Someone sent me a link to one of the several videos and PowerPoint files out there that point out some shocking "truths" about the events of 9/11. It led me to draw together some thoughts about conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories fascinate me because they illustrate how malleable the human mind is. One of the great talents of a our brains is to discern patterns -- a key survival skill. But we are so good at it, we can discern information that's not there.
The theories also illustrate the durability of myths. "Thomas Crapper invented the toilet!" You will find thousands of references to prove it, in print as well as on the web. But one problem: It's not true. All those references stemmed from one source which was passed around until they had the appearance of multiple sources.
I just learned that the power of coincidence to create the appearance of truth has a name: "coincidence theory." If you want to find a coincidence, you always can, especially if you are willing to scour the planet for evidence that supports it. You have probably seen the one that talks about the "amazing" coincidences between the assassinations of Kennedy and Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.
Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.
- The names Lincoln and Kennedy each contain seven letters.
- Both were particularly concerned with civil rights.
- Both wives lost their children while living in the White House.
- Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.
There are dozens and dozens of these. Do we believe there is a real relationship?
More on "coincidence theory": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coincidence_theory