We never walked on the moon, green men from space are on ice at an army base, and Sadaam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. None are factually true but all are believed to one extent or an other by some of our fellow citizens, according to a recent PPP poll.
What is it about conspiracy theories that send so many us into their thrall?
Some, of course, are pure politics--if Sadaam was involved in 9/11, or he was hiding Weapons of Mass Destruction, it makes it easier to accept our long, useless war in Iraq.
Others just reinforce our pre-held beliefs and stereotypes.If Obama is a bad President why not think he's the Anti-Christ, too?
Some are fun (Bigfoot exists), some are foolish (we never walked on the moon).
But I think at the heart of many beliefs in conspiracies is an attempt to make sense of what seems like a senseless world. Or to move responsibility farther away from ourselves.
It's easier to blame a secret "New World Order" for controlling everything than to accept that our democracy is flawed and we need to work at fixing those problems. If the CIA created the crack cocaine epidemic than we don't have to look at the larger problems in society that lead to drug abuse.
Those who believe that "lizard people" are gaining political control are.........well, actually, I don't know what to say about that....
We've had fun conversations with conspiracy theories over the years on my radio show. Most of them are harmless.
But when a "conspiracy theory" is nothing more than a cover for science denial, we need to be more assertive. When science overwhelmingly tells us that global climate change is happening, to claim it's just a "hoax" is dangerous business. When science tells us the value of vaccines, we shouldn't allow fringe "scientists" to be in positions to dictate public opinion and policy.
Science denial seems to be growing. More than the war between right and left, states rights versus the federal government, capitalism versus communism, this is a war we can't afford to lose.
Because if we allow ignorance to triumph over fact, beliefs over facts, then we won't be able to fight any of those other societal battles.
Now, excuse me.....I must go report to my "lizard masters".