Looking upon my book shelves, perusing up and down, left and right, I find one book that is oddly out of place. Out of 700 or so books, one of
them,darkly conspiratorial, heavy in it's assumptions, ghastly to the eyes, I'm sure, to anyone who appreciates the wisdom of occams razor.
Henry Makow, Phd. I want to laugh at the Phd part, but I can't deny that putting it there adds some sort of largesse. I open the book, look at the
table of contents, and read through his "4 books". Illuminati and Jews. On the front, bloody read cover, an apparent quote from the famous British
politician Dennis Leary; pithily stated "everything that happens in the world is scripted, carefully controlled, carefully crafted". Is this true?
Mustn't it be?
Animal Minds On The Lookout For Threat
We humans are truly an arrogant bunch. We walk around on our two feet pretending that we aren't just another animal. But can you blame us? Can anyone
honestly claim that there isn't enough in our nature that gives us a legitimate sense of superiority? Whatever the case, 3 things are true about us
which the conspiracy theorist is not emotionally intelligent enough to tolerate.
We mistakenly believe that we are in control of our thoughts
When we have beliefs, we do not wonder how or why we believe
We truly over-estimate the degree of our free will
All of this is explicable in the language of biology, evolution, and neuroscience, but the problem is, most (if not all) conspiracy enthusiasts know
little to nothing of any of these subjects; and if they do have any knowledge, this knowledge tends to be used to 'dismantle' claims about the
validity of any of the above subjects.
An example: a conspiracy theorist could well claim that biology, evolution, and neuroscience (or all science) is being by the Illuminati to control
and manipulate human thought and behavior.
There would be no rebuttal to this claim, however, any mindful person may well be provoked to wonder: why? Why are you so intent on showing, or
believing, that other people - an illimunati - possess not only incredible power, but are also a) nefarious in intent b) are remarkably organized and
c) somehow avoid the normal human pitfall of disagreement and disbandment?
There is a sort of tyrannical obsessiveness, whats called "perseveration" in psychology, which the conspiracy theorist seems blind towards. The
problem, in light of knowledge of brain evolution, is clearly related to a funny feedback loop in human functioning. Our brains evolved from earlier
brains, and have retained many basic structures, such as the amygdala (which evolved in reptiles). The amygdala is the organ which has played such a
big role in demonstrating how unaware we humans actually are of our own nature; for instance, under fMRI (functional magnetic imaging) it has been
shown countless times that the amygdala (a deep brain structure on both sides of the brain) reacts to stimuli at around 10 to 5 milliseconds. The
problem is, consciousness doesn't become aware of a response, that is, we do not consciously know what were responding to, until 500 milliseconds.
What, exactly, does this mean?
What this means, and what this has taught us about ourselves, is that we possess two brains. The inner, or subcortical structures of our brain
(beneath the cortex) such as the amygdala, process external, environmental stimuli (as well as internal stimuli) with reference to how we (the
organism) should respond or assess this information. The amygdala determines threat, safety, and more basically (thus showing our inherent animality),
whether we should approach or withdraw. This is exactly how the amygdala, the same structure found in every reptile, animal and bird brain, with
reference to threat or safety signals. Like them, we are structured by our pasts, responding, unknowingly, to information produced 'down below',
giving us something to think about and respond to.
Beliefs Are Constructions
Beliefs are basically contructions. Before we are old enough to believe, our body is already being trained to give us something to focus upon. This is
what the early, non-verbal, and 'amnesiac" first years of life do to us. If early trauma occurs, the mind which "awakens to itself' at 7, 10, 13,
and 20, will have a common theme to work through and think about. At each developmental stage, the person in question is confronted by feelings that
have their origin in early life - because early life, as neuroscience now shows - shapes how the environment becomes encoded within subcortical
structures; in particular, the brainstem, cerebellum, and amygdala, contain 'implicit', sensorimotor memories, which memory systems (hippocampal,
and dorsolateral), once they develop later on, become overly involved with.
Beliefs are interpretations of feeling states, which, when become 'fixated', amplify the feeling states (as in psychopathology). A conspiratorial
belief, maintains its allure simply because it has been "grasped" by an underlying feeling state, a dissociated, implicit memory, that has its
origins in some interpersonal reality in the individual in question.
The conspiratorial mind, of course, is also a human mind. And a human, animal mind, is a mind that is reflexive - meaning automatic - amygdala sparked
- in it's functioning. Those who can't appreciate the logic or reason in this current post have already formed their opinion about it long ago, and
probably didn't even finish reading it before leaving the thread, or preparing themselves for a long diatribe. Why is it so hard for us to liberate
our minds from the tyranny of paranoia? Because the amygdala, built as it is to protect the organism from harm, considers stereotyped, generalized
ways of understanding, to be more useful in promoting survival, than the more subtler, nuanced, and context driven memory systems of the hippocampus.
This is a tragedy, inasmuch as people gripped by conspiracy theories are really people "acting out" unresolved problems. THeir belief in an
all-powerful cabal, despite everything known about human nature, human fallibility, human animality, and the human penchant, in elite or commoner,
rich or poor, for self-delusion, cannot seem to overcome the deeply seeded fear that if they don't "do something", "they" will get away with it,
kill us, all because we weren't savvy enough to protect ourselves from "them".
As a former conspiracy theorist, and now a student of the brain, mind, and the effects of trauma on brain memory systems, I cannot keep my mouth shut;
I must share what I know - what modern science knows - about our human nature, and more than anything else, about our vulnerability towards
I'm not sure why I kept Makow's book, given I find his antisemitism abhorrent, and his conspiratorial thinking, grossly implausible, I still keep
it. Why? As a human animal, it's probably because I want a huge book collection. Accumulating. Just having that extra book - however stupid it is -
We are fickle creatures. But we are also very good when we use our memory systems to gain knowledge of ourselves. Here, in this post, I am trying to
share with you, people of a conspiracy website, how vulnerable we are to believing things when we have little knowledge, don't feel very good, and
find ourselves saying things, asserting things, and believing things. Should not the simple question be asked, in the end: do I do this to make myself