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Conspiracy Theorists Debunked: Scientists Discover Large-Scale Conspiracies Would Flop

First Posted: Jan 27, 2016 08:22 AM EST
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Could some conspiracies exist? Physicists decided to test whether some science-related conspiracies alleged to exist were actually tenable. What did they find? These conspiracies would have been discovered in less than four years.

While most of us can keep a secret, large groups of people sharing in a conspiracy will quickly give themselves away.

"A number of conspiracy theories revolve around science," said David Robert Grimes, one of the researchers, in a news release. "While believing the moon landings were faked may not be harmful, believing misinformation about vaccines can be fatal. However, not every belief in a conspiracy is necessarily wrong-for example, the Snowden revelations confirmed some theories about the activities of the U.S. National Security Agency."

In this latest study, the researchers looked at the vital requirement for a viable conspiracy: secrecy. They created an equation to express the probability of a conspiracy being either deliberately uncovered by a whistle-blower or inadvertently revealed by a bungler. The researchers factored in the number of conspirators, the length of time, and even the effects of the conspirators dying.

However, the equation required a realistic estimation of the chances of any one individual revealing a conspiracy. Three genuine conspiracies were used to prove this, including NSA Prism project, revealed by Edward Snowden.

Using the equation, the researchers found that the hoax moon landings would have been revealed in 3 years and 8 months, a climate change fraud in 3 years and 9 months, a vaccination conspiracy in 3 years and 2 months, and a suppressed cancer cure in 3 years and 3 months. In other words, any of these conspiracies would have been exposed long before now.

"This will of course not convince everyone; there's ample evidence that belief in conspiracy is often ideological rather than rational, and that conspiracy theories thrive in an echo chamber. This makes challenging the more odious narratives much more difficult," said Grimes.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS One.

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