Why I try to be skeptical about conspiracy theories

I try to keep a skeptical mindset when it comes to conspiracy theories, but I find them very interesting. It can be easy to get sucked into the complex interconnections and correlations. On Sunday I was reflecting on the ‘lizard people’ conspiracy theory and then I watched four or five episodes of The X-files. I was reminded of the first conspiracy theories I became interested in. In early high school I had a friend who watched X-files with his sister when their parents were out, and was convinced about the the existence of a shadow government, the men in black and the Roswell crash site. When I left home and started associating a lot more with conservative Evangelicals and Pentecostals I found that they had conspiracy theories too, often involving Freemasons, leylines or end times prophecy. At university I also met people who believed that the September 11 terrorist attacks were an inside job, set up by the US as an excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. I met a guy who had worked in television and was convinced that television was all about trying to control the masses. He’d often say, ‘Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.’

One of the reasons I try to remain skeptical about conspiracy theories is because I think human beings are incompetent. I think that if any of these elaborate conspiracy theories were true, the institutions responsible would allow evidence to slip out because people involved would eventually make a mistake or someone involved would eventually upset the wrong person. I also lack faith the the ability of institutions to operate efficiently.

I think the reason we find conspiracy theories attractive is because they give us the sense that there is a grand narrative going on behind the disorder of world events. We naturally look for correlations between different things, and being able to string everything together give us a sense that something meaningful is going on behind the chaos.

What do you think about conspiracy theories? Are you a believer or a skeptic? Do you have a favourite conspiracy theory?

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