02 Feb Why We Believe in Conspiracies
About a week or so ago, B.o.B., a famous American rapper, made a statement on Twitter that got a lot of attention in the media: He said that he believes our earth is flat — not round, as we have been led to believe. Most of his tweets on the subject have been deleted, but I managed to grab this one:
Assuming that he’s honest and sincere in his belief (as he seems to be, though he does have a record dropping soon), I was left pretty speechless. I mean, how do you even respond to a statement like that? But unfortunately, the rabbit hole goes a little deeper. In many retweets to his post, it was obvious that a lot of his followers support him in this view, and upon deeper research, there is quite a large community on the internet that promote flat-earth views, especially on YouTube. Are you shocked?
Why would people believe this?
He tells a compelling story.
First, I would encourage you to look at the series of tweets that B.o.B. laid out on the issue. On the surface, they’re actually well thought out and very compelling. Most of us who aren’t scientists would probably find ourselves at a loss to rebut his arguments — I know I was! Overall, he tells a compelling story that jives with our personal experiences. I mean, unless you’re an astronaut, have you ever seen the earth’s curvature? What about all the pictures of the earth from space, you ask? He says that Nasa is in on the conspiracy and all the pictures are fake. Famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tried to make him see sense on the matter, but without offering any evidence of his own, he clearly failed to do so.
The world is vastly complex.
No one person knows everything, right? Adding a framework for how we see life can provide clarity, even if that framework is wrong. Clearly, we can all agree some frameworks (ISIS, slaveowners, and Stalin come to mind) are wrong, but it doesn’t reduce the universal need for people to make some sense out of it all. We all have a framework for how we see the world, and since frameworks simplify the world enough for us to understand reality better, it’s always possible that we have a few things incorrect in our individual lives, too.
What can we learn from all of this?
For starters, if something that’s so clearly false can be told in such a way that people believe it, imagine how much more powerful the truth can be!
Our stories need to be compelling and relevant.
For most people, the Faith is most attractive as a story, not a bunch of principles or even a list of community building activities, at least on their own. The story of the Faith is one that includes all of us, and teaching effectively is to help people see themselves in that story.
We have a worldview, too.
Understand that the Faith is, among many other things, a worldview that helps us understand the big picture of why we’re here and how the world works. It’s important for us not to compartmentalize this part of our life and to live it out fully and publicly, whatever that means for us in our culture.
So wait, are you sure the earth is really round?
Yes, I’m sure. Here’s a picture of Chicago taken from Portage, Indiana that shows Lake Michigan covering the bottom of the skyline and therefore, showing the curvature of the earth.
You can rest easy now.