The Problem with Online Conspiracy Theories: The World Doesn't Work That Way

A background in general education enables you to approach what is on the Web and determine that some things are just impossible, pure nonsense.

You can only dig through the junk on the Web if you have a good general education. One of the problems with education now is I think it's too selective to start with.  Getting a background in history, a background in human thought, a background in mathematics, a background in basic science, enables you then to approach what is on the Web and determine that some things are just impossible, pure nonsense.

People can, of course, use the Internet to acquire this knowledge.  They can acquire it from encyclopedias and various other sources that are out there on the Internet that are free and are accredited and are good. You'll then be able to approach claims with a degree of skepticism.

For example, there are plenty of genuine conspiracies in history, some of them very good like the conspiracy to murder Hitler, which unfortunately didn’t come off.  History is full of conspiracies, but one of the things you know about them if you look at them is that they very, very often, practically always go wrong and they never involve thousands and thousands and thousands of people.  It’s just too big.  

So the idea of some people that you find on the Internet - that the very idea of global warming is a sort of conspiracy of I don’t know who, of climate scientists or evil governments or others - is just completely implausible even independent of the scientific knowledge that backs it up. It never works like that.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Think you’re bad at math? You may suffer from ‘math trauma’

Even some teachers suffer from anxiety about math.

Image credit: Getty Images
Mind & Brain

I teach people how to teach math, and I've been working in this field for 30 years. Across those decades, I've met many people who suffer from varying degrees of math trauma – a form of debilitating mental shutdown when it comes to doing mathematics.

Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

How KGB founder Iron Felix justified terror and mass executions

The legacy of Felix Dzerzhinsky, who led Soviet secret police in the "Red Terror," still confounds Russia.

Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Felix Dzerzhinsky led the Cheka, Soviet Union's first secret police.
  • The Cheka was infamous for executing thousands during the Red Terror of 1918.
  • The Cheka later became the KGB, the spy organization where Russia's President Putin served for years.
Keep reading Show less