Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jenny. Jenny Wonders, “How many conspiracy theories are there?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jenny!
Have you heard of Area 51? Has anyone told you Shakespeare didn't write his plays? How about that the Earth is flat?
Those are all conspiracy theories! A conspiracy theory is a view that disagrees with what most people believe about a topic. Conspiracy theories exist for many topics, ranging from secret societies to mythical creatures. It's easy to read a conspiracy theory and believe it. But don't be fooled! They are almost never true.
How can we find out whether a conspiracy theory could be true?
When you hear a conspiracy theory, use the "Reality Test." This test is easy to learn! It only has two questions:
1. What is the evidence?
2. Could there be another explanation?
Asking "What is the evidence?" is harder than it seems. You have to know what "evidence" means. When you're looking into a theory, only believe facts. Facts come from sources like experts, studies, and experiments. You'll find many conspiracy theories have few facts. Instead, they use opinions as evidence. Opinions are not evidence because they are different for each person. However, sometimes conspiracy theories do have facts. Keep a list of the facts you find in the theory's evidence.
Next, it's time to ask, "Could there be another explanation?" This question is tricky! Decide whether the evidence proves the conspiracy theory. Then, see if the evidence could have another explanation. You might find that another explanation makes more sense. If so, you've proved the conspiracy theory false!
The last step to the Reality Test is deciding whether to believe the theory. Is there good evidence? Does the evidence prove the theory true? If not, don't believe the theory. It isn't true!
Lots of people like learning about conspiracy theories even if they don't believe them. That's normal! A lot of thought goes into the theories, and they are often very creative. However, you should always be careful about what you believe. It's easy for false stories to spread far and wide. Make sure you always look deeper into these ideas. Never share a theory as true before giving it the Reality Test.
When it comes to testing conspiracy theories, two brains are better than one. Have a friend or family member help you with the Reality Test. They can help you search the evidence for facts. They can also help you look for other explanations.
Conspiracy theories can be fun to learn about. It's always exciting to discover new ways of thinking about interesting topics. You can put the Reality Test into practice by finding a conspiracy theory you're interested in. Start by looking for evidence that mermaids really exist. You could even look at conspiracy theories in sports! Were there aliens in Roswell? Did we really land on the moon? The sky is the limit! …Or is it?