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Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them$
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Joseph E. Uscinski

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190844073

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190844073.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 12 April 2021

The Credulity of Conspiracy Theorists

The Credulity of Conspiracy Theorists

Conspiratorial, Scientific, and Religious Explanation Compared

(p.422) 29 The Credulity of Conspiracy Theorists
Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them

Brian L. Keeley

Oxford University Press

Where does entertaining (or promoting) conspiracy theories stand with respect to rational inquiry? According to one view, conspiracy theorists are open-minded skeptics, being careful not to accept uncritically common wisdom, exploring alternative explanations of events no matter how unlikely they might seem at first glance. Seen this way, they are akin to scientists attempting to explain the social world. On the other hand, they are also sometimes seen as overly credulous, believing everything they read on the Internet, say. In addition to conspiracy theorists and scientists, another significant form of explanation of the events of the world can be found in religious contexts, such as when a disaster is explained as being an “act of God.” By comparing conspiratorial thinking with scientific and religious forms of explanation, features of all three are brought into clearer focus. For example, anomalies and a commitment to naturalist explanation are seen as important elements of scientific explanation, although the details are less clear. This paper uses conspiracy theories as a lens through which to investigate rational or scientific inquiry. In addition, a better understanding of the scientific method as it might be applied in the study of events of interest to conspiracy theorists can help understand their epistemic virtues and vices.

Keywords:   conspiracy theory, explanation, philosophical naturalism, anomaly, falsification

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