The term “conspiracy theory”, though I use it myself, is a two-edged sword that 
may have outlived its usefulness.  Those challenging mainstream knowledge and 
conventions are routinely cast as conspiracy nuts – and implying that such nut 
jobs glob onto many such “oddball” explanations of the universe as a crutch to 
cope with reality, It has acquired a derogatory meaning and can become a 
perverse tool applied to dismiss or ridicule unconventional beliefs, a tool of 
suppressing sincere inquiry and challenging of prevailing norms and wisdom, 
defying gut instincts (aka cognitive biases) and seeking truth no matter where 
it takes you and at what costa.  
 Many breakthroughs and new understanding of how the world works, including 
counter-culture ideas, and challenges to the establishment, have been initially 
derided as crack-pot ideas, conspiracy theories, promoted by nut jobs. Derision 
of challenging and troubling ideas is a core defense mechanism.  
 A vast list of crack-pot ideas, inflammatory, and/or conspiracy-driven dibble 
has unfolded and become in our lifetimes mainstream wisdom – a few, both large 
and small (may) include (not in any order of impact or importance:  the Snowden 
leaks, Pentagon Papers, Lewinsky’s blue dress, lack of weapons of mass 
destruction, Judith Bourque’s book, Iran-Contra, the Madoff scandal, genocides 
and mass murder of German concentration camps, Stalin, Mao, Khmer Rouge, Sudan, 
Native Americans, “California real-estate prices never go down”, the USDA’s 
food triangle, equal pay for equal work, segregation, JFK’s affairs, Watergate, 
MY Lai, black site prisons, priest pedophilia, the tech bubble (“you just don’t 
GET it”), the housing bubble, Goldman Sachs, the extent of regulatory capture, 
animals having emotions, Sandusky, celebrities coming out of the closet, the 
Higgs Boson, Masters and Johnson, a black president, LBJ’s decline seek 
re-election, the value of “health foods”, vegetarianism, yoga and meditation, 
game-changing technology, global climate change, etc. More so over the march of 
time – much of mainstream science came from those initially labeled heretics, 
crackpots, etc.
 Though many weird, strange, mind-blowing, unbelievable things have turned out 
to be true, that hardly means that all weird, strange, mind-blowing, 
unbelievable things are true.  
 Some core distinctions are willingness to systematically, without bias or 
agenda, challenge one’s own and society’s views, models of how the world works, 
prevailing understandings and conventional wisdom. These are high virtues, not 
something that is worthy of derision and labels such as conspiracy theories.. 
 However, it is hardly a virtue to be driven by conformational bias in 
assembling facts to form an apparent, though illusory random pattern in order 
to fulfill some inner need to cast blows against the empire, exude elitism, 
deride others, irrationally attempt to bring order and make sense of a seemly, 
at times, irrational challenging life and universe.
 A key distinction is whether one first shoots the arrow or paints the target, 
is open to considering all evidence, a willingness to change views as new 
evidence presents itself, always seeking to find alternative answers to explain 
and overturn one’s current pet POV, having a healthy sense of both skepticism 
and optimism, and  having an identity independent of a particular “truth”.   

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