Zombies

by Ericka Johns

(While writing this post on zombies, I could not stop thinking about the scene in “The Office” where Andy sang “Zombie, zombie, zombie, iiieee, iieee “, so feel free to have that scene playing on a loop in the background as you read the following):

The belief in zombies is the belief that it is possible for a human body to function without a soul, that a human body lacking consciousness can imitate the movements of a human body with consciousness, and that a dead person has the ability to come back to life. Besides horror movie fans and dooms-day preppers, philosophers like Todd Moody and David Chalmers also believe that the idea of zombies is not far-fetched 1. The mention of zombies can be dated back to 1697, where they were described as spirits or ghost in literature. The inclusion of zombies on-screen began in 1932, with the release of the film “White Zombie” and characters such as Frankenstein and Dracula, who appeared around the same time. These depictions of flesh-eating, blood-thirsty zombies are quite different from the earlier depictions in the 1697 literature. As the years have gone on, and technology has improved, zombies have appeared more gruesome and gory 2. With the continuation of film and TV adaptations into today’s age, zombies, and the belief in them, remain prevalent in society.

Perhaps the most alarming part of all of this is that zombies actually DO exist…just not in the form you’re probably thinking of. In the Haitian religion of Vodou (not to be confused with Voodoo, the New Orleans rendition of the religion which is a variation of hoodoo and conjure), there are sorcerers for hire called bokors who will turn people into zombies for the right price, but not with magic! As a Vodoun practicioner Dorian David Leigh describes, bokors administer “zombie powders” (a mix of various poisons and hallucinogens) to the individual, and through this, the bokor is able to create a complacent, paralyzed, and brain-damaged human. These “zombies” are used by the bokors and are sentenced to a life of servitude, doing whatever it is the bokors command. Bokors aren’t the only ones with this “ability” to turn people into zombies, there are also secret societies within the religion that use the powders as a form of punishment. Since killing is forbidden in the most common form of Vodou, Afrique de Ginen, the societies punish those who commit crimes punishable by death by turning them into zombies 1. In Haiti, the zombies themselves are not feared, the idea of being turned into a zombie against one’s will or doing something terrible enough to warrant being turned into a zombie is feared 3.

In academia, the zombie issue is also ever present in the form of what is called “p-zombies”, with philosophers like Dennett, Moody, and Chalmers (mentioned earlier) chiming in on the argument of zombies (human body without consciousness behaving like a human body with consciousness) and the possibility of their existence. Dennett holds the position that if a body is indistinguishable from a person in its behavior and mannerisms, then it is indeed a person, not a zombie. Moody and Chalmers, on the other hand, believe that a body CAN be distinguishable from a person, due to the stipulation that the body is not conscious. This topic is debated in philosophy because philosophers do not believe, or do not want to believe, that consciousness can be broken down into just a few materialistic functions 1. The field is generally split into two sides: those who believe that zombies can have cognitive capabilities but not be conscious, and those who do not. This is an issue explored further by philosopher Declan Smithies in his article “The Mental Lives of Zombies” 4.

So far, I’ve discussed three types of zombies: those who are dead and come back to life, those who are created by the bokors and secret societies of the Vodou religion, and philosophical zombies (which can apply to machines, or anything for that matter). So, are proponents of these forms of zombies misinformed? Yes and no. If you believe that the dead can come back to life, you’re not alone, so did the ancient Greeks who buried their dead with heavy rocks over the corpses to prevent them from reanimating. The only thing is: how we generally learn about zombies, such as these, is through pop culture references, not real life. This means that pop culture shapes our beliefs in this type of zombie and perpetuates the narrative, without any real proof that they are possible. On the other hand, the creation of Vodou zombies has a scientific/medical basis, as opposed to a more supernatural basis, and it is a normal practice in their religion. The issue of the philosophical zombie (p-zombie) will likely be debated for many years without any true, beyond-a-doubt conclusion, so a person taking either side would only be wrong or misinformed in the eyes of the opposition.

As I mentioned earlier, there are many film and TV zombie plotlines, lots of them involving an apocalyptic theme and zombies that are reanimated corpses. There are some funny depictions of zombies, like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead, and some more serious depictions can be seen in films like World War Z and shows like The Walking Dead. Works like these is what keeps the belief in zombies prevalent in today’s society. I also mentioned earlier that dooms-day preppers might have a strong belief in zombies because they are preparing themselves for the apocalypse and any form that takes, which involves being ready for anything. TV and Film keeps the fear and possibility of zombies alive (no pun intended), and the idea that they could indeed cause an apocalypse, despite the lack of evidence.

As for our obsession with the idea of zombies, where did it begin? Well, Stanford literary scholar Angela Becerra Vidergar believes it is history itself that drives our obsession. She says that large scale disasters, like the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, cause people to think about their own deaths on a mass scale and with a focus on survival of the fittest 2. This seems to be a plausible explanation for our fascination with zombies: when we see a zombie film, we are prompted to start thinking of what we would do to survive if we were in that situation. This can be the driving force behind our obsession, but multiple explanations can justify our obsession as well. Do you believe in zombies? Do you think they can cause an apocalypse one day? Are you obsessed with zombies like the rest of the world? Let me know in the comments.

  1. http://skepdic.com/zombies.html
  2. https://www.history.com/topics/history-of-zombies
  3. http://www.umich.edu/~uncanny/zombies.html
  4. Smithies, Declan (2012). The mental lives of zombies. Philosophical Perspectives 26 (1):343-372.

“Paul Is Dead” Theory

by Lauren Hondroulis

The 1960’s were consumed with excitement and adoration for The Beatles as they became a worldwide phenomenon. Many fan-fueled theories sprung into sight over the course of their careers, but among the most outrageous is the “Paul Is Dead” theory.

Believers of this theory claim that singer and guitarist of The Beatles, Paul McCartney was killed in a car accident on November 6, 1966. This conspiracy theory became popular among the obsessive fanbase in 1969 as the result of a startling rumor and the release of Abbey Road. The news that the “real” Paul was dead and a fraud had taken his place spread quickly worldwide and even made it to The Beatles themselves. McCartney made light of the accusation saying, “If I were dead, I’d be the last to know”. The claims remained prominent amongst fans throughout 1969 until Lennon refuted the statements, causing them to die down. This conspiracy gained enormous traction due to McCartney’s terrific celebrity status and has remained one of the most curious in music history.

Clues that hint at Paul’s death have been extracted from many Beatles’ works. Fans have gone to great lengths in order to find obscure references in lyrics, album art, and even songs played in reverse. Fans famously picked apart the imagery found on the cover of Abbey Road. McCartney is pictured walking out of step from the rest of the band, barefooted, and holding a cigarette in his right hand. Theorists swore this was mirroring a funeral procession, while depicting Paul as the corpse. Allusions to death and funerals were further discovered within the artwork on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’s cover. McCartney and other member’s garb were scrutinized and inspected for further cues of the heartthrobs untimely demise. Fans also played The White Album’s Revolution 9 backwards in order to reveal hidden messages in the lyrics. Another key component of this theory is the fact that Paul was replaced with a lookalike stand-in. Many believers thought the replacement to be a man named Billy Shears. If this were true, the imposter would have talked, acted, and looked like Paul; as well as written the hit “Hey Jude”.

Several psychological factors come into play to make this conspiracy as widely noted as it is. Pareidolia might be an explanation for all of the evidence surrounding this claim. Defined as the tendency to see patterns in random data, this could have been what sparked the “Paul Is Dead” rumor in the first place. It is the brain’s natural inclination to make sense of the world, and oftentimes humans can derive meaning from noise. This is especially the case in circumstances involving the hidden messages found in The Beatles discography. It is difficult to pull out comprehensible phrases from the jumble of noise which comes from playing a record backwards. But, when primed to look for certain cues or words, the mind places significance on sounds it would not have otherwise, and hears the words it wants to hear. Believers ignore the impossibility of Paul’s death, looking only towards small and unconfirmed signs hidden in the music.

Celebrities are often targets of extraordinary conspiracy theories as they are always in the public eye. The Beatles were no exception, and this caused the belief to spread rapidly. Members of the fanbase maintained their position on McCartney’s death, attempting to bring mystery and scandal to the famed boyband. Pareidolia and overactive imaginations created a rumor that would not soon be forgotten. This conspiracy remains one of the largest in music history, and continues to bring amusement to McCartney and Beatles lovers around the world.

Works Consulted

“Conspiracy Theories.” Time, Time Inc., 20 Nov. 2008, content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1860871_1860876_1860997,00.html.

RollingStone. “Paul McCartney Is Dead Conspiracy Theory, Explained.” YouTube, YouTube, 6 Nov. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OPFr5ofkq8&t=43s.

“Paul McCartney: Music’s Most WTF Conspiracy Theories, Explained.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 6 Nov.2017,www.rollingstone.com/music/videos/paul-mccartney-musics-most-wtf-conspiracy-theories-explained-w511027.

Brain Typing

by Paige Whitley

Brain typing is a way to classify and group everyone into 16 categories of different skills, mental and physical, to predict athletic ability. 1. This was created by Jonathan P. Niednagle (JN) and he claims that brain typing is 100% accurate and that neuroscientific research will support it. 2. Within these 16 categories, there is a brain type that fits the individual and can help them to narrow down, even very young, what to do in life and how to get there. Brain typing is targeted at athletes to predict ability and claims to even be able to tell someone who their ability resembles. JN argues that he can do this just by observing the person and assigning their traits. 2. Brain typing is not in itself very popular but since it makes claims to be better than the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the most widely used psychological test, some people are very into it. 3. This idea sounds very intriguing, but although JN says neuroscience can support him, there has been no evidence to back him up.

JN has asserted that neuroscientific evidence could support brain typing, before anyone even did research for brain typing. He said brain typing worked by observing the person’s actions – not looking at their brain in any way which is very contradicting. JN has claimed to have done 30 years’ worth of research at an institute and there is still no scientific evidence to support brain typing. 2. Since brain typing has a lot to do with athletes, they are the ones most prone to believe in it. The LA Times even compiled a list of the best brain types for each sport and the rarest brain types for each sport. Including quarterbacks like Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Brett Favre all share the same brain type and encourage young athletes to get this done to see if they are similar to the greats. 4. In summary, JN is convincing people to be for brain typing because well, he can. But, with a lack of scientific evidence most people are skeptical.

This whole extraordinary belief is wrapped around the idea of conformation bias. If someone believes they are the best point guard on their high school basketball team or the best wide receiver on their football team, they will take the measures to get their brain type and compare themselves to the greats. It could even have a slight placebo effect, cognitively knowing you’re similar to Peyton Manning or similar to LeBron James, it could affect your game. And vice versa, if you are similar to someone who isn’t good, you may play worse.

This pseudoscientific belief is supported through testimonials. 3. These would all come from a community of (hopefully) successful athletes. Due to the observational aspect, professional athletes don’t have to seek out someone to be brain typed therefore someone, like JN, can do it behind the scenes and reach out to younger athletes and advertise this to them. Even though, they are already good players, they will be encouraged to attribute their success to their brain type and then make testimonials about how brain typing is 100% accurate.

In conclusion, brain typing doesn’t have any empirical evidence to support it and only has holds in the athletic community because of the claims to professional athlete’s brain types. It also has support through young, possibly cocky athletes seeking out confirmation bias and may even have a slight placebo effect with performance. JN believes he can assign brain types to people without ever looking at their brain. Brain typing isn’t harmful to anyone, but it is not accurate information.

  1. http://braintypes.com/what-is-brain-typing/
  2. http://skepdic.com/braintyping.html
  3. https://dykaandrian.blogspot.co.il/2015/02/brain-typing-pseudoscience-of-cold.html
  4. http://articles.latimes.com/1998/aug/09/sports/sp-11641/4

Chakras

by Shannon Cogan

Chakras are often referred to as a part of yoga practice and used to describe the way energy “moves” in the body. They are mentioned historically as early as 600 B.C. by Yoga Upanishads1. The name “chakra” is the Sanskrit word for wheel, because they are said to be spinning forces of energy in the body. Chakras are said to correspond to nerve centers and major organs in the body, and each of the seven chakras are said to correlate with different abilities, expressions and types of health. For instance, the well-being of the fifth chakra, which is located near the throat, is said to relate to a person’s ability to speak truth, but is also related to their neck, thyroid and oral health2. Believers claim that when chakras are blocked (typically as a result of different kinds of negative energy), negative physical, mental, emotional issues will result. There many suggestions put forth about how to “align” chakras to reduce this blockage, and individuals can pay for products or treatment that claims to improve chakra alignment3. While no data has been collected about the prevalence of a belief in chakras, chakra alignment is frequently worked in to yoga, which is practiced by almost 9 percent of adults in the United States4.

Believers in chakras claim that they experience physical, mental, and emotional improvements after alignment of their chakras. Because chakra alignment is often connected with mindfulness meditation or yoga, the benefits to physical and mental health of the yoga and meditation5 are often used as evidence for the effectiveness of chakra alignment. Chakras are explained as “nerve centers” or “sites of major organ”, but even yogis admit that no one has been able to measure these energetic centers in any meaningful way6. However, they argue that just because these energy centers cannot be measured scientifically does not mean they don’t exist. However, the proposal of chakras does not fit with the modern scientific understanding of how the human body uses and stores energy, and there is currently no proposed method by which the existence of chakras can be shown scientifically.

One main cognitive factor that likely contributes to the continued belief in chakras and chakra alignment is confirmation bias. Individuals who believe that they have different chakras associated with their well-being will be more likely to remember times when improvements in well-being occurred just after they took steps to ensure the alignment or balancing of their chakras. In addition, individuals who do no improve after chakra alignment might believe that they simply haven’t done enough, or that they are encountering additional negative energy from another source. Individuals might also attribute improvements in well-being to a balanced chakra when improved well-being might actually be the result of a different factor, including decreased stress, increased exercise, or a more positive attitude. Although little reliable research has been done, it is possible that chakra alignment does have some function as a placebo treatment.

In addition to cognitive factors, social influences also likely influence a belief in chakras. The authority bias, or tendency to accept the opinion of an authority, are likely at work as this belief is maintained. Leaders of yoga are generally very experienced in the practice, and so people who are new to the practice of yoga would likely be inclined to take advice from these experts about how to improve their well-being in various ways. In addition, many individuals who believe in chakras make an appeal to antiquity and claim that the existence of chakras is supported by the fact that the belief has been around for so long. These are some of the social factors that likely contribute to the continued belief in chakras.

Overall, these are many cognitive and social factors that contribute to this continued belief. Most individuals who practice chakra alignment are also probably unlikely to seriously question their belief because there are so few possible negative effects of this practice (besides potential wasted time, money, or lack of considering alternatives). In general, believers in chakra alignment do not tend to think about or talk about how this belief fits in to a larger scientific understanding of the functioning of the human body, possibly because the belief in chakras and chakra alignment is associated with a more spiritual (rather than scientific) framework of beliefs.

1 http://sacredcenters.com/history-of-the-chakra-system/

2 https://chopra.com/articles/what-is-a-chakra

3 https://peacefulacreslavenderfarm.com/chakra-balancing-products/

4 https://www.yogajournal.com/blog/new-study-finds-20-million-yogis-u-s

5 https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm#hed5

6 https://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/07/the-myth-about-chakras-why-you-probably-have-it-all-wrong-mijael-brandwajn/

The Anti-vaccination Movement

by Grace Maxwell

The anti-vaccination movement is one that is growing in recent years and has the potential to be one of the most harmful extraordinary beliefs out there. The root of the belief from person to person but with one common denominator: the belief that vaccinations are harmful and unnecessary. Some believe vaccinations cause other diseases in children, most popularly Autism, while other believes they are ineffective and are a way big pharmacy companies seek to make a profit. The belief has been around since the beginning of vaccinations, but has picked up popularity in recent years due to a social media being a large platform to share such beliefs and celebrity endorsements for the anti-vaccination movements. This is another extraordinary belief that is being perpetuated by those who oppose scientific evidence as a way to back up facts. There is scientific evidence to suggest the importance of vaccinations, but many people who are anti-vaccination choose to ignore it or justify it otherwise. It is a public safety risk and is dangerous for many, including people missing out on potentially life-saving preventative medicine.

Anti-vaccinators argue there is scientific evidenced behind their beliefs, however, their “evidence” is stringing together exceptions to the rule, outlying events and rarities. One argument anti-vaccinators make is that vaccines kill people, which has been true in the past. People advocating for vaccinations do not deny the risk accompanied with vaccinations, however, people dying from vaccination is the exception and not the rule. In one case, there was an outbreak of Polio in Nigeria that was due to a bad Polio vaccine. Again, an outbreak being caused as a result of a vaccination is an outlier and does not accurately depict effectiveness of vaccinations. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that supports the claim that vaccinations lower the spread of diseases. In one case, vaccination in Japan dropped 70% in 2 years which caused the cases and deaths due to whooping cough to jump from 393 cases and no deaths in 1974 to 13,000 deaths and 41 deaths just two years later. Another example is with the Meningitis vaccination. After the vaccination was introduced, cases went from 15,000 a year to less than 51.

The most prominent cognitive error anti-vaccinators fall victim to is the confirmation bias. There is evidence out there that supports their claims as detailed above, however, if they took a look at the bigger picture and sought out all available information, they may change their beliefs. These people are guilty of only seeking out and believing the data and information that aligns with their already strong beliefs. They also are likely to have their beliefs reinforced because of the “experts” and celebrities that endorse such beliefs. People can be easily influenced by the opinions and beliefs of people they feel are qualified. For many experts in the field of anti-vaccinations, their degrees and medical experience is enough for many to qualify what they say as valid and important.

These beliefs can be seen in many contexts, crossing line of race, gender, culture, class and education. People with this belief come from a wide and varied background so there are no real common denominators amongst anti-vaccinators. However, many of these beliefs are perpetuated and put forth in the context of their children. A lot of vaccinations occur in childhood, so the decision to not vaccinate a child is made by parents. These parents are also often parents who believe in holistic medicine or full out reject government regulated anything. The anti-vaccination community is also a place where people feed off of one another to further strengthen those beliefs.

Ultimately, the confirmation bias the group dynamics of the anti-vaccination community have contributed to further perpetuation such beliefs. These people need both motivation and ability to seek out other beliefs and they have neither. If they lost a child or fell sick from a common disease that could have been protected against from a vaccination, they would likely retreat to the idea that it was nature’s way, and nothing could have stopped it or rather saying it was far less likely the disease took them than the vaccination so there was no way to prevent it. Either way, the lack of accurate information and the encouragement of their beliefs from

“Ghosts are Real”

by Lauren Bumbaca

The belief that ghosts are real is the most widely believed paranormal phenomenon to date. The definition of ghosts is most commonly known as an apparition of a dead human that can have a presence on earth. Ghosts are implemented into our everyday life from the media all the way to the scary stories shared between children that come from generations. Ghosts are found in a wide variety of cultural and religious readings and are greatly immersed in modern day culture. In early times ghosts were more involved in religious and cultural stories, from being a constant theme throughout the Old Testament of the bible to being a cultural theme in the tourist attraction to New Orleans, Louisiana. The range that ghosts are represented in society from religious readings to hit TV shows explains why almost every person has experienced the extraordinary belief of ghosts at one point or another throughout their lifetime.

Tiffanie Wen, a writer for the “The Atlantic” explains how across the world, ideas of the paranormal exists. She begins her article by telling two different stories about her friends from different parts of the world experienced ghosts or “the paranormal” in one way or the other. Beginning with an eyewitness Sheila Sillery Walsh who visited Alcatraz in San Franciso recounts the story of how she was able to capture an image of ghost on her phone. Then Wen talks about her friend whom while on a trip to Ethiopia was able to capture a picture of a ghost as well with her iPhone. Both accounts are relatable and comparable to a majority of the population who have similar stories or have encountered strikingly similar situations. People believe in paranormal activity so much so that there are a wide variety of movies of “real-life” stories of families being changed forever due to the paranormal activity occurring in their homes.

When investigating ghosts, you must first look at where the popularity of ghost’s centers around. Ghosts first arose around religious entities, such as the bible. The bible is considered as one big journal of different first-person experiences. Today, when watching the blockbuster movies such as “The Conjuring” or “Paranormal Activity” you can’t help but be convinced that ghosts are real entities that exist today. Constantly we see again that these stories of ghosts come from personal experiences. Because of the medium where we learn about ghosts it already falls under the extraordinary belief umbrella by using personal experiences as proof as well as retreating to the supernatural. Another problem with witnessing ghosts is the psychological process of pareidolia; which is seeing certain images within disorganized patterns. For example, Wen’s friend who took a picture of the ghost claims to see a boy looking at a leaf in the picture she took. The friend not only is a victim to pareidolia but also retreats immediately to the supernatural without seeking other more reliable explanations, such as the picture being extremely blurry or the camera being wonky in general.

Culture also plays a big role in the belief of ghosts as a real entity. Wen discusses how more people in Asia believe in ghosts/ paranormal activity than in any other region due to their culture. For example, in Thailand the word for sleep paralysis is termed phi-um which translates to “ghost covered”. When hearing a scientifically explained phenomenon like sleep paralysis being explained in Thailand as an effect of ghosts its easy to identify why people grow up believing in ghosts. Modern culture on the world has greatly impacted the belief of the paranormal as well. Such as stated before with all the movies and tv shows surrounding theme of ghosts “haunting” the living. This not only shows how culture is a factor to the belief of ghosts but also the cognitive thought process of how humans need to have reasons for the unknown in their lives so if something out of ordinary happens then need an explanation and ghosts are the most available explanation for the unknown.

Overall, when discussing ghosts, it is easy see why most of the worlds population believe paranormal activity because it is all around us not only in modern day culture but also cognitively. Even though other people’s personal encounters are extremely believable, and many people are convinced that they themselves have had ghost encounters, it is important to note how false eyewitness encounters can be and that ghosts describe what an extraordinary belief is greatly. Making it practically impossible for them to be an actual entity of this world.

Work Cited:

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/why-do-people-believe-in-ghosts/379072/

The Illuminati

by Kayla Nist

During the Enlightenment period in Bavaria, a new secret society was started, called the Illuminati. The goal was to promote the ideas of Enlightenment with the societal elite. The group opposed the Catholic Church’s control over society’s view and promoted the idea of women as equals, and enlightening the minds of citizens and reduce them from being oppressed by the state (1). Once the group began, it grew quickly and spread across Europe. This rapid growth was also noted as the society’s downfall (1). After secret societies were banned in the 1780s, the Illuminati was considered part of the illegal organization, the Freemasonry (1). It is said that there are numerous surviving organizations that are descendants of the Illuminati, but these findings seem to be ambiguous (1). The conspiracy falls in people believing that the Illuminati survived its suppression and were responsible for the French Revolution (2). The Illuminati has surfaced recently as having ties to the assassination of JFK (2). It has also been brought up in many books and movies in pop culture. Many people believe in this secret society as the idea that there is a possibility for secret societies to have a hand in power (2). The Illuminati is extraordinary because of the questions surrounding it. There are so many conspiracy theories surrounding the group which makes them extraordinary.

There is no evidence showing that the group survived it’s collapse after the Enlightenment period (2). Given that there is no evidence, it doesn’t seem plausible that the group could still be around today, interfering with modern day events. The Illuminati is different from other conspiracies, however, because the believers always think there is something up with everything that happens (3). There is no evidence to prove one way or another that it exists or doesn’t or if the believers’ beliefs are true.

In today’s society, people need an explanation for why things happen. When something bad happens without explanation, people seek an explanation in other areas to find a “why”. Personally, I don’t think that the people who believe that the Illuminati are misinformed, but they might be misinterpreting the information presented to them. The believers are looking for a higher reason for why/how things/events happen. They look for an explanation for things happening and think secret societies are pulling the strings so they must be responsible for things.

The believers come from all social groups. They are intelligent people. The media plays a big role in encouraging their belief in the Illuminati. I feel like social media websites, like Twitter and Facebook, play a big role in encouraging these beliefs. There are many threads and groups that people can join and be exposed to these ideas that make up the basis for the belief to start and get stronger.

The Illuminati is a secret society that was established during the Enlightenment period. While it is said to be diminished, many believe that it is still around today. Many people still believe that the secret society is still around today and controls many events in society. They believe that the Illuminati holds a great deal of power. They use the belief in the group as an explanation for many things that happen in society.

 

  1. https://www.livescience.com/40048-what-is-the-illuminati.html
  2. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/archaeology-and-history/magazine/2016/07-08/profile-adam-weishaupt-illuminati-secret-society/
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/22/what-is-illuminati-google-autocomplete

Predictive Programming

by Dahria Beaver

Predictive Programming is theory that the government or other higher-ups are using fictional movies or books as a mass mind control tool to make the population more accepting of planned future events. This was first described and proposed by researcher Alan Watt who defines Predictive programming as “Predictive programming is a subtle form of psychological conditioning provided by the media to acquaint the public with planned societal changes to be implemented by our leaders. If and when these changes are put through, the public will already be familiarized with them and will accept them as natural progressions, thus lessening possible public resistance and commotion.” (Wood) Then it was popularized by Alex Jones and David Icke. The most notable cases of predictive programing are the examples found in the Simpsons, The Dark Night Rises, The Hunger Games, and the oldest being from Futility. Information can be found on blog posts and many conspiracy theorists have either made videos on it or have spoken on the subject.

People who believe in this theory are mostly conspiracy theorists who think there will be a totalitarian government takeover, or on the more mild side, theorists who believe tragic events are an inside job or completely fake. David Icke proposed that the Sandy Hook shooting was predicted in the Dark Night Rises because Sandy Hook is shown on the map in one of the scenes. (Wood) While I was looking for more information on the motives behind the government participating in predictive programming I found that most commonly people believe the government creates a problem so the population will look to the government for a solution. However, because the government planned for the crisis the government will offer a solution that has been planned long before the crisis ever happened. Alan Watt, along with many others, believe a desired outcome is created through the power of suggestion in media. (Wood) This theory is still very popular today because any huge event can be seemingly traced back to cartoon or movie that was fortunate enough to predict it.

Predictive programming at its core is a tactic to reduce resistance by introducing concepts that seem far fetched and continuously reintroducing them to make these concepts appear more likely or at the very least acceptable. As always there is a reason why movies and television are used as the common vessel. When watching something a person typically perceives it as entertainment and their theoretical guard will be lowered and the subliminal messages will be directly go to the subconscious. It also is used as a sort of self fulfilling prophecy because once an expectation is created then when these events start to happen the population may seem more likely to accept the fate. There is also a control of imagination because the most commonly used tool in predictive programming is science fiction, by creating these stories the author can create boundaries of imagination and slowly show what may happen. (The Coincidence Theorist) As mentioned before one example of this is Futility. This is a book from 1898 that shared the story of a fictional ship named Titan that was deemed unsinkable and ended up crashing into an iceberg. With a similar description and fate this novel is seen as outlining the fate of the Titanic to create an acceptance among people for when the Titanic truly sank.

Predictive Programming is not a seamless theory because there are several contradictions when considering the possibility of subliminal messaging. Firstly, there is a conflict with the social learning theory. In the most popular experiment showing the social learning theory children either hit or ignored a clown doll depending what behavior they saw being exhibited by an adult. In predictive programming it is said that by portraying a message a reaction is assured regardless of the context, but in the experiment the children didn’t have a reaction to the doll other than the one exhibited by the adult. (Wood) Secondly, there are a few purposes for predictive programming and not all of them have to deal with tyranny. Some are meant to lessen the blow of an event like 9/11, or as mentioned previously, the Sandy Hook shootings. The contradiction raises when thinking about why the government would want to warn us or prepare us for Sandy Hook. The whole point of Sandy Hook conspiracies is to doubt the event even happened so the government could create a conversation of gun-control. This would defeat the purpose of staging it if the government was trying to ensure a small or inexistent response. (Wood). Lastly, Alan Watts is very successful in explaining how an event was predicted by looking back at what was in movies or cartoons before the event but predictive programming is not actually successful in predicting what may happen in the future based on current media. (Wood) For example the Simpsons are credited with predicting 9/11, the ebola virus, Trump’s presidency, and many others. In a particular episode Lisa is seen holding a magazine that advertises nine dollar bus fares to New York City but the price is placed by a silhouette of the twin towers. Therefore, the cover is depicting 9/11 and is involved in predictive programming. These instances of prediction from the Simpsons has only surfaced along with the theory, but there are no new prediction being reported from the Simpsons. With a majority being from the 1990’s or early 2000s. Showing that the accuracy of predicting the future is still fifty-fifty and left to chance.

There are several cognitive contributions that can be attributed to predictive programming. A lot of the evidence presented by theorists are highly likely to be coincidences. Some are eerie and seem to be a sure thing but they could be resulting from Pareidolia. Pareidolia is seeing patterns in random stimuli and as theorists are looking through evidence for their belief they may begin to use a confirmation bias and see a patten that does not actually exist. Interestingly enough pseudoscience may play a role in the appeal of this theory. A lot of the basis of predictive programming can be attributed to the idea of neurolinguistic programming but after empirical testing there is no evidence that neurolinguistic programming even works. More importantly there is no link between the two. As mentioned before, predictive programming is meant to soften the blow of a traumatic event and create less of a reaction and a tendency to accept. However, there are studies that show how stimulus is presented is very important to the outcome. A study in 2009 showed that portraying something in a negative or positive way will impact how it is perceived. (Wood) This eliminates the idea of predictive programming being completely subliminal but it does introduce the idea of the mere exposure effect. By showing a positive or neutral stimulus repeatedly there is a tendency for a person to like that stimulus more and more overtime. These finding are both a problem for predictive programming because through the mere exposure effect people would have an even worse reaction to any negatives being presented. (Wood)

The mass majority of believers in this theory are conspiracy theorists. Alan Watt is a researcher who first described the phenomena but it was made popular by David Icke and Alex Jones. What they proposed as evidence seems very believable, and with a lot of exposure and good explanations, predictive programming seems to convincing not to be real. Conspiracy theorists mainly latch on to this idea because as theorists they already have a sense of disdain towards the government and beliefs of long held deceit within the higher ups. These two factors play into why many believe predictive programing is real, because most times when a person believes in one conspiracy theory they believe in others.

Predictive programming is a seemingly real phenomena but it is built up by facts that aren’t truly facts and perpetuated by a self proclaimed researcher and social media. With such easy access to all of the evidence and the tendency to not trust the government the patterns presented as evidence make predictive programming look like a real and unstoppable issue. There are inconsistencies that have been shown but for the most part the belief in predictive programming grows each time new “evidence” is presented.

Resources:

“Predictive Programming.” Predictive Programming – RationalWiki, rationalwiki.org/wiki/ Predictive_programming.

Valentini, John. “Imagining 9/11.” Scribd, Scribd, www.scribd.com/doc/64559213/ Imagining-9-11.

“Behind The Scenes of Predictive Programming: The Lying Wonders of Hollywood’s ‘Prophets.’” Heiscomingblog.wordpress.com, 20 Oct. 2016, heiscomingblog.wordpress.com/ 2016/10/20/brought-to-you-by-lying-wonders-predictive-programming-6-future-events-thatthe-simpsons-foreshadowed-and-the-elite-made-happen/.

“TCT.” The Coincidence Theorist, TCT Http://Thecoincidencetheorist.com/Wp-Content/ Uploads/2014/11/Logo-testing2-300×137.Png, 29 Mar. 2016, thecoincidencetheorist.com/ predictive-programming/predictive-programming-creepy-media-foreshadowing-or-harmlesscoincidence-2/.

“Mind Blowing Examples of Predictive Programming in Cartoons.” The Ghost Diaries Mind Blowing Examples of Predictive Programming in Cartoons Comments, theghostdiaries.com/ mind-blowing-examples-of-predictive-programming-in-cartoons/.

Phil, Dutch. “The Conditioning of Humans.” The Conditioning of Humans – Predictive Programming in Movies, www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/ sociopol_mediacontrol66.htm.

Schwarz, Rob. “Predictive Programming: Who Controls the Future?” Stranger Dimensions, Stranger Dimensions, 15 July 2017, www.strangerdimensions.com/2016/08/12/predictiveprogramming-controls-future/.

Moon Landing Hoax

by Lucas Nuzzo

The moon landing conspiracy theory is a very popular conspiracy among conspiracy theorists due to the immense nature of the achievement that was accomplished by the United States. There are many people who believe that the moon landing was a hoax it ranges from chronic conspiracy theorists to everyday normal people. The moon hoax has been popular since we actually first landed on the moon on July 20th 1969. I remember talking to my grandmother about it when I was a kid and she was telling me stories of the footage and how she believed it looked so fake to her. Information may be found all over the internet and is a popular documentary topic. The belief of the moon landing hoax is based on people believing the moon landing was a conspiracy by our government to trick the american people and that it never actually happened (1). This belief is extraordinary because it requires an immense level of (cognitive dissonance) to reason around human’s not going to the moon because there is so much proof that we did.

There is an overwhelming amount of evidence for the moon landing taking place just as the United States government has said. The most damning piece of evidence is a whole site by Nasa that shows pictures, and documents all of Apollo 11’s journey on July 20th, 1969 (2). The evidence against the moon landing relies mainly on two pieces of evidence. One based on a picture of buzz aldrin holding a flag that looks like it is waving due to wind, and as we all know there is no wind in space. The other piece of evidence is their belief that Stanley Kubrick helped create the moon landing due to 2001 A Space Odyssey; a movie that came out a year earlier in 1968.

People who do not believe in the moon landing are misinformed and are also misconstruing evidence. The people who believe in the moon landing are usually ones who have a predisposition in not believing the government, this includes agencies such as NASA. Moon landing skeptics misinterpreted evidence, one key piece of evidence that the skeptics point to is an image of buzz aldrin standing next to a US flag on the moon. The US flag looks as if it is waving which could obviously not happen on the moon because space is a vacuum. Skeptics point to this as a gotcha against NASA; nasa released a statement that this occurred due to when Buzz Aldrin placed the flag in the ground he used a twirling motion to secure it, which in return caused the wind like wrinkles (1). Skeptics then reply with fake news, the scientist was bought and refuse to see any reality other than their own. These skeptics may have become mistaken due to the government lying to us before and now they will not believe anything they tell us.

Skeptics of the moon landing are primarily people who distrust the government. Even when confronted with evidence from scientists not involved in NASA the moon landing skeptics will always retreat to the opinion that the government bought them off and they are paid shills. (3). The most prominent people contributing to the social growth of moon landing hoax are celebrities. Celebrities such as Eddie Bravo go on radio shows and talk to millions every year about the moon landing conspiracy and pass it off as gospel to listeners. Believers in the moon landing hoax tend to be conspiracy theorists who already distrust the government. The social influences that sustain them is the online presence of many conspiracy theory websites. Conspiracy theorists seek out these websites and create sub communities in them for their flavor of conspiracy, this creates a safe space where no alternate ideas are brought forward and current ideas are not challenged. This type of online engagement helps these conspiracy theories spread and gain traction among the general population.

For someone to believe that the moon landing was a hoax or a government conspiracy one must already distrust the government. Being a part of an online community with few dissenting voices will also strengthen one’s belief in conspiracy theories or government hoaxes. Individuals with large audiences allows for more individuals to be exposed to conspiracy theories like the moon landing hoax and may be viewed as an authority figure on the subject due to their large audience. An individual must also ignore or misconstrue the mass amount of evidence that exists in support of the moon landing occuring. All of these factors combined may explain why the Moon Landing Hoax is a popular conspiracy theory and why people buy into conspiracy theories in general.

  1. http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1860871_1860876_1860992,00.html
  2. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo11.html
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ni5mypmRrNs

 

Conspiracy Theories: Princess Diana’s Death

by Shannon Novak

Princess Diana, the beloved Princess of Wales, is one of the world’s most recognized names. She was the first wife of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and the mother of Prince William and Prince Harry. Born into a family of British nobility in 1961 and marrying into Britain’s royal family in 1981, the world’s spotlight shined brightly on her throughout her lifetime. The world’s spotlight became harsh when she and Prince Charles divorced in 1996, and the world’s fascination with her life carried over into her death as well. She died on August 31, 1997 in a car crash that also took the lives of her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and her driver, Henri Paul. The tragedy of her death struck the world so hard that people were incredulous to believe that someone as special as her could have been killed in something as random and futile as a car accident (Lawless, 2017). For this reason especially, as well as several other pieces of seemingly convincing information, conspiracy theories arose about her death having been the result of a murder plot – created by England’s royal family – against her.

The general belief of this conspiracy theory is that the royal family was ashamed of the public conversation about the unhappy marriage and divorce of Diana and Charles and therefore took action to conspire against the princess and ultimately murder her. One major proponent of this conspiracy theory of Diana’s plotted murder was Dodi’s father. He had claimed that Diana and Dodi were in fact pregnant and planning to get married, but the royal family very much disapproved of their relationship because they refused to let the princess marry a man of Islamic faith (Wood, Douglas, Sutton, 2012). Dodi’s father also believed that there was an entire list of people who conspired against Diana and Dodi, including but not limited to Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Diana’s sister, and the CIA. He publicly expressed these beliefs and soon these beliefs spread through the world like wildfire. Numerous investigations were held to determine the truth of the matter. Even though both the French Court and London’s Royal Courts of Justice deemed Diana’s death to be an accident, there are still countless people that believe in the conspiracy theory today. Information about whether or not Diana’s death was truly an accident or the result of a murder plot can be found all across the Internet and even international judicial systems. The belief in this conspiracy theory is so important because Princess Diana was not only one of the most famous women of her time, but also an icon of the royal family – a family that is supposed to maintain a pristine reputation. This conspiracy theory could be considered extraordinary because accusing the royal family of committing such a heinous crime of murdering one of its members is such a bold thing to do, and it is an extraordinary claim that would definitely require extraordinary evidence.

One piece of evidence that led to the conception of the conspiracy theory is that it is said that Diana herself had speculated about the plot against her and had written letters in 1995 about her fears of Charles “planning an ‘accident’ in my car” or meeting her demise in an airplane or helicopter ‘accident’. Additionally, the car crash occurred inside of a tunnel that did in fact have surveillance cameras inside of it, however there is absolutely no video footage that exists of the crash despite the existence of cameras at the site of the crash. Many people find this to be very suspicious and claim that the police and/or CIA must have been involved in the destruction of the footage that could’ve served as proof of the murder plot. Evidence against the conspiracy theory is that Diana’s driver, Henri Paul, had been drinking earlier that night before he drove. Additionally, the paparazzi were following the car, and Paul tried to drive faster to evade them. The combination of Paul’s intoxication, the car’s high speed, and the fact that they were inside of a tunnel led to Paul’s loss of control of the car. This loss of control ultimately ended in devastation as three of the car’s four passengers died as a result of the crash. Furthermore, Diana was not pregnant and Dodi and Diana were not planning on getting married – as Dodi’s father had claimed and used as some of the crucial information in creating this conspiracy theory (Lawless, 2017).

People who believe in this conspiracy theory are certainly not unintelligent. Instead, in believing in the theory, they are fulfilling their need to gain an understanding and have control over something that they are having a difficult time grasping. As previously mentioned, people have a difficult time believing that a person as remarkable as Princess Diana would meet her ending in such an ordinary way. The believers are looking for power and hope in an event that has been so tragic and devastating to the world. Additionally, the people who believe in this conspiracy theory might have a certain level of mistrust towards the royal family and have therefore found reasons as to why they would want to plan her murder anyways. Furthermore, with the proper motivation to find information, people will develop a specific lens when looking at information about the accident and fall victim to the confirmation bias. They may have been misinformed by the media or may be misinterpreting evidence in such a way that fits the lens of their confirmation bias.

Believers of this conspiracy theory come from all types of communities, however Dodi’s family were, and continue to be, very strong influences on the belief in the theory. In fact, Dodi’s father has taken lots of legal action to prove his beliefs, however those attempts have proved to be unsuccessful for him. An interesting social influence that has helped believers sustain their belief system in this conspiracy theory is the existence of other, slightly different conspiracy theories that exist about the car crash. For example, some people believe that she Diana and Dodi are actually not dead, but instead they faked their deaths to seek refuge from the press and to live a happy life together away from the spotlight. Another theory that some people have is that Dodi and Diana were not the targets of the British royal family, but they were actually the targets of Arab arms dealers (Anonymous, 2006). Despite the fact that all of these theories contradict each other, the contradictions do not weaken the belief in the main theory, – that the royal family plotted Diana’s murder – but rather strengthen it because the contradictory theories give support to the belief in the existence of conspiracy theories about this event in general (Wood, Douglas, Sutton, 2012).

In conclusion, the main reason that some people believe that the royal family conspired to kill Diana was so that people may have an explanation for something that they are having a difficult time making sense of. By being able to provide a reason behind Diana’s tragic and unexpected death, people are able to fulfill their need of having some control over the unknown. Additionally, high levels of suspicion and mistrust of the government are important in the creation of this specific extraordinary belief because the people who believe in it have come up with reasons as to why the authorities should not be trusted and reasons as to why the royal family would do something like this in the first place. Finally, with the help of confirmation bias, people are able to evaluate certain information and ignore other bits of information in such a way that fulfills their pre-existing ideas about Diana’s death.

Sources

Anonymous (2006). Last refuge of the conspiracy (Death of Princess Diana). Retrieved from

http://web.a.ebscohost.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&sid=00c0fe4b-dd06-4b3c-ae0d-1dbfb0b7cd57%40sessionmgr4009

Lawless, Jill (2017). Diana’s Tragic Death Spawned Web of Conspiracy Theories. AP News,

Associated Press, www.apnews.com/ac2f7bbb6c9f4818a47e24dc79d00394.

Wood, J., Michael, Douglas, M., Karen, Sutton, M., Robbie (2012). Dead and Alive : Beliefs in

Contradictory Conspiracy Theories. Retrieved from https://journals-ohiolink-edu.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/pg_99?108166688624377::NO::P99_ENTITY_ID,P99_ENTITY_TYPE:265455224,MAIN_FILE&cs=3v-MRCQgQznBnRWUdwsP_vTcqv8n4FKn4gLcCs22NRuSNWspRBSnmCR0GKC8_1tSQak4ueJ42cU2h5dIF3DwPdg