Are conspiracy theorists creationists or are creationists conspiracy theorists?

I vote for the latter, but only because it sounds more entertaining when you put it that way. The only reason I mention it is because of this article in New York which pretty exhaustively catalogues the more popular 9/11 conspiracy theories. I have no idea whether there is any truth to any of them, and much like the whole brouhaha about the The Da Vinci Code, I’m not sure what difference it would make. I mean, would covering up Jesus’ marriage really change a rational person’s estimation of the Catholic Church’s commitment to truth and honesty? Would complicity in 9/11 change your estimation of the American government’s valuation of human life and liberty? I think one would have a better chance defending them from these charges on grounds of incompetence than benevolence, but that’s just me. I’m inclined to agree with the investment banker who says: “I can see them wishing it would happen, secretly happy it did. But on purpose? Look at the way they’ve managed Iraq. They’re boobs. They couldn’t have pulled off 9/11 without getting caught. Not possible.?

Anyway, I find the whole thing more interesting from a sociological point of view. The mindset among the conspiracy theorists is exactly like the Intelligent Design arguments we hear tossed around. In both cases, the assumption seems to be that there are only two possible theories, so any nagging inconsistencies or incompleteness in one theory is implicitly support for the other. The towers falling straight down so quickly or life getting started in the first place might be problematic for the conventional explanations, but they are not really positive evidence that God exists or that the U.S. government blew up its own buildings. Those seem more like the problems which will complicate any ultimate explanation unless one brings in some shadowy, elusive and omnipotent or near-omnipotent entities/organizations. And that’s the other characteristic they share. The idea of God or a government with essentially unlimited powers dissolves all the problems. Of course they can do this or that, because they can do anything! And our government really is God in the theology of 9/11 conspiracy theorists. I know a lot of people that think Bush is way too obsessed with God, but I don’t know anyone who actually thinks he is God (well, the conspiracy theorists don’t seem to think he’s really in charge either, but you get the rhetorical point).

Naturally I find this all very amusing (but sad), because a good number of the same people that laugh at (or, more likely, verbally abuse) religious people for refusing to accept any of the ambiguity or loose ends in evolutionary theory without interposing a Creator are using the slightest uncertainties or unresolved issues surrounding 9/11 as positive proof that the whole thing was a put-up job by the U.S. government. Maybe they are just looking to fill that need for grandiose, intricate theologies that they created when they threw out their religious upbringing. Either way, I suspect the Stonecutters did it.

p.s. Speaking of Intelligent Design and amusing ironies, these people talking about the anthropic principle makes it sound like just that, in a suitably detached academic sort of way. It must be especially galling to the atheists and “secularists” who are trying to pretend that there is a united scientific front against any sort of covert creationism that even front-line theoretical physicists are playing around with these ideas (in John Polkinghorne or Frank Tipler’s cases, not even concealing the religious implications).

p.p.s. Finally this article finally asks in print a question that I must have asked myself a thousand times when I was living in Paris: “This is the nation [France] that invented style — or the nation with the good sense to bother claiming to have invented style. The English language hasn’t even got a word for chic. So the greatest marvel of all is why the nation as a whole exhibits so little of either” (qualification: she goes on to compare English style positively with the French, which let’s just say is not exactly an opinion I share–both sides of the North Atlantic seaboard are kind of black holes are pretty moribund in terms of women’s dress in my experience).

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