Theory is often regarded a systematic framework formed of concepts that analytically account for phenomena observed. Philosophers for centuries have debated whether the goings on are external to human thoughts and cognition and thus real and material; or whether they are constructs of the mind, logically assembled and maintained by the exercising of reason with no independent reality.
Theory is applied in both the social and natural sciences. In the social sciences disputes emerge, once again, between those who advocate that there is a real material world outside the remit of the observer and those who propose that the social sciences can only be understood internally by its inhabitants; resulting in normative theories that encompass Political Theory as well as historical, social and anthropological paradigms under the broader domain of hermeneutics. In the natural sciences the matter is somewhat different. Although Philosophers o f science such a Van Frassen advocate a scientific image along with anti-realism, most would accept that the methodological practice of the natural sciences is to generate hypothesis that form, or derive from, an overarching theory. This runs parallel to the procession of validating the phenomena in question with the eventual goal of producing a correlation between the explanandum and the explanan.
Classifying both the social and natural sciences as science, with the use of theory, means that the procedures of verification, evidence and explanation take the same abstract steps even though the physicist is completely divorced from the world he studies as where the sociologist, by the nature of human existence and the definition of the discipline, is inescapably part of the phenomena he studies, society. Nonetheless the issues that arise for both the sciences centre around preemption; when there is more than one theory competing for the explanation of the phenomena in question, or theoretical redundancy; when there is a theory that explains certain aspects of a phenomena but not every time nor in every context. This coupled with using evidence based empirical data to warrant the application and validation of a theory means that both the social sciences and natural sciences constantly refine their hypotheses and make predictions on future outcomes.
These are the formal understandings and uses of theory across the spectrum of the sciences and this is what sets both theory apart from pseudo theory and science apart from pseudo science. It is for this very reason that Conspiracy Theory is a pseudo theory. Take firstly one of the Holy Grail‘s of the scientific method: prediction. These abound in the natural sciences, ranging from how, why and when your PC will turn on to planes flying and equations of time and space. The social sciences, as already mentioned, tread a much more precarious, unreliable and unstable ground. However through the collection of data based on conceptualized variables and statistical models of causation, predictions can be levied. Anyone who has an investment portfolio can see the benefits of employing time series and regression analysis in economics although the latest financial crises illustrates that the predictions are far from completely accurate.
Conspiracy Theory as a serious ontological and epistemological alternative to social phenomena must provide predictions, demonstrate their applicability and warrant evidence that at least renders their explanations as plausible or highly likely. Although in the social sciences these do not map exactly due to the nature of the measurement of artificially constructed social variables, Conspiracy Theory falls spectacularly short regarding the relationship between observed phenomena, explanation and the use of reliable and relevant data and thus prediction.
- 10 things you might not know about conspiracy theories (illuminutti.com)
- 5 Things I’ve noticed about… Bizarre Conspiracy Theories (illuminutti.com)
- 10 Crazy Literary Conspiracy Theories (listverse.com)
- Jesse Walker Debunks Five Myths About Conspiracy Theories (txwclp.org)
- Botched Investigation Fuels Kennedy Conspiracy Theories (npr.org)