Why Conspiracy Theories Fail

Today’s Lesson: If there are actual conspiracies out there, they are lame at best. Instead of believing in them, accept responsibility for learning how to think sharply and act with specific intent.


Many of my friends love, love, love to believe there are incredibly evil and corrupt powers in the world, secretly invading our culture for nefarious purposes.

In my social circle, there are people who believe extraterrestrials are among us but have been hidden by the government. There are people who believe GMO food is essentially grown, harvested, and marketed by the devil. There are those who believe in ghosts, hidden backwards messages in live speeches, chemtrails, demonic possession, global warming is a myth, and any number of other popular but utterly unjustifiable, unproven, and unbelievable beliefs.

There might be real conspiracies somewhere, but it is highly unlikely any of the ones perpetuated in the media or by the public have any validity. I see three problems with believing in conspiracies:

1. Conspiracies give too much credit to the conspirators. 

It is fanciful thinking to believe a government could pull off a conspiracy like Roswell. (If you are unfamiliar, an extraterrestrial ship allegedly crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in the 1950’s and has been kept from the public ever since.)

The U.S. government, under constant, relentless scrutiny from the public and media, is unable to even hide a President getting a BJ. The nation’s leaders can not agree on a single principle, direction, or moral value. How is it possible these bumbling, bungling politicians are pulling off an incredibly ornate and long-lasting conspiracy to hide something from the public? Is it more believable the government, through decades of changing leadership, advisers, and staff have kept an impenetrable wall of secrecy for over 60 years–not one single person breaking their silence, not one reporter finding a single irrefutable clue tying the plot together… or is it more likely aliens never visited?

We do not have to be logicians to figure this one out. We simply have to sit and think beyond our Twitter feeds for a minute. The harsh truth is most people, even those with a lot of unchecked power, are not smart enough to mastermind the kinds of plots we see in movies.

2. Conspiracies rely on someone being illogically evil.

Wouldn’t it be convenient if Monsanto was an evil, secret corporation trying to poison our food and destroy our planet for nothing more than bigger profit margins (because, at this point, they still really need the money)?

One of the many problems with the “GMO is evil” bandwagon is the people who work at Monsanto also have to eat the same food, grown on the same Earth, as everyone else. Edgar Monsanto Queeny (the current president of Monsanto and the founder’s son), I very much doubt, wants his children, or his family, or his family’s legacy, to be tied to the willful destruction of the world (why start a family if your goal is for them to have no future?). I also find it tough to believe a company that employs literally thousands of people has somehow convinced most, if not all, of them to contribute to the company’s nefariously evil plan to destroy the world’s food supply.

You have had jobs. You have probably worked for good people, and not-so-good people but not one of your bosses, I am willing to bet, is a Joker “watch the world burn” level of evil. They are just people with families doing their best, and maybe they have some anger issues. I bet you do not know a single person carrying out a world-wide master plot of evil. Further, neither does anyone you know or have ever met.

There are definitely bad organizations in the world, run by bad people, but they are not elaborate conspiracies. They are blatant about their intentions–Al Qaeda, Hitler, North Korea, Fox News… the distinction of these groups is, despite worldwide criticism and rejection, they believe they are the good guys.

In other words, there is no inherent benefit for them to create a conspiracy.

If you are trying to take over the world, you need to recruit and have a powerful message to market to enroll others. A conspiracy, by definition, denies bringing attention to the conspirator’s plan. This is obviously illogical. How can the conspirator take credit for their work if they succeed?

Ego is probably the first barrier to conspiracy, which is how and why hackers are often caught. They leave a signature, a tell-tale sign of their work because they want to show it off. Conspiracy theories fall apart when there is no tell-tale sign of who is conspiring and what they have to gain. This is easy to spot because the language of conspiracies requires a vague “them”, “they”, “the government”, “Monsanto”, “The Media”, “Fox News”, etc. because there is no one to actually pinpoint (yes, it was on purpose). The reason there is no one to pinpoint is because there is likely no one master-minding a conspiracy.

3. The conspiracy itself is unsustainable at the scale proposed.

This should be evident in the other two points but conspiracies are always massive and unbelievable because the obvious place to hide something so remarkable is in a morass of confusion.

Thousands of employees work for Monsanto. I challenge any person to find the employee that goes to work each day hoping to cause cancer, put farmers out of work, or kill his or her own family with secret, genetically-modified-by-the-devil, food. For what purpose, exactly, would a capitalist company want to end life as we know it or destroy natural food? It is hard to profit after you kill all your customers. Is it more likely Monsanto’s (or Cargill’s or whoever’s) intent is to leverage science to create a healthier, more sustainable planet or they are part of a secret cult trying to kill everyone including themselves?

By the same token, thousands of people over generations would be required to hide a secret alien ship buried in New Mexico. To what end?

By the way, if aliens possessed technology to warp space-time or exceed the speed of light to reach Earth, then there is absolutely no technology on Earth that could hide them and no reason for the aliens to care about human motives or political agendas. If they are advanced enough to get here, then once they arrived, we would be about as interesting and intelligent to them as amoeba are to us.


I get it, though. We all want to be healthy and wish to know what is true, reliable, and dependable in our lives. We want to stand on something and stand for something. We want to believe bad things happen for a reason–that evil, if evil exists, is not random and meaningless (because that makes the events of our lives random and meaningless). Sadly, those are the worst reasons to try to validate conspiracies. Conspiracies prey on your highest values. That is the shame of the conspiracies and of the so-called “theorists” who perpetuate such myths and poor thinking.

Before you believe without question the next study, story, or announcement from an organization, person, or group with a reputable sounding name, pause. Spend a moment to think about what they are purporting to be true. Play out the logical conclusions in your mind. Ask, “What is the motive here? Is this possibly biased? Is there an agenda? Where is the information coming from and what makes me think I can trust it? Is it because the source has a legitimate sounding name or because it was a massive double-blind experiment in controlled conditions with replicable proof by reputable non-biased scientists?”

Most (probably all) conspiracies do not exist but your brain does. Use it to do something more powerful than make people afraid of invisible men.