What’s the Craziest Conspiracy Theory You’ve Ever Heard Of?

My friend Ashley interviewed Skeptic magazine publisher Michael Shermer at the recent Atheist Alliance International convention.

I especially like the portion below :)

What other ideas (besides religion) leave you wondering how anyone could actually believe it?

  • Soitfoes

    You’ve never heard of David Icke?

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    Windows Vista

  • http://www.myspace.com/deadjerusalem Brian’s A Wild Downer

    Reptile people

  • Vincent

    magnet therapy

  • Eric

    homeopathy

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ hoverFrog

    $800 moisturizer

  • Larry Huffman

    Macs in the workplace ;-)

  • Liz

    I had a former coworker who would tell me all about sound therapy and animal journeys and applied kinesiology. Once she showed me two pictures somebody had taken of her aura. She had it done on a quarterly basis.

  • justin jm

    I was surfing Wikipedia some time back and came across this “Time Cube” thing.

    Apparently it involves a conspiracy covering up the idea that time is cubic, whatever that means. To boot, the dude who pushes this stuff is a fire-and-brimstone fundy who says those who don’t agree with him (99.999999999% of the human race) “deserve death.”

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this.

  • Richard Wade

    Elvis, Amelia Earhart and Sasquatch are an evil troika living on a UFO and have been causing such disasters as the Pinatubo volcanic eruption, the 9/11 attacks and Menudo. Paris Hilton and Joe the Plumber are actually deep cover super agents trying to track down the Trinity of Evil. But don’t tell anyone.

  • Jen

    The Loch Ness Monster. The lake just isn’t that big, people.

  • Larry Huffman

    Richard…if Paris and Joe the Plumber are the ones looking for them, I am thinking they are about as safe from detection as they can be.

    You know…to me the worst conspiracy that I have heard first hand is the basic premise that the John Birch Society was founded upon…and that is that Satan has been mastermining a scheme to destroy the church and good…and that he has used a series of agents to do so. Anything from the Illuminati to the CFR…and including Hollywood types, commies, gays, democrats, environmentalists…and anything else a really hard-core religious right person would be afraid of.

    I heard this because, sadly, I once belonged to this group. Keep in mind, the reason I joined was not because of the conspiracy angle, but because of their regard for the Constitution. I thought I was joining a group that wanted to preserve the constitution and be active in getting government to adhere to constitutional principles. Much to my surprise, I was soon rubbing elbows with some really fringe elements…and by fringe, I mean guys who really had notions of digging up their stash of guns and retaking america. Scary stuff.

    I tried to be a voice of reason in that group, but found I could not get quite whacky enough to become a part of them…thankfully. And when the dust had settled, even the things they espoused that I agreed with, I disagreed with their over-all view and their methods and hatred towards others. Plus I am just not a conspiracy theory type of guy. I have tried too often to get 3 or 4 people all on the same page with something…I am thinking that any real large scale conspiracy is near impossible given human nature.

    I know there are whacky conspiracy theories out there…but to me the ones that are most scary are the ones people believe and will act upon.

  • Larry Huffman

    My father is pretty convinced there is a conspriacy in the ranks of professional sports. Any of them…MLB, NFL, NBA. It all depends on how badly his team gets beaten and the circumstances.

  • http://blargen.com/blog/ postsimian

    The stupidest ones I’ve heard recently? Just about anything right-wing nutbags have been claiming about Barack Obama.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    The Kennedy assassination and the massive cover-up by the Warren commission.

    And from before that, the communist plot to put fluoride in the drinking water…

  • Richard Wade

    Take your pick of these gems from the conspirasphere:

    The Tunguska explosion in Siberia in 1908 was not an impact from a comet but the result of a death ray invented by Nikola Tesla.

    The Apollo moon landings were faked.

    AIDS resulted from CIA germ warfare experiments.

    There is a concerted, organized effort to keep Intelligent Design theorists suppressed in colleges and universities around the world.

    Obama is a Muslim.

    Fluoridated water is a way to mind control the public.

    And the craziest, wackiest, most impossible one of all:

    That atheists have a secret organization and a secret agenda to spread godlessness worldwide. Yeah, right. More than thirty atheists anywhere in the world agreeing on anything for more than one hour has never, ever happened.

  • Jeff Satterley

    Autism (or any other ailment) being caused by vaccinations, and the big, bad CDC, FDA and FCC (yes, I’ve heard someone actually accuse the Federal Communications Commission) are covering it up.

    Of course, it is difficult for me to dismiss the vast amounts of evidence coming from great minds like Jenny McCarthy and RFK Jr. (cue the chirping crickets).

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    One time I attended a talk by Michael Shermer, and I found that crazy 9/11 troofers pretty much trail him wherever he goes. It doesn’t surprise me that that’s the first thing he thought of.

    Has anyone mentioned crop circles?

  • http://brentcliffe.blogspot.com Alex

    I think almost anything on WorldNetDaily.com qualifies for “conspiracies for loons.”

    I was having a conversation with a guy the other day. He was going on about the right-wing conspiracy claims about Obama, eg. not born in Hawaii, muslim, etc. He wanted to appear reasonable, so he said that these were things that should at least be investigated, that even Hilary Clinton had raised some of these as issues. I pointed out that this was almost 2 years ago, that the Republicans have certainly had the time and the money to investigate it, and that their failure to come up with anything is pretty much dispositive of the issues. I don’t think he was convinced.

    I think it was David Hume who said that incredible claims require incredible evidence. Today many people seem to think that incredible claims can be maintained as long as they are at least logically possible, and that unless you can disprove them, to a level of 100 per cent, they could be true.

    To placate the religious right and the conspiracy nuts I propose that we get rid of everything that depends on inductive reasoning as this never yields absolute certainty. We can, of course, keep all deductive arguments and, of course, all circular arguments.

    My absolute favorite though is the claim that Obama is the antichrist. Now that’s fair and balanced!

    Cheers!

  • Aaron

    So far the most infuriating are 9/11 conspiracies and the non-existent vaccine/autism link.

  • http://frodology.blogspot.com Frodo Saves

    Ah, Miller, you beat me to it.

    I was going to mention a relative of mine who is a big fan of crop circles, so much so that she purchased a coffee table book on them. When she offered it to me to read, I must have smirked or something, because she took it as a personal affront.

    What’s there to take offense at? The book didn’t even offer any explanation as to their origins. Yes you caught me, I thumbed through it ;)

  • Cathy

    How about the one that if you sign up to be an organ donor, doctors will kill you to steal your organs.

  • chancelikely

    Timecube. A comment I’ve heard frequently when discussing someone’s Rapture or whatever site is, “It’s crazy, but it’s no Timecube.” I submit that Timecube is the standard by which other forms of crazy on the Internet should be judged, a type species of sorts.

  • http://omega-geek.blogspot.com Spook

    Chemtrails!

    I live about five miles from an airport and as such I tend to see dozens of jet contrails in the sky every day. They’re basically harmless, but there’s these people absolutely convinced that the trails are part of a Secret Government Plot to poison us, control our minds, make us sterile, etc etc. It’s the kind of crazy conspiracy that I put in the same bin as Crazy Sprinkler Lady.

  • Vincent

    Rush Limbaugh

    Bill OReily

  • Tao Jones

    A few things…

    In our culture, most of us have a need to think someone is in control, whether it be a god, a tribal “Big Man,” or secret societies.

    Just because chemtrails aren’t part of a “Secret Government Plot” doesn’t mean they’re harmless. Nor does it mean there isn’t some scientist in a laboratory who knows for a fact they are potentially harmful.

    Just because 9/11 probably wasn’t orchestrated by Cheney and company doesn’t mean that someone somewhere didn’t know about it and fail to act on the intel ahead of time, effectively letting it happen. And do you really think all there is to know about 9/11 has been made public? If anyone believes that, I have a bridge to sell them.

    And face it, we know that “secret societies” exist. Look at the whack jobs in the John Birch Society and imagine what might happen if they had more power? Is it hard to imagine that happening? Is it even possible to obtain political power in the United States without being obsessive?

    Just because groups like the Illuminati don’t exist the way Robert Anton Wilson or Dan Brown describe them doesn’t mean there aren’t groups out there — secret or not — that have their own hidden agendas and the political and economic power to execute their plans.

    Read up on “Team B” (any familiar names?) and the works of Leo Strauss and Irving Kristol. Is this a conspiracy theory?

    What about John Hagee’s work in support of The Temple Institute? Is this a conspiracy theory?

    We atheists should know better than anyone that what appears to be a “conspiracy” doesn’t have to have conspirators. Some dangers are systemic and develop organically.

    Paranoid or not, that doesn’t mean someone somewhere isn’t doing something that could be potentially very dangerous.

    Anyway… as for my own favourite conspiracy theories, I’d say pretty much everything that came out of the Bush administration during the lead up to the Iraq war regarding WMDs and an Iraqi connection to al Qaeda.

  • Oli

    One has to be careful with conspiracy theories, even with the term conspiracy theory.

    The term conspiracy theory doesn’t mean what the dictionary means, today it means “Crazy theory to explain something that is almost certainly wrong, also, people that propose it are kooks”.

    But this is unfair. There are conspiracies out there and there are groups of people meeting, often in secret, with a lot of power and/or hidden aims.

    Now, that doesn’t mean we undertsnad them, but it does mean we shouldn’t dismiss them light as “conspiracy theories”. Perhaps we should choose to look at the evidence and view them as conspiracy hypothesis.

    examples of theories that did/do exist
    The illuminati – now hold on before you call me crazy. This group DID exist in bavaria but was disbanded. While it existed it did indeed have crazy aims at destabilising the state. I do not believe they exist in a modern form

    Watergate – government cover up, crime sanctioned by the president, secret sources with mysterious names, this one has it all.

    MK ULTRA (and similar intelligence/military projects) – This project did exist, it did look at some wacky fringe phenomona, such as ESP, remote viewing, telepathy, brain washing, psycho active drugs, etc. Did it create any real successes, i highly doubt it.
    Bilderberg – This group does indeed exist and meet, some very powerful people are members. What do they do? i have no idea.

    Conspiracy theories that really are silly
    -David Ichkes reptile people
    -9/11 truthers that think the government unloaded the planes and remote piloted them into buildings
    -Alien visitation theories
    -Roswell
    -Area 51 being a lab where they work on Alien tech

  • http://www.eldugan.com Beth

    I went on ONE date with a guy who believed that chili peppers were sentient beings who lured people into eating them and then burned holes in their stomach linings while releasing endorphins into their systems that convinced them to eat more peppers. They were trying to take over the world one stomach at a time.

  • Robin

    HI Spook,
    I think that the “crazy sprinkler lady” does espouse the chemtrails conspiracy theory. As well as something to do with electromagnetic beams. It’s a bit unclear (shockingly). But you beat me to naming her.

  • N

    I knew a guy in college who was convinced that spiders are from outer space. Not a conspiracy theory, per se, but still pretty crazy.

    That was the craziest until I read about chili pepper guy up there.

  • SarahH

    I had a shrink once who insisted that she had “cured” another patient’s ALS by teaching her to “love her body” more. That was my last appointment.

    The autism/vaccine link is up there for me, as are homeopathy, voodoo, horoscopes, alien abductions, etc.

    The silliest, to me, are the claims that can be very easily tested and debunked. The more complicated theories like 9/11 stuff, alien testing, Illuminati, etc. certainly don’t compel my belief, but I would feel slightly less willing to say, stake my life on the claim that they’re false. The stuff that can be debunked easily and thoroughly through peer-reviewed research, like homeopathy and autism/vaccines and magnetic bracelet woo and psychic powers earns my scorn much more solidly.

    As for the more complex theories – I mostly worry about the social, mental and emotional health of the people who spend large amounts of time investing interest in them. I don’t see who it’s helping, and as much as I’d love more transparency in government, I don’t think these obsessors are likely to make a whit of progress towards “uncovering” anything, even if something is there to be uncovered.

    I think it’s a very human temptation to feel involved in a real-life drama, whether one is a victim, an investigator, a hero, or simply someone more “enlightened” than the rest of the world through some mystical secret. Atheists certainly aren’t immune.


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