Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

A Conspiracy of Conspiracists

By Peter Bowditch

Research into the psychology of conspiracy theorists has been withdrawn from publication following complaints that the research is itself a conspiracy.

Peter Bowditch is a former President of Australian Skeptics Inc. (www.skeptics.com.au).

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The cover story in the June edition of Australasian Science, “Lies, Damn Lies, and Science”, described research into the psychology of conspiracy theorists by three academics: Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles Gignac and Klaus Oberauer.

I’ve had an interest in this area for a long time, so it was nice to apply a bit of confirmation bias when I saw that their research had confirmed one of the things I had noticed over the years – that people rarely if believe in only one conspiracy, and that belief in one conspiracy theory can be a useful predictor of the person’s position on others.

Anti-vaccination campaigners are quite often AIDS deniers and opposed to GM foods; 9/11 “Truthers” can be relied on to believe that the HAARP project is designed to control weather in conjunction with chemtrails behind airliners; and climate change deniers know that it is just part of a wider government plan to destroy capitalism and enforce the hegemony of the United Nations over governments.

The title of their research paper was “NASA Faked the Moon Landing – Therefore, (climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science”. There was nothing very controversial in it, and it replicated the findings of previous research in the area.

Well, the authors thought it was uncontroversial until they started getting feedback accusing them of all sorts or...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.