My name is Max and I am Chanel’s fiance. She invited me on here to do an occasional guest post so here goes my first one.
I had the displeasure of attending an antivax presentation recently and it got me thinking about why so many people buy into conspiracy theories, particularly when it comes to health and medicine. There are many factors at play here ranging from mistrust of large corporations to malicious misinformation to honest ignorance or misunderstanding.
There can be good reasons to mistrust large corporations. If they are for-profit then their goal is most likely to make a profit, and there are plenty of people in the world with too much power and too little empathy. That said, just because a large corporation does something does not automatically make it wrong or even suspect. When a company sells a product they make money when people continue to buy that product. If all of their customers die, word will spread pretty quickly and they will likely be sued into oblivion. All in all, this isn’t a great business strategy. When you see an ingredient in a package of food and don’t know what it is, it is probably in there for some reason. While some companies may add something subtly addictive to keep you coming back for more, not many will blatantly poison you “for the lulz.” Something else you always want to make sure to do is to check the store shelves of the people who are telling you not to trust the megacorps because…
Depending on who you get your numbers from, the complementary and alternative medicine industry is worth between 14 and 35 billion dollars, mostly out of pocket. Many of the people, including some of those responsible for the material at the presentation I attended, who claim that big pharma or big agro are poisoning you are the same ones selling you the “cure.” There are entire businesses built on the idea that you can make a profit off of fear. Often times these groups will make outrageous claims about the merits of their products without any evidence or trials to back it up. They rely on personal testimony as evidence of their success and posit wild explanations for how they work witout any justification (look into the “science” behind homeopathy for a great example). Pharmaceuticals and transgenic or otherwise modified organisms go through rigorous testing before they go to market to make sure that they do what they say with relative safety. By slapping a homeopathic or other such label on it, some charlatans are able to sell whatever they want for whatever they want. If you think the few people at the top of the economic food chain are predatory sociopaths there are guaranteed to be a whole lot of people on the lower end just waiting to take advantage of people with good intentions and misplaced trust.
And therein lies another problem. Many of the judgments that people make in their everyday lives, even the important ones, are based more on what feels or sounds right than what is dictated by logic and rationality. “Organic,” “natural,” “herbal,” “artisinal,” these words all sound nice even if you don’t always know what they actually mean in a specific context. Many of the arguments against corporate anything are based on “common sense” logic. This kind of reasoning is really, really innacurate partially because our minds didn’t develop with the need to process complex interactions and relationships. We have been tuned to see patterns and make snap judgements even though those types of analysis are often wrong. If someone tells you something that sounds too simple or obvious, it probably is.
All of the factors mentioned so far are important to remember when deciding what to believe and not believe about the world and how you want to live your life. Always make sure to analyze an argument in its own merits, not how much you like or dislike the arguer. Don’t trust somone just because they tell you they are the underdog. And don’t have blind faith in any position. Look at what evidence is out there and make educated, informed decisions. Don’t let paranoia consume you.