Despite an unparalleled proliferation of information (or perhaps because of it), many people continue to believe in myths or false narratives that exaggerate, idealize, or misconstrue reality. Indeed, recent surveys have suggested that many people in different parts of the world subscribe to ‘conspiracy theories’.
The Moon Landing Hoax
In the 1978 film Capricorn One, American astronauts and NASA faked a Mars landing. Though a mediocre film, it was an interesting idea, and one that would endure for decades. In 2001, Fox television aired the program “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?,” which rehashed many discredited “discrepancies” between the official version of the moon landing and photographs of the landing. (Curiously, they never explain why NASA would distribute photographs that would “prove” that they had faked the moon landing.) Websites such as BadAstronomy.com have pages and pages of point-by-point, detailed refutations of the Fox claims.
Of course, even if there was some credible evidence showing that the 1969 Apollo moon landing was a hoax, conspiracy theorists must also account for later moon missions, involving a dozen astronauts. And there’s the issue of the hundreds of pounds of moon rocks that have been studied around the world and verified as of extraterrestrial origin… how did NASA get the rocks if not during a moon landing? Many astronauts have been offended by the implication that they faked their accomplishments. In fact in 2002, when conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrel confronted Buzz Aldrin and called him a “coward and a liar” for faking the moon landings, the 72-year-old punched Sibrel in the jaw.
The 9/11 Conspiracies
The evidence is overwhelming that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were indeed the result of a conspiracy. There’s no doubt about it: A close (or even cursory) look at the evidence makes it clear that it was carefully planned and executed by conspirators. The question, of course, is who those conspirators were. Osama bin Laden and the crew of (mostly Saudi) hijackers were part of the conspiracy, but what about President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney? Did top Bush advisors, including Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld, either collaborate with bin Laden, or intentionally allow the attacks to happen?
Put another way, was it an inside job? Conspiracy theorists believe so, and point to a catalog of supposed inconsistencies in the “official version” of the attacks. Many of the technical conspiracy claims were debunked by Popular Mechanics magazine in March 2005, while other claims are refuted by simple logic: If a hijacked airplane did not crash into the Pentagon, as is often claimed, then where is Flight 77 and its passengers? Are they with the Roswell aliens at Hangar 18? In many conspiracy theories, bureaucratic incompetence is often mistaken for conspiracy. Our government is so efficient, knowledgeable, and capable—so the reasoning goes—that it could not possibly have botched the job so badly in detecting the plot ahead of time or responding to the attacks. I find that hard to believe.
This conspiracy theory should be easy to debunk: it is biologically impossible for viruses to spread using the electromagnetic spectrum. The latter are waves/photons, while the former are biological particles composed of proteins and nucleic acids. But that isn’t really the point — conspiracy theories are enticing because they often link two things which at first might appear be correlated; in this case, the rapid roll out of 5G networks was taking place at the same time the pandemic hit. Cue a viral meme linking the two, avidly promoted by anti-vaccine activists who have long been spreading fears about electromagnetic radiation, egged on by the Kremlin.
It’s worth repeating, as the World Health Organization (WHO) points out, that viruses cannot travel on mobile networks, and that COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in many countries that do not have 5G networks. Even so, this conspiracy theory — after being spread by celebrities with big social media followings — has led to cellphone towers being set on fire in the UK and elsewhere.
Why are people drawn to conspiracy theories?
There’s been a lot of recent work in psychology attempting to figure out why some people are particularly drawn to conspiracy theories. For example, research has found that people who believe in conspiracy theories tend to have a greater need for cognitive closure (the desire to find an explanation when explanations are lacking) and to be unique. They’re more likely to have a cognitive bias called hypersensitive agency detection or tele logic thinking (whereby events are over attributed to hidden forces, purposes, and motives). Some research has also found that conspiracy beliefs are associated with lower levels of education and analytic thinking.
That said, studies have also revealed that half of the US population believes in at least one political or medical conspiracy theory.So belief in conspiracy theories is far more “normal” than many of us might think.
The popularity of films like JFK, The Manchurian Candidate, and Conspiracy Theory illustrates how many of us can be drawn to a good conspiracy theory. Over the two past years, half of the country has been anxiously expecting that the Mueller report would reveal one of the biggest conspiracy plots in American history, while the other half believes that the conspiracy was the Mueller investigation itself. And of course, occasionally conspiracy theories turn out to be true!
Yes, Human brain is the most powerful super computer and an idea emerging from is the most powerful weapon (Eg: Nuclear Bomb). The brain is always trying to connect the dots around us to make a pattern and when it successfully connected the dots the dopamine that released by it feels pleasurable.