The Conspiracy of the Century! … or maybe not.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks (or buried in textbooks, as the case might more likely be), you’ve probably heard about a the case of a group of hackers stealing and releasing emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. This has kicked off a ludicrous knee-jerk reaction from climate-change deniers who want so badly for there to be a conspiracy that, apparently, they neglected to actually read the emails. YouTuber potholer54 convincingly demolishes the only “examples of fraud” which have thus far emerged (linked here via Pharangula):

(incidentally, potholer54, who’s channels stated goal is to “explain in simple terms the conclusions of scientific research and correct some of the unsourced crap you get fed on the Internet” has a great series of videos on cosmology, biology, and climate change)

There is a larger question here, which is about the constant assertions of a “scientific conspiracy” which is so often levelled by anti-scientific types of many stripes: be it Climate Change deniers, Intelligent Design, or Anti-Vacciners. I’ve always wondered how these “conspiracies” are supposed to work. As the above video puts it, are we really supposed to believe that thousands of independent researchers are collaborating to fake results, hide counter-evidence, and tie all their “fake” data together in such a way as to tell a convincing story and beguile the unwitting populace? Add to this the fact that for a scientist, one of the best career moves you could make, to ensure your name would forever be entered in the annals of history, would be to convincingly overturn the dominant theory of your day. If there were really good scientific grounds by which to doubt these “conspiracies” we should expect researchers to be clambering over one-another to be the first to prove it, and the evidence to be pouring in. E pur si muove!

Also, I’ve always thought that if I were going to go to the trouble of orchestrating a giant conspiracy involving thousands of researchers and a monumental (impossible?) effort to suppress dissent and fake the evidence, I’d choose something a bit more… sexy than Climate Change, or Vaccines. Maybe I’d have my evil Ph.D-wielding minions brainwash the hoi polloi into believing that first-contact had been made with an extra-terrestrial civilization and we must begin colonizing our solar system – that would be a great way to kick-start the space program again. Or maybe I’d convince people that a new “super-caste” of humans had evolved, with superior capabilities in telepathy, empathy, and responsible fiscal policy, and that I was one. That would be a good way to ensure the continued dominance of my Evil, Science-Wielding Liberal Empire of Doom.

So I ask you, Terry readers, if you had control of a massive, complex conspirational network of thousands of researchers, what would YOU have them trick the unwitting populace into believing?

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Nicholas is a senior undergraduate majoring in Cognitive Systems (Computational Intelligence stream). He enjoys a wide spectrum of intellectual pursuits from programming to philosophizing. As well as writing for the Terry project, he maintains a private blog, and a personal home page. His long-term goals include earning his Ph.D, and crushing all life beneath the iron-clad heel of his merciless robotic cohort.