Skip to main content
Back to Results
Cover image of Conspiracy
Cover image of Conspiracy
Share this Title:

Conspiracy

Why the Rational Believe the Irrational

Michael Shermer

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy

Best-selling author Michael Shermer presents an overarching theory of conspiracy theories—who believes them and why, which ones are real, and what we should do about them.

Nothing happens by accident, everything is connected, and there are no coincidences: that is the essence of conspiratorial thinking. Long a fringe part of the American political landscape, conspiracy theories are now mainstream: 147 members of Congress voted in favor of objections to the 2020 presidential election based on an unproven theory about a rigged electoral process promoted by the mysterious group QAnon. But this is…

Best-selling author Michael Shermer presents an overarching theory of conspiracy theories—who believes them and why, which ones are real, and what we should do about them.

Nothing happens by accident, everything is connected, and there are no coincidences: that is the essence of conspiratorial thinking. Long a fringe part of the American political landscape, conspiracy theories are now mainstream: 147 members of Congress voted in favor of objections to the 2020 presidential election based on an unproven theory about a rigged electoral process promoted by the mysterious group QAnon. But this is only the latest example in a long history of ideas that include the satanic panics of the 1980s, the New World Order and Vatican conspiracy theories, fears about fluoridated water, speculations about President John F. Kennedy's assassination, and the notions that the Sandy Hook massacre was a false-flag operation and 9/11 was an inside job.

In Conspiracy, Michael Shermer presents an overarching review of conspiracy theories—who believes them and why, which ones are real, and what we should do about them. Trust in conspiracy theories, he writes, cuts across gender, age, race, income, education level, occupational status—and even political affiliation. One reason that people believe these conspiracies, Shermer argues, is that enough of them are real that we should be constructively conspiratorial: elections have been rigged (LBJ's 1948 Senate race); medical professionals have intentionally harmed patients in their care (Tuskegee); your government does lie to you (Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Afghanistan); and, tragically, some adults do conspire to sexually abuse children. But Shermer reveals that other factors are also in play: anxiety and a sense of loss of control play a role in conspiratorial cognition patterns, as do certain personality traits.

This engaging book will be an important read for anyone concerned about the future direction of American politics, as well as anyone who's watched friends or family fall into patterns of conspiratorial thinking.

Jump to
Quick Add
Conspiracy

Michael Shermer

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy
Related

Related Books

Cover image of Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism
Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism

Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD
foreword by Arthur L. Caplan

$16.95
Quick Add
Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism

Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD
foreword by Arthur L. Caplan

Publication Date
Binding Type
Cover image of The Doctor Who Fooled the World
The Doctor Who Fooled the World

Brian Deer

$28.00
Quick Add
The Doctor Who Fooled the World

Brian Deer

Publication Date
Binding Type
Cover image of Viral BS
Viral BS

Dr. Seema Yasmin

$24.95
Quick Add
Viral BS

Dr. Seema Yasmin

Publication Date
Binding Type
Preorder
Cover image of The Conversation on Gender Diversity
The Conversation on Gender Diversity

edited by Jules Gill-Peterson

$16.95
Quick Add
The Conversation on Gender Diversity

edited by Jules Gill-Peterson

Publication Date: May 2, 2023
Binding Type
Preorder
Cover image of Reparative Universities
Reparative Universities

Ariana González Stokas

$34.95
Quick Add
Reparative Universities

Ariana González Stokas

Publication Date: March 28, 2023
Binding Type
Reviews

Reviews

A fascinating tour of oddball wrongheadedness, with gentle but firm prescriptions for combatting it.

Conspiracies succeed thanks to repetition, and Shermer's numerous examples prove how entrenched these beliefs are within contemporary American culture. The book includes solid tips on how to assess a conspiracy theory's veracity, how to talk to conspiracists, and how to restore trust and truth in national conversations....A well-written and essential tool for those navigating today's complicated geopolitical landscape.

What Shermer's book does is delve into the reasons why we are so ready to believe that, to borrow a phrase from perhaps the ultimate conspiracy theory work of culture, the X-Files: The Truth is Out There....Part of why we think that is because our levels of trust in those in power has plummeted in recent years....The answer, according to Shermer, is very simple. If everyone told the truth, and we all believed that was the case, there would be no need for conspiracy theories.

Conspiracists are often dismissed as fools or psychopaths, but Michael Shermer shows we are all susceptible: left and right, old and young, educated and illiterate. In this erudite account of the history and mystery of conspiratorial beliefs, he explores the devastating social consequences conspiracies can create—along with their powerful psychological and evolutionary benefits.

See All Reviews
About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
376
ISBN
9781421444451
Illustration Description
4 b&w photos, 40 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Apologia
Prologue. The Conspiracy Effect: Why Smart People Believe Blatantly Wrong Things for Apparently Rational Reasons
Part I. Why People Believe Conspiracy Theories
Chapter 1. Conspiracies and

Apologia
Prologue. The Conspiracy Effect: Why Smart People Believe Blatantly Wrong Things for Apparently Rational Reasons
Part I. Why People Believe Conspiracy Theories
Chapter 1. Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories: The Difference in Thinking and the Difference It Makes
Chapter 2. A Brief History of Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracists: Toward a Science of Conspiracism
Chapter 3. Proxy and Tribal Conspiracism: How Conspiratorial Beliefs Are Reinforced as Truths
Chapter 4. Constructive Conspiracism: Paranoia, Pessimism, and the Evolutionary Origins of Conspiracy Cognition
Chapter 5. A Case Study in Conspiracism: The Sovereign Citizens Conspiracy Theory
Part II. How to Determine Which Conspiracy Theories Are Real
Chapter 6. The Conspiracy Detection Kit: How to Tell If a Conspiracy Theory Is True or False
Chapter 7. Truthers and Birthers: The 9/11 and Obama Conspiracy Theories
Chapter 8. JFK Blown Away: The Mother of All Conspiracy Theories
Chapter 9. Real Conspiracies: What If They Really Are Out to Get You?
Chapter 10. The Deadliest Conspiracy in History: The Trigger of World War I and How Conspiracies Really Work
Chapter 11. Real and Imagined Enemies: Conspiracies in Reality and in Our Imaginations
Part III. Talking to Conspiracists and Rebuilding Trust in Truth
Chapter 12. How to Talk to Conspiracy Theorists: Engaging with People with Whom We Disagree
Chapter 13. How to Rebuild Trust in Truth: Reason, Rationality, and Empiricism in Reality-Based Communities
Coda. What People Believe About Conspiracy Theories and Why: Results of the Skeptic Research Center Survey
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Michael Shermer
Featured Contributor

Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer (SANTA BARBARA, CA) is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University, the host of the popular podcast The Michael Shermer Show, and the Skeptic Substack weekly columnist. He is the author of many New York Times–bestselling books, including Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, The Believing...