I love a good conspiracy theory.
In times past I’ve been fascinated, bemused, irritated and appalled (sometimes all at once) by everything from Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods and those wacky 9-11 truthers to the idea that the Mayans had rockets and the moon is an alien spaceship.
And don’t even get me started on that Timecube guy.
Dissemination of conspiracy theories has been both helped and hindered by Web 2.0, as both proponents and debunkers are just a few clicks away.
For the moment it looks like the debunkers are winning, but I suspect conspiracy theories will always be with us.
But where do they all come from?
Big Government conspiracies got a boost in the 1990s, as US hegemony expanded and it became very easy to believe we were being lied to. In the 2000s the whole idea came crashing down once it became clear that we were being lied to, but it was incompetence not conspiracy at the core.
And still no secret alien technology in sight.
Big Government conspiracies seem to have shifted now to Big Pharmaceutical and Big Oil, as profit takes over from political power as the assumed driver. As conspiracies go though, these are a lot less interesting. Big companies doing whatever they can to make money? It’s not quite Spaceship Moon is it?
Big Science gets a run as well. This is a particular favourite of anyone whose wonderful new Theory of Everything has been rejected by the scientific mainstream.
The list of Big Science conspiracies is endless.
Evolution? Young Earth Creationists will bang on for days about how it’s a scientific conspiracy to keep the real truth hidden … the truth being that those fossils are all less than 6,000 years old and were actually placed there by Noah’s flood.
Entropy? It’s a lie foist upon the public to hide the existence of perpetual motion machines that could provide free energy to whole world. (An obvious cross-over here with Big Oil).
And emissions? It’s all those left-wing scientists blinded by their green ideology wanting to shut down the factories and throw everyone out of work.
And they’re just the ones starting with ‘E’.
But here’s the thing. Here’s why the whole notion of scientific conspiracy is preposterous.
Scientists are not in cahoots.
They’re in competition.
When any new scientific idea is thrown into the ring there'll be a phalanx of scientists trying their damnedest to kneecap it before you can say phlogiston.
And why? It’s not to be malicious. It’s because that’s how science works.
Ideas that withstand the onslaught are accepted and became the basis for further learning. The ideas that fall are simply discarded.
And you might notice the ideas that fall are also the source of most of the conspiracy theories.