So, a recent string of rather horribly mind number conversations have prompted me to break down what you should expect to see when debating with a conspiracy theorist. These should help you to figure out exactly the type of person your speaking with, and avoid using big words accordingly.
1. Oh ya! But this YouTube video/blog says that the president really is a lizard person!
I think this one is self explanatory. They ALWAYS have a blog, documentary, or YouTube video. These always involve opinion. There are great blogs out there (like this one) that do cite evidence. These rarely do.
2. I’m just asking questions!
They’re always just asking questions. The problem is that they already have a conclusion. They’re pulling creationist tactics. They’re trying to instill doubt in the story of what actually happened, then they use that doubt to say “See! That PROVES I’m right.” No, no that doesn’t prove anything. It only proves that you don’t believe what actually happened. To prove a conspiracy, you need evidence of one.
3. That evidence is good! It must be part of the conspiracy!
They will typically incorporate any contrary evidence into the conspiracy. This causes an even larger problem. It makes the conspiracy grow so big so as to be unwieldy. The more you bring into the conspiracy, the more people need to be involved, the more intricate it has to be, the less likely a conspiracy exists. Actually, this gets even better. In a conversation I had recently, the person took a correction of the facts I had given her that morning, and incorporated it into her conspiracy theory when she was arguing with someone else!
4. Ignoring a request for evidence.
This is by far the most common thing you’ll run into. They make an assertion. You ask for evidence. They ignore your request and make a completely different assertion.
Anytime someone uses this word in debate, they’re pretty much an idiot. You can comfortably ignore them, as they will add nothing of value to your life.
So, this is the quick and dirty version, but it should give you a good idea of what to expect when debating the insane.
Contributor: Robert Sacerich
Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.
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