Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Who'll stop the rain?

In Umberto Eco's brilliant novel Foucault's Pendulum, three worldly and skeptical book editors whose company specializes in publishing woo-woo nonsense decide to skip the middle-man.  Enough with trying to lure in writers with manuscripts about astrology, psychic phenomena, secret societies, and conspiracy theories; given the amount of time the three editors have spent reading all of this stuff, they have the background to out-woo-woo the woo-woos, and write a book themselves that will trump all the rest.

So they do.  Their manuscript ties together the Templars, the Masons, ley lines, the Holy Grail, black magic, Atlantis, and psychic super-energy.  Their tale is left open-ended, though; the final resting place of the Object of High Magic that has been sought by every secret society in the history of humanity is still being researched, and the Object itself is yet to be found.  After all, everyone knows how irresistible a mystery is!  When their book is printed, the editors congratulate themselves on having taken advantage of the gullible and credulous, and laugh up their sleeves at how anyone could be foolish enough to buy it.

But then, one of them is kidnapped by the very people they've catered to.  A ransom note is delivered to the other two, demanding to know what the solution to the puzzle is.  There is no way, the kidnappers say, that you got that far with putting the clues together, and didn't actually figure out where the Holy Grail is.  Tell us -- or we'll kill your friend.

And, of course, the more the kidnapped man and his two friends insist that there is no mystery, there is no Holy Grail, no Super-Powerful Magical Device hidden in some sacred spot in the world, that they made the whole thing up, the more convinced the kidnappers are that they're lying.  Why would they argue so hard if they didn't have something, something big, to hide?

It's the problem with conspiracy theorists, isn't it?  No power on Earth can convince them they're wrong; facts can be spun or made up, and the people arguing against them are either deluded, stupid, or else part of the conspiracy themselves.  And the trouble -- like with our skeptical book editors in Foucault's Pendulum -- is that sometimes, you end up convincing someone you wish you hadn't.

Which brings us to the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Ahmedinejad has long belonged to that unfortunately extensive list of world leaders who have a rather tentative grip on reality.  He's a hard-line Muslim, is (by all accounts) extremely superstitious, and is a raving Holocaust denier.  Now, however,  he's made statements that indicate that he's also spent too much time reading websites like AboveTopSecret.

Iran is currently suffering through one of the worst droughts in thirty years, and last week Ahmedinejad issued a statement claiming that hostile countries have used their technology to change the weather and cause the drought.  (Source)

"The enemy destroys the clouds that are headed towards our country and this is a war Iran will win," Ahmedinejad said on Monday of last week.  The West, he says, is "using special equipment" to "prevent rain clouds from reaching regional countries, including Iran."

Well, well.  I hope you HAARP conspiracists are proud of yourselves.  You have spent the last ten years blathering on about how the US military now can control the weather (and, according to some, cause earthquakes, mudslides, and volcanic eruptions), and now you've convinced a hostile world leader that you were right.  And not just any hostile world leader; a hostile world leader who (1) hates the United States, (2) is currently trying to develop nuclear weapons, and (3) already showed signs of being a delusional whackjob.

Nicely played, gentlemen.  Nicely played.  But what are you going to do now?

Of course, saying, "Ha-ha, we made it all up," like the editors in Foucault's Pendulum, isn't really an option, because you still believe it's all true, don't you?  So now we have to wait and watch while a nutcase threatens us with war because he believes an elaborate lie concocted by a bunch of other nutcases.

The whole thing is absurd enough that it almost does sound like the plot of a novel.  It makes me think that when the aliens from the planet Nibiru actually do arrive here on December 21, 2012, they're just going to destroy the planet on the basis of there being no intelligent life present.


  1. Don't be silly. Why waste a perfectly good planet? Don't destroy -- "cleanse."

  2. Wow. Awesome post. Great way to show what happens when the rubber meets the road.

    " You just don't get it, man. Ahmedinejad IS right. The U.S. is trying to slow down the Nuke production by making them starve. Open your eyes!"