Scientist develops formula for calculating how long a conspiracy can be maintained.
Conspiracy theories are a fact of life in the skeptical world, and there are certainly plenty to go around, from Area 51 to the fake moon landing, but now a new study says it can predict how long an alleged conspiracy can last before it falls apart.
An article on BBC says Dr. David Grimes of Oxford University, and developed a mathematical equation that can be used to determine the shelf life of a conspiracy theory, and has applied it to four of our most famous ones.
His equation relies upon three factors: the number of conspirators, the amount of time the conspiracy has been perpetrated, and the intrinsic possibility of a conspiracy failing. Then, he selected four conspiracy theories, the belief that the landing on the moon was fabricated by NASA, that climate change is a fraud, a belief that vaccines cause autism, and the theory that drug companies have long held a cure for cancer but keep it under wraps for financial gain.
Dr. Grimes equations show that all of the above theories would have been debunked by today, if, in fact, they had actually been conspiracies.
Grimes formula estimates the moon landing, which would have involved around 411,000 NASA employees, would not have lasted more that 3.7 years before being exposed. Similarly, the cancer theory would have only lasted 3.2 years, the climate change fraud somewhere between 3.7 and 26.8 years, and the vaccine-related autism conspiracy form 3.2 to 34.8 years.
Dr. Grimes used three known conspiracies to develop a probability of a conspiracy failing, the surveillance program conducted by the US National Security Agency, PRISM, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, and an FBI scandal that revealed the agency’s forensic analysis was unscientific and misleading.
Using statistical tools and applying the numbers from the known failed conspiracies, Dr. Grimes calculated the probability of a conspiracy failing is four in one million. However, the odds increase as the amount of time passes and the number of people involved increases.
As an example, the moon landing, now 50 years old, could have only involved 251 people to have lasted this long, an unlikely scenario.
Grimes adds his new research won’t change the minds of those with convictions, but it may be useful to those in the middle ground, considering whether scientists could be perpetuating a hoax.
Dr. Grimes findings work appears in the journal PLOS One.