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.

3 Responses to “The Conspiracy of the Century! … or maybe not.”

  1. David Ng

    Definitely something to do with aliens. Oh, and robots. Actually, maybe aliens who happen to be robots. That would be awesome.

  2. Bill Hewitt

    I teach climate change and international relations so on with my professor’s hat. It’s time for a quiz.

    The National Academies of Science of over a dozen countries are deeply concerned about manmade greenhouse gases and global warming because:
    (a) they’re stupid
    (b) they’re Democrats
    (c) they’re in the pay of the renewable energy industry
    (d) they like to feel important
    (e) none of the above

    Barack Obama wasn’t born in the US.
    True or False.

    Republican Governors like Tim Pawlenty, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jon Huntsman and Charlie Crist are concerned about warming and acting to mitigate it because
    (a) they’re really Democrats
    (b) they’ve been duped by the liberal media
    (c) they’re in the pay of the energy efficiency lobby
    (d) their children are little environmentalists and they don’t want to upset them
    (e) none of the above

    The Holocaust didn’t happen.
    True or False.

    The Pope, the Dalai Lama, Rick Warren, the Evangelical Climate Initiative and other religious leaders are concerned and active on the climate crisis because
    (a) it’s a vote getter
    (b) they think their followers are stupid so this is a good way to keep them in thrall
    (c) they’ve been smoking crack
    (d) they like to have photo ops with Leonardo Dicaprio and Al Gore
    (e) none of the above

    Ban Ki-moon is the AntiChrist.
    True or False.

    The World Trade Center Towers were destroyed by:
    (a) al Qaeda
    (b) explosive charges set off at Dick Cheney’s orders
    (c) Rudy Giuliani’s press agent to improve his image
    (d) all of the above

    The CEOs and Boards of Alcoa, BP America, Dow Chemical Company, Duke Energy, DuPont, Exelon Corporation, Ford Motor Company, FPL Group, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, PG&E Corporation and Siemens Corporation, among others are concerned enough to be pressing Congress for a cap-and-trade systems because
    (a) they want to bankrupt their companies
    (b) they’re chumps
    (c) they’re hippies
    (d) they know that climate change is real, it’s anthropogenically produced, it has and will have devastating impacts, it’s critical to reduce greenhouse gases sooner rather than later (and by 80% by 2050), and they know that a low-carbon world will be safer and better for their bottom lines

  3. Justin Ritchie

    Awesome post. Unfortunately most people forget that humans do science and humans do stupid things from time to time. “Science” can be an unwieldy bastion of authority for most people and the ivory tower that many institutions have erected over the years has helped to propagate that mindset. Scientists are partly to blame for that but with the internet and related social tools, we can finally reach out to the unexposed populace to show that we aren’t so scary and that there is no such thing as timecube. (

    Conspiracies are an interesting psychological construct of paranoia and the human tendency to seek simple neatly wrapped explanations. I suppose I would aim to convince everyone that the government had suppressed time travel by only agreeing to fund particle accelerators instead of quantum particle flux capacitors.

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