Friday 2 April 2004

A conspiracy theorist's proof

Man has struggled throughout time with proving that what exists in his mind also exists in the world outside his mind. When the idea relates to a physical object or a law of motion, the proof might be difficult, but still possible. Man was able to prove that the world is not flat, for example, and with time could even prove that the sun is at the center of the universe and that it is possible to split an atom. These ideas existed in man's mind before they were proven, and the proof came because the physical world allowed man the opportunity to test his hypothesis.

But what of ideas that relate to an abstraction? How can I prove that there is an afterlife, or that a forgotten dream I had ten years ago was a premonition of what happened to me yesterday, or that an abstract concept such as God is not just an idea but reality? St. Anselm (1033-1109) attempted to prove such an abstract concept in his ontological proof, by which he formulated that if one can 1) understand the concept of God as an omniscient and all-powerful being, and 2) if the belief in God truly exists in one's mind, then 3) God must exist in reality because if he did not exist in the outside world he would not be omniscient, and would not exist in one's mind as a perfect being. Even if St. Anselm's proof leaves doubters skeptical, he succeeded in addressing an abstract hypothesis in rational terms that led, at least in theory, to a proof of what had existed in his mind. His theorem, however, leaves many with the feeling that the argument is impressive in thought, but has God really been proven? We yearn for hard proof, something we can see, feel, touch.

But what if St. Anselm could relate his knowledge of God to an observable act in the future, a sign that the being he was acquainted with in his mind actually was present in the world and could be observed through signs foretold by those who knew Him? What if a crazy preacher that you see on the street corner each day were to say, "You must believe me, I know of what I speak. This perfect being that I have described will appear at 1 p.m. this Saturday in Central Park—he will rise out of the lake at this time and grow to a height of 60 feet . . . he is a bearded figure, and will be wearing a white robe." What then? You might continue to dismiss him, but if you do show up at 1 p.m. on Saturday and God does rise up from the lake in a figure 60 feet tall, hasn't the madman made his point? He has, for his abstract concept has been revealed in an observable form.

Our government's secrecy leaves many in the position of wondering and hypothesizing: what is really going on, why does it all seem like a staged production, a script closely followed? Specifically, those who are certain that Bush and Cheney were responsible for 9-11, that it was a US-based covert operation, an engineered attack that would serve as the justification for a radical shift in foreign and domestic policy, are dismissed as paranoid conspiracy theorists. The air force that did not fly despite over an hour's warning of an attack in progress? Hogwash, they say. The pre 9-11 stock option trades in American Airlines and United Airlines that were never investigated? Bull, couldn't be true. The suppressed FBI investigations into the flight schools before 9-11? No way, not our government, not the FBI. The fact that at least five of the nineteen hijackers were trained at US military installations? The military would never allow it, comes the rejoinder. The fact that the head of Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, was in Washington, DC, the week of the attack meeting with US intelligence officials, and was later directly connected to a $100,000 payment to Mohammed Atta, alleged leader of the hijackers? Come on, they say, the CIA would never condone something like this . . . do you really think the government would kill 3,000 of our own citizens in order to advance policies that enrich and empower a small circle of Bush supporters?

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