I theorize that the most ingenious and evil scheme ever launched by tyrant wannabes was to convince the vast majority of Americans that not only is every theory concerning undisclosed collective actions by people in government automatically false, but it is also something that could only be dreamed up by a lunatic. Let’s sort out what is so brilliant about this scheme.
Let’s first dispel the idea that people in government never conspire to advance their own interests at the expense of others. While I would hope that stating the proposition as I just did would lay bare the obvious fact that people in government do that, let’s take this step by step.
According to Dictionary.com, a definition of conspiracy is: “an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot.”
Hopefully, everyone would agree that 1) some people conspire, 2) a government official, i.e., a “public servant,” who puts her interests ahead of the interests of the public when formulating, implementing, or carrying out policy is committing a wrongful act.
Let’s also hope that no one is so naïve as to think that never happens. At a minimum, the very fact that so much government information is classified and closed congressional hearings and agency meetings are commonplace reveals that people in government have no compunction about keeping information secreted from the public. What are they doing in there? No doubt, many of those meetings are benign. The idea that all of them are is daft.
Some people, including government employees, conspire.[i] By definition, conspirators endeavor to conceal their wrongdoing. Good governance requires reasonable efforts to ferret out and prosecute governmental wrongdoing. Because many conspirators are experts at keeping their secrets, a systematic, scientific approach to uncovering their secrets is usually required to bring the wrongdoers to justice. Let’s examine the standard way that is done.
The scientific method is the standard process by which truth is found. The scientific method starts with a hypothesis, proceeds to a theory, and hopefully, finds a truth. Merriam-Webster puts it this way:
In scientific reasoning, a hypothesis is an assumption made before any research has been completed for the sake of testing. A theory on the other hand is a principle set to explain phenomena already supported by data. Theories will pull together experimental results to provide full explanations such as “The Big Bang Theory.” Outside of scientific reasoning, “theory” and “hypothesis” are often used interchangeably, and “theory’ can unfortunately be interpreted to mean “less sound” or “lightly speculated.”[ii]
BTW: When a theory is proven, it becomes a “law,” something nearly universally considered to be the truth.
Note that “The Big Bang Theory” is very widely, though not universally, accepted among scientists as the best explanation of what happened. A careful scientist would not claim that theory describes a fact because there is no way to prove it. On the other hand, some theories are more likely to be correct than others. Compare Copernicus’s to Galileo’s. Do all the scientists who accept “The Big Bang Theory” to be very likely real wear tin hats? I think not.
The point is that both hypotheses and theories (both of which are called “theories” in common parlance) are a necessity in the process of discovering non-obvious truths.
Most theories prove to be incorrect. As Thomas Edison vividly illustrated with, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10, 000 ways that won’t work,” discovering what is incorrect is extremely valuable in the search for truth. Such discoveries enable scientists to quit wasting time on flawed theories and develop a new one that might be good. Unless one knows that a thesis contains a fallacy, to dismiss, much less shout down a plausible theory before it is tested is not only unscientific, it is idiotic.
Yet, here we are. Some nefarious geniuses have convinced the public that every theory concerning a conspiracy involving the government must be dismissed out of hand. It’s nuts.
In science, most theories prove to be invalid. The same is likely true of theories concerning the conspiracies among powerful people. Nevertheless, some powerful people do conspire to advance their interests at the expense of everyone else. Unless one of the conspirators spills the beans, the only way to reduce government corruption is to develop a plausible theory about the possible crime, investigate, and to continue to theorize about things that seem awry until the theory that uncovers the truth proves out. Hopefully, that scientific process reveals that the government is not as corrupt as it appears to be. However, because the automatic dismissals of conspiracy theories have protected criminals, I fear that the more likely outcome of pursuing conspiracy theories will be the discovery of much government corruption.
So whenever someone dismisses a hypothesis or theory about government corruption by saying, “I smell a conspiracy theory,” she is rewarding the nefarious geniuses who launched that evil meme and is aiding and abetting conspirators.