Large conspiracies do not last – somebody always talks or slips up. The risk of a whistleblower spilling the beans or some kind of accidental exposure is simply too high, says an Oxford University researcher who developed a new conspiracy probability equation. Therefore, the Lunar Landings (men on the Moon) in the late 1960s could not have been faked, vaccines are not super-dangerous, big pharma is not keeping the lid on a cancer cure, and climate change is not a giant hoax.
Researcher Dr. David Grimes explained in the academic journal PLOS ONE that the number of people required to keep the lid on a faked Moon landing would be far too large for the whole thing to have been kept secret for forty-seven years (1969 to 2016).
According to his equation, large groups of people sharing a deception very rapidly give themselves away either deliberately or by accident – the truth quickly surfaces.
The ‘Paul is Dead’ Conspiracy: this must be one of the weirdest of them all. Many people believe that Paul McCartney, of the Beatles, died in a car crash in 1966 and was replaced by a man who looks and sounds like him. (Image: thebeatles.com)
Dr. Grimes, a physicist and post-doctoral research associate at Gray Laboratories, the University of Oxford, advises those planning a mega-conspiracy to consider doing it on a smaller scale.
Dr. Grimes, who is currently focusing on cancer research, is also a science writer and broadcaster. His professional profile means he gets lots of correspondence from people talking about conspiracies in the world of science, from big pharma suppressing breakthroughs in cancer cures to the fluoridation of tap-water that is really a way for the authorities to somehow control us.
After reading so many science-related conspiracy comments, he decided to find out whether large-scale deception really does exist, and whether it can be done successfully.
Some conspiracy theories beneficial – others tragic
Regarding conspiracy theories related to science, Dr. Grimes explained:
“A number of conspiracy theories revolve around science. While believing the moon landings were faked may not be harmful, believing misinformation about vaccines can be fatal. However, not every belief in a conspiracy is necessarily wrong – for example, the Snowden revelations confirmed some theories about the activities of the US National Security Agency.”
“It is common to dismiss conspiracy theories and their proponents out of hand but I wanted to take the opposite approach, to see how these conspiracies might be possible. To do that, I looked at the vital requirement for a viable conspiracy – secrecy.”
The Roswell UFO Conspiracy: in 1947 something crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, USA. At first, US authorities said it was a flying saucer or disk, as stated in the Roswell Daily Record pictured above. Then they changed their story, and have done so many times. This is probably the most talked-about conspiracy theory in the United States. (Image: Wikipedia)
He began by creating an equation to calculate the likelihood of a conspiracy being intentionally exposed by a whistle-blower, or accidentally laid bare by carelessness, such as somebody leaving a briefcase with secret papers at a bus-stop or the back seat of a taxi.
He factored in the conspiracy’s duration, its size, i.e. the number of collaborators, and also the effects of a conspirator losing his or her life, either through natural causes such as old age or illness, or by nefarious or suspicious means.
However, the equation required a realistic estimation of the probability of any individual colluder blowing the whistle. He used three real conspiracies – including one that Edward Snowden had exposed – the NSA PRISM project.
The PRISM project was a secret surveillance programme under which the US National Security Agency (NSA) collected internet communications data from at least nine leading US internet firms.
The Reptilian Conspiracy: this one became popular in 1999 after a book written by David Icke – ‘The Biggest Secret: The Book That Will Change the World’ – was published. In it he writes that many world leaders are shape-shifting reptilian beings from another planet. (See video at bottom of page with Mr. Icke)
Four conspiracy theories rated
Dr. Grimes then investigated four popular, current conspiracy theories, and estimated how many collaborators would be needed (maximum). His aim was to determine how viable (feasible) these mega-deceptions could be.
The conspiracy theories he looked at were:
1. Climate change is a hoax (405,000 people).
2. Human astronauts never made it to the Moon. It was all done in a giant studio. (411,000 people).
3. There is a cure for cancer but it is being suppressed by big pharma (714,000 people).
4. Vaccines are very unsafe with dreadful side effects and we are not being told the truth about them (22,000 people, assuming the CDC and WHO are co-conspirators and that other organisations involved in producing, distribution, advocating and using vaccines are dupes).
The X-Files, an American science fiction drama full of UFOs, aliens, secret organisations and conspiracies galore, was originally aired from September 1993 to May 2002 on Fox, spanning 10 seasons and 202 episodes. Did it increase our appetite for conspiracy theories?
Giant conspiracies last very few years
Dr. Grimes’ equation showed how long the following conspiracies would have lasted before the truth came out (if they really had existed):
1. Lunar Landings: the truth would have surfaced within 3 years and 8 months, i.e. by the end of 1972 or early 1973.
2. Climate change (global warming): 3 years and 9 months.
3. Unsafe vaccines: 3 years and 2 months.
4. Cure for cancer suppression: 3 years and 3 months.
In other words, if any of these four conspiracy theories really had occurred, the truth would have surfaced a very long time ago.
Maximum number of conspirators
How many people are needed (maximum) in order to successfully keep a conspiracy secret? According to Dr. Grimes, a plot lasting five years must not have more than 2,521 individuals, while a century-long deception could not have more than 125 collaborators.
Even a very simple cover-up relating to a single event, in which the collaborators would just have to keep quiet about it, could not have more than 650 willing accomplices for it to have any chance of remaining a secret.
Dr Grimes said, regarding conspiracy theories and people’s attitudes:
“Not everyone who believes in a conspiracy is unreasonable or unthinking. I hope that by showing how eye-wateringly unlikely some alleged conspiracies are, some people will reconsider their anti-science beliefs.”
“This will of course not convince everyone; there’s ample evidence that belief in conspiracy is often ideological rather than rational, and that conspiracy theories thrive in an echo chamber. This makes challenging the more odious narratives much more difficult.”
“If we are to address the multitudinous difficulties facing us as a species, from climate change to geo-politics, then we need to embrace reality over ideologically motivated fictions. To this end, we need to better understand how and why some ideas are entrenched and persistent among certain groups despite the evidence, and how we might counteract this.”
In an Abstract in the journal, Dr. Grimes concluded:
“The theory presented here might be useful in counteracting the potentially deleterious consequences of bogus and anti-science narratives, and examining the hypothetical conditions under which sustainable conspiracy might be possible.”
Reference: “On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs,” David Robert Grimes. PLOS ONE. January 26, 2016. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147905.
Video – David Icke on Conspiracy Theories and Academia
In Mr. Icke’s opinion, academics are clueless about what is going on in the world.