believe that Flight 93 did not crash in Shanksville, but actually landed in Cleveland and is still in circulation. You'd have to believe all of the phone calls from planes were fake. Finally, you'd have to believe that every single high ranking member of the White House, countless civilians, and the entire media had knowledge about the "plan" and have not spilled the beans in over 5 years. Not only that, but George W. Bush, a president who people claim is a moron who doesn't know what he is doing, would be the mastermind behind it all. And for what? A war that is costing the United States billions of dollars and is jeopardizing re-election chances for every Republican. At least we have that oil, which was the "real" reason we went to Iraq in the first place...I just love paying $2.75 a gallon. As you can see, the plan was very obvious. So obvious, no real scientist or expert agrees with it, but then again, they may be in on it too....

2:43 AM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

You're exactly right about this. The more you delve into these conspiracies the more insane and the more nonsensical they get. To be fair, it's not that crazy to think "hmmm, there was something fishy about 9-11 and I sure don't trust the government." But once you start to work it out, you should realize how insane your theory starts to sound.

Last year, my mother brought home a flier for a speaker her peace group was having- this speaker was a 9-11 conspiracy nut. Reading the blurb about him, he made many of the same claims about the steel and the impossibility of the towers coming down as they did. I asked my mother, "who is this guy, some sort of engineer?" Well it turns out he was a professor of theology, not exactly an expert in the field of structural engineering.

And that's one thing about these conspiracy theories. Notice how they tend to never have any reputable names behind them. I never heard one scientists or engineer say the towers couldn't have come down as they did, only "conspiracy experts."

10:36 AM  

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