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Understanding Science 6. Conspiracy Theories © Colin Frayn, 2012

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Presentation on theme: "Understanding Science 6. Conspiracy Theories © Colin Frayn, 2012"— Presentation transcript:

1 Understanding Science 6. Conspiracy Theories © Colin Frayn, 2012

2 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

3 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

4 Immanuel Velikovsky 10 th June 1895 – 17 th 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

5 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

6 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

7 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

8 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

9 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

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