Profs and Pints Metro Detroit presents: “It’s a Conspiracy!” a deep look at conspiracy theories and the question of how to distinguish justified suspicion from paranoid poppycock, with Mark Huston, associate professor of philosophy at Schoolcraft College and conspiracy theory scholar.
It’s become commonplace in American life to hear the term “conspiracy theory”—often in dismissive terms—and to know people whom we think of as conspiracy theorists. But what, exactly, is a conspiracy theory? Are conspiracy theories always false and deserving of rejection? Or are the real gullible ones out there the people who ignore conspiracy theories and accept “mainstream” views?
Come gain a sophisticated understanding of how philosophy and other scholarly fields approach conspiracy theories with the help of Dr. Mark Huston, a philosopher who has studied conspiracy theories in politics, medicine, and popular culture.
He’ll discuss some of the common theories about conspiracy theories and guide you through the debate between those scholars who regard conspiracy theories as fundamentally problematic and those who defend conspiracy theories as playing an important role in public life. The first group focuses on theories that most people regard as clearly false, such as the renewed idea that the earth is flat, while the second points to conspiracy theories that have been proven true, such as those focused on Watergate or the CIA’s secret MK-Ultra human experimentation program.
You’ll learn about what the philosophy of science terms “the demarcation problem”—the task of distinguishing scientific theories from pseudo-scientific ones—and how drawing a line separating one from the other is more difficult than many realize. Dr. Huston will look at some of the most common fallacies and mistakes in reasoning that produce bad scientific theories, and he’ll describe how to apply knowledge of them to conspiracy theories, to distinguish those with no basis from those that are grounded in reality.
Finally, Dr. Huston will examine the interplay between conspiracy theories and films, novels, and other works of popular culture. He’ll look at how works such as The Manchurian Candidate, The Parallax View, National Treasure, and The Da Vinci Code, use conspiracy theories to make points about what we can or cannot know about machinations in religion, politics, and business.
His talk might not help you win arguments about conspiracy theories, but it should at least leave you better able to understand the dynamics of such debates and to make sound judgments about the conspiracy theories that others urge you to believe. (Advance tickets: $12. Door: $15, or $13 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later. Please be prepared to show proof of vaccination in case the venue continues to require it.)