The Illusion of Sameness

by Elizabeth2 min read22nd Jan 201172 comments

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Personal Blog

I have lately been pondering two contradictory human beliefs: the belief in our own exceptionalism and the belief in our own ordinariness.  We model the world with ourselves as prototypical humans, using our own emotions and reactions and thought processes to run a program predicting the behavior of others.  That is, after all, what our mirror neurons evolved for.  However, when it comes to our abilities or our intelligence or our problems, we believe we are something out of the ordinary.  The second bias is easier to compensate for than the first, but it is the first that interests me, because even when confronted with significant evidence of your own difference, it is extremely difficult to really internalize it and change your model of the world.

I consider it likely that among those reading this, more of you grew up in families of intelligent, educated people than the national average.  It is also likely that the number of readers who grew up in liberal and nonreligious families exceeds the norm.  Not all, certainly.  Quite possibly not even the majority.  However, I think there must be many among you who understand the shock of leaving your family and community, perhaps to go to college, and slowly discovering that there are people who don't think like you.  People who don't share your foundational knowledge, who trust different authorities, who have completely different default settings.

There are two separate pieces to this: the first is our default setting for the beliefs and authorities of others as similar to our own, and the second is our modeling of other people's mental processes as similar to our own.  The second is seldom run across in everyday life, unless engaging in a discussion of mental processes as in the comments on this post.  The first is run across fairly frequently, but here I must apologize for bringing up the mind-killer, for it is most apparent in politics.  I will endeavor to keep my example brief.

In the spring of 2010 I was substitute teaching in a rural area of upstate New York.  I was in the teacher's room eating lunch, with ten or so other teachers, when the subject of the BP oil spill arose, as it was the major current event at the time.  My experience dictated that the conversation would start with "Isn't this a terrible thing?" and proceed to "Oil companies shouldn't be allowed to make a mess they can't clean up." or "Shouldn't we invest in clean energy?"  However, though the conversation began as I expected, I was subsequently informed that the oil companies were fully capable of cleaning it up, and that the reason it had not been cleaned up already was a conspiracy on the part of President Obama.

This was particularly shocking to me because there were no warning signs.  These were people who were all educated to a Master's Degree level.  I had spoken to several on more innocuous topics, and they seemed both interesting and intelligent. (I realize that this reveals a potential bias on my part regarding a correlation between intelligence and a liberal bent).  They seemed, in every respect, to be people like me.

How could I have better predicted this?  I remain at a loss.  The only significant difference between that group and the people who react according to my model is region of origin, but that oversimplifies the question.  I am not only confused, I am viscerally uncomfortable.  How do we model for people whose cultural contexts and information delivering authorities are fundamentally different from our own, without lumping them into a faceless group?

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How could I have better predicted this?

I think your problem is not that you couldn't predict someone's political views, but rather that you had far too much confidence in your predictive ability.

To fix this, you should generally have only weak expectations about what other people believe. Unless you know someone quite well, you shouldn't be "shocked" to hear them express any view with a small but significant base rate in the population.

6anonym11yYes! And on a related note, the overly confident prediction probably came about due to inaccurate beliefs about the correlation between things such as intelligence, educational level, socio-economic background, critical thinking skills, and political beliefs. If the degree to which these sorts of things are correlated were more accurately known (the correlation is lower than Elizabeth and most of us intuitively think), then she would have had far less confidence in her predictions and would have thought that a wider range of outcomes was feasible. Time for a Bayesian update.

I consider it likely that among those reading this, more of you grew up in families of intelligent, educated people than the national average. It is also likely that the number of readers who grew up in liberal and nonreligious families exceeds the norm. Not all, certainly. Quite possibly not even the majority. However, I think there must be many among you who understand the shock of leaving your family and community, perhaps to go to college, and slowly discovering that there are people who don't think like you.

Those of us who grew up in religious, working class families and were the first in our families to attend college also had the experience of learning that there are people who don't think like us. We just experienced it earlier in life. And then when we went off to college, we slowly discovered that there are people who do think like us.

My experience dictated that the conversation would start with "Isn't this a terrible thing?" and proceed to "Oil companies shouldn't be allowed to make a mess they can't clean up." or "Shouldn't we invest in clean energy?" However, though the conversation began as I expected, I was subsequently infor

... (read more)
3Elizabeth11yThat wasn't really the nature of the shock. It wasn't that they got their news from conservative sources, or that their beliefs were different from mine. I have no trouble with the concept of people who believe fundamentally different things are desirable. Just because I believe that preserving the environment is desirable, for example, doesn't mean others will. My shock was that they believed in fundamentally different facts. I had difficulty with the difference in belief about what is true, not the difference in what to do about it.
6Vaniver11yThe worst place for fact disagreements, in my experience, is discussions about race or sex. I'm having a hard time thinking of subjects that are more murderous to minds.
5Perplexed11yOne reason that there can be such a large divergence in what gets taken as facts is that we are fundamentally not interested in facts. What we are really interested in is truthiness [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5040948&ps=rs]. For example, a bunch of upstate NY Republican school teachers who think that "the reason [the oil] had not been cleaned up already was a conspiracy on the part of President Obama". What a bunch of yahoos! Even though they have master's degrees, they don't realize that one man does not a conspiracy make. Now that was an anecdote with real truthiness.
0Normal_Anomaly11yCan you clarify your second paragraph? I don't think I get your meaning. Do you think the OP is misrepresenting the republicans, or is it something else?

I was being snarky. I suspect that the OP failed to present a perfectly factual account of the conversation. But her account did have a high level of truthiness.

I would also guess, based on even less evidence, that if her upstate teachers were to be interrogated by someone as snarky as myself, they would probably have to admit that their anti-Obama statements (whatever they were) were not perfectly factual either. But they would claim (in good faith) that their statements in that lunch-room conversation carried a sufficient level of truthiness to absolve them of any charge of misrepresentation. "The administration messed up the Gulf spill response somehow," they would claim.

People tend to find facts boring these days. The important thing seems to be to fashion a narrative which makes it easy to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys.

0Normal_Anomaly11ySo it's an Arguments as Soldiers thing. That makes sense. I'm trying to free myself of that problem currently.
4Eugine_Nier11yWell, given that 'conspiracy theory' is a phrase that is much more commonly applied to one's opponents' ideas to discredit them then to one's own, I strongly suspect 'conspiracy' is the OP's word and not the Republicans'.
0Emile11yGood point, I haden't paid much attention to that, but "conspiracy" is used much more often to describe "beliefs of one's opponents" than one's own beliefs. What other words are in that category? "hate", probably.

I don't have direct answers to your questions, but the main point that I would make here is that such stated beliefs don't necessarily run very deep.

I would guess the people who you were teaching with probably are quite similar to you and that their stated beliefs which seem so foreign function as belief as attire, serving primarily to bind them together. Such beliefs tend to be compartmentalized and need not have a strong impact on their views about things overall.

2byrnema11yI completely agree: belief as attire. I think that what Elizabeth is seeing is probably the result of some underlying group dynamics rather than a predictable tendency for this group to have those views. Perhaps the foundation of what she observed was first a coincidence of several members (2 or 3) having already thought along these lines. Second, the group may have some history that established that these members tended to find similar views interesting, and so they are more confident about sharing these views and there may be a tacit agreement to go along and develop even if they don't fully agree. As such, this is a result of the mix of 10 personalities (some people probably didn't say anything or might have made an oblique counterpoint) and as you get to know them better the dynamics may be more transparent. In general, perhaps you can predict unpredictable things from groups of people that have worked together for years. Also, to echo knb, it is difficult to predict views. Personal idiosyncrasies lie on top of the multiple things it may mean about you views to be liberal, democrat, etc.

There's an incident I heard about at the time: a Belgian (Danish? Dutch? I don't remember exactly) dredging company offered to lend dredging ships, got a "no thanks," and went to their local press to blame it on the Jones Act, which is protectionist legislation that requires only using American-made ships unless the President grants an exception. It got picked up by the conservative blogosphere, made it to conservative TV as a "look at how pro-union legislation hampers our emergency response and destroys our environment, and how Obama doesn't really care because otherwise he would have granted an exemption" and then got responded to by administration officials and at about this point I stopped paying attention.

So, there's a way to have factual support for that position, but it's obviously unclear whether or not they had that in mind.

How do we model for people whose cultural contexts and information delivering authorities are fundamentally different from our own, without lumping them into a faceless group?

A giant question mark. Don't try to extend your beliefs to cover as much as possible but as little as you can defend.

I think elitism is valuable in that it helps prevent this error (amongst other reasons). I despise false humility from the highly intelligent in this pro egalitarian age.

3Perplexed11yHelps prevent what error? The error of expecting other people's beliefs to match your own? I don't see how elitism helps here. As I understand the story, it was "shocking" precisely because, before the event, there was no obvious reason to feel superior.
3Blueberry11yThe obvious reason is that Elizabeth is highly intelligent, and the other people are random teachers in upstate New York. A highly intelligent elitist should expect to have superior ideas to those around em (see Joshua's post below [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3f0/the_illusion_of_sameness/3dqj] for a discussion of whether or not intelligent people actually do tend to agree on politics, however). (Edited to clarify my reference to Joshua's post.)
4Perplexed11yOk, but if someone is one-in-a-thousand intelligent, and a Democrat, then it may be correct for them to take an elitist stance, but I don't think it is correct to infer that the other 999-in-a-thousand are Republicans. At least I hope not.
3JoshuaZ11yIt isn't clear that there's a strong correlation between intelligence and correct viewpoints. See this subthread [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2qz/vote_qualifications_not_issues/2ox6] where that point was very strongly made with a lot of examples.
1JoshuaZ11yNothing in my post said that.
2Blueberry11yClarified. :)
1nerzhin11yI think I disagree, but I'm not sure what elitism means here. Elitism might help prevent this error. But can it lead to other errors?
5komponisto11yYes. For any method of correcting an error, there's always a possibility of overcorrecting.
0[anonymous]11ySeconded, and strongly so. (However, if you believed this in December 2009, that makes this comment of yours [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1ir/you_be_the_jury_survey_on_a_current_event/1bgz] quite surprising to me.)

There is no contradiction in believing that a prototypical human is smarter than most humans. Perhaps the variance in human intelligence is mostly explained by different degrees of divergence from the prototype due to developmental errors.

0sark11yI don't get this. Surely the variance is on both sides of the mean. I'm guessing the prototype is not the mean, but then I don't see how the variance relates to the prototype being smarter than most humans. What determines the prototype? Wouldn't it make more sense for us to model others on the mean? That ideal prototype seems a silly prior. Incidentally, intelligence is a bell-curve. This paper [http://www.larspenke.eu/pdfs/Penke_et_al_2007_-_Evolutionary_genetics_of_personality_target.pdf] says its variance is from mutation-selection balance. I.e. it is a highly polygenic trait giving it a huge mutational target size, which makes it hard for natural selection to remove its variance.
0Peter_de_Blanc11yThat's what I said in the comment you are replying to.
0sark11yOK. I just fail to see the utility of this concept of 'prototypical human intelligence' for issues touched on in the OP.

If you want to predict how someone will answer a question, your own best answer is a good guess. Even if you think the other person is less intelligent than you, they are more likely to say the correct answer than they are to say any particular wrong answer.

Similarly, if you want to predict how someone will think through a problem, and you lack detailed knowledge of how that person's mind happens to be broken, then a good guess is that they will think the same sorts of thoughts that a non-broken mind would think.

3sark11yYay! I got it! Thanks for putting up with me.
2Perplexed11yThank you for keeping after him! I didn't see that resolution coming either.

Are you looking for a better answer than talking to them to explore what they believe and why they believe it?

Certainly there are better answers, but I don't know of a better way to reach those answers than through the exercise of doing precisely that, and the hope that over time my generic model of people broadens to include the communities that at first seem alien, confusing and discomfiting, so that they start to seem... well, human, I guess.

To some extent, that does involve modeling a faceless group... or, rather, a lot of different and more-or-less ov... (read more)

(I realize that this reveals a potential bias on my part regarding a correlation between intelligence and a liberal bent).

I wouldn't expect an intelligent conservative to posit this:

the reason it had not been cleaned up already was a conspiracy on the part of President Obama

So I don't see a bias if that idea shocked you (unless I share your bias). On the other hand, if you expected this:

"Oil companies shouldn't be allowed to make a mess they can't clean up." or "Shouldn't we invest in clean energy?"

simply because they were i... (read more)

1Elizabeth11yI wouldn't expect an intelligent conservative to posit it either. That was the largest part of my shock; not that intelligent people were conservative, but that people I thought intelligent were spouting views that I correlated more closely with "Get your government hands off my Medicare." than with any thoughtful conservative analysis. That encounter (among others) has changed my beliefs about the beliefs of others, and I do talk to many people of differing views. My most strongly held belief that was shaken, though, was the belief that intelligent people who disagree can at least find sufficient common factual ground to determine the precise nature of their disagreement, if not to come to consensus. Belief-as-attire is the best explanation I've seen for that, but it doesn't help me much in interacting with such believers, since by the time I've determined their beliefs they have determined mine, and identified me as an outsider.
9TheOtherDave11yBeing tactfully noncommittal about your own beliefs until you've scoped out the lay of the land is a learnable skill. Unfortunately, it's actually not the most important component. In many communities, it's the shibboleths that will trip you up... things the community tacitly expects all right-thinking people to already have a familiarity with. It's possible to spin one's ignorance of such things as an unfortunate personal deficit that one is eager to have corrected, and that can often overcome the barriers to entry... but it's a lot of work.
6Elizabeth11yI think you're right, but suspect I will have more difficulty with the first than with the second. I am honestly curious about almost everything, which is a decent stand-in for spinning lack of knowledge as a personal deficit, but I am very bad at not speaking. I work at it, but I remain someone whose default setting is to babble at random people on the street. I'm better at "tactfully noncommittal" than I used to be, but I'm still pretty bad at it.
3TheOtherDave11y(nod) I used to be really bad at it; I'm now only mildly bad at it. As I say, it's a learnable skill. Training the habit of substituting questions for assertions -- genuine questions, ones that don't presuppose a specific answer -- has worked pretty well for me.
0anonym11yIt sounds to me like the core of the shock might be due to an overly high estimate of the degree to which apparent intelligence is correlated with rationality (or critical thinking skills and the will to apply them). There are many apparently intelligent people who have poor critical thinking skills and little desire to apply them or to come to the truth.
[-][anonymous]11y 2

I consider it likely that among those reading this, more of you grew up in families of intelligent, educated people than the national average. It is also likely that the number of readers who grew up in liberal and nonreligious families exceeds the norm. Not all, certainly. Quite possibly not even the majority. However, I think there must be many among you who understand the shock of leaving your family and community, perhaps to go to college, and slowly discovering that there are people who don't think like you.

I think you are actually generalizing... (read more)

[-][anonymous]11y 2

Perhaps you're drawing the wrong moral. I don't know why it's generally important to predict disagreements, but I can think of other reasons the encounter could be, probably should be, profoundly disturbing.

If you take Robert Aumann's theorem seriously--which, put crudely, says you have no right to be cocksure of your position if your epistemic equals disagree--learning that some (perhaps numerous) intelligent, educated people have fundamentally different beliefs ought to induce (assuming you seek truth) serious doubt about your own views' accuracy. Mayb... (read more)

How could I have better predicted this? I remain at a loss.

It's not a good answer, but statistics. Currently you have something like

  • "there are criteria for accepting or rejecting beliefs, this belief fails the criteria, people won't believe it". That in turn relies on either
  • "I have criteria, most people are like me, most people have criteria" or
  • "criteria for accepting/rejecting is fundamental to human brain". It also relies on
  • "I think this belief fails the criteria; my thought process here is not atypical"
... (read more)

I have met intelligent people who believe in all sorts of nonsense. 9/11 conspiracy, God, whatever. They usually have one or two beliefs of that kind and are very reasonable in the rest of their lifes.

Were you surprised because you literally hadn't expected that an educated intelligent person can believe in different facts, or because they all believed the same?

Looking at the numbers always helps. Statistically speaking, the majority of public school teachers are liberals. However, in your geographic area, that probability seems like it would need to be revised downwards. Still, even if you use probabilities to draw conclusions about the world, that doesn't mean that you'll never be surprised.

However, I think there must be many among you who understand the shock of leaving your family and community, perhaps to go to college, and slowly discovering that there are people who don't think like you.

Not really - because, as a member of a conservative fundamentalist Christian family, I was warned over and over that most other people didn't think like us.

I'd like to see more exploration of the contradiction pointed out in your first paragraph.

You can get some feel for what typical Americans are like by reading the comments on youtube videos. They'r... (read more)

1Nornagest11ySo you're saying that the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory [http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/] reveals people's true preferences? That strikes me as monumentally cynical, but perhaps revealing; what do people's anonymous and unaccountable opinions say about their normal behavior? Looking at this through a slightly shady evopsych lens, my first impulse is to say that on the Internet everyone's part of an outgroup until proven otherwise.

I have lately been pondering two contradictory human beliefs: the belief in our own exceptionalism and the belief in our own ordinariness. We model the world with ourselves as prototypical humans, using our own emotions and reactions and thought processes to run a program predicting the behavior of others. That is, after all, what our mirror neurons evolved for. However, when it comes to our abilities or our intelligence or our problems, we believe we are something out of the ordinary.

I was thinking of writing an article on this topic this morning.... (read more)

It is also likely that the number of readers who grew up in liberal and nonreligious families

What the "liberal" has to do here? It's not as clever as it sounds to be "liberal".

In the US, when you compare intelligence to self-identifying political views, there are two correlations that stand out: 1) more intelligent means more likely to have non-moderate views 2) more intelligent are more likely to self-identify as liberal, or support policies generally thought of as liberal. That is, there's movement away from identifying as centrist or moderate to either extreme, and more of that movement is to the left end of the spectrum. These results are fairly robust, see for example the GSS, using WORDSUM as a proxy for intelligence (it is highly correlated with IQ).

Also, people who self-identify as not religious are also much more likely to self-identify as liberal, and both political leanings and religious leanings are highly hereditary. Again, see GSS data. Note that this correlation becomes weaker if you hold fixed to a specific degree of intelligence, but it still exists.

So, the comment is making correct conclusions. Obviously there are some caveats, such as the issue that intelligence is not necessarily correlated with rationality or correctness, and that memetic issues could potentially cause an anti-correlation. There's also evidence that by some metrics... (read more)

8Jayson_Virissimo11yUpvoted for summarizing data rather than merely providing another anecdote.
3[anonymous]11yWhen taking into account that we are likley to be not just ideologically more extreme than average but also more divided (than say a random gathering of the "highly educated") since many of us here are metacontrarians [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2pv/intellectual_hipsters_and_metacontrarianism/], it seems like a very good idea to strictly adhere to the "no mindkillers" rule on political discussion.
2Aharon11yI'm not an US citizen, so my knowledge of US politics may not be deep enough to grasp some of the subleties of the topic, but my overall impression was that unless you are very rich, it is in your best interest - and thus clever - to be liberal. But I guess this part of the discussion borders "Politics is a Mind-Killer", so if you wish to inform me why it isn't clever to be liberal, it's probably best if we take the discussion to PMs.

I'm not an US citizen, so my knowledge of US politics may not be deep enough to grasp some of the subleties of the topic, but my overall impression was that unless you are very rich, it is in your best interest - and thus clever - to be liberal.

It's weird how often people express this idea.

Since the marginal effect of your political affiliation upon the policies of a nation of 300 Million people is trivial, we shouldn't really expect it to be "in your interest" to vote for the bloc that promises you income transfers/lower taxes, etc. Rather, it is "clever" for people to vote their affiliations (i.e. what their family, friends, and coworkers vote for). This model actually correlates with the way people actually vote.

Rather, it is "clever" for people to vote their affiliations (i.e. what their family, friends, and coworkers vote for).

It is clever to say that you vote your affiliations.

This model actually correlates with the way people actually vote.

Our 'voting' instincts come from a (slightly misapplied) execution of strategies that are adapted for political environments where support is giving via public declaration rather than anonymous ballot. At a national and global level it may well be one of humanity's greatest weaknesses.

7NihilCredo11yThe rationalist Bradley effect, if you will. There was a clever exploit of this trick in the first post-WW2 Italian general election: the opposing choices were a Communist-Socialist alliance versus a Catholic-led conservative coalition, and one of the strongest Catholic slogans was: In the voting booth, God sees you - Stalin doesn't!
2wedrifid11yBrilliant anecdote, I'll use that one. Thanks. :)
2JoshuaZ11yLocal government elections do exist. In those contexts it might make more sense to vote on policy issues. But in practice, most local government policy issues have little to do with the standard left/right divide. Moreover, the strength of affiliation issues becomes even more severe when people actually know the candidates.
0[anonymous]11y(It is even more clever to vote for the bloc that is likely to provide a more favourable government, while displaying in public the affiliation that has the best social returns. The rationalist Bradley effect, if you will.)
4Eugine_Nier11yFirst of all, which country are you from? The word 'liberal' means very different things in the political discourse of America and Europe.
0Aharon11yI'm from Germany. I got the impression that liberal is used as synonymous with "Democrat" in the american political discourse, and that the Democrats would be roughly center-right in german political terms.
2Jack11yBest interest isn't always that same as economic self-interest. If one cares more about certain social and cultural issues more than how much money one has it might make sense to vote conservative. Also, the issue of how well the policies advocated by liberals maximize the economic well-being of the poor is contested.
0Costanza11yI am a U.S. citizen, and the subtleties of the subject often escape me as well. However, I suggest that the American rich tend to be "liberal" (meaning left-of-center in the American spectrum). This would include both what passes for our aristocracy (see, the Kennedys and Rockefellers) and our nouveau riche. An entrepreneurial blogger has launched a small industry [http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/] based on the preferences of fashionable left-leaning upper-middle-class white hipsters. If anything, the American right wing is a middle- to lower-middle-class phenomenon.
3Unnamed11yThe American rich tend to vote Republican [http://redbluerichpoor.com/blog/2008/11/election-2008-what-really-happened/]. In poor states like Mississippi there is a strong correlation [http://redbluerichpoor.com/blog/2008/11/redbluerichpoor-2008-update/] between higher income and voting Republican, but in rich states like Connecticut there is a much weaker correlation between income and party.
1Costanza11yI see the first graph on this site defines "rich" as $150,000 in income, and on that basis said "richer people continue to lean Republican." However, the same page showed that the pattern broke down as incomes rose above about $200,000 in annual income. That second graph suggested that the really rich would not tend to vote Republican.
4Unnamed11yI'd summarize the graph as: probability of voting Republican increases with income up to $70,000 or so, where it reaches a plateau. There are some hints of a pattern above that, but within the income range where they have data there are only slight changes which are inconsistent from election to election. What's clear from their graphs is that someone with a $250,000 income has about the same chance of voting Republican as someone with a $75,000 income, and both are much more likely to vote Republican than someone with an income under $30,000. Rich northeastern states tend to be relatively Democratic, and there is only a weak relationship between income and party within those states. The upper-middle-class liberals in that region are the main target of Stuff White People Like. But in the country as a whole there is a clear relationship between income and voting Republican, at least over most of the income distribution (although they don't have the data to say what happens within the richest 1%).
-1Will_Sawin11yEdit: I misread the post as "if you are rich" and not "unless you are very rich."
-2steven046111yI think the original post fell well within "politics is the mind killer", and voted it down for that reason.
2JoshuaZ11yThat seems unfair given that the viewpoint the OP discussed as surprising is one that is far from the mainstream on any end of the political spectrum. Would you consider it to be too potentially mind-killing if someone mentioned say Conservapedia? Where do you draw the line?
2steven046111yThe post was about people who don't think like the original poster more broadly.
0prase11yAlthough political discussions could be problematic for several reasons, I don't encourage downvoting just because a post comes close to the forbidden territory. It seems that the present discussion could have cleared some misconceptions and have a positive effect. There are few strongly upvoted comments, like this one [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3f0/the_illusion_of_sameness/3dqg], which seem to indicate that partial agreement can be found.
1steven046111yMy sense is the comments were upvoted because they did a good job explaining the problems with the original post, not because they're likely to be of much lasting value outside of that context. Partial agreement can be found, but so can flame wars. Everything has upsides; the question is whether they outweigh the downsides.
-2Thomas11yI also don't like to talk about politics here. It was my main point. Don't like Elisabeth's post. Over.
[-][anonymous]11y -3

the reason it had not been cleaned up already was a conspiracy on the part of President Obama.

That seems pretty absurd, but remember the same people probably also believe there once lived a man who was the son of the maker of heaven and earth, who was stone dead for three days and then rose again. Compared to that, the thing about Obama is downright sane.

0Eugine_Nier11yHave you read this post [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3f0/the_illusion_of_sameness/3drf] by Vaniver?
-1saturn11yThe OP says that conversation happened in the spring of 2010, but the well wasn't capped until July, and oil is still washing up on shore today. Even if everything in Vaniver's post were true (which it isn't [http://www.factcheck.org/2010/06/oil-spill-foreign-help-and-the-jones-act/]), those extra ships would have needed to be miraculously effective to have the entire spill cleaned up by the end of spring 2010.