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The Logic of Conspiracy Theories I: Argument from Authority

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While the details of each conspiracy theory vary, they typically involve attributing excessive power and influence to a small group engaging in nefarious activities. A classic example is the notion that NASA faked the moon landings. There are also many “false flag” conspiracy theories that range from the idea that the Bush administration was behind the 9/11 attack to the idea that mass shootings are faked to the claim that the pro-Trump stickers on the mail bomber’s van were placed to frame Republicans. There are also various medical conspiracy theories, such as those fueling the anti-vaccination movement. Image Credit There has been considerable research into why people believe in conspiracy theories. An intuitively plausible explanation is that anxiety and feelings of a loss of control lead to accepting such theories. Ironically, people who embrace conspiracy theories seem to be less inclined to act to counter the perceived conspiracy, perhaps because they feel helpless in the face of such imagined power. This is not to say that this always holds true—the conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton running a slavery operation in a pizzeria led to a concerned citizen shooting up the place. It is certainly tempting to embrace the stereotype of the conspiracy theorist: someone immune to logic, oblivious to opposing evidence and perhaps suffering from mental illness. To broadly dismiss conspiracy theorist using this stereotype would be an error, though it certainly does apply in some cases. My contention is that some conspiracy theorists use the same tools of logic and reasoning as everyone else and I will endeavor to show that this is true. Since the world is a complicated place and is beyond the understanding of any one person, we all turn to experts when we want to know if something is true or not. For example, most of us lack the time and resources to investigate in person the nature of migration, so we must rely on (supposed) experts to provide us with. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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