International Jewish Conspiracy

Of course, whatever you are doing at that time will be exactly what you are doing, so this prediction cannot possibly be wrong. But this is only because it does not tell us anything in particular about the future. Whatever happens, the prediction is going to be true, and this is just what is wrong with it. The prediction is empty or vacuous.

People do not, of course, go around making predictions of this kind, but they do sometimes hold positions that are empty or vacuous in much the same way. A clairvoyant claims to be able to predict the future, but every time a prediction fails, she says that this just proves that someone set up bad vibrations that interfered with her visions. So, if the prediction turns out to be true, she claims that this shows her clairvoyance; if it turns out to be false, she cites this as evidence of interference. No matter what happens, then, the clairvoyant’s claim to be clairvoyant cannot be refuted. Her claim to clair- voyance is as empty and vacuous as the Perfect Sage’s prediction.

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Positions that are set up in this way so that nothing can possibly refute them are called self-sealers. A self-sealing position is one that is so constructed that no evidence can possibly be brought against it no matter what happens. This shows its vacuity, and it is precisely for this reason that we reject it.

People do not usually hold self-sealing positions in a blatant way; they tend to back into them. A person who holds that the American economy is controlled by an international Jewish conspiracy will point out people of Jewish extraction (or with Jewish names) who occupy important positions in financial institutions. This at least counts as evidence, though very weak evidence. And there seems to be much stronger evidence on the other side: There are a great many people in these institutions who are not Jews. To counter this claim, the person now argues that many of these other people are secretly Jews or are tools of the Jewish conspiracy. The Jews have al- lowed some non-Jews to hold important positions in order to conceal their conspiracy. What evidence is there for this? Well, none really, but that only helps prove how sneaky the Jewish conspiracy is. At this point, the position has become self-sealing, for all evidence cited against the existence of the conspiracy will be converted into evidence for its cleverness.

Self-sealing arguments are hard to deal with, because people who use them will often shift their ground. A person will begin by holding a signifi- cant position that implies that facts are one way rather than another, but under the pressure of criticism will self-seal the position so that no evidence can possibly count against it. That is, the person will slide back and forth be- tween two positions—one that is not self-sealed (and so is significant but subject to refutation) and another that is self-sealed (and so is not subject to criticism but is also not significant). The charge that is leveled against a the- ory that vacillates in this way is that it is either vacuous or false. It is vacuous if self-sealing, false if not.

One way of challenging a self-sealing position is to ask what possible fact could prove it wrong. This is a good question to ask, but it can be misunderstood and met with the triumphant reply: “Nothing can prove my position wrong, because it is right.” A better way to show the insignificance of a self-sealing theory is to put the challenge in a different form: “If your position has any significance, it should tell us that certain things will occur whereas certain other things will not occur. If it cannot do this, it really tells us nothing at all; so please make some specific predictions, and we will see how they come out.”

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