What Is a Grand Conspiracy?
NeuroLogica Blog » Conspiracy Theories
by Steven Novella
3M ago
Ah, the categorization question again. This is an endless, but much needed, endeavor within human intellectual activity. We have the need to categorize things, if for no other reason than we need to communicate with each other about them. Often skeptics, like myself, talk about conspiracy theories or grand conspiracies. We also often define exactly what we mean by such terms, although not always exhaustively or definitively. It is too cumbersome to do so every single time we refer to such conspiracy theories. To some extent there is a cumulative aspect to discussions about such topics, either ..read more
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About Those Lab Leak Documents
NeuroLogica Blog » Conspiracy Theories
by Steven Novella
6M ago
It was recently revealed that the House subcommittee probing the origins of COVID-19 accidentally released a “trove” of documents related to their investigations. The documents include e-mails and internal communications among the scientists and experts who put together the first analysis of the proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2, published in Nature in March 2020. The documents reveal that there was a lot more discussion and credence given to the lab origin theory of SARS-CoV-2 in February 2020 than was reflected in the final published paper, which some see as evidence of a deliberate coverup. Fur ..read more
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RFK Jr., Joe Rogan, and Vaccines
NeuroLogica Blog » Conspiracy Theories
by Steven Novella
6M ago
RFK Jr., who is now running for the Democratic presidential nomination, is anti-vaccine. He will vehemently deny this, but I don’t buy it for a second. He is simply playing the, “I’m not anti-vaccine, I am pro-safe vaccine” gambit, which is disingenuous and always has been. We have been covering this topic for years, and David Gorski did a recent excellent review of this at SBM. You can’t claim not to be anti-vaccine, and then defend a long list of anti-vaccine tropes. RFK has apparently been avoiding his views on vaccines on the campaign trail, but it always seems to come up. On the Joe Roga ..read more
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Meteostat-12 Meets Flat Earthers
NeuroLogica Blog » Conspiracy Theories
by Steven Novella
6M ago
I know this wasn’t the purpose of sending up a €4.3bn satellite into geostationary orbit, but tweaking flat earthers is a fun side effect. European countries have collaborated on this project, having weather satellites in orbit since 1977. The latest iteration is Meteostat-12, which was launched in December and is now in orbit 36,000 km above the equator. This means it will have a constant view of Europe, where it takes high resolution pictures every 10 minutes. The goal is to provide a constant stream of weather information surrounding Europe. Two more satellites are planned, which will keep ..read more
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The Cancer Cure Conspiracy Again
NeuroLogica Blog » Conspiracy Theories
by Steven Novella
6M ago
Some ideas never seem to die. There is something compelling about the narrative, perhaps because it fills some explanatory need. One of those narratives is that “they” have “the cure” to cancer but are keeping it hidden from the public in order to protect the profits that result from cancer treatment. I recently received the following e-mail (partly redacted): “I read many articles by physicians like yourself that claim secrets cannot be kept about cancer cures.  I beg to differ. Pharmaceutical firms require their associates to sign confidentiality agreements as a condition of employment ..read more
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Which Conspiracies Spread Most
NeuroLogica Blog » Conspiracy Theories
by Steven Novella
6M ago
Grand conspiracy theories are a curious thing. What would lead someone to readily believe that the world is secretly run by evil supervillains? Belief in conspiracies correlates with feelings of helplessness, which suggests that some people would rather believe that an evil villain is secretly in control than the more prosaic reality that no one is in control and we live in a complex and chaotic universe. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a natural experiment to see how conspiracy belief reacted and spread. A recent study examines this phenomenon by tracking tweets and other social media posts re ..read more
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The Stolen Election is a Conspiracy Theory
NeuroLogica Blog » Conspiracy Theories
by Steven Novella
6M ago
Research into conspiracy beliefs reveals that there are basically two kinds of people who believe in conspiracies. One type is the dedicated conspiracy theorist. For them, the conspiracy is what they are interested in. They never met a conspiracy theory they didn’t like, and they believe pretty much all of them. It’s part of their cognitive makeup. Others, however, are opportunistic conspiracy theorists – they believe one or two conspiracies that align with their ideology or tribe. Rosie O-Donnell is a 9/11 truther probably because it aligns with her politics. (As and aside, I can’t help think ..read more
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How Predictable Are We?
NeuroLogica Blog » Conspiracy Theories
by Steven Novella
6M ago
Magicians, marketers, and politicians all count, to some degree, on the belief that people (at least collectively) behave in fairly predictable patterns. Each has their own subculture and, history, and research as a guide, but the core phenomenon is the same. Magicians are probably the easiest to demonstrate – if you have ever been to a quality magic show you have likely been amazed at what you saw. This is because magicians exploit predictable patterns in how people direct their attention and process information, knowledge built over centuries of trial and error. Politicians, rather, seem to ..read more
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We Are All Conspiracy Theorists
NeuroLogica Blog » Conspiracy Theories
by Steven Novella
6M ago
I have often said, we all have a little conspiracy theorist inside of us. By this I mean that we all have some common psychological features that can lend themselves to believing in conspiracies. Some, of course, more than others. Going down a conspiracy rabbit hole is a tendency we may have to fight against. There has to be a point where we say to ourselves, wait a minute, can this actually be true? What is the evidence? Am I just fooling myself, giving in to my prejudices, or going along with my tribe? We all have a little skeptic inside of us as well, and at some point one wins over the oth ..read more
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Anomaly Hunting and Boris Johnson’s Phone Call
NeuroLogica Blog » Conspiracy Theories
by Steven Novella
6M ago
The latest internet conspiracy theory involves a phone call between President Biden and Boris Johnson’s. Johnson is the first world leader that Biden has called as president, and the moment has been captured in photographs. What I find most amazing about these pictures is that it is 2021 and the phone at No 10 still has a cord. Perhaps there is a security reason for this. But what “the internet” found most interesting was the lack of cord – in the reflected images in the mirror, that is. This observation even confused journalists: Even ITV political editor Robert Peston admitted he was left b ..read more
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