search

Conspiracy Theory

(also known as: canceling hypothesis, canceling hypotheses, 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.

References:

Barkun, M. (2006). A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. University of California Press.

Questions about this fallacy? Ask our community!

Uncomfortable Ideas: Facts don't care about feelings. Science isn't concerned about sensibilities. And reality couldn't care less about rage.

This is a book about uncomfortable ideas—the reasons we avoid them, the reasons we shouldn’t, and discussion of dozens of examples that might infuriate you, offend you, or at least make you uncomfortable.

Many of our ideas about the world are based more on feelings than facts, sensibilities than science, and rage than reality. We gravitate toward ideas that make us feel comfortable in areas such as religion, politics, philosophy, social justice, love and sex, humanity, and morality. We avoid ideas that make us feel uncomfortable. This avoidance is a largely unconscious process that affects our judgment and gets in the way of our ability to reach rational and reasonable conclusions. By understanding how our mind works in this area, we can start embracing uncomfortable ideas and be better informed, be more understanding of others, and make better decisions in all areas of life.

Get 20% off this book and all Bo's books*. Use the promotion code: websiteusers

* This is for the author's bookstore only. Applies to autographed hardcover, audiobook, and ebook.

Get the Book