Maarten Boudry focusses on conspiracy thinking in opening lecture

header durfdenken

Conspiracy theories thrive well on the internet and are not always innocuous. In his second opening lecture as holder of the chair 'Etienne Vermeersch', philosopher of science Maarten Boudry delves more deeply into the pitfalls of conspiracy thinking.

From wild rumours about the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines, to an alleged inside job behind the 9/11 attacks, to the moon landing being faked. There are a lot of conspiracy theories going around with the Internet seeming to be the ideal breeding ground for making them grow and flourish.

We often assume that only paranoid people can be conspiracy thinkers, but that's not true. Maarten Boudry says: "Everyone is susceptible to conspiracy theories, because of the way our brain works, and because of the appeal of the theories themselves. Yet conspiracy theories are not innocuous. In this pandemic, conspiracy thinking has literally cost lives."

9/11 was an inside job

Conspiracy thinking comes in many shades. For example, the actor Jesse Ventura, like many other Americans, is convinced that 9/11 was an inside job. That's what he claims in this interview with Piers Morgan op CNN.

Philosopher Johan Braeckman spots several things in his statements that are typical for conspiracy theorists, while also pointing to the role of algorithms and social media:

Externe video URL

Corona: conspiracy or not?

A completely different story can be seen, for example, in this interview from the Dutch channel 'De Nieuwe Wereld', in which Marlies Dekkers talks critically about the corona policy with journalist Daan de Wit. "Criticism of covid policies is not necessarily motivated by conspiracy thinking”, says Boudry. "But the line can be blurry. If it's really true that corona vaccines have many more side effects than the government admits, then this is apparently being hushed up. That already smacks of a conspiracy."

Prof. Isabel Leroux-Roels, vaccinologist, commented as follows:

Externe video URL

Critical thinking

“"It is important to look critically at all kinds of claims", says Boudry. "But it is at least as important to critically question your own views. This is a typical trap that conspiracy theorists regularly fall into. They question everything but themselves."

Watch Maarten Boudry's opening lecture on conspiracy theories (in Dutch)

Externe video URL

Read also

Is that really your own belief, or is it that of the algorithm?

You may be reading this article because it appeared on your social media timeline. If that is indeed the case, then take a moment to ask yourself whether you have recently been reading other articles on the subject of algorithms. And if the answer to that question is also yes, then the fact that you are reading this shows that the algorithm is working as intended.

Social media

“How can we reach zero emissions? That’s what the climate debate should be about!”

As soon as the pandemic is over, the climate crisis will come back into focus. “We have to aim for zero CO2 emissions. Not ‘a bit less’, but zero”, says philosopher of science Maarten Boudry. And that requires a global debate, moving away from the oversimplified visions that currently dominate the debate.

Klimaatbetoger met bord "There's no planet B"