Hi, my name’s Chris and I’m a conspiracy theorist, but that’s okay because, to some extent, we all are. And rightly so, because, of course, some conspiracies are real: the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a false flag, big tobacco did cover up evidence that smoking is deadly, and ET is buried in the New Mexico desert. The important question is to what extent we are conspiracists.
Turning to Mick West’s conspiracy theory extremeness spectrum, I would place my demarcation line, as West does for his own, around 1.5. Conspiracy theories below this, such as 9/11 being used as an excuse to invade Iraq and global warming being covered up by big oil are eminently sensible, while those above, such as the moon landing hoax and flat Earth are just plain silly.
I, quite obviously, have no conscious control over where that demarcation line is set, and in my youth it was much higher, around 7.5. The massive six-point drop in the extremeness of my conspiratorial beliefs was not the result of any sort of action of free will on my part but rather the passing of time and the largely passive gaining of knowledge about such beliefs.
Truth be told, I have even less evidence to support the theories I accept and to oppose the theories I reject now than I did in my more conspiratorial youth. Unlike back then, they have little effect on the way I live my life and so I generally don’t feel the need to delve into them. To be entirely honest, I don’t even know if those I presented as true in the first paragraph really are or not.
All too often we dismiss extreme conspiracists as wilfully ignorant, but, at least in my personal experience, this does not seem to be the case. Perhaps, we should, as this week’s guest Aaron Rabinowitz implores, do more to refrain from condemning those with bad beliefs and praising those with good beliefs and instead start applying reason with compassion, if only for the sake of young me.
Cambridge Skeptics: Live! discussed this topic on May 18th, 2021 on our YouTube channel.