The Case Against Conspiracy Theories

Vern Scott
13 min readApr 14, 2021

Is this article part of a conspiracy against conspiracy theories? The government doesn’t want you to know!

The Kennedy Assassination may be the best example of a conspiracy theory that is proving to be true

My boys and I are fans of Scientific American’s “Skeptic Corner”, initiated by the late James Randi and currently run by Michael Shermer. It is sort of the opposite of conspiratorial thinking, as it systematically debunks just about everything. But then the question comes up, “are skeptics too skeptical?” and we have gone so far as to do a skeptical treatment of skeptics. One ends up with a kind of 3% possibility of any wild, unproven idea to be true, since that is the historic margin of error in skeptical thinking (after all, the once implausible “Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy Theory” has largely been supported by subsequent evidence). You might even go on to say there are four rules of conspiracy theories: 1) Often, what starts as a conspiracy becomes known, then it is classified as a “movement” 2) People seldom cooperate, so it is hard to keep a conspiracy a secret 3) The events that make up most conspiracies add up, and they would be very hard to sustain/hide and 4) Many of the events making up a conspiracy are improbable. But there are likely two corollaries…a) People like to create conspiracies to explain the unknown and make them feel smarter and b) just because its labelled a conspiracy doesn’t mean it is untrue. In this article, we will examine each of these points, give some historic perspective, and some odds on whether each conspiracy might be true.

History of Conspiracy Theories: History is full of conspiracy theories, many of them involving Jews (collectively called Antisemitic Canards), and often alleging Devil worship and the drinking of children’s blood (called “blood libel”). The blood libel canard originated with Thomas of Monmouth in 1144 (when he claimed that each year, Jews conducted the ritual sacrifice of a Christian child). Similar rumors of devil worship and blood libel accompanied the trials of the Knights Templar (the forerunners of Freemasonry) in 1307, after which several Templars were burned at the stake. Papal Inquisitions were begun in 1242, as part of an effort to “purify” the Catholic faith, which was not strictly adhered to in parts of Spain, France, and Italy. The modern Jewish conspiracy theory dates to the phony/fake news “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in 1903 (which was itself based upon false Jewish Conspiracy theories from 1860s Russia). Famously, these Antisemitic Canards were utilized by Hitler and the Third Reich as a pretext for the Holocaust. Any powerful person afraid of Jews/Freemasons finds it convenient to “demonize” them. Similar is the treatment of Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christians living in Muslim countries, who are periodically “demonized” by Islamic elements, jealous of their religious independence and success. There have also been many “end of the world” conspiracy theories, roughly coinciding with Christian or Islamic Apocalyptic predictions. More recently, there have been Catholic conspiracy theories (saying that critical information was left out of the Bible, as in “The Da Vinci Code”…I actually kinda believe that one!), “New World Order” Conspiracy theories, aimed at George Soros, the Clintons and Obama (with black helicopters thrown in), and David Icke’s “Alien Lizard People” theories. Donald Trump became a sort of one man conspiracy theory generator, with the help of friends 4Chan, Alex Jones and Rudy Giuliani (QAnon, stolen election, Biden/Ukraine, Covid/Vaccination, Hollywood/liberal press, plus claims that “Sandy Hook was a false flag operation”). In fact, Trump followers have more or less created a “World Series of Conspiracy Theories” as they have drummed up elements of every previous conspiracy theory, to the point where we all now have “conspiracy fatigue” (a kind of massive societal “boy who cried wolf” syndrome). Other countries/faiths have not been immune to conspiracy theories in history, in fact they are worse that Western culture (it’s just that we have a media that tends to hype ours).

This familiar alien look didn’t start showing up en masse until the 60s, fitting the skeptics’ theory of “accidental awareness

Aliens/UFOs: This is the king of all conspiracy theories, and the one that most people laugh at, but then secretly believe might be true. Randi/Shermer do not believe in aliens as a) Habitable planets are too far away to make any kind of space travel possible (even when travelling at the speed of light, the “speed limit” of the universe) b) If they existed, they would have manifested themselves by now c) the technology of the “sightings” correspond roughly with our current technology. For instance, it wasn’t until the Jules Verne and the invention of aircraft that UFO sightings became advanced flying craft (before they were fewer and more vague, like balls of light). The standard “Close Encounters” alien look has become the de facto alien standard in the last 50 years, though it was not prior to the 70s. Some have theorized that this look is a “false memory” of a blurry-eyed 6 month old recalling the feeding/probing of Mom. I might add…why? Why abduct and steal animal genitalia? If you’re so advanced, why not use sensors instead? Many sightings have been debunked as natural phenomenon, swamp-gas, light bouncing off clouds, space radiation and the like. But you have to ask yourself, does all this really convince you that UFOs don’t exist? (Chances of UFO sightings being true Aliens: 10%)

Jews/Freemasons/Illuminati: It would be funny to say that people who think for themselves and mind their own business are “dangerous” (when its more like they tend to be virtuous and successful), except they are sadly persecuted. It seems that the Christian or Islamic majority in Countries where business/science-minded people exist sometimes choose to fear them (as a pretext for taking their stuff?) I have to say though, having a secret-society will always create suspicion, so a publicist might say “why not have a magazine or TV show that disseminates some of your beliefs so as to gain broader acceptance” (the Jews actually have this TV show, its called PBS). Jews/Freemasons/Illuminati may have created some accidental conspiracies…one I can think of is the modern banking system. Since old Christians/Moslems could not lend at interest, that gave opportunity to others (Jews/Templars) and presto! We are now all slaves to interest! The Illuminati don’t really belong in this category, but they are/can be secretive and wield power, though not as much as conspiracy theorists think. (chances of Jewish/Freemason/Illuminati conspiracies being true: 5%, chances of secret societies arousing suspicion 50%)

Skeptic’s have a rational, non-conspiratorial answer to the 9/11 attacks

New World Order/9/11 Conspiracy: This goes back to the John Birchers of the 50s/60s, that the “Trilateral Commission” (which really exists) was part of a “New World Order” movement, designed to create the illusion of separate nations while in actual fact there was an emerging one-world government, designed to make us all slaves to one banking system (usually controlled by the ubiquitous & nefarious Jews/Freemasons/Illuminati). Sometimes there is a spin which says that the media and liberals are in on a conspiracy to eliminate white people in some fashion (the essence of Tucker Carlson’s current “Replacement Theory” rants). These theories are generally outlandish and seem to be motivated by racism and a lack of education. However, as said previously, the modern banking system and stock market is a kind of oblique conspiracy for the few to make money at the expense of the rest of us dumb-dumbs (how else do you explain insider trading?) Yes there are plenty of Jews in this system, but also plenty of everyone-elses. My question is, if religions are so righteous and smart, why didn’t they create a competing monetary system (one where collateral was being a good person, and money was lent at 0% interest). Then you would have a true “conspiracy of monetary goodness vs conspiracy of monetary badness”. Otherwise, you’re just criticizing the only game in town, without the balls to create your own. The various 9/11 conspiracy theories state that the World Trade Center collapse was staged by thermite, the Pentagon portion was a fake, and that the PA plane that didn’t reach NY was taken out by a fighter jet. Most 9/11 theories have been systematically debunked, but a good scientist always holds out for a chance of the improbable. (chances of “accidental conspiracy of world banking”-50%, chances of 9/11 thermite-10%, other 9/11 5%)

Vaccination/Covid/: Early vaccines (in the 50s) were more dangerous, but as of late vaccines have become quite safe, when you consider all the lives they save. If you don’t like vaccines, just visit a children’s graveyard of about 1800, and see for yourself all the little lives that were lost to disease (a lot). I’d imagine Bill Gates laughs about these theories, not because he’s mean or conspiratorial, but because he’s smart enough to know that our current technology/infrastructure isn’t good enough to float a “vaccine microchip implantation” or something that makes us all New World Order zombies. Covid is another matter, as it is indeed possible that it escaped from a Chinese lab in Wuhan (this theory is gaining credence among scientists). This makes one wonder “was China covering up the fact that they were working on biological weapons?” and “why did China get over the virus so quickly, while we didn’t”. (chances of “Bill Gates implanting microchips”-0%, chances of Covid accidentally escaping Wuhan lab 60%, China doing “oops!” on Bioweapon-20%)

The “faked moon landing” theory has been substantially debunked

Flat Earth/Men didn’t land on Moon/Global Warming: This is true “tin-foil hat” territory, but amazingly many believe in these things. Of course now that we and other countries are landing robots on the Moon and Mars, this is kind of routine (which makes the faked moon-landing thing seem stupid). However, I watched the faked moon landing tv special about 20 years ago, and it did seem surprisingly plausible. I guess this speaks to the “Chariot of the Gods” (a book floating fake alien intervention theories) phenomenon, where a person can build a mountain of bullshit using a bunch of separate, believable facts. Some have tried to explain the scientific obstinance of flat-earthers as more than novelty-seeking. Karen Douglas, a psychologist at the University of Kent, UK, believes that like other conspiracy theorists, they gain a sense of power by creating a vague rebuttal to the opinions of those of the majority, as though they are in on some privileged secret. They continue to serve up vague explanations, and believe in a sort of “if I feel and sense it to be true, it must be true” logic. Global Warming denial may be some parts flat earthing, some parts educated liberal-hating, and some parts actual science (since the origins and degrees of global warming are somewhat disputed). (Picheta, 2019),(apa.org,n.d.) (chances of “faked Moon landing”-3%, chances of a “Flat-Earth”-0%, chances of Global Warming not happening 0%, chances of global warming caused by humans heating up the earth really, really fast 75%)

JFK Assassination: This is one conspiracy theory that has gained a whole lot of traction! After all these years, it is more or less believed that Lee Harvey Oswald was the “stooge” set-up to take the fall for the shooting, but actually got off a few shots that hit Kennedy. Meanwhile, it is believed that a sniper bullet from the “grassy knoll” hit Kennedy in the back of the head, at an angle that couldn’t have come from Oswald. The “grassy knoll” shooter, it is believed, may have been a rogue CIA assassin, and possibly one of the “three tramps” (agents dressed up to look like hobos) photographed. Whether Cuban exiles and/or the Mob were involved remains conjecture, as does the involvement of LBJ. I remember watching the movie “Executive Action” in 1973 with Burt Lancaster, which peddled the rogue CIA theory. Many say that this movie was closest to getting the whole thing correct. (chances of Oswald being lone gunman-0%, chances of rogue CIA involvement-50%)

David Icke is a one-man New Age Conspiracy machine, rivaling Alex Jones on the right

David Icke/Lizard Beings: This is funny/interesting because after you laugh about the aliens launching modern civilization (standard New-Age stuff, I guess as plausible as/perhaps coincident with the Old Testament) and the lizard-people living among us (Bush Family, Bob Hope, Maggie Thatcher, British Royal Family?), you realize that all this is similar to New World Order and Jewish bankers drinking children’s blood (if you substitute lizard-people for Jews). This is apparently part of a “mass-hallucination” kind of thing, where one’s conspiracy theory begins to meld with another’s, if they peddle it long enough. Icke’s theories are sort of an “All-Star-Esperanto” of all other conspiracy theories, in that he believes the lizard people have created the New World Order, the Holocaust was fake, etc. His theories have in part led to normally left-wing New Age people joining forces with nutty Evangelical/Racist right-wingers as of late, as evidenced in the QAnon movement. This is scary, as perhaps 40% of our population believes conspiracy theories to be more important to them than any political or scientific reality. (chances of God/Aliens influencing human creation-50%, chances of David Icke being a charlatan-100%)

Donald Trump Conspiracy Complex: These are too numerous to elaborate upon, but the main ones are “Obama’s faked birth certificate”, “stolen or rigged elections”, “Hillary’s Emails”, and the “Biden/Ukraine” allegations. These conspiracy theories are part of a “Fascist Tool Kit” that Trump has cultivated with the help of disinformation specialists Roger Stone and Rudy Giuliani, and perhaps encouraged by Vladimir Putin. The idea is to plant enough doubt into the voter’s minds, so that they don’t know who or what is true anymore (then they are ripe for takeover). Of course Trump’s stolen election theory has been substantially debunked, and Hillary’s emails were more or less a tempest in a teapot (virtually all public officials at that time naively used personal email for business on occasion, with little damage) The Biden/Ukraine coercion and lies were apparently orchestrated in part by Putin (and got Trump impeached). Meanwhile, several members of Trump’s staff came out against his allegations, at great personal cost (they are now considered Patriots by rational people). Trump also does not disavow many other nutty conspiracy theories, such as those emanating from Alex Jones, Fox News, QAnon, the Proud Boys, etc., which does damage when the President has so much power over weak minds. It is particularly sad that he didn’t disavow the “Sandy Hook False Flag” and similar conspiracy theories, which would be the ultimate insult to the affected families. (chances of Trump surviving a new law indicting public officials for promoting false conspiracy theories for Sedition-0%)

A Liberal’s “Big-Money” Conspiracy Complex: To be fair, liberals have peddled some outlandish conspiracy theories over the years. To hear them talk, the world is controlled by a bunch of cigar-smoking, old-money W.A.S.P.s, who conspire to force-feed us big oil, interview secretaries exclusively on the casting-couch, and cavort in silly outfits at the Bohemian Grove once a year. Yet in our Country, new tech surprisingly prevails, as influential Gazillionaires from Andrew Carnegie to Henry Ford to Steven Jobs to Bill Gates to Jeff Bezos have all come from relatively humble beginnings with few powerful connections. Despite the allegations of Michael Moore and others, most of what happens in this country is thanks to the noble inventor, while the parasitic politicians and old-moneyers profit from those inventions, but are far from the tech-drivers themselves (and are thus rich, but overrated). Maybe this is the male W.A.S.P. version of the Jewish-banker theory, I don’t know, but when you see a chubby 55-year old running around Bohemian Grove, he is exactly what you see-a silly (and rich) old white man in a toga. The reason that solar/electric cars/wind chargers are just now taking hold is that…they weren’t really great tech until recently. (chances of silly old-money W.A.S.P. or Koch Brothers influencing the tech-which-drives-our-Country, 20%)

Did Sonny Liston “take a dive” in his fight with Ali? (then Cassius Clay) I wouldn’t be surprised

Boxing/Horseracing/Soccer/New England Patriots: I’m sorry, but it is very easy to believe in “rigged” sporting events, especially those that involve a great deal of gambling, and especially boxing and horse racing. It’s harder to believe that Renaldo tanked the 1998 World Cup Finals (if you’re that dependent on one player, you have other problems) or that the New England Patriots were helped by the refs in the 2018 AFC Championships, or that Atlanta purposely tanked the 2017 Super Bowl against the Patriots (the coach making those calls was our current 49ers Coach Shanahan, and trust me, he is guaranteed to get giddy and make bad play calls while holding a Super Bowl lead) (chances of occasional “fixing” of boxing and horseracing-100%, chances of Tom Brady being an alien lizard-being-5%)

Conclusion: It is a crazy world, and Randi/Shermer/Houdini are almost too skeptical as they put the chances of there being any conspiracies or supernatural at 0%. Why not have a little fun and make it at least 5%? Since the creation of humanity was such a miraculous event (given our relatively perfect position relative to the sun, outcompeting Neanderthals, etc etc), it may be equally probable that our fates take some sort of weird twist. Most conspiracy theories are designed to make the believer feel superior in some way to the “scientists/bankers/elites” (who are smarty-pants, think they know and don’t?). Others, like the Kennedy Assassination, were actually well-planned, well-concealed conspiracies, which gives air to other conspiracies (notably 9/11, which would’ve been much more vast in scale…much less chance of being true). Besides the alien/ghost type conspiracies (which we publicly scoff at but secretly think might be true), the Jewish/secret-society conspiracy theories are the most prevalent/dangerous, but are actually serving up old “devil-worship, baby-blood drinking” stupidity from the last 1000 years of history. The Turks do almost the exact same thing to the Armenians, which implies that any group with knowledge and wealth is feared by the masses, while Fascist leaders conspire to exploit these fears. Why pick on the Jews and Armenians? Why not just get educated, think for yourself, and invest your money so you can compete instead of believing in silly conspiracies? Other conspiracy theories are not even conspiracies, they are things we don’t want to believe are true because they are too horrible (like burning up ala global warming or the Apocalypse). We were watching Seth Rogan’s “This is the End” the other day, and it’s amazing how quickly it gets you believing in a modern apocalypse/rapture scenario. Does this mean that the end of days is upon us? (Chances of Apocalypse happening within next 100 years 5%, eventually 100%)

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Vern Scott

Scott lives in the SF Bay Area and writes confidently about Engineering, History, Politics, and Health