Think Progress reports that about half of all Americans believe in at least one of six major conspiracy theories involving medicine and health, from anti-vaccine myths to the idea that the cures for diseases are being hidden from us by the pharmaceutical industry.
Are companies dumping large quantities of dangerous chemicals into our water supply under the guise of fluoridation? Did a U.S. spy agency infect African Americans with HIV? Does the government tell parents to give vaccines to their children even though that could increase their risk of developing autism? Are U.S. health officials withholding information about natural cures for cancer so that pharmaceutical companies can continue to profit, or pretending they don’t know that cell phones can cause cancer? Are genetically modified foods a plot to shrink the global population?
About half of the American public believes at least one of those medical conspiracy theories, according to a study conducted by University of Chicago researchers. The greatest proportion of respondents, 37 percent, believes that the FDA is deliberately suppressing information about natural treatments for cancer. On top of that, less than a third of participants were willing to say they actively disagreed with this theory, leaving everyone else somewhere in the middle.
I find the idea that researchers, government officials and pharmaceutical company executives are hiding cures for cancer to be especially absurd. A sizable number of those people will get cancer themselves and far more will have a loved one get cancer. Can someone really believe that they would watch themselves or their family members and friends die rather than develop treatments for those diseases?