November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot. The amount of alternative stories pertaining to his murder has never stopped increasing. July 20, 1969, Apollo landed on the Moon. On YouTube you can watch multiple hour-long videos on exactly why the landing was a government cover up and never actually happened. Today, there is a group called “flat-earthers” who countless hours creating videos and debating with others, attempting to prove that the world is actually flat.
What do these stories have In common? They’re all a part of common style of thought, they’re conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories are beyond mere skepticism of generally agreed upon perspectives of a situation or events, a key element to conspiracy theories is the element of paranoia: the assumption of malicious intent by a group or organization. Conspiracy theories are thriving. Theories such vaccines are dangerous have caused a re-emergence of curable diseases in kids and even #Pizzagate believer shooting up pizza shop; These incidents beg the question, why are we so attracted to copristoral thinking?
One reason conspiracy theories have been so successful is the ability for conspiratorial ideas to take advantage our desire for meaning, our need to find points of view that can rationalize and empower us in situations when we feel lost and confused. There are many times when were are lost, and the challenges of dealing with things that go against our expectations, such as someone of status died in a basic or unexciting way, or discovering there isn’t a cure for some of the worse diseases and ailments, can be difficult. In that difficulty we become willing suspend our disbelief In favor of conspiracy theories, which can be more interesting, or appeal more strongly to our basises than the general story at hand.
Sometimes it’s more than suspensions of disbelief. Many people are truly paranoid; their mindset begins to take hold of loose associations between mundane events, Ignoring the obvious plothotes of thier theories with litany of cognitive biases and nonsensical associations. While it’s unclear what the relationship between conspiracy theories and mental health is,looking at the studies showing commonness of
messiah complexes in the mentality ill. It’s possible conspiracy theories work as a psychological shortcut, providing a person a looser narrative giving space to the vicissitudes of emotional delusions that mental illness can bring.
Another reason for the proliferation of conspiracy theories is that some were right. Governments do lie, one can refer to a list of examples of false flag operations, or military coup’s where the justification of invasion exist only as pretext for economic gain. The inability to trust the government in one sector can lead to mistrust in sectors where valid conclusions are being made. One can see this narrative within pseudo-science of holistic medicine, of which, many practitioners take advantage of the mistrust of the government or institutions, boldly stating the government is trying to hide or outright ban their practices on the grounds that will be economically disastrous and if everyone were to know their special knowledge in the field. These beliefs can have disastrous effects, for example the case holistic medicine, while the rigors of the medical community have saved lives, this in stark contrast to the holistic practitioners who have caused numerous deaths in their false claims of being able to cure a number of ailments. The problem with the logic of these claims is even if the government has committed such actions for economic or political gain it does not follow that every standard set by the government is intended for those purposes.
Overall, while there’s advantages to being skeptical, we must be mindful of our skepticism, making sure to ground on it reason and evidence, while avoiding our emotional biases which ultimately desire to explain the world as we see fit; if we fail to do so, we can take our skepticism too far, promoting theories more away from the truth than the theories we oppose, obscuring the truth for those who seek it and leaving untold damage to the world, in terms of money, time, and humans lives.