"The use of 'conspiracy theory' as a derogatory -- as an epithet almost -- is something the propagandists have perfected over the decades, and it's a useful tool for eliminating articulate dissent and other points of view, and information that might be inconvenient for a policy agenda."
- Chris Sanders, Oil, Smoke & Mirrors
Conspiracy:1. An agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful, or subversive act.
2. A group of conspirators.
3. Law: An agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime or accomplish a legal purpose through illegal action.
4. A joining or acting together, as if by sinister design.
List of Conspiracies that turned out to be True:
"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary." - Adam Smith, "The Wealth of Nations"
The Science of Truth
On the Essence of Truth
By Martin Heidegger.
Fact vs. Opinion
The difference between fact and opinion is something that most of us learn in Elementary School. At the HS/college level these concepts of fact and opinion are abstracted to the notions of objectivity (fact) and subjectivity (opinion). Opinions can even be abstracted further into Ideologies, as all individuals hold a system of different opinions and knowledge about different types of subject matter. Popular ideologies such as religion are often used to manipulate as well as communicate with people through an understanding of the beliefs and opinions of these groups. Ideological Disinformation is an exploit of the weaknesses of opinionated thinkers. Scientific thinking is against our human nature, and as scientists or skeptical inquirers we must train ourselves to throw away all our appeals to opinions and beliefs, and trust only what can be proven fact by experiment, or evidence.
If you haven't read through the Wikipedia article on Logical Fallacies yet, please take the time and do so.
The main thing logical fallacies teach us is that the only valid arguments are those that use appeal to evidence, or appeal to nature, or experiment.
The Scientific Method
According to Wikipedia:
The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. The Oxford English Dictionary says that scientific method is: "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses."
If the Wright Brothers had listenend to the skeptics, they would have never built the world's first airplane!
It is healthy to have a hunch, and I always recommend following your gut instinct. Albert Einstein himself said "Imagination is more important than knowledge", and it perfectly acceptable and healthy to let your mind wander freely. However, when it come to evaluating fact from fiction, I must agree it is always better to be skeptical, than it is to just believe in things. The skeptical approach is a safer approach: assume it's total BS until you can prove it otherwise. But that doesn't mean reject everything outright. Keep an open mind to the possibilities, and always look at both sides and try to keep your judgements fair and balanced.
Skepticism or scepticism (American/British spelling differences) is generally any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere.
Philosophical skepticism is an overall approach that requires all information to be well supported by evidence. Classical philosophical skepticism derives from the 'Skeptikoi', a school who "asserted nothing".
Precision over Ego
Admit when you are wrong! Be thrilled by it, actively seek to disprove everything you think you know, and be glad when someone can show you that you are wrong.
Human beings have a natural tendency to attach their beliefs to their own ego. They correlate their worldhood and knowledge with their own personal identity. An attack on their ideas, becomes an attack against them.
I have often been wrong many times in my life about many different things. This is why I tell people to "do your own research" because, I don't always get everything right. I am also never afraid to admit to my mistakes, in fact I love when my audience points them out. I learn as much from you guys as you learn from me.
I call this "precision over ego" because it is more important to have precise information, than it is to protect your own ego. Being afraid to admit your mistakes because you fear how others will perceive you is no way to find the real truth.
It's ok to say "I don't know"! In fact, that is preferable to making up something or pretending like you know. Throw away the ego, don't be afraid to admit when you are wrong.
Background Painting by Rembrant, "De Staalmeesters" 1662. Rijksmuseum, Holland.