The Futility of Arguing with Conspiracy Theorists

A conspiracy theory: an explanation for an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy by sinister and powerful groups, often political in motivation, when other explanations are more probable.

I attended a family reunion this past weekend. What a nightmare. After 10 minutes the conversation devolved into a political brawl. Half of the group was Democrat. Half was Republican…far right Republican.

Of course we never reached agreement on anything. But the conversation did reinforce my belief that it is a waste of time debating politics (and most other subjects) with people who do not trust expert consensus opinion. And that is exactly the problem with most far-right Republicans: they distrust majority expert opinion.

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7 thoughts on “The Futility of Arguing with Conspiracy Theorists

  1. Yes, sadly it is so tragically true. While on rare occasion, some unheard of view view adopted by a large public does eventually turn out to be true, most of the time nonexperts who claim to know better than biologists, cosmologists, geologists, professional historians, etc. live very deluded.
    How for instance can anyone still think that Trump won by a landslide like he again claimed this week?! Yet I know many, many very smart individuals who sincerely believe there was “massive fraud” even though none has been found. I ask them how could Biden’s win by 7 million votes possibly be false?
    So I try and avoid most such talks. This massive propaganda has misled millions like the ones did in Europe and Asia 100 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You won’t change their minds, that’s for sure. I usually just ask them how they came to hold their views, and ask if there is any chance they or their sources could be mistaken, and then leave it at that. Not very satisfying, but I think it’s about as far as one can go if one still has to interact with them in the future and wants to keep things civil.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve decided that in the future I am going to do the following when one of them wants to talk politics on the subject of __________:

      Do you accept majority expert opinion on all issues?

      No. I’ve done a lot of research about ________ on the internet. The majority of experts are wrong on that issue.

      I’m sorry to hear you feel that way. I accept majority expert opinion on all issues. I believe that a society in which its citizens do not trust majority expert opinion is a society headed for chaos and decline. So if we can’t agree on the very basic principle of accepting majority expert opinion on all issues, I see no point in us discussing controversial political and/or scientific issues.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I trust expert consensus opinion on all issues regarding universal truths. That is what the overwhelming majority of college educated people living in the western world do. The man (or woman) who believes that he (or she) is the final authority on all issues is a fool.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, sure, but how do you determine consensus? And what should be done about research that’s been done and found to have dissenting results? The US has bicameral legislature so that we’re not at the whim of the majority. Why do you think that is?

        What do we say of experts associated with the Hoover Institute at Stanford, like Thomas Sowell, David Berlinski, David Gelernter, and Stephen Meyer.

        And what do we say of the mainstream-accepted research of Alfred Kinsey, John Money, and Judith Butler?

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        1. Well, sure, but how do you determine consensus?

          As I mentioned previously, if three or more highly respected scientific journals (highly respected among scientists) state that a consensus exists on a subject then most educated people in the western world are going to accept that a consensus exists.

          Is that a fool proof strategy? No. But it is the most reliable, most reproducible method of investigating our universe that humankind has yet discovered.

          And what should be done about research that’s been done and found to have dissenting results?

          It depends on the amount of dissent. If 55% of scientists hold one position and 45% of scientists hold the opposite position, most educated people in the western world are going to avoid taking a position on the issue until a consensus of experts is finally reached. However, if 95% of scientists believe something to be true and 5% percent disagree, this is evidence that a consensus exists. Most educated people in the western world will accept the position of the 95% as a consensus.

          Most educated people do not have the time and resources to investigate the minority expert position on all issues. That is why most educated people trust consensus expert opinion. It is not perfect. Once in a while the consensus of experts is wrong, but it isn’t often.

          There is no way to be 100% certain of anything, but consensus expert opinion, based on the use of the scientific method, gets us as close to 100% certainty as is currently possible.

          Liked by 1 person

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