Episteme

Research Article

God as the Ultimate Conspiracy Theory

Brian L. Keeley

ABSTRACT

Traditional secular conspiracy theories and explanations of worldly events in terms of supernatural agency share interesting epistemic features. This paper explores what can be called “supernatural conspiracy theories”, by considering such supernatural explanations through the lens of recent work on the epistemology of secular conspiracy theories. After considering the similarities and the differences between the two types of theories, the prospects for agnosticism both with respect to secular conspiracy theories and the existence of God are then considered. Arguments regarding secular conspiracy theories suggest ways to defend agnosticism with respect to God from arguments that agnosticism is not a logically stable position and that it ultimately collapses into atheism, as has been argued by N. Russell Hanson and others. I conclude that such attacks on religious agnosticism fail to appreciate the conspiratorial features of God's alleged role in the universe.

EPIGRAPH

“Now what is the message there? The message is that there are known ‘knowns.’ There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that's basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.

It sounds like a riddle. It isn't a riddle. It is a very serious, important matter.

There's another way to phrase that and that is that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is basically saying the same thing in a different way. Simply because you do not have evidence that something exists does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn't exist. And yet almost always, when we make our threat assessments, when we look at the world, we end up basing it on the first two pieces of that puzzle, rather than all three.” - Donald Rumsfeld, United States Secretary of Defense (6 June, 2002)

Brian L. Keeley is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. A member of both the Philosophy and the Science, Technology & Society Field Groups, he has recently published on the nature and individuation of the senses, the legitimacy of anthropomorphism in science, and the role of eye gaze cues in reasoning about other minds. He is also the editor of Paul Churchland, for the Cambridge University Press series “Contemporary Philosophy in Focus.”