Archive for December, 2007

Of course conspiracies exist. Human beings just *love* to conspire together. It comes as naturally to us as breathing and is as instinctive as two six-year-olds cooking up a secret plan and agreeing not to share it with the five-year-old next door.

I’m more than half convinced that language was invented to make it easier for proto-humans to keep secrets — which is something you can’t do nearly as well when everybody communicates by yelling “oonk, oonk, oonk” across the clearing. Even such basic items as clothing and houses may have originally been devised to enhance the game of “what am I hiding” long before they were put to any more practical purposes. Conspiracy has been a great driver of cultural evolution.

On the other hand, there’s one major problem with conspiracies — and that is gossip. Human beings love to be let in on secrets, but they aren’t all that good at actually keeping them concealed, especially not in the long run. Secrets are a form of social currency, and the rewards to be gained by spreading them around are almost always greater than the rewards for keeping them buried.

So even though I accept the notion that conspiracies happen on a regular basis, I’m pretty skeptical of the stories about vast, complicated, multi-generational conspiracies that are peddled by many conspiracy theorists. Those scenarios just don’t seem to reflect human nature.

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