We live in conspiratorial times.
Deeply sinister motives appear to be at work everywhere beneath the surface.
No one, however high their reputation, is entirely beyond suspicion.
每个机构 即便是权威机构 都可能有阴谋
Every institution, even the most venerable, may be at it.
Whatever may publically be said, something a whole lot ghastlier
is probably going on in private.
Taking anything on good faith seems a sure route to naivety and disillusion.
It’s never been a more tempting moment to become a conspiracy theorist.
But the real choice isn’t between naivety on the one hand and conspiracy theory on the other.
The task is to find our way to an often-elusive
third option: intelligent scepticism.
Both the intelligent sceptic and the conspiracytheorist start from the very same place:
with an awareness that things may well not be what they seem,
and that what is widely believed may be patently false.
This is, in itself, no sign of madness or delusion.
It’s the basis of some of humanity’s greatest discoveries and insights.
To claim that the earth orbits the sun wouldhave sounded the height of delusion in 1473.
It would have sounded no less peculiar to maintain, in the late 1950s,
That the UK security services
were largely in the hands of a group of people working for the Soviet Union.
一个猜测可能会十分稀奇古怪 非常冷门 但仍然是正确的
A hypothesis can be thoroughly outlandish, very unpopular – and still correct.
What separates the conspiracy theorist from the intelligent sceptic
is not the possession of some odd-sounding hypotheses;
it’s what they then go on to do with these hypotheses.
Here are some of the key differences:
Intelligent sceptics know that hypotheses cannot be sustained
indefinitely without evidence. They can be trialled for a time,
but eventually have to be positively backed up by concrete proof
or else graciously and uncomplainingly abandoned.
The Burden of Proof
Intelligent sceptics know that the burden of proving a hypothesis
must invariably fall on them, as the challengers to the status quo,
and not on the upholders of the established ideology.
They accept that it is their duty to show that ghosts really do exist;
and not the responsibility of everyone else to prove that they don’t.
Upholding quarrelsome hypotheses delivers some hugely redemptive emotional pleasures.
One often feels empowered and superior
to all those who still blindly trust in the status quo.
They, the idiots, may well think the rocket went to the moon;
we know the whole thing was filmed in a downtown studio.
Our job may not be so significant nor our house very grand,
but we, unlike the stuck-up professors,
know what really happened to the Fuhrer after the war.
Intelligent sceptics certainly know how nice it would be if they were proved right;
but they can bear the humiliation of turning out to be miserably wrong.
It would of course be deeply emotionally convenient if they really were
to discover the secrets of cheap nuclear fission, if the elderly, rich man was in truth a sexual
predator or if climate change did turn out to be a hoax. But they are also wise enough
never to let their wishes overpower the more stubborn
and unyielding claims of reality.
The conspiracy theorist sees skullduggery everywhere;
their default position is that everyone must be a liar
and that simply everything is a cover up.
Their fear of being taken for a dupe is so great,
there can be no glimmer of trust.
For their part, the intelligent sceptic proceeds through the world
with an attitude of basic credence and initial benevolence.
They dare to take things at face value, confident in their power to alter their views, perhaps
quite quickly, in a much darker direction were the facts to demand it. They are internally
strong enough to take a chance to believe in the goodness and truthfulness of strangers.
Conspiracy theory is never really a problem of intelligence. It’s an emotional wound
that overpowers the higher faculties of the mind – and is therefore best treated not
而最好的解决方法不是信息轰炸 而是信任 善良和爱
with a barrage of countervailing facts, but with reassurance, kindness and love, for it’s
here that the problem invariably began. The choice we face isn’t between naive credulity
and conspiracy theory. By understanding the fragility of our psyches, we have the option
of navigating our perilous times with a judicious mixture of doubt and trust.