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Conspiracies & Conspiracy Theories

What We Should and Shouldn't Believe - and Why
Narrated by: Michael Shermer
Length: 6 hrs and 30 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Philosophy
4.5 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)

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Summary

Millions of Americans buy into conspiracy theories. Did you know that...

  • 81 percent of Americans believe more than one person was responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy?
  • 1/3 of this country thinks 9/11 was an “inside job” by the Bush administration? 
  • 21 percent believes aliens crash-landed in Roswell and are being hidden in Area 51? 
  • 7 percent are convinced that the moon landing was faked?

What causes some people to advocate these unfounded—often disproven—ideas as reality? And why is the power of conspiracies so compelling that they can motivate people to act, some even participating in acts of violence?

In this eye-opening Audible Original, Professor Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and the host of the Science Salon podcast, takes you through some of the most prevalent conspiracy theories in history, giving you a clear understanding of how and why they came about, who was likely to believe and perpetuate them, and the reality behind these beliefs.

Whether you are looking for the truth regarding popular conspiracy theories; are fascinated by the psychology of why people buy into them; or are interested in how they shaped and were shaped by history, this course will provide you all the tools you need to better understand the pervasiveness of conspiracy theories.  

©2019 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2019 Audible Originals, LLC.

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    3 out of 5 stars

Doesn't mock creationists

Despite what other reviewers have said, this presentation does not mock creationists. What it does, however, is compare the kinds of mental processes that might make a person favour "conspiracist" view of world politics, with those that might make a person favour creationism. This position, it seems to me, is both well-supported by evidence, and actually fairly obvious. Conspiracist politics provides a relatively simple, overarching principle that explains at a stroke the messiness and confusion of real-world politics, while creationism attempts to apply a unifying principle to the complexities of biology. Both politics and biology suffer from being pretty-much incomprehensibly untitdy, so people who like order and regularity will be drawn to modes of thinking that attempts to simply and organize things.

If this amounts to 'mocking', then mock away, but it isn't mocking somebody to explain why he or she might think in a particular way.

Having said all that, Shermer's smug scepticism does get rather wearing. In his books, and in this presentation, I really do get the impression that he's preaching to the choir -- and preaching it good and hard. If you're sceptically inclined yourself -- and I confess that I lean in that direction -- you don't need to have the merits of science and logical thinking drummed into you. And if you're not, you're not going to be convinced by logical thinking, by definition. So we could have done with more of the facts, and less of the bombast.

Moreover, this isn't an easy listen, even if you're fascinated by the subject -- which I am. There's an awful lot of facts and figures crammed into a relatively short presentation. He frequently refers to the work of other academics -- which, of course, he should -- but you have to pay attention, which makes it hard to listen when you might be interrupted. To be honest, I think the whole thing would be better presented as a book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • P. Lalone-madigan
  • 21-09-19

No chapter titles!!???

I find it unbelievable that Audible would make a special contract with Great Courses to provide exclusive content but get lazy about putting in chapter titles. Without chapter titles, we can’t go from chapter to chapter depending on the topic we want to read about, which is the whole point of the great courses. Please fix this failure.

76 people found this helpful

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  • sanslos
  • 25-10-19

Really good review of conspiracy theories topic

Very interesting topic with many good examples including analysis of how/ why/ who around conspiracies.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Erik Nelson
  • 20-10-19

Persuasive discussion of the Kennedy assassination

As the author indicated, remastered HD versions of the Zapruder film do seem to show a spray of blood fanning out in a forward direction (before getting caught in the 20mph headwind) from the 3rd & fatal head shot, consistent with a shot from the rear

3 people found this helpful

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  • Wingznut
  • 16-10-19

Not what I was expecting!

I got this thinking they’d be explaining all major conspiracy theories. Instead, you get education into the minds of conspiracies and those who believe them. It’s a very interesting listen to learn about why certain theories take off and the hardcore believers of that theory very seldom waiver. Great stuff here!!

12 people found this helpful

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  • Lynn
  • 03-10-19

Wanted More Substance

Perhaps the nature of the subject makes it difficult for a scholar/author to judge accurately how far to get into the weeds of conspiracies that have influenced history. For instance, the generalist audience members would have to know a lot about history to put long-ago successful conspiracies and unsuccessful conspiracies into context. I found the lack of detail frustrating, However, I took away a better understanding of why people believe rumors, false narratives, and even preposterous ideas. Most of us have trouble understanding our increasingly complicated world from day to day. Groping around for SOME explanation of big events, it's oddly comforting to be certain of something, even if it's something patently untrue, than to accept the sad fact that most of what happens defies explanation and/or moral grounding.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Tad
  • 19-11-19

A healthy dose of skepticism combined with a healt

Shermer's work here provides the tools needed to distinguish real conspiracies from the fraudulent.

1 person found this helpful

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  • James G.
  • 02-11-19

Real eye-opener! <br />

Will Rogers said it. What we know that ain't so can hurt us. Afraid to say this will be much tougher in the years ahead with the impact of social media.

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  • Craig S.
  • 18-09-19

Great listen!

Great listen! Shermer does a great job as always! Entertaining, enlightening and thoroughly engrossing stuff!

10 people found this helpful

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  • David
  • 02-10-19

Over sensationalization

Why does he find it necessary to use a rough voice when speaking as a conspiracy theorist and why does he need to picture them in dark rooms? Make your point without the artificial drama ~ I'm out.

23 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Brandon Sholund
  • 25-01-20

Unconvincing take on conspiracies and conspiracy theories

This Audible Original course from the usually excellent The Great Courses would have better been titled 'The psychology of conspiracy theories', since that is the main focus of this course. The first handful of lectures deal with a breakdown of what makes a conspiracy theorist tick but I found the argument unconvincing. In this era where conspiracy theories have become common fodder on cable news and talk radio, fills up the shelves of our bookstores and is swamping the internet I think we have moved beyond the concept of a loony tune ranging away in a crowded room. Conspiracy Theories have almost become part of pop culture and group think than one man shouting loudly from the fringe. Unfortunetly, this premise is not explored at all even though the most popular theories - such as UFO or 911 - involve numerous people spouting theories over decades. The psychology used is solid but not related to the topic and, thus, I found it to be unconvincing. This short series of lectures was interesting but, in the end, unrewarding.