Conspiratorial Thinking

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Sarah Thal
Conspiratorial Thinking
Lecture 1, 11:00–12:55 T
Introduction to Philosophy
Lecture 4, 2:30–3:45 TR; Discussion 331, 9:55–10:45 W
Introduction to the Earth System
Lecture 1, 11:00–11:50 MW; Discussion 308, 12:05–12:55 W

What is the difference between a conspiracy and a conspiracy theory? How can you judge whether someone is really plotting something horrible or whether news outlets or activists are just selling alarmist stories? How and why do bloggers, video makers, and others work to convince us (rightly or wrongly) that evil people are secretly plotting horrible things? And why do we so often believe them?

In History 200: “Conspiratorial Thinking,” we will pay special attention to the development of conspiracy theories related to the livability of our environment, including theories about climate change, geo-engineering, the United Nations, fracking, FEMA, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Who promotes these theories? Why? And how? You will learn how to find and analyze evidence in order to evaluate claims about possible conspiracies for yourself.

Philosophy 101: “Introduction to Philosophy” — The purpose of this course is to give you a better sense of what philosophy is, how it relates to other disciplines, and what it is good for. We will proceed by considering possible answers to a number of key philosophical questions: Do we have free will? What is knowledge and what sorts of things can we know? What is the fundamental nature of reality? Does God exist? Is truth relative or objective? Is life absurd and meaningless? What, if anything, determines that an action (for instance, intentionally killing an innocent person) is morally wrong? As will soon become clear, much of philosophy consists in formulating and evaluating arguments.

Environmental Studies 120: “Introduction to the Earth System” — Introduces students to how the Earth system works and what makes Earth livable. Through this course you will gain a deeper appreciation for how the atmosphere and earth’s surface interact to shape our local, regional, and global landscapes. Many students take this course to fulfill their physical science requirement. Others use it as a gateway to majors and careers in geography, environmental studies, and environmental science.