Why do we love conspiracies so much? We are so fond of them that the television series, “The X-Files” ran for years. The movie, “Men in Black” had a sequel. Every nuance of every detail of the murder of President Kennedy has been analyzed and explained many times over. Certainly not everyone sees plots hatching in every shadow like the hyper-vigilant few, but most of us are ready to at least consider the possibility when we hear a good story well told.
Maybe thousands of scientists are conspiring with governments around the world to foist upon us the great lie of climate change. There is probably a good explanation for their motive, too. But more likely it is our tendency to enjoy a good conspiracy story. We love the way all the facts fit together. We love the idea of cunning villains working behind the scenes. We love to have our suspicions confirmed. And we especially love the detailed alternative explanation of the facts.
This tendency is understandable when we see how it relates to instincts crucial to our survival. Seeing real patterns in the ways of the world is obviously important. It was helpful to know when the salmon would be in the river, for instance. Seeing patterns that aren’t there is an acceptable price to pay for the ability to see the ones that are. Imagining that there is a real threat behind some subtle hints in our environment probably saved a few people from being eaten by a predator. It doesn’t matter that in most cases it might have been just the wind that made the grass move. So, instincts that kept our ancestors alive long enough to reproduce remain with us today. The fact that those instincts sometimes cause us to see things that aren’t real is just something we have to live with.
Here are some of the most popular conspiracy theories. Apologies in advance if they ignite any suspicions you didn’t have already.
In 1947, near Roswell, New Mexico, something crashed. There was a campaign to hide the fact that it was a secret, high-altitude military balloon. Decades later, stories of alien bodies re-vitalized the incident.
In 1963, JFK was killed. To this day people continue to debate how, by whom and on whose orders.
In 1969, humans landed on the Moon for the first time. Some people believe that the mission was a hoax, and everything was faked.
In 1997, Princess Diana and her lover, Dodi Al-Fayed, died in a car crash. Rather than accept the official explanation of a combination of a drunken chauffeur and the recklessness of pursuing journalists, some continue to believe that it was an assassination.
We do love conspiracies, and we have our reasons.