Critical thinking skills and belief in conspiracy theory

In summary, the article discusses how believing in conspiracy theories is associated with decreased trust in people. The article also supports the idea that conspiracy theories are motivated by a need for people to feel safe and secure.f
  • #106
I have a euphemism for the silliest conspiracy theories. Head-mounted Faraday cage.
  • Haha
Likes pinball1970
  • #107
I have a euphemism for the silliest conspiracy theories. Head-mounted Faraday cage.
Also known as a tin-foil hat. But I don't know why. Foil hasn't been made out of tin for many decades.

I think there is a conspiracy among academics to perpetuate critical thinking.
  • Haha
Likes pinball1970
  • #108
Critical thinking skills require constant attention to work well.

At any moment most ideas are about the world are in error, we simply don't have all the data. Nevertheless, as actors in the world we need to take on ideas and run with them. Although actual conspiracies DO exist, it's when you get carried off clinging to a big idea you are really susceptible to an erroneous conspiracy theory.

Perhaps the (ideal) scientific approach is helpful: Any hypothesis is considered a tentative conclusion, which we must abandon or modify as the evidence dictates.

Otherwise abbreviated as "Kill your darlings". Possible, but not easy as it requires frequent self-skepticism.
  • Like
Likes pinball1970
  • #109
But your argument is that non experts should argue out of ignorance. Did it really take a genius to figure out that hot steel gets soft? Or do you think any real expert would have known that? In turn ten-thousand crackpot conspiracy theories could have been avoided.

Biggest problem I see is that non experts want to challenge anything and everything rather than asking questions. Rather than accepting that they are not experts and should therefore learn, they see themselves as superior to actual experts based on magical knowledge. They believe the average person is much smarter than the highly educated even in their field of expertise!
“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” -Stephen Hawking.
The original link got taken down, but this was originaly posted a few months before Covid was discovered in 2019. What i see is the same who, wef, bill and melinda gates foundation cdc, john hopkins etc. Held a wargame about what if the world gets taken over by a coronavirus, and then it happened a few months later, what are the odds.
Bill Gates has been talking about how the world is not prepared for a global pandemic for many years straight. He even gave TED Talk about it after the Ebola outbreak in Africa, saying that we are lucky it didn't get worse because the next time we may not be so lucky. I would call that an accurate prediction.

  • #110
if you have good critical thinking skills then you won't fall for conspiracy theories.
or misinformation or disinformation.

APNews: NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn't happen this week​

A friend asked about the first story concerning a CLAIM: A new tax policy allows the IRS to “monitor all transactions involving bank accounts worth more than $600.” Another new policy taxes all payments of more than $600 made through applications like PayPal and Venmo.

THE FACTS: Current tax proposals and policies do not call for either of these actions.

AP News is keeping a weekly tally of false news.
  • Like
  • Informative
Likes pinball1970, collinsmark and BillTre
  • #111
Also known as a tin-foil hat. But I don't know why. Foil hasn't been made out of tin for many decades.

I think there is a conspiracy among academics to perpetuate critical thinking.

Aluminium foil hat doesn't have the same ring to it. With some of the crazy stuff people are spreading, mu-metal may be more suitable for shielding (for those 5G vax magnets made from graphene oxide because that makes sense)

We have many ways to instill critical thinking from an early age. We tell children that an omniscient fat man in a red suit flies around the world with magic reindeer overnight who then breaks and enters into everyones house to give gifts. But only if they are good.

We then sometimes tell those children they get more if they "believe".

For quite a while now, I've believed this to be an unconscious teaching tool as well as a very handy carrot/stick to use on young children.

Critical thinking is critical- everyone should be able to smell bull whenever it occurs, even when it comes from somebody more qualified and intelligent than yourself.

Recent events have become a hotbed for propaganda and conspiracy theories and nonoe the politicians (follow the science but I'm not a scientist), the troll brigade (LOL UR TAX GOES ON TROLLZ FOLLOW THE SCIENCE) or the conspiracy nuts (here's some pseudoscience because nobody's listening to the scientists) help the situation.
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #112
This is the article. This is not the usual sort of study I read but given the last 16 months, I thought I would post and see what pf guys thought of the method and conclusions.

The line of best fit in the results seemed a bit random to me but let's see what you make of it.
This is the paper
Actually, I was involved with grassroots politics as a teenager, in an organization full of mostly adults. And later on I read Tocqueville's "The French Revolution" which explained that societies that lack political freedom end up with populations that don't even know how to exercise political freedom if they had it.

The grassroots politics I was involved in was a small business owners/home owners association protesting pretty onerous regulations and we eventually succeeded at our aims.

Were we a "conspiracy?" Yeah, kind of. And so is politics full of "conspiracies" as well. And business lobbies are full of "conspiracies." Sociology and social studies would seek to study how society works SYSTEMATICALLY.

People get together, they form groups of like minded people, and they conspire against outsiders.

And then you do have the mafia and organized crime. A whole other level.

Maybe it would be more accurate to argue that "conspiracy theory believers" are really people who believe in unrealistic conspiracy theories, or who characterize "conspiracy" in a way that's unrealistic and not really what goes on, and is inaccurate. And, as such, they would also be ineffective people because you have to identify a problem right in order to take it on and solve or influence it.

But what of Tocqueville saying people who lack political freedom for long enough lose even the ability to know how to exercise it if they had it? This pertains to society working via group activity and group effort. With people having the wisdom and experience to know how to make such group efforts work right. What's the difference between successful and productive group efforts based on cooperation versus "conspiracy?" Likely "conspiracy" is something that is unrealistic and is not going to work or will eventually backfire or is illicit, in some way.

Me personally, I have a lot of problems with most conspiracy theorists because, on their face, I know they are unrealistic. Maybe these individuals saw something about society that was partly accurate, noticed there is corruption there, in business lobbies and government, and tried to "connect the dots" wrong, or tried to extrapolate too much. As a member of a former small business association, I know big business lobbies all the time. As a member of a former realty company, I know realtors "plot" to extend the reach of their business. Neither party thinks they are engaged in some "vast conspiracy."

The very word "conspiracy theory" is a stigmatizing label. So much of what DOES go on in business and politics could be called "a conspiracy" simply by applying that label and using the right awe inspiring tone, but people would laugh at you doing that.

Maybe most "conspiracy theories" out there could be described better, in an academic way where one speculates as to the inner workings of our vast business world in this country, and asks whether certain phenomena in society might not be partly influenced by their lobbying? Always with an eye towards "does this make sense" and not insisting it might be true, or insisting you know for sure.

For instance, Mass Incarceration in America perhaps could be examined with respect to what business lobbies might have been behind it, or benefitted from it financially? And thus might be pushing it, and perhaps did something about advancement in technology or global economy and trade somehow make it all end up happening, perhaps not as an intentional conspiracy by anyone particular person, but still as a trend that was systematic even if no human beings got together as a group and said "we want to now raise incarceration rates ten fold."

Another question to ask about conspiracy theories is, maybe it's good and even responsible to err on the side of conspiracy theory, including with respect to such programs as mass incarceration, even if one is wrong. Fighting it effectively may well require that one BE a conspiracist. You need to figure out what groups are propping it up with their complacency and proceed to make them uncomfortable. Then they will want change and change will happen.

They may not have thought they were unintentionally supporting an evil system, but in politics, human beings often do so without realizing it. They will figure it out only when people agitate against it right.
  • Like
Likes jack action
  • #113
I would stand this on its head if I may. It seems to me that as soon as any "official mouthpiece" is deemed incorrect about anything, no matter how small, this is assumed immediately to be incontrovertible evidence of vast conspiracy. "But Fauci initially told us not to wear masks" "But the firemen told the people to shelter in place" "But where are the stars in the Lunar sky?" These people deserve to be heard, but not ad infinitum. Buzz Aldrin finally had the correct solution.
The sad part about this level of stupid is that power does in fact try to cover its hind parts when it screws up. One need only read Feynman's "What Do You Care What other People Think" to see the usual response. The workings of the Rogers Commission are a case study in CYA, yet thanks to several members the truth was aired. But far too often there is a conspiracy of silence requiring well informed people of conscience to act. Profiles in courage are perhaps rare (I'm not certain how rare...we only see the successful ones), but they are vital to invigorate the better angels of our collective soul. Sitting in Nancy Pelosi's chair in tribal costume is not such an act.
Fauci said not to wear masks because hospital workers were afraid there would be a shortage of masks for them. That's not a "vast conspiracy." That's business as usual. That's how the government always runs. They will sometimes fib to the public like that. Sometimes justifiably, often not justifiably. There is abuse that goes on as well that's ill intentioned.

Instead of using fancy words like "vast conspiracy," people who did not like that should have harped on fauci being captive of the medical associations. And to please have some independence.
  • #114
Another question to ask about conspiracy theories is, maybe it's good and even responsible to err on the side of conspiracy theory
What you are referring to is skepticism. Carl Sagan had a good essay about that and I cited a quote relevant to this on PF last year.

I think conspiracists are born out of ignored skeptics that go out of control. Everyone shares responsibility in our inability to deal with skepticism.

Suggested for: Critical thinking skills and belief in conspiracy theory