I can tell you what would happen if I watched Ancient Aliens – a History Channel Series which propagates fantastic, evidenceless inanity of extraterrestrial life. My brain would press its way out of my skull and hunt for a more helpful host (hostess). Or, at the very least, watching the series would destroy about as many brain cells as a weekend bender in Nax Vegas, that is, before COVID-19 times shut down all social places.
In 2016, the 4th of December, Edgar Maddison Welch, a then- a 28-year-old man, armed with a loaded AR – 15 and other firearms drove several hours from his home in North Carolina to Washington, D.C. He then stormed a pizza restaurant. Welch was fully convinced that the restaurant was a haven for a child sex-trafficking syndicate controlled by influential political characters. He was also convinced that he had come to rescue the children, and in the process would blow a conspiracy theory wide open.
Apart from devouring videos from well-known conspiracy theory websites such as InfoWars, Welch often made posts regarding politics, the Bible and his Christian faith on social media. Through this, Welch learnt a bunch of stuff concerning “Pizzagate,” a conspiracy later disseminated by Alexander Emeric Jones (popularly know as Jones; the guy who declares that Sandy Hook shooting never happened). Armed with this ‘truth’ and with his ‘faith’ and passion to save innocent kids, Welch stormed the restaurant.
By coincidence, there were indeed children in Comet Ping Pong pizzeria—having dinner with their families and other patrons. But there was no trafficking racket.
In 2017 Edgar Maddison Welch was incarcerated four years. He is still cooling his feet in one of the US prisons. But do you know what? Welch later regretted, writing that he “came to D.C. with the intent of helping people I believed were in dire need of assistance, and to bring an end to the corruption that I truly felt was harming innocent lives.”
So, how does the conspiracy fabric look like? Follow me a little while.
Charring the conspiracy theory fabric
Conspiracy theories approach allegations as fact. Every charge or allegation should be proven. There is no other way around it.
We should never be content with claims thrown left, right centre with no supportive evidence. Can we pose and think; If indeed all the books are doctored and others cooked and all the facts are hidden, then we can’t trust the people who bring us the theory either.
Conspiracy theories bolster our biases. Unless we are not serious, and we care less about our credibility, we ought to be particularly leery of conspiracy theories that appear to confirm our opinions and beliefs. That is logic in practice: we don’t only question others claims, but ours too. Truth can afford to be fair.
They further distrust and paranoia. Conventional and reliable channels of information become suspect. And instead of logically disapproving what these channels state, we end up mudslinging them. For example, instead of offering a counterargument against what FACTCHECK.ORG states, we start asking ‘who is funding Factcheck?’ That question is irrelevant to the truth we are searching for. It is a red herring; drawing us away from the argument at hand. Apart from being a red herring fallacy, the logicians call it ‘poisoning the well’. That is a fallacy that tries to draw away people from the main argument by tarnishing someone’s reputation.
In order to survive the ‘harsh’ world of critical thinkers and sceptics, conspiracy theories have to make use of a large number of coconspirators.
Conspiracy theories tend to be almost religious in nature because they need faith. They are cultish in character and soundlessly state something akin to, “You cannot trust these guys, but you can trust us.”
Some of the times, conspiracy theories are manufactured from other conspiracy theories. They feed each other to form a vicious circle. A good example is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. An attempt is made to cast aspersions on perceived enemies with insinuation and unattested charges.
Have you ever wondered why the know-it-alls have not even attempted to submit their findings to appropriate authorities? If I know that story of Jesus, as narrated in the New Testament, is a forgery, why can’t I present my findings to appropriate authorities for review? If I know that my story is the truth, why can’t I submit for peer review? What am I fearing? Why should I profess to be a guru on social media and fear standing before panelists to make my case? If I know history more than historians, then I should present my findings to the world of history scholars and academics. If I know Textual Cricitiscm better than Daniel B. Wallace, then I ought to go ahead and publish my findings and present them before other Textual Critics. I don’t have to fear anyone? If I can’t do that, then I better seal my mouth and appreciate that there are people who know more than me.
Oftentimes conspiracy theories swirl about the medical world. Charlatan cures are advocated because the science world (running into hundreds of thousands of scientists) are either bunglers or cannot be trusted. Is your alternative medicine a great deal? Then tender your research to a peer-reviewed publication.
The excuses provided by conspiracy theories are an implicit confirmation that they cannot justify their ideas. As Christians, we should shun false witnesses.
Conspiracy theories provide for a fertile ground where ignorance is replaced with manufactured certainty. In actuality, there are many unsettled questions in life. That does not grant us a permit, nonetheless, to fill in the rifts with our preferred scapegoat. History has sometimes been messy, and can still be rumpled and complete of happenstance. Conspiracy theories are beautiful since they fasten everything in a dainty compact unit. However, life can be disordered and complex than that; thinking we can offer an answer to every riddle of life is absurd. Can you imagine that the actions of one person can be hard to explain! What about a society or a group of people!
Lastly, conspiracy theories further haughtiness and self-righteousness. As Christians, we should always remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Conspiracy theories are alluring because the backer holds that he knows something that others don’t know. In truth, we have substituted reasonable (honest) doubt with false certainty.
At their best, conspiracy theories are a sheer waste of time, and at worst, they pander to the most sordid elements of human nature. Jesus said, “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” (Matthew 10:26). John tells us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).