Since I’ve done a lot of readings involving conspiracy theories and just paid attention to the news cycles for the past few years, they’ve always been something I thought about. It’s always confused me how people get lead into these beliefs because they seem so irrational to me. Of course they probably wouldn’t be conspiracy theories if they were rational, but that’s not the point. Sometimes it seems so obvious that the theory is false but there are still steadfast believers and defenders that refuse to change their mind. Because of the readings for the first paper I got much more clear and scientific ways to explain why people believe. The main being that conspiracy theories are a “degenerative research program” which means that as contradictory information is found, more evidence to support the theory is sought out while the contrasting evidence is ignored. After watching the events that have unfolded in Texas recently, I think I have an even simpler way to state it: It’s hard to accept you were wrong.
This comes in part from browsing sites like twitter and judging the consensus about the current cold snap that’s put Texas into a dangerous blackout for the past few days. It was also the first time I learned about the “Texas Interconnection” power grid and how that it’s the main contributor (other than the weather) to the crisis. As a California resident I remember the rolling blackouts from the summer that were a pain in the ass when they happened but they weren’t for long and I knew when they were happening. I’ve read so many tweets from Texans that support the independent grid saying things like “this situation is bad, but we would be in even worse conditions with more government control.” Comparing the experience of California and Texas during blackouts I’d say California that’s part of a more regulated grid fared a hell of a lot better than Texas currently is. I actually saw a lot of the degenerative research program behavior from the pro Texas Interconnection group and it really got me thinking about why they couldn’t just say “maybe we need a bit more control to prevent this from happening again” and that lead me to the “It’s hard to accept you were wrong answer.”
I think this answer is a real simple way of summing up behavior. Everyone is like this at some point, some grow out of it while others don’t and I think those that don’t are way more likely to be the ones touting up a refuted conspiracy as proof constantly. I remember when I was like this and couldn’t accept that maybe I was wrong, but the funny thing is that I don’t remember when I changed. But I also think this change is way harder the older someone gets because usually one’s beliefs are built on one another, so if you realize one of your earliest beliefs may have been wrong that means your 50 year old Jenga tower of beliefs comes tumbling down. That’s why I think that the degenerating research program is such a great way to describe conspiracy theories; The believers are scared of being wrong because what else could they be wrong about?