University of Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences and Political
Science Department held what was likely the world’s first official
academic Conference on Conspiracy Theories from
March 12th to 14th. The event was attended by 45 social scientists,
historians and philosophers, including this author, who was initially
uncertain whether he had been invited as a colleague or specimen.
estrangement and doubt toward the conspiratorial by many attendees was
evident in some paper titles, such as, “Anti-Science Conspiracy Theories
of the Right and Left,” “Telling the Truth About Believing the Lies,”
and “Conspiracy Beliefs and Personal Beliefs: Exploring the Linkage
between a Person’s Value System and his/her Conspiratorial Ideas.” One
overarching assumption in the social scientific research was evident in
three conspiracy bugaboos: “climate change denial,” “vaccination
denial,” and questioning President Obama’s genealogy. Other sources of
what certain academic vernaculars term “conspiracy ideation” or
“conspiracy belief” included 9/11, the JFK assassination, and the crash
of TWA 800.
made the conference especially exciting, however, was how many of the
social scientists—when they were not involving themselves in weighty and
often abstruse discussions over their studies’ methodological
nuances—were fending off challenges by the handful of cultural
historians and philosophers in attendance for failing to more closely
consider the often compelling substance of the many conspiracy theories
the former summarily labeled and took for granted as irrational.
the key note addresses of any conference are an acknowledgement of what
is believed to be the cutting edge and future of the given field.
Keeping in mind that the event was organized by political scientists who
must dance between disciplinary and institutional raindrops of their
field, the invitees were revealing, with two asking the proverbial “What
should be done about the conspiracy theories?” question á la Cass