A conspiracy to believe in

There aren’t many things happening today I would label as being properly conspiratorial (where by ‘properly conspiratorial’ I mean ‘something like a malevolent, all-embracing conspiracy (theory)) but the Intelligent Design Movement gets my vote in that category. It’s just that when pressed I can’t really condemn it as a great, singular evil but more the garden-variety maliciousness that is the old-school-bully-turned-politician.

The kind/type of things people normally call ‘interesting’ in re Conspiracy Theories are the all-embracing, malevolent ones, those theories surrounding conspiracies that are evil in intent and pervade every office in the land and explain all events relating to them. The modern day Illuminati story is a good example of this, as is the 911 Truth Movement’s claims in re America planning attacks upon itself. These are vast; huge cabals (or little cabals with lots of minions) orchestrating and producing terrible outcomes that threaten the public good.

The ID movement, on the other hand, looks a bit sad.

I do think there is a conspiracy to create an illusion that Intelligent Design is a rival scientific theory to Evolution by Natural Selection. The Wedge Document, for example, shows that there are people out there who are secretly plotting certain ends. I also think that this conspiracy is, at least, mildly malign; the suppression of good science for what seems badly reasoned theological ends is never a good thing. On the other hand, I don’t think there is a single ID cabal; it’s not as if all the secret agents of ID report to one shadowy council located in Omaha, or that there is a single ID thinktank somewhere in the mountains of Arkansas, plotting the demise of Evolution by Natural Selection. No. What I think is probably happening is that there are lots of disgruntled theists who don’t like or agree with Evolution by Natural Selection and that these people happen to share a common goal. They, thus, find themselves helping one another, even if such ‘helping’ would normally cross lines and boundaries that these groups would never normally think to blur. The ID movement is a lot of little conspiracies that can look like one huge conspiracy because, well, it’s easier to think of them acting in that way.

Humans have a tendency to downplay accidence and coincidence. It’s much easier to suppose that things happen for a reason, especially when we know that certain evetns have or are happening and we know the rationale as to why. If events A and B are similar and we know that A occured for a reason then we like to think B occured for the same reason. It’s a useful heuristic for the Natural Sciences but of much less use for the Social Sciences because people are more complex event generators than non-intentional objects like billiard balls. The ID Movement looks bigger than it (probably) is because all those events we know to be plots against us (the Discovery Institute) look a lot like those other events, even though we have no clear evidence that these events have the same causal antecedents. They might have, of course, but they, conversely, might not. Some people don’t like the notion of Evolution by Natural Selection. Some of these people are plotting against us… and some are not. Lumping one in with the other is a dangerous notion and I, for one, don’t always like to live dangerously.