December 20, 2011

Cynicism is not the same as conspiracy thinking

Unfortunately, both here and here, skeptic Steve Novella confounds the two.

Novella  makes the mistake of thinking that cynicism and conspiracy thinking are rough equals when they're not. I can be cynical about government without believing in conspiracy theories. For instance, a member of Seal Team 6 has a book out refuting a number of details of Obama's official story about the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Therefore, I could be cynical about Obama's claims about how the operation went down, yet have no problem accepting that OBL was killed.

I could think of other examples easily enough, but, given that Novella focuses on  OBL's death, and given that many conspiracy theories focus on the government, this is an easy one.

But, let's add a few. I can be cynical about the amount of money Obama got from Wall Street for his 2008 campaign without believing he was "anointed" by the Bildebergers.

I can be cynical about how many of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons Obama either skipped or slept through without believing in a conspiracy that joining a Christian church was part of covering his Muslim tracks.

I can be cynical about George W. Bush's intellectual laziness on his 2001 summer vacation and Condi Rice's own narrowmindedness and intellectual laziness for focusing on Russia, not the Middle East, and how all of this increased bin Laden's chance of "success" on Sept. 11, 2001, rather than believing Bush was part of a conspiracy to take down the Twin Towers.

I could be cynical about TWA's maintenance schedules on wing fuel tanks, and FAA monitoring and enforcement, but not believe Flight 800 was shot down as part of a conspiracy.

Or, to cite from literary history. Both Oscar Wilde and the later Mark Twain, not to mention Ambrose Bierce, were cynics. None were conspiracy theorists.

Part of being a modern skeptic should include precision in language.

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