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There are some physical constraints on human behaviour. You don't have to be an expert in order to give a ballpark guesstimate. E.g.: The only countries with functioning WMD programmes are countries with a GDP more than three times that of the country in question - and if you count only the ones that didn't get help from the USA or one of its client states, call it a factor of 30 to 300 instead, depending a little on your definition of "client state."

The conspiracy theorist is deficient in critical thinking skills if he assumes that all media reports are outright lies. It violates Occam's Razor, which is a pretty basic tool for critical thinking. And lying about everything is plain stupid. You only lie about the important things, because the more you have to lie, the easier it is to slip up and build in an inconsistency that's a little too glaring.

Reasonable people arguing in good faith can, and frequently do, reach widely divergent conclusions. But there are some constraints on what kind of conclusions they can reach. And most cults like the one under discussion are clearly on the "divorced from reality" side of that line.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jan 24th, 2009 at 03:33:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My answer here is essentially the same as in my other comment, so I'll keep it short. You claim that the USA didn't help this country, say, but you have only the USA's word for this, which is unreliable to some.

Occam's Razor here reduces to a prior belief that the USA generally tells the truth, versus no such belief. Think of an American, a European, a Russian, and a Chinese.

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Sat Jan 24th, 2009 at 05:01:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But at some point the ad hoc assumptions get a shade too convoluted to pass the smell test.

Sure, you can assume that the US government lied about not helping, but is now telling the truth about the existence of the nukes. But this seems to be a contradiction: The US government is full of shit when it makes a self-serving statement about not helping nasty people get nukes. But it's a model of honesty when it makes a self-serving statement about nasty people having nukes.

You could then elaborate the assumption by noting the change in management in the US inbetween those statements. But this can be challenged by noting that if this new, more truthful management actually was serious about the whole truth thing, they could just release the documentation proving that the previous management had aided the nasty people. Then the previous management would have egg on its face and the case would be open-and-shut.

Of course, it's possible to elaborate the ad hoc assumption further with another ad hoc modification. But there is a limit to how many ad hoc assumptions you're permitted to stack on top of each other before you've left the realm of logic and reason and entered the realm of narratives. It's not a hard limit by any means, but it is there somewhere, and conspiracy theorists usually sail right past it within the first two or three paragraphs...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 28th, 2009 at 11:24:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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