In the context of dealing with climate change skeptics, John Cook, Stephan Lewandowsky present a neat summary of conspiratorial ideation.
... from the peer-reviewed literature, the traits of conspiracist ideation, which is the technical term for a cognitive style commonly known as “conspiratorial thinking”. Our paper featured 6 criteria for conspiratorial thinking:
- Nefarious Intent: Assuming that the presumed conspirators have nefarious intentions. For example, if person X assumes that blogger Y colluded with the New York Times to publish a paper damaging to X, then X presumes nefarious intent on the part of Y.
- Persecuted Victim: Self-identifying as the victim of an organised persecution.
- Nihilistic Skepticism: Refusing to believe anything that doesn’t fit into the conspiracy theory. Note that “conspiracy theory” here is a fairly broad term and need not involve a global conspiracy (e.g., that NASA faked the moon landing) but can refer to small-scale events and hypotheses.
- Nothing occurs by Accident: Weaving any small random event into the conspiracy narrative.
- Something Must be Wrong: Switching liberally between different, even contradictory conspiracy theories that have in common only the presumption that there is something wrong in the official account by the alleged conspirators. Thus, people may simultaneously believe that Princess Diana faked her own death and that she was assassinated by MI5.
- Self-Sealing reasoning: Interpreting any evidence against the conspiracy as evidence for the conspiracy. For example, when climate scientists are exonerated of any wrong-doing 9 times over by different investigations, this is reinterpreted to imply that the climate-change conspiracy involves not just the world’s climate scientists but also the investigating bodies and associated governments.
The common pattern of holding a theory and assuming a conspiracy when evidence does not fit.
1. Hold a theory that man has dominion over all that swims, crawls, and flies when evidence reveals Homo sapiens exist as part of a web of life.
2. Hold a theory creation occurred 6,000 years ago and assume a conspiracy when evidence from anthropology, archeology, geology, etc. occur.
3. Hold a theory a superpower answers prayer and assume a conspiracy when people refute the premise.
4. Hold a theory ... well, you get the picture.
Boy oh boy! It sounds like our Jesus-y friends may just be conspiracy theorists...