There's a system for assessing explanations for how things work and if they work. It's called science. But things are not that simple. There are a lot of circumstances where it's not so easy to measure outcomes.
Outcomes are a big deal. There's a ton of writing on outcomes research. Psychotherapy, health and related approaches have used Outcomes research to support claims of efficacy.
Outcomes research often collects studies and pulls them together to report findings based on that collection of studies.
Perhaps there's a way to take a somewhat scientific approach, or at the least, a statistical approach to some theories that are in the realm of what is designated conspiracy theory. I'm thinking that it would be helpful to have a database, on a website, or a network of websites, where all the questions and concerns were laid out, in some kind of standardized, systematic way.
Let's take a look at the 911 collection of theories. This is indeed a collection. It's possible to break down all the concerns into different elements or parameters. I'll start with one I'm comfortable with-- that the official government investigation was not satisfactory. It would be interesting to see what percentage of Americans are not satisfied with it. Then, we could identify the questions that were and were not answered, the people who were not questioned. I'm sure it's been written about somewhere, but it would be nice to have all those questions set in a database that was tagged and organized in standardized ways.
Then there are many many claims that relate to 911-- about building seven, about the way the buildings collapsed at the WTC, about the state of readiness of the military, about whether a plane actually hit the pentagon or the WTC, about energy weapons, about nano-thermite.
It would be useful to have some way to look at all the theories, to see which ones were given the most credence, which ones had the most support from credible sources, which ones were referred to on non-credible sources, which ones had science underlying them. Of course all of the credibility parameters I just listed would also need support. The database would enable critics and supporters to weigh in on all the sources, all the claims.
We're in a transitional time for information open-ness and data accessibility. That means that the amount of data and content that is available is exploding. Government is, sometimes willingly, sometimes reluctantly, opening trillions of bits of data to public scrutiny. Even corporations are putting more and more info on the web in accessible formats.
It is time that people who are interested in different "conspiracy theories" also work together to develop a way of addressing data, questions, claims, disputes, challenges, sources-- all the parameters that play a role in creating the questions and then assessing them.
In science there are standards which are set to measure phenomena and facilitate discussion of what scientists are focusing upon. It would serve everyone well to develop a standardized, scientific collection of tools to raise questions about events that occur, so people, from the bottom up can assess those events, not necessarily accepting the explanations provided by the mainstream media or the government. We've had enough experience where the government lied, where the mainstream media either helped the government to lie or failed to do its job and ask all the questions it should have.
Ideally, this project should be decently funded, without government money involved, since government has such a bad record of being part of the problem. There are foundations which might help. There are millions of people who believe one conspiracy theory or another. It would be fruitful for people who believe in different theories to come together-- not to argue for their pet theories, but to work together to establish solid, scientific and statistical approaches to addressing questions and claims of different theories.
I do not have any fantasies that such an approach will answer or resolve all the questions But it seems there are already methodologies and approaches that could more systematically address the kinds of questions that events sometimes raise. These would definitely be able to parse out the elements of the claims that were solidly grounded in facts and science.
There is no doubt that, for lack of a better word, "conspiracy theory" groups already claim to have taken a scientific approach. I'm saying it will be far more credible if a standardized approach is established, that any new events or questions can be plugged into. This article proposes that a collection of scientific, statistical standards be established, with a shared language, set of measures, criteria and databases-- so, where possible, common language and standards can be established.
It would be valuable if these databases could be integrated, creating APIs (application programming interfaces) and integrating them with other website databases, such as transparency databases that look at connections between organizations, like ones the Sunlight Foundation have funded.
These API tools and website mashups might also tie together seemingly disparate factors.
I write this with the hope that it opens a conversation. If there's anything like it already in existence, please add your comments, with links.