Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Seeing a conspiracy around every corner

... or at least I have to think that is how some people go through life.

This is something I've wondered about for a long time, especially when I see people like Alex Jones going on and on about FEMA camps, black helicopters, etc. - how do people end up with a mindset that they see conspiracy in EVERYTHING? And to narrow it down some, why are so many people either afraid or seeing conspiracy in everything in the night sky? Was is started by all the noise around 2012? No, these things have been around for a long, long time - from ominous portents to selling "comet pills" to prevent being poisoned by the tail of Halley's Comet in 1910. But I can't help thinking that the 2012 stuff has created a revival of sorts.

The latest thing that prompted this thought was an email that came in to one of our general addresses and was forwarded on to me. It was a question about the object next to the moon on Monday January 21, which is a common type of inquiry we get when something bright is near something else bright in the night sky. (In this case it was Jupiter, which some lucky people got to see as an occultation - very cool!) Again, this is a very common question we get, but what caught my eye at the end of the email was "Can you tell me or is it a secret?". As I said on twitter.... "sigh". Considering that looking at it with even a decent pair of binoculars would reveal it to be Jupiter, it would be a very hard secret to keep if we tried!

Since I had the name and email address of the submitter, I decided to break out the Google and poke around. Sure enough, I found both the name and address on some forums dedicated to, shall we say... less than scientific modes of thinking. (Really, it was some serious woo-woo stuff going on there.) I could have asked him why he would have asked the "secret" question, but I'm honestly not sure that would have helped a whole lot. Plus, I'm just not that confrontational (which is probably a good thing in my line of work, it keeps me out of trouble!).

I know that in some cases (and possibly in this case, based on what I found) there is something genuinely wrong with the person's brain - and I mean that in a clinical sense, not to be flippant. And in other cases, I think it stems from a general human reaction to fear what they don't understand. After all, that was a pretty advantageous trait when we were evolving in the African savanna. So is the solution, in these latter cases, more education? I hope so, since I think that is a problem that CAN be fixed. Yes, I'm an optimist. :)

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