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January 22, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Science, Health Science, Immunology
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Understanding Science 6. Conspiracy Theories

© Colin Frayn, 2012 www.frayn.net

Introduction • What is a conspiracy theory? – Restricted knowledge – Powerful forces – Cover-up / secrecy – Significant implications – Most people are completely unaware

• History – Largely a modern invention – Fuelled by the Internet © Colin Frayn, 2012 www.frayn.net

Psychological Components • Paranoia – False perception of persecution – Anxiety – Delusions

• Confirmation bias – Seeing evidence everywhere

• Agency detection • Fear of lack of control – Random events are frightening

• Desire for self worth – Meaning and purpose – Sense of superiority / heroism © Colin Frayn, 2012 www.frayn.net

Immanuel Velikovsky • 10th June 1895 – 17th November 1979

• First grand-scale conspiracy theorist • His theories: – – – – –

Explaining Biblical stories Invoking real-world catastrophes Earth was once a satellite of Saturn Venus was ejected from Jupiter Close contacts with Mars

• Vigorously attacked by scientific community – This aroused suspicion and increased his support

• Carl Sagan was a staunch opponent – But urged restraint from scientists © Colin Frayn, 2012 www.frayn.net

The Moon Hoax Theory • The prototype conspiracy theory • Claim: – The 1969 Moon Landing was a hoax – It was filmed in a studio – Putting a man on the moon is impossible

• Up to 20% of Americans believe this! • Fox TV Documentary “Did We Land on the Moon?” • The claim is utterly absurd: – Thousands of people involved – Science is entirely feasible – Soviets were close too (and accepted NASA won) © Colin Frayn, 2012 www.frayn.net

More Conspiracies • Historical Conspiracies – Holocaust denial

• New World Order – 9/11 Conspiracy – Shadowy Elite / Freemasons / Zionists – Symbology

• Aliens – Cover-up of finds – Infiltrating government

• Assassinations – Princess Diana – The Kennedy Family

• Medicine – AIDS and other diseases – Fluoridation – Vaccination © Colin Frayn, 2012 www.frayn.net

Col’s Law of Conspiracy Theories All Conspiracy Theories are Wrong! • Conspiracies are not plausible – Individual scientific implausibility – Large-scale cover-up

• Conspiracy theories and unfalsifiable – Evidence against = evidence for! – Self-confirming and impossible to refute

• No conspiracy theory has ever been proven true

• Psychological causes are strong © Colin Frayn, 2012 www.frayn.net

Conspiracy Evidence • Conspiracy theories are complex – All the obvious flaws have “explanations”

• Using a subset of available evidence – …and a fair bit of falsehood

• Stories are more seductive than data • Anomaly hunting – Often false anomalies – Lack of perspective

• Emotional rejection of contrary evidence © Colin Frayn, 2012 www.frayn.net

Summary • Conspiracy theories are seductive – Subset of the information – Confident lies and misinformation – Extremely detailed – Inherently immune to disproof

• Think about both sides – What else would the conspiracy imply? – Get both sides of the debate – All conspiracy theories are wrong © Colin Frayn, 2012 www.frayn.net

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