On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Historical insights & thoughts about the world we live in - and the social conditioning exerted upon us by past and current propaganda.
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On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by Apache » Wed Jan 27, 2016 9:47 am

Oxford physicist attempts to debunk conspiracy theories using a mathematical model:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science ... ludes.html
Major conspiracies theories, such as a faked Moon landing, would have been exposed within just a few years if they were really true, a scientist has concluded.

Oxford University physicist Dr David Grimes worked out a mathematical way to calculate the chances of a plot being deliberately leaked by a whistle-blower or accidentally uncovered.

He was able to show that the more people share in a conspiracy, the shorter its lifespan is likely to be.

For a plot to last five years, the maximum number of plotters turned out to be 2,521. To keep a scheme operating undetected for more than a decade, fewer than 1,000 people could be involved, while a century-long deception had to include fewer than 125 collaborators.
Dr David Grimes' paper can be downloaded from PLOS.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/articl ... ne.0147905

Conspiratorial ideation is the tendency of individuals to believe that events and power relations are secretly manipulated by certain clandestine groups and organisations. Many of these ostensibly explanatory conjectures are non-falsifiable, lacking in evidence or demonstrably false, yet public acceptance remains high. Efforts to convince the general public of the validity of medical and scientific findings can be hampered by such narratives, which can create the impression of doubt or disagreement in areas where the science is well established. Conversely, historical examples of exposed conspiracies do exist and it may be difficult for people to differentiate between reasonable and dubious assertions. In this work, we establish a simple mathematical model for conspiracies involving multiple actors with time, which yields failure probability for any given conspiracy. Parameters for the model are estimated from literature examples of known scandals, and the factors influencing conspiracy success and failure are explored. The model is also used to estimate the likelihood of claims from some commonly-held conspiratorial beliefs; these are namely that the moon-landings were faked, climate-change is a hoax, vaccination is dangerous and that a cure for cancer is being suppressed by vested interests. Simulations of these claims predict that intrinsic failure would be imminent even with the most generous estimates for the secret-keeping ability of active participants—the results of this model suggest that large conspiracies (≥1000 agents) quickly become untenable and prone to failure. The theory presented here might be useful in counteracting the potentially deleterious consequences of bogus and anti-science narratives, and examining the hypothetical conditions under which sustainable conspiracy might be possible.
In the very first paragraph of the intro (first footnote) is dear old Cass Sunstein.
We shall clarify the working definition of conspiracy theory here as being in line (sic) the characterisation of Sunstein et al “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who attempt to conceal their role (at least until their aims are accomplished)”.
Footnote 1: Sunstein CR, Vermeule A. Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures*. Journal of Political Philosophy. 2009; 17(2):202–227.

I'm sure most readers here are aware of who Cass Sunstein is.
0.1 Anti-Science conspiracy narratives—A brief overview

Conspiracy theories which posit some nefarious underhanded action by scientists are ubiquitous. In these work, we shall restrict our focus to four prominent beliefs of this genre. These are listed below.

NASA Moon-landing conspiracy—The successful 1969 Apollo 11 mission first put men on the moon, a seminal achievement in human history. Yet even since that historic day, there has been a persistent fringe belief group that strongly believe the moon-landings were faked, mocked up for propaganda purposes. In 2013 it was estimated that 7% of Americans subscribe to this view [15]. Those advocating this conspiracy claim there are inconsistencies in pictures taken on the moon’s surface, despite these claims being comprehensively debunked [16].

Climate change conspiracy—Climate-change denial has a deep political dimension [7, 8]. Despite the overwhelming strength of evidence supporting the scientific consensus of anthropogenic global warming [17], there are many who reject this consensus. Of these, many claim that climate-change is a hoax staged by scientists and environmentalists [18–20], ostensibly to yield research income. Such beliefs are utterly negated by the sheer wealth of evidence against such a proposition, but remain popular due to an often-skewed false balance present in partisan media [20, 21], resulting in public confusion and inertia.

Vaccination conspiracy—Conspiratorial beliefs about vaccination are endemic in the anti-vaccination movement [18, 22]. It is estimated that roughly 20% of Americans hold the long de-bunked notion that there is a link between autism and the MMR vaccine [15], a belief which has reduced uptake of important vaccinations [22] in several countries. Anti-vaccination beliefs and scare-mongering are also endemic in the internet age, with vaccine critical websites asserting dubious information [23, 24]. Ill-founded beliefs over vaccination have been darkly successful in stirring panic and reducing vaccine uptake, which has led to damaging resurgence in diseases such as measles [4].

Cancer cure conspiracy—The belief that a cure for cancer is being withheld by vested interests is a long-standing one [25]. It is often used as a universal deus ex machina for those pushing an alternative alleged cure, and assertion of the conspiracy theory functions as an explanatory device to explain the complete paucity of clinical evidence for such claims [26]. Such claims can be detrimental to patients, some of whom abandon conventional treatment for the lofty but ill-founded promises of alternative medicine [27].
There is then a lot of maths used to support the "debunking."

Grimes uses the figure of 411,000 NASA employees in his "modelling". I did wonder if that included the guy who sellotaped the US flag to the lunar lander? LMAO
The grim reality is that there appears to be a cohort so ideologically invested in a belief that for whom no reasoning will shift, their convictions impervious to the intrusions of reality. In these cases, it is highly unlikely that a simple mathematical demonstration of the untenability of their belief will change their view-point. However, for the less invested such an intervention might indeed prove useful.
I wonder if Dr Grimes has ever heard of the psychological term - projection? :P

Critical Mass
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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by Critical Mass » Wed Jan 27, 2016 1:08 pm

We shall clarify the working definition of conspiracy theory here as being in line (sic) the characterisation of Sunstein et al “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who attempt to conceal their role (at least until their aims are accomplished)”.
That's a definition of "conspiracy theorist" so vague that even I might consider myself a "conspiracy theorist". Heck who ISN'T a conspiracy theorist under such a definition?

If one were to take a major event like say "The Iraq War" it seems fair to say that machinations of powerful people were responsible for starting that war?

Either way let's go with it.
However, even with this disclaimer, there are a disconcerting number of conspiracy theories which enjoy popular support and yet are demonstrably nonsensical. This is particularly true of conspiracies over scientific and medical issues where conspiratorial ideation can lead to out-right opposition to and rejection of the scientific method [3].
If the "scientific method" he refers to is getting your fellow gang members to "thumbs up" your work & "thumbs down" anybody not part of the gang then, it would appear, that I too am in "opposition" to it. However neither he nor his linked reference seem to specify.
This can be exceptionally detrimental, not only to believers but to society in general; conspiratorial beliefs over medical interventions such as vaccination, for example, can have potentially lethal consequence [4].
I think we can all agree that a conspiring gang of quacks, well aware that something is wrong with their medical interventions, have "potentially lethal consequences". Still let's thank FOIA requests, if not "the Scientific Method", for shedding some light on such things.
This becomes a defence mechanism to protect beliefs that are incompatible with the evidence, and unsurprisingly perhaps proponents of such views display not only
conspiratorial traits but a litany of reasoning flaws, a reliance on anecdote over data and low cognitive complexity in thinking patterns [5]
I agree with Apache, there is a certain "Pot calling the Kettle black" projection going on here isn't there. One almost wonders if he too "knows someone" who "knew someone" who "they think" died in the towers?
Similarly, the framing of climate-change as a hoax creates needless uncertainty in public discourse, and increases the risk of damaging inertia instead of corrective action. The dismissal of scientific findings as a hoax also has a political element; a 2011 study found conservative white males in the US were far more likely than other Americans to deny climate change [6]
Oh we can't have uncertainty now can we! That'd be so unscientific!

As for the "Conservative white males" bit you have to pay to read the link (even though the data was probably acquired through "public funding") but I am vaguely interested if the 'study' ended up concluding that "Liberal Jewish females are best".

Point's 7 & 8 are basically repeats of 6.

Point's 9 & 10 lead to other "pay to read publicly funded work" scams... I'll tell you what, these "truthseekers" do like their "cheddar" don't they!
Of course, it is worthwhile to take a considered Devil’s advocate approach there are numerous historical examples of exposed conspiracies and scandals, from Watergate to the recent revelations on the sheer scale of spying on the online activity of citizens by their own governments. It would be unfair then to simply dismiss all allegation of conspiracy as paranoid where in some instances it is demonstrably not so.

There is also merit to charges that vested interests can distort and confuse public perception in the case of climate-change, for example, conservative demagogues have succeeded in casting a perception of doubt on robust science in public discussion [8,11–14]. Evidently an approach which dismisses these very real concerns out of hand and without due consideration is not good enough, and there must be a clear rationale for clarifying the outlandish from the reasonable.
Perhaps one should "look at the evidence"? Whilst, of course, determining who is presenting the evidence & why. One should also keep in mind that "faking bullshit" is an observable & undeniable fact... both historically & contemporarily.
Something currently lacking that might be useful is a method for ascertaining the likelihood that a conspiracy is viable, and the factors that influence this. The benefits of this would be two-fold; firstly, it would allow one to gauge whether a particular narrative was likely and what
scale it would have to operate at. Secondly, and perhaps more usefully, it would help counteract potentially damaging anti-science beliefs by giving an estimate of viability for a conspiracy overtime. The parameters for this model are taken from literature accounts of exposed conspiracies
and scandals, and used to analyse several commonly held conspiracy theories, and examine the theoretical bounds for the magnitude and time-frame of any posited conspiracy theory.
Well it 'might' be useful... although personally I'm starting to think you may get better results with FOIA requests.

What follows is Grime's discussion on some "conspiracy theories".

-Grimes declares that the "photographic inconsistencies" of the alleged 1960's "Moon Landings" have all been "comprehensively debunked" [16]. It goes without saying that one has to pay to read that alleged debunking. A 'debunking' written by Journalists Perlmutter & Dahmen.

-Grimes hilariously describes the "Climate Change hoax" as "a hoax staged by scientists and environmentalists [18–20], ostensibly to yield research income". Yeah I'm sure nobody else could possibly benefit from a $1 trillion Carbon trading scam (and that's for the US alone)!

-As for the "Vaccination hoax"... Grimes remains silent on why, with the huge amount of resources available, the vaccination industry/CDC don't just quell "public panic" by performing simple "vaccinated vs unvaccinated" trials?

Perhaps this New Zealand study gives us the answer why?
Perhaps this German one too?
Then again, assuming one was willing to pay for it, we do have "Dr Bloom's" Philippine study (allegedly vaccines make you smarter).

-Grimes also mentions "the cancer cure conspiracy"... in which apparently the cure for cancer is being withheld from us by quacks. Personally I find that a surprising idea... it seems quite clear to me that the quacks of the "cancer care" industry know little more than smoking is bad for you.

After that a mathematical model which supposedly determines a probability of "at least one leak sufficient to lead to failure of the conspiracy" is generated.

Seeing as "a leak" will only "expose" a conspiracy when it is "officially accepted"... I'd say that probability is basically 0 when "officials" are determined NOT to accept it.

Heck fling enough money around & no-one will "leak" anything... is a Stage Magician going to "leak" that he's a bullshit artist when he's supposedly $122 million richer (though that's obviously a bogus figure itself)?

This, of course, renders all of his following equations completely pointless (as well as rather stupid... few think that all of the alleged 411,000 NASA employees were "in on it" for instance).

Grimes also considers the silly "Snowden affair" to be an actual leak.

The nicest thing I can say about Grime`s (another journalist himself) paper is that it's free.

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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by Apache » Wed Jan 27, 2016 6:28 pm

When I read the paper this morning I had a fit of uncontrollable laughter and couldn't wait to share it. I certainly didn't expect such mirth so early on in the day and for so long. :lol:

Critical Mass
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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by Critical Mass » Fri Jan 29, 2016 3:13 pm

Here's a "conspiracy theory" for Grimes.

The alleged existence of the "right" to "tax" & the alleged existence of the "duty" to "pay tax".

Certainly that qualifies as a "conspiracy theory" as taxation is clearly a practice that can best be explained by the "machination of powerful people" who "attempt to conceal their role".

Now according to the "official story" the first taxes began in Ancient Egypt around 5,000 years ago and the idea quickly spread if only for the obvious military advantages having a guaranteed source of income gave a "divine King/state/government".

Now it's pretty tricky to even try & put a figure on how many people have been involved in this "conspiracy" but if we go with the commonly accepted historical population figures then an estimate of 1-2 billion people involved in the enforcement, collection, promotion & indoctrination of this horrific mass theft would seem a conservative one.

Based on Grimes figures this particular conspiracy should clearly be on the edge of collapse... indeed it's many thousands of years overdue.

Hopefully, any day now, an insider will "leak" out the idea that there is no such thing as a "right to tax" which will fatally compromise "the conspiracy" & lead to the end of probably the longest running crime perpetuated on the people of this planet.

Perhaps Grimes himself, who is undoubtedly heavily supported by these religiously indoctrinated tithes, will be the source of this "leak"?

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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by simonshack » Fri Jan 29, 2016 6:01 pm

Critical Mass wrote: Perhaps Grimes himself, who is undoubtedly heavily supported by these religiously indoctrinated tithes, will be the source of this "leak"?
:lol: :lol: :lol:

Doubtful, dear CM - most doubtful : I fear that clowns like Grimes (and similar government suckers & whores of his ilk) benefit from gaping taxation loopholes / exemptions for the stuff that they write and do. Or else - more simply - given their royally-inflated paychecks, they're incapable of empathy towards us normal / oppressed taxpayers. They suffer from an empathy-deficiency syndrome caused by the lack of economical worries in their lives, you see?...

But then again, I'm just a raving / mad / irrational-minded conspiracy theorist blinded by my poorly-developed abstract thinking!

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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by hoi.polloi » Fri Jan 29, 2016 6:16 pm

Perhaps Grimes has never even heard of taxes! No wonder he's so out of touch. :lol:

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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by Painterman » Sat Jan 30, 2016 1:28 pm

Apache wrote:I'm sure most readers here are aware of who Cass Sunstein is.
Yeah, that's the guy who infamously coined the term "cognitive infiltration" in regards to neutralizing investigations into fakery and conspiracy - though the concept itself has been part of public relations for a century.

Readers of Cluesforum won't be surprised that Cass Sunstein advocates the unlikely partnership of "cognitive infiltration" and junk science (e.g. lunar missions, climate change, vaccination), given the recent "cognitive infiltration" attacks on this forum using Flat Earth and other in-your-face enormities of junk science.

It's obvious that junk science is currently trendy in "cognitive infiltration" psyops. Evidently the strategy is to discredit and misdirect investigation into established junk science (lunar missions, climate change, vaccination, etc.) through the "cognitive infiltration" of lots of new junk science.

They're surely not done yet either. The more socially relevant junk science Cluesforum threatens to expose, the more the "cognitive infiltrators" will try to bury us under an avalanche of junk science they'll invent for our consumption and push through smarmy "either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists / knuckle-draggers / unhappy consumers / conventional thinkers / etc." marketing.

So let's get ready to use more critical thinking to discriminate between topics worth our time investigating versus deliberate nonsense thrown in our path to discredit and misdirect the forum.

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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by simonshack » Fri Feb 19, 2016 1:30 pm


Unsurprisingly perhaps, the Grimes 'conspiracy-bashing' clown appears to be a global-warming alarmist ...

David Robert Grimes

Here's from an article by Pierre Gosselin - dated 24. October 2013 :
Grimes is emotional and frustrated, and thus cannot be taken seriously anymore. His scientific understanding has been fatally compromised by his increasingly emotional state. Calls for mob anger and emotionalization have no place in science.

Finally Grimes writes: “Worse than this, depleting ice-sheets increase tectonic and volcanic activity as the confining loads on these systems are stripped away, increasing seismic activity.”

Now that I’m done laughing, to this I can only say that it amazes me that Oxford University would actually graduate people capable of such flaming nonsense. Grimes actually confuses far-fetched raw hypotheses as settled science.

From a science point a view, Grimes offers nothing. All we can do is give him high marks for entertainment. His behavior is exactly what us skeptics were looking forward to seeing from the spoiled elitist losers 10 years ago when were pretty sure we were going to win this debate. The entertainment begins.

- See more at: http://notrickszone.com/2013/10/24/iris ... 1wbIi.dpuf

... AND a 'cancer researcher'... :rolleyes:

"Dr David Robert Grimes is a physicist and cancer researcher at Oxford University."

... AND a 'guitar-scientist' ! ^_^
"An Oxford University researcher has revealed equations for playing guitar. Dr Grimes (shown) studied the physics underlying certain guitar techniques. He wanted to understand how guitarists could manipulate pitch."
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... z40cakUXPO

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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by Farcevalue » Fri Feb 19, 2016 3:40 pm


Whoda thunk?. Einstein would have been one serious cat.

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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by ICfreely » Sat Mar 02, 2019 7:41 am

I feel compelled to post David Coady’s article here in its entirety because, IMO, it specifically adds to the topic of this thread and the efforts of the forum in general.
In defence of conspiracy theories (and why the term is a misnomer)
September 12, 2018 4.14pm EDT
David Coady

Before 2012, if you had voiced suspicions that the Australian government had been anything but open and honourable in dealing with East Timor – its newly independent but impoverished neighbour – you would likely have been dismissed as a conspiracy theorist. But it was then revealed Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

Yesterday’s conspiracy theories often become today’s incontrovertible facts. In the mid-1990s, journalist Gary Webb’s claims that CIA officials conspired with drug dealers bringing crack cocaine into the United States were dismissed by many as a prime example of a conspiracy theory. But the claims were true.

It’s reasonable to suppose many of the views that are now dismissed or mocked as conspiracy theories will one day be recognised as having been true all along. Indeed, the net effect of terms such as “conspiracy theory” and “conspiracism” is to silence people who are the victims of conspiracy, or who (rightly or wrongly) suspect conspiracies may be occurring. These terms serve to herd respectable opinion in ways that suit the interests of the powerful.

Ever since the philosopher Sir Karl Popper popularised the expression in the 1950s, conspiracy theories have had a bad reputation. To characterise a belief as a conspiracy theory is to imply it’s false. More than that, it implies people who accept that belief, or want to investigate whether it’s true, are irrational.

On the face of it, this is hard to understand. After all, people do conspire. That is, they engage in secretive or deceptive behaviour that is illegal or morally dubious.

Conspiracy is a common form of human behaviour across all cultures throughout recorded time, and it has always been particularly widespread in politics.

Virtually all of us conspire some of the time, and some people (such as spies) conspire virtually all of the time. Given people conspire, there can’t be anything wrong with believing they conspire. Hence there can’t be anything wrong with believing conspiracy theories or being a conspiracy theorist.

Thinking of conspiracy theories as paradigmatically false and irrational is like thinking of phrenology as a paradigm of scientific theory. Conspiracy theories, like scientific theories, and virtually any other category of theory, are sometimes true, sometimes false, sometimes held on rational grounds, sometimes not.

It’s a striking feature of much of the literature on conspiracy theories, like much of the literature on terrorism, that authors assume they are referring to the same phenomenon, while a glance at their definitions (when they bother to offer them) reveals they are not.

But seeking a fixed definition of the term “conspiracy theory” may be an idle pursuit, since the real problem with the term is that, although it lacks a fixed meaning, it does serve a fixed function.

A new Inquisition?

It’s a function similar to that served by the term “heresy” in medieval Europe. In both cases these are terms of propaganda, used to stigmatise and marginalise people who have beliefs that conflict with officially sanctioned or orthodox beliefs of the time and place in question.

If, as I believe, the treatment of those labelled as “conspiracy theorists” in our culture is analogous to the treatment of those labelled as “heretics” in medieval Europe, then the role of psychologists and social scientists in this treatment is analogous to that of the Inquisition.

Outside the psychology and social science literature some authors will sometimes offer some, usually heavily qualified, defence of conspiracy theories (in some sense of the term). But among psychologists and social scientists the assumption that they are false, the product of an irrational (or nonrational) process, and positively harmful is virtually universal.

Whenever we use the terms “conspiracy theory”, “conspiracism” or “conspiracist ideation”, we’re implying, even if we don’t mean to, there is something wrong with believing, wanting to investigate, or giving any credence at all to the possibility people are engaged in secretive or deceptive behaviour.

One bad effect of these terms is they contribute to a political environment in which it’s easier for conspiracy to thrive at the expense of openness. Another bad effect is their use is an injustice to the people who are characterised as conspiracy theorists.

Following the philosopher Miranda Fricker, we may call this a form of “testimonial injustice”. When someone asserts that a conspiracy has taken place (especially when it is a conspiracy by powerful people or institutions) that person’s word is automatically given less credence than it should because of an irrational prejudice associated with the pejorative connotations of these terms.

When professional psychologists imply these terms it can constitute a form of gaslighting; that is, a manipulation of people into doubting their own sanity.

I hope and believe that in the future these terms will be widely recognised for what they are: the products of an irrational and authoritarian outlook. Prior to Popper, we got along perfectly well without these terms. I’m sure we can learn to do so again.

http://theconversation.com/in-defence-o ... mer-101678

On the origins of “conspiracy theory” and the man who coined the term

The Conspiracy Theory of Society
Karl R. Popper

In order to explain what is, I think, the central task of social science, I should like to begin by describing a theory which is held by very many rationalists—a theory which I think implies exactly the opposite of the true aim of the social sciences. I shall call this theory the ‘conspiracy theory of society’. This theory, which is more primitive than most forms of theism, is akin to Homer’s theory of society. Homer conceived the power of the gods in such a way that whatever happened on the plain before Troy was only a reflection of the various conspiracies on Olympus. The conspiracy theory of society is just a version of this theism, of a belief in gods whose whims and wills rule everything. It comes from abandoning God and then asking: ‘Who is in his place?’ His place is then filled by various powerful men and groups—sinister pressure groups, who are to be blamed for having planned the great depression and all the evils from which we suffer.

The conspiracy theory of society is very widespread, and has very little truth in it. Only when conspiracy theoreticians come into power does it become something like a theory that accounts for things which actually happen (a case of what I have called the ‘Oedipus Effect’). For example, when Hitler came into power, believing in the conspiracy myth of the Learned Elders of Zion, he tried to outdo their conspiracy with his own counter-conspiracy. But the interesting thing is thatsuch a conspiracy never—or ‘hardly ever’—turns out in the way that is intended.

https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/ ... fox-b-1-ab
The Porcupine
A pilgrimage to Popper.
By Adam Gopnik

Karl Popper had been an inquisitive, socially conscious young man in post-First World War Vienna. He was from a solid but by no means aristocratic family of assimilated Jews, and he had, one senses from his biographer, a kind of Gandhi-like innocence that comes to people who will one day think big thoughts. Preoccupied by social questions—his essential obsessions as a youth were music and the education of poor children, and for years he did social work—he was excited by the philosophy of science at a time when Einstein’s physics was new, and had about it a world-changing, everyone’s-talking-about-it thrill.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002 ... -porcupine

On the mentality of our modern day inquisitors

The concomitants of conspiracy concerns
Daniel Freeman and Richard P. Bentall

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2017; 52(5): 595–604.
Published online 2017 Mar 29. doi: 10.1007/s00127-017-1354-4


It is difficult to overestimate the role of belief systems in human affairs. For example, political ideologies, which serve a variety of psychological functions [1], have provoked the most profound historical events, as have religious belief systems, which continue to impact on political life globally [2]. Conspiracy theories are an important type of belief system, which have often had negative historical effects, for example when they have fuelled violent ideologies (as when the stab-in-the-back myth was used to attribute German defeat in the First World War to a conspiracy of Jews and communists, these types of beliefs have been subjected to only limited empirical study. ) or have been damaging to human well-being in other ways (for example, when the belief that the AIDS virus had been manufactured in American laboratories impeded the implementation of effective treatments in South Africa).

Our interest is in ‘false conspiracy theories’ [3], of which there are many. These include, for example, world conspiracies (e.g., concerning Jews, a new world order, aliens), event conspiracies (e.g., concerning UFOs, moon landings, 9/11), technology conspiracies (e.g., about surveillance, the suppression of technologies) and disease conspiracies (e.g., creation of AIDS, chemtrail theory, the alleged link between vaccination and autism). We consider these theories to have four common characteristics: the world or an event is held to be not as it seems; there is believed to be a cover-up by powerful others; the believer’s explanation of events is accepted only by a minority; and the explanation is unsupported when the evidence is weighed up. Our interest is in clearly unfounded ideas.

We consider that conspiracy beliefs have close ties with the paranoia spectrum—in which a person perceives direct threats to themselves from others—that we have studied extensively [4, 5]. Unfounded conspiracy beliefs and paranoid ideas are both forms of excessive mistrust that may be corrosive at both an individual and societal level. In previous work analysing epidemiological surveys, we have found that paranoia is associated with youth, lower intellectual functioning, being single, poverty, poor physical health, poor social functioning, less perceived social support, disrupted attachment experiences in childhood, stress at work, less social cohesion, less calmness, less happiness, suicidal ideation, and a great range of other psychiatric symptoms [6, 7]. Empirical research on conspiracy beliefs is in its infancy and we are unaware of a similarly comprehensive investigation of their correlates.

There is, however, growing awareness of the importance of conspiracy beliefs and research has started into their psychological basis. Oliver and Wood [8], using data from four US nationally representative election surveys, report that half of the US population endorses at least one conspiracy belief, though approximately half of those individuals endorse one such belief only (i.e., a quarter of the total). They found conspiracy beliefs were more likely to be held by less educated respondents and African Americans. :o Lewandowsky et al. [9] carried out an online survey of over 1000 people and concluded that ‘conspiratorial thinking contributes to the rejection of science’ such as the overwhelming research consensus that human activity is affecting the climate. A similar conclusion that conspiracist ideation erodes trust in science was reached in an internet panel survey of a 1000 people in the US [10]. An experimental study with students indicated that exposure to conspiracy beliefs may reduce engagement in politics [11], while the presence of paranoia and the holding of conspiracy theories were significantly associated in a study of 120 students [12]. In a study of almost 2000 people in Britain, there was an association of conspiracy thinking with lower self-esteem and more negative attitudes to authority [13]. Brotherton and French [14] found that people who have a conspiracist view are particularly susceptible to the ‘conjunction fallacy’, overestimating the likelihood of co-occurring events.

How Medical Conspiracy Theories Could Be Affecting Your Health
These aren't benign beliefs – and they can cause you to forego everything from regular checkups to essential treatments.
By Stacey Colino, Contributor Oct. 18, 2017, at 11:33 a.m.

In our chaotic, often unpredictable world, there’s no shortage of conspiracy theories about climate change and technology or about political and historical subjects, ranging from who was really behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy to whether the moon landings were faked. In the last half-century, conspiracy theories also have emerged about various health-related issues. In a survey of 1,351 adults, published in the May 2014 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found that 49 percent of adults in the U.S. believe in at least one medical conspiracy theory.

https://health.usnews.com/wellness/mind ... our-health

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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by ICfreely » Sat Mar 02, 2019 3:13 pm

Our interest is in ‘false conspiracy theories’ [3], of which there are many. These include, for example, world conspiracies (e.g., concerning Jews, a new world order, aliens), event conspiracies (e.g., concerning UFOs, moon landings, 9/11), technology conspiracies (e.g., about surveillance, the suppression of technologies) and disease conspiracies (e.g., creation of AIDS, chemtrail theory, the alleged link between vaccination and autism).

Funny how Daniel Freeman and Richard P. Bentall try to conflate people who question the "moon landings" with people who believe in extra terrestrials seeing as NASA astronauts are among the top promoters of outlandish UFO theories.

EXCLUSIVE: Buzz Aldrin Confirms UFO Sighting in Syfy's 'Aliens on the Moon'

full link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNkmhY_ju8o

Forget everything you think you know about the moon! The channel that brought you Sharknado has turned their sights to the stars for a two-hour documentary special, Aliens on the Moon: The Truth Exposed, and ET has your exclusive first look!
Re: Israel
by simonshack on Mon Jun 13, 2011 10:53 pm

Sorry folks - not meaning to interrupt the very interesting discussion here - I just wished to place this tidbit somewhere on the forum and, being at a loss as to where, will just slam it here...

Anyways, I find this pretty darn fascinating (if not 'downright uplifting' )
'NASA' (meaning of - in Hebrew)
The Hebrew word of the week is nasa (“to lift up, take up, carry”), taken from the weekly Torah portion called Ki Tisa. Nasa appears in the imperfect 2ms (tisa, “you take”) in Exodus 30:12a of the Torah portion.
http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Glossa ... /nasa.html

"(...) nasa which means "to lift, exalt, raise up etc." God had placed in each human being a desire to fly, be lifted, go up high, to nasa."

"Over and out, Houston!"...*buzz...crackle *

viewtopic.php?f=29&t=178&p=2354383&hili ... t#p2354383
:lol: :lol: :lol:

Natural Philosopher
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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by Natural Philosopher » Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:28 am

Here's a takedown of the Grimes "study" on methodological grounds from a statistician: http://littleatoms.com/david-grimes-con ... eory-maths

To add my own thoughts, this Grimes' paper is completely invalid on logical grounds because it attempts to determine the odds of a conspiracy being held secret for a given amount of time by analyzing "conspiracy" events that were later exposed by “whistle-blowers.” But this logic presupposes the very conclusion of the study- because, if there were any "successful" large-scale conspiracies (that is, conspiracies where no insiders blew the whistle on the scheme), those events would necessarily be excluded from this statistical data.

This is an example of what NN Taleb calls the "fallacy of silent evidence." The data that would disconfirm the conclusion of this paper are, by their very nature, inaccessible. It also (falsely) takes for granted that the only way to confirm the existence of a conspiracy is by an insider spilling the beans.

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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by fbenario » Tue Mar 05, 2019 12:51 am

Natural Philosopher » March 3rd, 2019, 9:28 pm wrote: It also (falsely) takes for granted that the only way to confirm the existence of a conspiracy is by an insider spilling the beans.
Some form of this should be the forum's new motto, such as "An insider spilling the beans is of course NOT the only way to confirm the existence of a conspiracy."

Natural Philosopher
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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by Natural Philosopher » Tue Mar 05, 2019 4:39 pm

fbenario » Tue Mar 05, 2019 12:51 am wrote:
Natural Philosopher » March 3rd, 2019, 9:28 pm wrote: It also (falsely) takes for granted that the only way to confirm the existence of a conspiracy is by an insider spilling the beans.
Some form of this should be the forum's new motto, such as "An insider spilling the beans is of course NOT the only way to confirm the existence of a conspiracy."
Yes, and it should also state that there are implicit ways of whistle blowing, for instance, by inserting obvious mistakes into the forged footage of the fake event. Take the moon landing hoax: there are enough blatantly obvious bloopers in the photographic and film record of the landing that it is highly probable that there were some forgers with enough scruples to reveal what they were doing but without going on the record and risking their lives and careers. See this link for some examples: http://www.aulis.com/photo_studies.htm

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Re: On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs

Unread post by ICfreely » Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:09 pm

File this under:


“Science as well as respect for others’ religions or ethnicity are considered establishment norms, just like truth-telling, and hence the people who support (and are incited by) Donald Trump are likely to reject all of those norms, which again would link science denial, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy theories as a cluster or related phenomena.”
-Chief Inquisitor Stephan Lewandowsky

The Role Harassment Plays in Climate Change Denial
Many of the same patterns have appeared when extremists attack other targets.
Rebecca Leber November 2, 2018

THE STATE OF SCIENCE: Why do people distrust science? Why do some of us reject consensus on a whole range of scientific findings? As Professor Stephan Lewandowsky explains, it often comes down to the way we look at the world.

What does Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity have to do with the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV)?

What does acid rain have to do with the fact tobacco smoking causes lung cancer?

What does Reye’s syndrome have in common with the CFCs that caused the hole in the ozone layer?

And what do all those issues have to do with the fact our climate is rapidly changing due to human greenhouse gas emissions?

:huh: :unsure:

To illustrate the first point, examination of the opposition to Einstein’s theory of relativity reveals no obvious involvement of financial interests (which is not to minimise a political component involving nationalism and anti-semitism).

Intriguingly, a primary factor behind the opposition to Einstein within the scientific community arguably arose out of the thwarted career aspirations of physicists unable to cope with his revolutionary ideas.

https://theconversation.com/why-do-peop ... s-why-4050

There’s a psychological link between conspiracy theories and creationism
Stephan Lewandowsky August 22, 2018

Ask a three-year-old why they think it’s raining, and she may say “because the flowers are thirsty”. Her brother might also tell you that trees have leaves to provide shade for people and animals. These are instances of teleological thinking, the idea that things came into being and exist for a purpose.

Teleological explanations for natural phenomena are rejected by scientists because these explanations appeal to intentions. But trees do not grow leaves and rain clouds do not drop water with an outcome in mind. It rains because of physics. And those physics would apply equally if there were no flowers or any other life on the planet.

Take teleology one step further, and you get Donald Trump, who thinks that global warming is an invention of the Chinese to make US manufacturing non-competitive. There is growing evidence that indulging in conspiracy theories predisposes people to reject scientific findings, from climate change to vaccinations and AIDS. And researchers have now found that teleological thinking also links beliefs in conspiracy theories and creationism.

Teleological and conspiratorial thought share a number of features in common. Core to both ways of thinking is the act of giving things a purpose. Flowers supposedly produce delightful perfume in order to attract pollinators, and climate scientists supposedly invent a hoax known as climate change at the behest of the “world government” or George Soros.

Why we deny science

These new results mesh well with other research that has linked conspiracism to science denial across so many domains. Conventionally, the use of conspiracy theories to reject scientific accounts has been explained as a way to avoid accepting an inconvenient truth.

The new study takes the role of conspiratorial thought in creationism a step further. It suggests that creationism itself could be seen as a belief system involving the ultimate conspiracy theory: the purposeful creation of all things.

https://theconversation.com/theres-a-ps ... ism-101849

'Intellectual yet idiotic': the sad case of Stephan Lewandowsky
Guest Blogger / September 27, 2016
Guest opinion by Drieu Godefridi

In a new paper just published with two other authors “The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ mechanics of the rejection of (climate) science: simulating coherence by conspiracism“, Stephan Lewandowsky states — for the umpteenth time — that climate skeptics are deniers, that…

In a very recently published paper Nassim Nicholas Taleb defines the “intellectual yet idiot” as a bureaucrat paid by the taxpayer who “pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited.” However, in the case of Lewandowsky, an acknowledged expert in the psychological sciences, one can appreciate that this pathologizing of diverse experts in climate science who do not conform to his consensus ideation, appears to be intentional and is a career theme for him. If this speculation of intent is true, such activity is clearly in breach of medical and psychological codes of ethics, beginning with the acknowledged fundamental of “Do no harm.”

Enormous harm is done to science and to dissenting scientists by Lewandowsky’s portrayal of them as being pathologically unstable for voicing dissent – especially as well-known scientific codes of conduct like that of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine state that “Science has progressed through a uniquely productive marriage of human creativity and hard-nosed skepticism….”

Having fallen down his own rabbit hole into a magical, fantasy world of scientific conformity, the appreciation of the crucial value of critical thinking and skeptical review to science is something that Lewandowsky continues to deny.

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/09/27/ ... wandowsky/

Lewandowsky gets $1.7m of taxpayer funds to denigrate people who disagree with him
Some flaws in Lewandowsky et al 2012:

1. The entire work is based on a logical fallacy – argument from authority — but particularly, that experts paid by the government are 100% right, and independent scientists are 100% wrong or corrupt. Lewandowsky cannot name empirical evidence to support his base assumptions about a complex scientific phenomenon in an immature scientific field, and does not take into account that committees, associations, the “peer reviewed” scientific process are human activities dependent on imperfect human opinion and potentially corruptible. If his assumption is wrong, everything about his research is meaningless, yet he does not reference empirical climate evidence.

2. His sample size is too small to be statistically meaningful. This single point on its own prevents any meaningful scientific conclusions about “conspiracy ideation”.

3. His sampling method was likely to be scammed by fake responses, and if the responses that are likely to be fake are removed his conclusions would be entirely different. He did not take adequate precautions to stop fake responses, even though his conclusions are utterly dependent on them (see Steve McIntyres analysis). His use of vitriolic anti-skeptic sites made the fake responses nearly inevitable, and the nature of the fake responses (like a belief that smoking doesn’t cause cancer) matches misinformation on those anti-skeptic sites rather than any belief ever cited by real skeptics. His work fails by his own standards: He describes a different survey as worthless because they cannot verify the integrity of the data, but he cannot verify his own data.

4. Lewandowsky has not reported 25% of the answers to his questions, nor the results of a version hosted by an internal UWA site, leaving open questions of “cherry picked” conclusions.

5. He frequently uses unscientific name-calling that he has not justified either in English or scientific terms. What scientific observations do “deniersdeny, or do “deniers” simply deny that official government positions are 100% right? :lol: :lol: :lol:

6. He defines “science” as a consensus conclusion which is counter to the scientific method, and breaks a basic tenet of science that conclusions are based on empirical evidence and not on opinions.

7. Despite basing his conclusions on something called “Conspiracy Ideation” he is unable to define conspiracy scientifically, evidently defining a conspiracy as a theory that he personally does not agree with.

8. A researcher with an equal but opposite personal bias could produce exactly the opposite conclusion (but without basing their work on a logical fallacy) by creating a self-selecting on-line survey that asks questions about green left conspiracies, posting it on anti-green sites, and with only a sample of 10 positive responses “show” that those who believe in man-made global warming did so because they held anti-free market philosophies, because they gullibly assumed that government funded work was always right, and because they believed in outlandish conspiracy theories that fossil fuel corporations were funding thousands of scientists. These conspiracy theorists denied conclusive documented evidence showing that funding for man-made global warming was 3,500 times larger than funding for skeptics of the theory and that large fossil fuel corporations were actively lobbying for carbon markets(see point 2) rather than against them.

http://joannenova.com.au/2012/09/lewand ... -with-him/

Stephan Lewandowsky is the co-author of The Debunking Handbook and one of 87 “experts” featured at the following site.

University of Bristol – School of Psychological Science

Global experts on debunking of misinformation

The word “post-truth” was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2016. Concern with “fake news” is increasing all over the world, and media concern [FEAR] with the spread of misinformation [SKEPTICISM], and how to debunk [QUASH] it, has been increasing dramatically over the past few years. Our experts on these issues welcome inquiries from media, government, or NGOs.

http://www.bristol.ac.uk/psychology/res ... thexperts/

"Post-Truth Expert": an unintended consequence of CluesForum? :P

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