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:
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:
“"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)