Why We Should Believe that Osama Bin Laden is Dead

This will probably be the easiest argument I will ever make on this blog and it's quite sad that I'm motivated to do this because some people are doubting that the facts surrounding the death of Bin Laden as recently reported are not good enough to suggest that we should accept the 'official story.'

Unfortunately, many of my Facebook friends [and others] who are properly skeptical about various claims aren't being skeptical in the case of Osama Bin Laden's death. Shame on them...and especially on the atheists who critique people (as they should) who hold unsubstantiated religious beliefs, other conspiracy theories, or whatever zany beliefs such as the efficacy of homeopathy.

The hypothesis that Osama Bin Laden has not been killed is quite an extreme position to take. We have a tremendous amount of reasons that suggest that we should accept the hypothesis. Although none of the following claims in this sentence are true at face value, we have good reasons to accept them that I will explain in the rest of this paragraph: almost every news media outlet in the world reported the death of Osama Bin Laden, President Obama gave a breaking report addressing the nation/world last week, US intelligence and special ops have confirmed that Osama Bin Laden is dead, family members of Osama Bin Laden have admitted that he was killed, and Al-Qaeda even admitted that Bin Laden has been killed!

CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaida on Friday confirmed the killing of Osama bin Laden and warned of retaliation, saying Americans' "happiness will turn to sadness."

The confirmation came in an Internet statement posted on militant websites, signed by "the general leadership" of al-Qaida. The announcement opens the way for the group to name a successor to bin Laden. His deputy Ayman al-Zawahri is now the most prominent figure in the group and is a very likely contender to take his place.

The statement, dated May 3, was the first by the terror network since bin Laden was killed Monday by U.S. commandos in a raid on his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The statement's authenticity could not be independently confirmed, but it was posted on websites where the group traditionally puts out its messages.

"We stress that the blood of the holy warrior sheik, Osama bin Laden, God bless him, is precious to us and to all Muslims and will no go in vain," the statement said. "We will remain, God willing, a curse chasing the Americans and their agents, following them outside and inside their countries."

"Soon, God willing, their happiness will turn to sadness," it said, "their blood will be mingled with their tears."

In the statement, al-Qaida also called on the people of Pakistan — "where Sheik Osama was killed" — to rise up in revolt against its leaders. It also said that an audio message bin Laden recorded a week before his death would be issued soon.

When we consider a conspiracy theory, we should, among many other things, ask what needs to be true to accept a conspiracy theory. If Osama Bin Laden was not recently killed and the "official story" is false, this means that almost every media outlet in the entire world is either part of a conspiracy and lying to the entire world. Bin Laden's family members are also lying/'in on it.' Al Qaeda is also lying, 'in on it,' or someone else is talking for them. Obama, also, is putting the reputation of the United States, his presidential bid for 2012, and the reputation of the democrats on the line.

Consider all of these things being true, is this very reasonable? The chance of someone coming out with information to the contrary is quite high. One ought to expect, first, for Bin Laden to release a video tape saying 'I'm alive' with a timestamp of some sort to destroy the United States' reputation and wreak havoc on the United States after exposing us as liars. Someone also would leak information (assuming that the entire world media is 'in on it' for personal gain or some other reason) because so, so, so many people just can't keep a secret of such a wide scale like this.

Here are some hypotheses:
1) The entire global media is lying and is fooled by the United States government and US intelligence. Everyone just thinks Bin Laden is dead and the United States is lying.

This hypothesis assumes that everyone is lying and that the United States government and US intelligence is fooling everyone. This is not a safe assumption to take because of outside evidence that can be pieced together that is available to everyone such as DNA records, facial recognition technology, and Pakistan admitting that Osama Bin Laden was indeed killed where we said he was killed at the time we said he was killed. There's really good evidence to suggest that the entire operation is not a lie. In order for this evidence (and this is only some of it) to be false, we'd have to assume that DNA records were faked (!), the facial recognition technology was also faked (!), and Pakistani people are just lying, etc.

This hypothesis is not simple because it assumes that there is a huge lie being perpetrated and some reasons that are quite unclear are to account for it. This hypothesis is not conservative because we have very good evidence suggesting that this can't be a lie. This hypothesis does not have good explanatory power because it raises more questions that it answers and really explains nothing at all. Why is the entire world lying? How would all of this evidence be faked? How is this lie being spread? Why hasn't anyone "leaked" the "real story?" Why hasn't Osama Bin Laden released a video to expose the lie? Why would Osama's own organization say that he is dead? This hypothesis is not fruitful because it makes no novel predictions. This hypothesis is not testable.

2) Bin Laden died years ago, but the United States is now just coming out with the information.

This hypothesis is problematic for many reasons mentioned above - Pakistani people are enraged, now just testifying to the death, and a timeline has been constructed to account for the recent happenings. This hypothesis also assumes that 'everyone' is lying.

This hypothesis is not simple because it assumes that there is a huge lie being perpetrated and just assumes that Bin Laden was killed years ago even though we have very good reason to suggest that he was killed recently (thus the hypothesis is also not conservative). This hypothesis does not have good explanatory power because it raises more questions than it answers: why would none of Bin Laden's friends come out and announce that he was dead before, especially when they just recently did after believing that he was dead? Why would the United States hide this information? How do we know that he was killed years ago? Why wouldn't this information be discovered by someone else? Why wouldn't a media outlet report this? Why should we believe that people who were 'in on it' stayed silent for all of this time; someone would have most likely leaked this information. This hypothesis is not testable. This hypothesis is not fruitful.

The information that we currently have surrounding the death of Osama Bin Laden gives us good reason to suggest that Bin Laden was recently killed and has great explanatory power. The reports are all consistent/in agreement, outside sources (i.e. not people from the United States) confirm the information, and we have no good reason to doubt the evidence. The statements that must be true in order to suppose that there is a conspiracy would be too wild and can't all possibly be true. Obama would not jeopardize the reputation of the United States in this manner, would not compromise his bid for 2012, and could not convince the entire world of such a grand lie [without no one leaking the information]. Conspiracy theories assume outside entities are lack simplicity: someone is always 'in on it,' a large amount of people are all lying, and some unknown extra entities and motives are proposed. Conspiracy theories try to 'explain away' the evidence and continue to make ad hoc explanations to 'save their theories,' but provide no good reason to suggest that the evidence is bad evidence.

5/7: US Government releases tapes found during Bin Laden raid:

If you'd like more information about the 'official story,' please visit these links:

Michael Shermer on [Osama Bin Laden] conspiracy theories: