Friday, January 30, 2009

Steele on conspiracy theories

OK, one more post on conspiracy theories, and then I’m done with them for a while. Here is an important article by David Ramsay Steele on the JFK assassination, which emphasizes two points I made in a previous post: that conspiracy theories of the sort I have been criticizing unmoor themselves from any rational foundation by making the conspirators so powerful that all the relevant evidence becomes untrustworthy; and that the “just raising questions” pretense of conspiracy theorists keeps them from seeing that the answers implied by their loaded “questions” are so fantastically implausible that no one who thinks them through very carefully could take them seriously for a moment. Steele’s points apply mutatis mutandis to 9/11 inside job theories, which are vastly less plausible than JFK conspiracy theories in any case.

Steele, incidentally, is the author of the highly recommended From Marx to Mises, and also of Atheism Explained, a better book on atheism than anything written by Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, or Hitchens. (Still totally wrong, mind you, and in particular woefully inadequate in its treatment of Aquinas. But not dishonest and incompetent like the other books. Steele and I had a very gentlemanly radio debate on atheism last year.)


  1. Stick to philosophy. Leave history to those who have an open mind and an investigative heart. Don't add to the obfuscation with irrelevant abstractions.

    Tim Fleming
    author,"Murder of an American Nazi"

  2. Steele's article on the JFK is well worth reading, but omits several key points.

    Texas Attorney-General Waggoner Carr, in evidence to the Warren Commission, provided proof that Oswald was employed by the FBI at the time of the shooting. He gave Oswald's employee number and salary details. We only learned about this from Gerald Ford's memoirs.

    Oswald was a former Marine. Why would he choose such a crummy, obsolete rifle?

    As to motive:

    During the "Bay of Pigs" adventure, the US stationed two aircraft carriers just outside of Cuban territorial waters. The USS Boxer and the USS Essex. There were there to accomplish Dick Bissell's plan, approved by Kennedy, to take out Castro's entire Social Control infrastructure (telephones, radio stations, police and military etc.) using air strikes.

    Bissell calculated that this would give the Cuban people a sporting chance to escape Castro's tyranny.

    Kennedy left the US Ambassador 'out of the planning loop' because he didn't trust him. In result, when news of the invasion broke, Stevenson swore to the UN that the US had nothing to do with it. Kennedy panicked, and cancelled the air strikes, leaving 4,00 Cuban exiles to die or be captured.

    CIA is a civilian Agency, and cannot order the US Navy around.

    The Captain of USS Boxer said to his pilots: "If you want to fly the mission, I won't stop you." Very difficult for the pilots...

    It is not difficult to believe that any number of people might have been ticked off with Kennedy for aborting the mission. It led directly to the Missile Crisis.

    All knowledge is conjectural. The only thing that matters is the content of the theories, the problems they solve and the problems they raise.

    Tony Hollick

    Pilots for 911 Truth

  3. From what I've read, it's highly likely that Oswald was the only shooter in Dallas. And he strikes me as the last guy you would want to have as part of a conspiracy.

    I gather most sophisticated conspiracy theorists believe that LHO was the only shooter, but see evidence for a larger conspiracy. I'd like to read Kaiser's The Road to Dallas.

    BTW, Steele has written some good essays on Rand and Objectivism.

    -Neil Parille

  4. Neil--

    I recommend "JFK And The Unspeakable," by James Douglass. It's as close to the truth as we'll ever get.

    Tim Fleming
    author,"Murder of an American Nazi"

  5. One should be careful not to open their minds so far so as to let their brains fall out.

  6. I think conspiracy theories shouldn't be evaluated only in terms of antecedent plausibility, or philosophical rhetoric, or beautiful abstractions or analogies.

    In the case of 9/11, the most serious skeptics have done their case with evidence. Thus, a correct refutation of them should (at least) to objectively consider the relevant evidence presented, and show its falsehood or irrelevance.

    Adopting an armchair conservative philosophical and rhetorical defense of the status quo is a good (and easy) intellectual exercise; but it is not guarantee of truth; and if wrong in a specific case, it's unethical too, because it serves as a method to hide the truth.

    "Less plausible" events can sometimes occur. The question is: is the best evidence good enough to consider an a priori "less plausible" event as real one in a specific case (e.g. in the 9/11 events)?

  7. I don't suppose your radio debate with Steele was by any chance taped? I'd be very interested in listening to it.

  8. Hello Logan, the debate was on Kurt Wallace's show Wake Up America in May of 2008, but unfortunately I've been unable either to find an archived version online or to determine whether such a version will ever be posted at the show's website. (I don't have a copy myself.)

  9. Like Logan, I'd be very interested in listening to that debate too.

    Professor Feser, have you debated (or plan to debate) with other atheist philosophers regarding the God question? It would be very interesting because most theists that I've seen don't defend Aquinas' arguments for God. Thus you seem to be a very special (not very common) kind of theist.

    But not dishonest and incompetent like the other books

    I'd expect that from a serious philosopher like Steele.

    Other philosophers dealing recently with the "God question" are A.C.Grayling and Julian Biagini.

    Christian philosopher Peter Williams wrote a review of both books. The review of Grayling's book "Against all Gods" is available here:

    The review of Biagini's book "Atheism: A Very Short Introduction" is available here:

    Even though I tend to consider myself an "non-materialist agnostic", my impression is that many atheist books misrepresent the theist position and the best arguments for God existence.

    The above reviews shows that clearly.

    According to a recent post in William's blog, his new book "A sceptic's guide to atheism" has been published:

    But it is not available yet in amazon, thus I don't know if it's easy to get a copy of that.

  10. Hi ZC, there is at least one debate being discussed, but I'll wait until things are set in stone before saying any more about it.