The most hardened conspiracy theorists make reckless, baseless accusations based on wild conjecture that represent the most extreme examples of begging the question, which is when one assumes their premise to be true without offering supporting proofs.
Then there is a less-stringent type of theorist who paints themselves as being merely curious or skeptical. And if that’s what a person is genuinely being, fine. Good, even. But asking questions can be different than seeking answers. The latter may involve genuine research and querying sites and sources one holds in low regard. Most importantly, it means being willing to arrive at a different conclusion than what you might wish for.
This week, I saw an offensive and absurd meme which insists that the George Floyd tragedy was staged. The “evidence” is an assertion that the officer is resting the bulk of his weight on his free knee and that the police license plate has no numbers or letters other than “POLICE” in large characters across the breadth of the plate.
The answers to these issues could be found by seeking out physiologists or the Minnesota DMV. But those making such assertions make no such attempts. They merely pronounce victory over the brainwashed sheep and ignore any evidence that would come out during trials or investigations and assume an impossibly-large stable of crisis actors to pull off the ruse.
If an answer were to be offered, those posting such memes would reject the response, regardless of the science, the evidence, or the credentials of the speaker. We are nearly two decades removed from 9/11 and some people are still “just asking questions” about melting steel beams or how a passport could avoid incineration. These types portray themselves as open-minded and, by default, anyone who disagrees with this approach to be closed-minded. After all, who could be against examining and “just asking questions”?
But again, people who use this phrase are generally not actually just asking questions. Rather, they are disingenuously phrasing a hardened belief as a question while trying to maintain a façade of being reasonable and open to truth.
An anonymous Logic of Science blogger wrote, “Good questions stem naturally from known facts and evidence. In other words, they have a basis in reality.” Bad questions, such as those related to the Floyd tragedy, are without evidence and just unfettered conjecture being crammed into a predetermined narrative.
The blogger demonstrated the difference between a genuine question and one which only aims to make the speaker seem curious. He used an example from his field of herpetology. Regarding why aquatic turtles emerge from water to bask on rocks and logs, there have been suggestions that this action might be related to temperature, immune functions, or parasite cleanings.
“All of these are good questions…based on our existing knowledge of biology,” he wrote. But suppose someone ambles along and posits that maybe the shelled creatures are seeking escape from interplanetary interlopers who have invaded their lake.
“That would be a bad question, because it’s not based on any known facts. There is no reason to think that aliens are involved, and we’d need good evidence of the presence of aliens before it would be rational to even consider the possibility that they are involved.”
Indeed. Yet the conspiracy theorist response such dismissals is to declare the other person to be in on the plot, scared of the truth, or trying to hide something.
But since there is no rationale for thinking aliens are chasing turtles or that Floyd and his murderer are props in a ruse, these ideas can be discounted out of hand. Christopher Hitchens nailed this one when he declared, “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”
So wondering how COVID-19 came to be is a natural thought and could even be the first step in the Scientific Method of trying to find a cure.
However, asking, “Did Bill Gates orchestrate the coronavirus so that he could microchip us all” is a poor question. There is no evidence to suggest Gates devised the virus or wants to use the resulting vaccine to track our movements. Persons arrive at such conclusions by taking a circuitous route of cherry picking disparate points and ignoring the Law of Truly Large Numbers.
The “just asking questions” crowd rarely issues interrogative statements in good faith or seeks genuine dialogue. Anyone who asks if Bill Gates is going to microchip us via a future vaccine has already answered their own question.
There is nothing wrong with asking a question if one will examine the evidence and accept where it leads, but too often that’s not the case. I have presented strong evidence to the contrary when persons have asked if HAARP is controlling the weather. The response was not to thank me for the enlightenment, but rather a galvanizing of their beliefs. They were “just asking questions” based on those beliefs, not on wanting to know.