As a method of explaining the universe, conspiracy theory falls more to the belief/religion end of the scale than the knowledge/science end. The unprovable existence of a clique involved in world domination is more strongly related to the ideas of phlogiston and aether - substances that exist because they MUST exist in order to make the theory work.
That is not so say that conspiracies do not exist. Any gathering of individuals for a particular end can be said to be a conspiracy, particularly if that gathering is aimed at excluding others that might disagree. Price-fixing corporations, wheeling-dealing politicans, and bomb-planting terrorists all engage in conspiracies. But these conspiracies have a single goal (keep profits high, push a political agenda, blow up a building). The conspiracies of conspiracy theory exist as a self-sustaining creation with a broad range of ongoing goals, generally operating under the title "global domination". The Elders of Zion, The Illuminati, Vampires, and Doctor Evil are all examples of this type of conspiracy. Conspiracy exists as a verb, not a noun - it is something people are doing, not a structure that does many things.
All of which gets me to the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits. A friend send me this link the other day, seeking to "prove" the conspiracy of the Jesuits by publishing a list of influential graduates from Marquette, a college in Milwaukee. I'm sorry, a JESUIT college, which is churning out influential JESUITs who are therefore part of the JESUIT conspiracy.
On that list are some people I know Carrie Bebris (author of the Jane Austin Detective novel Pride and Prescience), James Lowder (author and comic book editor - more on that last one later), and John Rateliff, who known in these pages as Sacnoth. John is that most dangerous of Jesuits, a Southern Presbyterian, who claims that he went to Marquette only for its Tolkien collection, but sounds much TOO EASY, so he MUST be part of the conspiracy.
I understand conspiracists, I really do. It is easier to believe in some world-controlling malicious organization (secret, of course) responsible for all the worlds' ills. It beats the heck out of the alternative - that we are hurtling randomly through an uncaring universe with no control and no ultimate destiny. We can take solace in the fact that even an EVIL plan is still a plan, and the existence of a greater force, be it god or conspiracy, lifts the burden of responsibility and action from one's own shoulders, and places it in a fictious entity.
And the thing is, I believe more in god than I do in conspiracies like the Jesuits. God's got more options.
Heyerdahl Would Be Proud - So, thanks to Janice for sharing the link to this story about a traditional Polynesian craft sailed by Hawaiians that just completed a circumnavigation of ...
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