Debunking Conspiracies (CDC Version)

Unfortunately a lot of science & Faith types of discussions essentially involve debunking the equivalent of conspiracy theories again and again and again. Most Christians or at least a certain percentage of them in the United States believe that there is a massive conspiracy against the Bible where the evil evolutionists are only allowing space for their theories but not the real theories from the Bible or whatever. It’s not just a Christian thing of course, as some studies show half of people believing in at least one of these six medical conspiracies.

I’ve gotten wrapped up in some in recent days from the ‘prophetic’ world that also finds conspiracies in many things including the 'vision from the Lord’s that sees Dr. Fauci as a rat:

This basically made me livid, with basically encouraging Christians to be suspicious of rats in the White House- which included probably one of the most important voices for Christians to listen to in the nation. At least at the end the ‘Prophet’ writes:

The intent is not to demonize Dr. Anthony Fauci, but rather we must recognize an agenda at work that is clearly contrary to the purpose and plans of God.

My dilemma is that many people close to me really respect this fellow and I seem to be struggling to respond with tact to such things. How are you coping in this season? What recommendations to you have for me? But then it goes further and another person close to me (within 6 feet we shall say :stuck_out_tongue:) basically gets caught up in a combination of this Jermiah Johnson ‘rat’ prophecy/dream and then some other conspiratorial Youtube type of thing regarding the claim that the CDC had advanced foreknowledge of COVID-19 because they posted these jobs a good 45 days before the WHO was made aware (i.e. for advisors for their quarantine program in major cities):

How can I help convince those around me that the CDC didn’t have advanced foreknowledge of this virus? I tried the approach that the CDC posting is fairly typical and we know what pandemics do and that quarantine/social distancing is one of the most effective strategies against things that don’t have any known drug treatments/vaccines but that didn’t fly. I also know that this conspiracy began with Mike Adams, the Natural News conspiracy fellow, and then was picked up and spread by Alex Jones (no comment necessary). But I’m struggling in this season to respond to those that are close to me in ways that help them to hear what I’m saying.

Basically, I am asking (perhaps for prayer to respond in a Christ-like way) how would you suggest responding to people that you love that get caught up in conspiracy theories?

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Once you get a really good prayer warrior to see you through this … can you send them my way too?

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He woke up gasping for air. Three things frequently cause this and bad dreams at the same time: congestive heart failure, sleep apnea, and COPD. He should see his doctor to rule out a dangerous health condition that causes vivid dreams. It is actually something I have read of several times…people wake up gasping and they attribute the problem to a spiritual oppression. I am worried he suffers from something physical.

Fauci is a terrific doc whose lectures I have enjoyed since residency, 15 years ago. He deserves nothing of this sort of abuse in exchange for his tireless work helping people with HIV and all sorts of other diseases.

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Sometimes all you can do is pull back. I am a straight forward person. When I’m confronted by someone who believes something I don’t, I will present my case to them with logic and try to find ways to emotionally connect with them in a way that favors my idea. If they still reject it, then I simply pull away and don’t bring it up and ignore it. Unless it’s something with immediate direct negative consequences in my life and then I will be more assertive and cut them out.

When it comes to this particular issue though of CDC, the virus, and conspiracy I don’t care enough about it to be caught up in it. It has almost not affected my life what so ever with the exception of small group church meetings instead of the entire congregation meeting, budgeting more strictly to help give more for my direct congregation and I’m not going around the elderly including my grandparents.

Besides that nothing has really changed. For many people that I know who is blowing this whole thing off most of them basically already lived the self isolation lifestyle. They don’t go to the movies, parties, hang out with the elderly, go to restaurants or bookstores. They shop predominantly online, go through take out lines and watch Netflix. Now with the virus they are basically doing the same.

You can’t force someone to see your way of reasoning and you can’t force them to submit to your will. So in my opinion sometimes the best thing to do is to simply ignore it or decide that you’ll only respond to it one day a week and won’t go more than 3 posts on it no matter what they say. Then ignore it until those three posts a week later. That way the convos are not saturated with it. Or not.

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Also almost none of my friends believe in modern day prophets and that it all ceased in the first century so this kind of prophecy issue never comes up or things like people are guided by dreams and so on. So I can’t relate to that issue at all. At least not in a way beneficial to your this particular issue.

That would describe most of us these days, so don’t feel alone and socially distanced. Well, maybe socially distanced but not not alone. I tend also to ignore those topics and move to others as you really can’t seen to argue folks away from their pet conspiracies, but if they make it an issue, I try to ask questions that will make them examinine their beliefs in hope they will convince themselves if they think about it. Sometimes it is hard to see past those things, but in doing so, can still have a good relationship.

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Just read the article, and must say it and many of the comments made me nauseated. But, try not to dwell on such things. Take breaks from social media, enjoy nature, enjoy the good things around you and encourage others to do the same.

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I tell them that the Bible instructs us clearly to have nothing to do with unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. Isaiah 8:12-13 says this:

Do not call conspiracy
everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
and do not dread it.
The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread.

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I have a very close family member who’s in to aliens, JFK, 911… the Holocaust, creationism, the lot. Not in a good way. I love him. I NEVER confront, NEVER question. I resonate where I can; ‘I see where you’re coming from’ that kind of thing and more, without compromising my evidence based rationality, acknowledging the lacunae in our knowledge, that reality is classified, that gummint is Machiavellian. You will NEVER convince them Matthew. Just be relentlessly pleasant no matter what utter excreta they come out with. The relationship is far more important. And stand with the victims and for the truth but not against the oppressor. The way one would with a Muslim woman being abused on the bus.

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This is a good idea… play along with the conspiracy for a moment and say, “Okay, if this is true and if this doctor is some kind of tool of the devil, what about all the other doctors who agree with him? Are they tools of the devil too? What does that say about the entire collection of medical professionals? Would you still feel that way if you had to go to the ER for an injury?” Most conspiracy theories spin themselves out pretty quickly if their implications are pointed out, but I’m sure we all already know this.

The harder part is letting the person be and allowing them to come to the conclusion on their own and remaining welcoming toward their conversation in the meantime. Too much opposition and they may just dig in their heels. It’s hard to not want to be right, especially if the topic is one that could have negative physical or mental consequences for them and anyone else they broadcast it to. Hang in there!

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Neil DeGrass Tyson is apparently teaching this “Master Class” about how to think. If you view the trailer, he opens with this statement:

“one of the challenges in this world is knowing enough about a subject to think you’re right, but not enough about the subject to know you’re wrong!”

I’m not sure that statement holds up to scrutiny … or probably more likely, I’m just not quite getting something about it yet. The “knowing enough to think we’re right” is familiar enough to all of us I guess. And maybe the “not enough to know we’re wrong” is a reference of comparison with “true leading thinkers” in a field who know enough about the field to question it and possibly ignite new revolutions in thinking … the Einsteins and Plancks of the world. But that’s pretty lofty stuff for us lay people to attempt to identify with.

My guess is that conspiracy theorists (by appeal to that latter category) want to imagine that they themselves are heroic revolutionaries by questioning well-accepted fundamentals. But what they fail to realize is that such revolutionaries weren’t fomenting something by disregarding mountains of evidence. They were seeking to accommodate yet more not-quite-so-well fitting existing evidence into an existing body of established evidence. Far from trying to dismantle the bulk of that “evidential mountain” they were trying to enlarge it.

That might be one key distinction between a genuinely revolutionary thinker and a run-of-the-mill conspiracy theorist.

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Of course we know one group that did have advance knowledge and that is the U.S. intelligence agencies. Unfortunately those agencies seem to have fallen out of favor with the current administration.

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A friend who told me that they thought the Chinese had planted Covid to terrorize Americans was shocked to learn that many Chinese also thought that Americans had manufactured it for them. It’s helpful to read counter-conspiracies.

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As a person who use to believe in conspiracies (I.E. the Papacy/Jesuits leading the front for the New World Order. The Illuminati and Freemasons also had a special slot but they were just “puppet fronts” to throw people off the “trail” lol ) and as a person who still studies them from a distance because I fund them interesting i would first see what they are trying to say, study fully what they are talking about and then once you have a good grasp of what the issue is, then see the weak points of the argument and start tearing down from there. I cannot give a full ABC 123 list in how to take down a conspiracy theory as each one is unique and has their own twist.

Conspiracies and rumors are always powerful tools used by people for various self focused agendas. This will never change.

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Or to assuage insecurities, I imagine.

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There is no good way to tell someone you love anything that implies you think they are gullible or dumb, which is how most attempts to argue people out of conspiracy theories come across. I don’t think there is any good way to keep the conversation impersonal and just about facts and ideas.

But maybe the least damaging way to handle it if you really need to talk about it is to stay focused on what you think and what is not compelling to you about the arguments. Like, take a “convince me” approach instead of a “let me convince you otherwise” approach. Then it doesn’t seem as much like you are trying to get someone else to change, or are unaccepting and judgmental of them, or are lumping them in with people you don’t respect, none of which works out so well with people you are within six feet of on a regular basis, and is especially bad if perhaps you hope to be even closer than that on a regular basis too.

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Should you respond with tact when the end result of the false prophet’s fake dream is death threats to Dr. Fauci?

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We must protect Dr. Fauci at all costs. He is the glue holding the nation and my sanity together.

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FWIW, this is the same approach I take with members of Christian sects which have conspiracy theories within their teachings. Ie. The Jehovah’s Witnesses. JWs among other things believe that Mainstream English bible translations contain intention mistranslations used to justify ‘pagan’ doctrines like the trinity and the incarnation. If you try to argue with them you either get a memorised chunk of ‘Reasoning from the Scriptures’ quoted back at you or you get taken on a wild Goose chase through Daniel, Revelation and Ezekiel, etc.

In recent years I’ve started asking them question after question in more Socratic way. That is ask a question and then ask questions about their answer; trying to think of questions that draw out the conclusions I’d like them to come to. When asked in a gentle, genuine, and friendly manner, a questioning is a powerful, but indirect way to challenge to a person’s thinking. I’ve found that a good question can haunt a persons thinking much longer than a direct rebuttal.

You’re essentially teaching them to fish (arrive at the truth for themselves) rather than giving them a fish which they might assume is actually poisoned (a direct response).

Another benefit is that by asking questions you begin to understand the ideas as they understand it. This not only gives you a better insight into the topic but also them as a person (eg. Why the find it convincing, compelling, etc.). In turn this helps you craft better questions.

I would say that it does take huge amounts of self control to respond with a question and not a direct reply. It also takes a llllooooonnnnngggg time to see progress, but then I sometimes think more direct discussions only give the illusion of progres. Eg. moving through several topics whilst neither party move very far from their starting positions. However, if one love the person one invests the time gladly.

I hope that helps some. For anyone wanting some further reading, I’ve found the first half of Gregg Koukl’s book Tactics very helpful - the second half less so. I’m sure many of the principles of part 1 could be transferred to a ‘conspiracy theory’ context.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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