Conspiracy Theory

(also known as: canceling hypothesis, cover-ups)

Description: Explaining that your claim cannot be proven or verified because the truth is being hidden and/or evidence destroyed by a group of two or more people.  When that reason is challenged as not being true or accurate, the challenge is often presented as just another attempt to cover up the truth, and presented as further evidence that the original claim is true.

Logical Form:

A is true.

B is why the truth cannot be proven.

Therefore, A is true.

Example #1:

Noah’s ark has been found by the Russian government a long time ago, but because of their hate for religion, they have been covering it up ever since.

Example #2:

Geologists and scientists all over the world are discovering strong evidence for a 6000 year-old earth, yet because of the threat of ruining their reputation, they are suppressing the evidence and keeping quiet.

Explanation: The psychology behind conspiracy theories is quite complex and involves many different cognitive biases and fallacies discussed in this book.  In general, people tend to overlook the incredible improbabilities involved in a large-scale conspiracy, as well as the potential risks for all involved in the alleged cover up.  In the above examples, those who stick with a literal interpretation of the Bible often experience cognitive dissonance, or the mental struggle involved when one’s beliefs contradict factual claims.  This cognitive dissidence causes people to create conspiracy theories, like the ones above, to change facts to match their beliefs, rather than changing their beliefs to match facts.

Exception: Sometimes, there really are conspiracies and cover ups.  The more evidence one can present for a cover-up, the better, but we must remember that possibility does not equal probability.

Tip: Take time to question any conspiracy theories in which you believe are true.  Do the research with an open mind.

*Other forms of this fallacy such as the canceling hypothesis do not require two or more people to be involved—a single person can be believed to be behind the "deception."


0 #1 Marty Fried 2013-09-06 15:58
This does not seem to be the definition of "Conspiracy Theory" to me. I thought a conspiracy theory was the belief that more than one person conspired to produce some result.

I agree that the 2 examples seem to be valid examples, but the description and logical form seem totally wrong. Doesn't there need to be some sort of conspiring happening?

Also, doing a search doesn't seem to show anything like this, only what I expected from my understanding of the term.

I am truly interested in knowing whether I'm missing something, or whether there is a problem with this page.
0 #2 Bo Bennett 2013-09-06 16:26
You are correct that to be more accurate I should add "two or more people" to the definition, as that does seem to be a defining characteristic. Thank you for pointing this out! I kept that out to be inclusive of the other similar fallacies listed, but I have made a change that includes a footnote to explain this better.
-1 #3 Marty Fried 2013-09-06 19:50
Thanks a lot for the update. I was afraid I had been wrong for half my life! :-)

In case you are interested, there was a discussion on Reddit where this came up, and this page was used as a source:

You have no rights to post comments

Visit! This is the place to ask the community of experts and other fallacyophites (I made up that word) if someone has a committed a fallacy or not. This is a great way to settle a dispute!