Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
BILL NYE: How do I recommend reasoning with a conspiracy theorist?
MICHIO KAKU: Well, first of all I think there's a gene. I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking. And I think that when we were in the forest that gene actually helped us because nine times out of ten that gene was wrong. Superstition didn't work. But one time out of ten it saved your butt. That's why the gene is still here. The gene for superstition and magic. Now there's no gene for science. Science is based on things that are reproducible, testable. It's a long process the scientific method. It's not part of our natural thinking.
BILL NYE: I'm right now the last couple of months I've been messing around with this idea of cognitive dissonance. This is to say you have a world view. You're presented with evidence that conflicts with the world view so you either have to change your world view, which is hard because you've lived your whole life with it, or you just dismiss the evidence and dismiss the authorities that may have provided the evidence. The authority could be a person or it could be a book or, excuse me, an article on the electric internet computer machine. So you dismiss the evidence so that you don't have this discomfort, this conflict in your mind, this dissonance.
SARAH ROSE CAVANAGH: But we can also see it in conspiracy thinking where these fringe groups or at least they used to be fringe groups on kind of the outskirts of thinking about what could be real or what is happening, paranoid thinking for instance. Thinking about reptoids controlling our government. There have always been people who believed these sort of strange things but what social media and the internet in general has allowed to happen is for people with these beliefs to find each other and then when they're hearing back those same sorts of facts, those same sorts of theories then their beliefs strengthen.
MICHAEL SHERMER: What the skeptical movement has developed is a set of tools like the baloney detection kit. A set of tools to deal with particular claims that are on the margins of science like creationism, intelligent design theory, the anti-vaccinations, the holocaust revisionists. All these conspiracy theories and so on and all these alternative medicines. There's hundreds and hundreds of these claims that are all connected to different sciences. But the scientists in those particular fields are too busy working in their research to bother with what these claims are because the claims really aren't about those fields. They're just hooked to them. They're about something else.
CAVANAGH: I think that fear is an incredibly dangerous emotion. I think that it causes us to narrow our thinking. I think it causes us to shutdown options and there are a lot of threats in the world but I think what we need to face those threats are open, creative, playful thinking. And when we think as a hive mind, when we think collectively and we do so in a fearful sense then that shuts down a lot of our thinking.
KAKU: It's a struggle. It's a struggle that's eternal because it's part of our genetic makeup, okay. And there's even a name for some of this superstition. It's called pareidolia. What is pareidolia? It's the idea that when you look in the sky you see things that are not there. Let's do an experiment. Look at the clouds and try not to see something there. It's very difficult. You look at the clouds, you can't help it. You see Donald Duck. You see Mickey Mouse. You see snakes, animals. You see all sorts of stuff. You can't help it. Recently the Notre Dame Cathedral partially burned down and sure enough somebody said I see Jesus Christ there. I saw the picture, maybe you did too. It really did look like Jesus Christ, but it was the ashes of Notre Dame. And how many times do people see the Virgin Mary in a glass of tea. So we are hardwired to see things that are not there because for the most part they're harmless. For the most part they do nothing and once in a while it saves our butt. And so that's why I think we will have flat-Earthers. We will have the people who don't like vaccinations because hearsay through human history was a dominant form of information sharing.
CAVANAGH: One thing that I think we tend to do is we think that we're going to be the person who is going to crack a big mystery, who is going to solve a whole puzzle. I think that Hollywood has given us this idea and the famous book and movie, "The Da Vinci Code," sold us on this that we were going to be the hero who would figure everything out, this big vast conspiracy and I think the romanticization of that is dangerous and I think that we all think that we're going to be this hero who's going to discover some secret thing.
SHERMER: People find comfort in sort of attenuating the anxiety or uncertainty they're feeling by concocting some overarching plan. This is what's going on. Now I understand it. Now I don't have to feel so uncertain about the environment. So people concoct conspiracy theories for that main reason.
JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL: Think about it. Are you only believing conspiracy theories because you want them to be true? That's when you know there's trouble.
BILL NYE: Apparently the way to overcome that is to say we're all in this together. Let's learn about this together. Present the conspiracy theorist with the idea that he or she may be rejecting evidence because it's just so uncomfortable. And you're in it together. We're in it together. I'm uncomfortable too. But when it comes to moon landings just ask the person how you would generate all that paperwork. The warehouses full of documentation that NASA created to make landings on the moon would overwhelm anybody trying to do it on the side. It would just be very difficult to print all that. And just understand it's a process. Somebody who has a world view that's inconsistent with evidence and I may have some, it takes a while for you to turn around. Like the example of palm reading or astrology it's not something people reverse their ideas about immediately. In my experience it takes about two years for somebody to sort of look at palm reading, look at cold reading or a tarot card reading for a while and then realize that these tarot card readers, palm readers are just taking information that you've given them, the client has given them and feeding it back to you.
SHERMER: The further out you go in the extreme nature of a conspiracy theory the less likely the theory is to be true. The more people that have to be involved in the conspiracy theory, the less likely it is to be true. The more elements that have to come together just at the right moment to make the conspiracy work, the less likely it is to be true. And the more global it is, you know, world domination, that sort of thing, the less likely it is to be true. Conspiracies usually are very narrowly focused like insider trading or corporate manipulation like Volkswagen with the emissions or some government attempting to manipulate an election. It's a very specific thing that the conspiracy is really about.
MITCHELL: The way we get the information 24 hour bombardment makes people feel afraid and you've got a lot of people who feel like dangerous shut-ins who are railing against how said things are or dropping out because they're overwhelmed. And because of that dropout and that polarization you get a regime like Trump. You get a fertile ground for fascism which is about blaming someone irrationally for other problems in your life. It's an old game that has been played for millennia. That immigrant, that transgender person, that person who is of a different race their very existence threatens you because they're getting attention, money. They're stealing something from you and that certainly found its way into a World War II, but also the fragile state of truth right now which also comes out of digital addiction is that all conspiracy theories are true. All news is suspect. Facts are fungible. And in a world like that, that's the biggest danger.
SHERMER: The problem is this. None of us has the truth. The only way to find out if you're deceiving yourself or not, if you've gone off the rails, if you're wrong in some way is to listen to other people who disagree with you. These were the original arguments laid down by John Stuart Mill, 1859, "On Liberty," this is the classic work. One, I might be partially wrong and so by listening to somebody who disagrees with me I get to correct my idea. Two, I might be completely wrong and off the rails and boy, good thing I figured this out before I went too far. Three, I might be completely right but I'm not 100 percent sure about my arguments and hearing somebody on the other side helps me refine my arguments and strengthen my arguments. If I can refute that conservative or that radical leftist or whoever it is then how much stronger my position is. And four, it's not just the speaker's right to speak. It's the listeners right to listen. Maybe I, the protester don't want to hear this person but maybe there's people in the room that do want to hear this person for whatever reasons. It's none of my business. And then finally in terms of moral progress that I like to track. One of the biggest drivers for the last five centuries has been the principle of free speech. This is at the basis of all liberal democracies of all civil societies that everybody must have the freedom to express their points of view no matter how much we dislike them. I don't care if you're a Nazi or you think we didn't land on the moon or whatever your ideas are. Go ahead and tell us your best arguments and we'll see in the marketplace of ideas how well you do.
KAKU: You know the internet is very new. Newspaper are very new. Science and technology is very new. But gossip, hearsay, slander, rumors there's a gene for that, okay. So how do you combat it? Slowly, carefully, painfully. It's a painful process but in some sense we're going up against our genetic predisposition to believe in nonsense.
MITCHELL: In some ways we're in a better world than we've ever been in terms of health and human rights at least being considered in different countries and partly that's because of digital stuff. You can't actually shutdown digital communication no matter how hard you try in China or wherever. There's VPNs. People get through. So there are advantages to that.
CAVANAGH: I think that we need to let experts weigh in and I think that we need to trust expertise and I think that we need to look at Snopes.com rather than YouTube for our information. I think that we need to regain our trust and scientists and then people who have spent their life's work studying a phenomena rather than thinking we're going to hunt down the answer on the internet.
SHERMER: This whole idea of what we now call fake news, alternative facts has gotten bigger and bigger and it just gets unfolded in real time online within minutes and hours. And we have to jump on it fast. But also developing a set of tools that can apply to any future ideas because I don't know what's going to be popular in five years from now. Heck, I don't know what's going to be trending tomorrow.
BILL NYE: People just lost sight of history and we all tend to go well, look at the facts. Change your mind. But it takes people a couple of years.
MITCHELL: Consider your conspiracy theories. You have a problem with them if you only believe the ones you want to.
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
- 7 government conspiracy theories that are true - Big Think ›
- Are conspiracy theories on the rise in the US? ›
- Why your brain loves conspiracy theories - Big Think ›
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Humans may have evolved to be tribalistic. Is that a bad thing?
- From politics to every day life, humans have a tendency to form social groups that are defined in part by how they differ from other groups.
- Neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky, author Dan Shapiro, and others explore the ways that tribalism functions in society, and discuss how—as social creatures—humans have evolved for bias.
- But bias is not inherently bad. The key to seeing things differently, according to Beau Lotto, is to "embody the fact" that everything is grounded in assumptions, to identify those assumptions, and then to question them.
Ancient corridors below the French capital have served as its ossuary, playground, brewery, and perhaps soon, air conditioning.
- People have been digging up limestone and gypsum from below Paris since Roman times.
- They left behind a vast network of corridors and galleries, since reused for many purposes — most famously, the Catacombs.
- Soon, the ancient labyrinth may find a new lease of life, providing a sustainable form of air conditioning.
Ancient mining areas below Paris for limestone (red) and gypsum (green).Credit: Émile Gérards (1859–1920) / Public domain
"If you're brave enough to try, you might be able to catch a train from UnLondon to Parisn't, or No York, or Helsunki, or Lost Angeles, or Sans Francisco, or Hong Gone, or Romeless."
China Miéville's fantasy novel Un Lun Dun is set in an eerie mirror version of London. In it, he hints that other cities have similar doubles. On the list that he offhandedly rattles off, Paris stands out. Because the City of Light really does have a twisted sister. Below Paris Overground is Paris Underground, the City of Darkness.
Most people will have heard of the Catacombs of Paris: subterranean charnel houses for the bones of around six million dead Parisians. They are one of the French capital's most famous tourist attractions – and undoubtedly its grisliest.
But they constitute only a small fragment of what the locals themselves call les carrières de Paris ("the mines of Paris"), a collection of tunnels and galleries up to 300 km (185 miles) long, most of which are off-limits to the public, yet eagerly explored by so-called cataphiles.
The Grand Réseau Sud ("Great Southern Network") takes up around 200 km beneath the 5th, 6th, 14th, and 15th arrondissements (administrative districts), all south of the river Seine. Smaller networks run beneath the 12th, 13th, and 16th arrondissements. How did they get there?
Paris stone and plaster of Paris
It all starts with geology. Sediments left behind by ancient seas created large deposits of limestone in the south of the city, mostly south of the Seine; and gypsum in the north, particularly in the hills of Montmartre and Ménilmontant. Highly sought after as building materials, both have been mined since Roman times.
The limestone is also known as Lutetian limestone (Lutetia is the Latin name for ancient Paris) or simply "Paris stone." It has been used for many famous Paris landmarks, including the Louvre and the grand buildings erected during Georges-Eugène Haussmann's large-scale remodelling of the city in the mid-19th century. The stone's warm, yellowish color provides visual unity and a bright elegance to the city.
The fine-powdered gypsum of northern Paris, used for making quick-setting plaster, was so famed for its quality that "plaster of Paris" is still used as a term of distinction. However, as gypsum is very soluble in water, the underground cavities left by its extraction were extremely vulnerable to collapse.
Like living on top of a rotting tooth: subsidence starts far below the surface, but it can destroy your house.Credit : Delavanne Avocats
In previous centuries, a road would occasionally open up to swallow a chariot, or even a whole house would disappear down a sinkhole. In 1778, a catastrophic subsidence in Ménilmontant killed seven. That's why the Montmartre gypsum quarries were dynamited rather than just left as they were. The remaining gypsum caves were to be filled up with concrete.
The official body governing Paris down below is the Inspection Générale des Carrières (IGC), founded in the late 1770s by King Louis XVI. The IGC was tasked with mapping and, where needed, propping up the current and ancient (and sometimes forgotten) mining corridors and galleries hiding beneath Paris.
A delightful hiding place
Also around that time, the dead of Paris were getting in the way of the living. At the end of the 18th century, their final destination consisted of about 200 small cemeteries, scattered throughout the city — all bursting at the seams, so to speak. There was no room to bury the newly dead, and the previously departed were fouling up both the water and air around their respective churchyards.
Something radical had to happen. And it did. From 1785 until 1814, the smaller cemeteries were emptied of their bones, which were transported with full funerary pomp to their final resting place in the ancient limestone quarries at Tombe-Issoire. Three large and modern cemeteries were opened to receive the remains of subsequent generations of Parisians: Montparnasse, Père-Lachaise, and Passy.
The six million dead Parisians in the Catacombs, from all corners of the capital and across many centuries, together form the world's largest necropolis — their now anonymized skulls and bones methodically stacked, occasionally into whimsical patterns. The Catacombs are fashioned into a memorial to the brevity of life. The message above the entrance reads: Arrête! C'est ici l'empire de la Mort. ("Halt! This is the empire of Death.")
That has not stopped the Catacombs, accessible via a side door to a classicist building on the Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, making just about every Top 20 list of things to see in Paris.
An underground economy
However, while the Catacombs certainly are the most famous part of the centuries-old network beneath Paris, and in non-pandemic times draw thousands of tourists each day, they constitute just 1.7 km (1 mile) of the 300-km (185-mile) tunneling total.
Subterranean Paris wasn't just used for mining and storing dead people. In the 17th century, Carthusian monks converted the ancient quarries under their monastery into distilleries for the green or yellow liqueur that still carries their name, chartreuse.
Because the mines generally keep a constant cool temperature of around 15° C (60° F), they were also ideal for brewing beer, as happened on a large scale from the end of the 17th century until well into the 20th century. Several caves were dug especially for establishing breweries, and not just because of the ambient temperature: going underground allowed brewers to remain close to their customers without having to pay a premium for real estate up top.
Overview of the Paris Catacombs.Credit: Inspection Générale des Carrières, 1857 / Public domain.
At the end of the 19th century, the underground breweries of the 14th arrondissement alone produced more than a million hectoliters (22 million gallons) per year. One of the most famous of Paris' underground breweries, Dumesnil, stayed in operation until the late 1960s.
In that decade, the network of corridors and galleries south of the Seine, long since abandoned by miners, became the unofficial playground for the young people of Paris. They explored the fantastical world beneath their feet, in some cases via entry points located in their very schools. Fascinated, these cataphiles ("catacomb lovers") read up on old books, explored the subterranean labyrinth, and drew up schematics that were passed around among fellow initiates as reverently as treasure maps.
As Robert Macfarlane writes in Underland, Paris-beneath-their-feet became "a place where people might slip into different identities, assume new ways of being and relating, become fluid and wild in ways that are constrained on the surface."
Some larger caves turned into notorious party zones: a 7-meter-tall gallery below the Val-de-Grâce hospital is widely known as "Salle Z." Over the last few decades, various other locations in subterranean Paris have hosted jazz and rock concerts and rave parties — like no other city, Paris really has an "underground music scene."
Hokusai's Great Wave as the backdrop to the "beach" under Paris.Credit: Reddit
Cataphiles vs. cataphobes
With popularity came increased reports of nuisance and crime — the tunnels provided easy access to telephone cables, which were stolen for the resale value of their copper.
The general public's "discovery" of the underground network led the city of Paris to officially interdict all access by non-authorized persons. That decree dates back to 1955, but the "underground police" have an understanding with seasoned cataphiles. Their main targets are so-called tourists, who by their lack of knowledge expose themselves to risk of injuries or worse, and degrade their surroundings, often leaving loads of litter in their wake.
The understanding does not extend to the IGC. Unlike in the 19th century, when weak cavities were shored up by purpose-built pillars, the policy now is to inject concrete to fill up endangered spaces — thus progressively blocking off parts of the network. That procedure has also been used to separate the Catacombs to prevent "infiltration" of the site by cataphiles.
Many subterranean streets have their own names, signs and all. This is the Rue des Bourguignons (Street of the Burgundians) below the Champs des Capucins (Capuchin Field), neither of which exists on the surface.Credit: Jean-François Gornet via Wikimedia and licensed under
The cataphiles, however, are fighting back. In a game of cat and mouse with the authorities, they are reopening blocked passages and creating chatières ("cat flaps") through which they can squeeze into chambers no longer accessible via other underground corridors.
Catacomb climate control
Alone against the unstoppable tide of concrete, the amateurs of Underground Paris would be helpless. But the fight against climate change may turn the subterranean labyrinths from a liability into an asset — and the City of Paris into an ally.
The UN's 2015 Climate Plan — concluded in Paris, by the way — requires the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050. And Paris itself wants to be Europe's greenest city by 2030. More sustainable climate control of our living spaces would be a great help toward both targets. A lot of energy is spent heating houses in winter and cooling them in summer.
This is where the constant temperature of the Parisian tunnels comes in. It's not just good for brewing beer; it's a source of geothermal energy, says Fieldwork, an architectural firm based in Paris. It can be used to temper temperatures, helping to cool houses in summer and warming them in winter.
One catch for the cataphiles: it also works when the underground cavities are filled up with concrete. So perhaps one day, Paris Underground, fully filled up with concrete, will completely fall off the map, reducing the city's formerly real doppelgänger into an air conditioning unit.
Cool in summer, warm in winter: Paris Underground could become Paris A/C.Credit: Fieldwork
Strange Maps #1083
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.
- A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
- "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
- It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
After former U.S. President William Henry Harrison delivered his inaugural speech on March 4, 1841, he posed for a daguerreotype, the first widely available photographic technology. It became the first photo taken of a sitting American president.
As for the eight presidents before Harrison, history can see them only through artistic renderings. (The exception is a handful of surviving daguerreotypes of John Quincy Adams, taken after he left office. In his diary, Adams described them as "hideous" and "too true to the original.")
But a recent project offers a glimpse of what early presidents might've looked like if photographed through modern cameras. Using FaceApp and Airbrush, Magdalene Visaggio, author of books such as "Eternity Girl" and "Kim & Kim," generated a collection of convincing portraits of the nation's first presidents, from George Washington to Ulysses S. Grant.
Modern Presidents George Washington https://t.co/CURJQB0kap— Magdalene Visaggio (@Magdalene Visaggio)1611952243.0
What might be surprising is that Visaggio was able to generate the images without a background in graphic design, using freely available tools. She wrote on Twitter:
"A lot of people think I'm a digital artist or whatever, so let me clarify how I work. Everything you see here is done in Faceapp+Airbrush on my phone. On the outside, each takes between 15-30 mins. Washington was a pretty simple one-and-done replacement."
Ulysses S Grant https://t.co/L1IGXLI3Vl— Magdalene Visaggio (@Magdalene Visaggio)1611959480.0
"Other than that? I am not a visual artist in any sense, just a hobbyist using AI tools see what she can make. I'm actually a professional comics writer."
Did another pass at Lincoln. https://t.co/PdT4QVpMbn— Magdalene Visaggio (@Magdalene Visaggio)1611973947.0
Of course, Visaggio isn't the first person to create deepfakes (or "cheap fakes") of politicians.
In 2017, many people got their first glimpse of the technology through a video depicting former President Barack Obama warning: "We're entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything at any point in time." The video quickly reveals itself to be fake, with comedian Jordan Peele speaking for the computer-generated Obama.
While deepfakes haven't yet caused significant chaos in the U.S., incidents in other nations may offer clues of what's to come.
The future of deepfakes
In 2018, Gabon's president Ali Bongo had been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. After Bongo hadn't been seen in public for months, rumors began swirling about his condition. Some suggested Bongo might even be dead. In response, Bongo's administration released a video that seemed to show the president addressing the nation.
But the video is strange, appearing choppy and blurry in parts. After political opponents declared the video to be a deepfake, Gabon's military attempted an unsuccessful coup. What's striking about the story is that, to this day, experts in the field of deepfakes can't conclusively verify whether the video was real.
The uncertainty and confusion generated by deepfakes poses a "global problem," according to a 2020 report from The Brookings Institution. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense released some of the first tools able to successfully detect deepfake videos. The problem, however, is that deepfake technology keeps improving, meaning forensic approaches may forever be one step behind the most sophisticated forms of deepfakes.
As the 2020 report noted, even if the private sector or governments create technology to identify deepfakes, they will:
"...operate more slowly than the generation of these fakes, allowing false representations to dominate the media landscape for days or even weeks. "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on," warns David Doermann, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Buffalo. And if defensive methods yield results short of certainty, as many will, technology companies will be hesitant to label the likely misrepresentations as fakes."
Meconium contains a wealth of information.
- A new study finds that the contents of an infants' first stool, known as meconium, can predict if they'll develop allergies with a high degree of accuracy.
- A metabolically diverse meconium, which indicates the initial food source for the gut microbiota, is associated with fewer allergies.
- The research hints at possible early interventions to prevent or treat allergies just after birth.
The prevalence of allergies arising in childhood has increased over the last 50 years, with 30 percent of the human population now having some kind of atopic disease such as eczema, food allergies, or asthma. The cause of this increase is still subject to debate, though it has been associated with a number of factors, including changes to the gut microbiomes of infants.
A new study by Canadian researchers published in Cell Reports Medicine may shed further light on how these allergies develop in children by examining the contents of their first diaper.
The things you do for science
The research team examined the first stool of 100 infants from the CHILD Cohort Study. The first stool of an infant is a thick, green, horrid-looking substance called meconium. It consists of various things that the infant ingests during the second half of gestation. Additionally, it provides not only a snapshot of what the infant was exposed to during that time, but it also reveals what the food sources will be for the initial gut bacteria that colonize the baby's digestive tract.
The content of the meconium was examined and found to contain such varied elements as amino acids, lipids, carbohydrates, and myriad other substances.
A graph of the comparative, summed abundance of different elements in a metabolic pathway after scaling to median abundance of each metabolite. The blue figures are those children without atopy, the yellow ones show the data for those with an atopic condition. Petersen et al.
The authors fed this information into an algorithm that used this data, along with the identities of the bacteria present as well as the baby's overall health, to predict which infants would go on to develop allergies within one year. The algorithm got it right 76 percent of the time.
A way to prevent childhood allergies?
Infants whose meconium had a less diverse metabolic niche the initial microbes to settle in the gut were at the highest risk of developing allergies a year later. Many of these elements were associated with the presence or absence of different bacterial groups in the digestive system of the child, which play an increasingly appreciated role in our overall health and development. The findings were summarized by senior co-author Dr. Brett Finlay:
"Our analysis revealed that newborns who developed allergic sensitization by one year of age had significantly less 'rich' meconium at birth, compared to those who didn't develop allergic sensitization."
The findings could be used to help understand how allergies form and even how to prevent them. Co-author Dr. Stuart Turvey commented on this possibility:
"We know that children with allergies are at the highest risk of also developing asthma. Now we have an opportunity to identify at-risk infants who could benefit from early interventions before they even begin to show signs and symptoms of allergies or asthma later in life."
A model for early childhood allergies
Petersen et al.
As shown above, the authors constructed a model of how they believe metabolites and bacterial diversity help prevent allergies. Increased diversity of metabolic products in the meconium encourage the development of "healthy" families of bacteria, like Peptostreptococcaceae, which in turn promote the development of a healthy and diverse gut microbiome. Ultimately, such diversity decreases the likelihood that a child will develop allergies.