When did you outgrow conspiracy theories

Scientist warns against conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories circulating are convincing

The corona virus was brought into the world by Bill Gates because he wanted to vaccinate us with microchips and get us under control. Secret powers are exaggerating the danger of Covid-19 in order to create an authoritarian world order. The virus is not to blame for the deaths, but the radiation from the 5G transmission masts. These are three of the numerous conspiracy theories currently in circulation. Not all are as adventurous as this one. What they have in common, however, is that they ignore or deny the scientific findings on Covid-19 - and thus often convince a surprising number of people.

Parallels to the climate change discussion

Dr. Jens Soentgen, head of the Environmental Science Center at the University of Augsburg, is not surprised. His colleague Prof. Dr. Helena Bilandzic, holder of the Chair for Communication Science Reception and Effect, and he already made the discussion about climate change. "At the Environmental Science Center we have collected and evaluated a huge number of skeptical publications on this topic," says the lecturer. "The current conspiracy theories about Covid-19 need to be put into a larger context. We are increasingly realizing that scientific findings are being questioned and that scientists are being slandered not only in the USA, but also here. "

In addition, supporters of such conspiracy theories also regularly question the motivation for researchers to deal with these alleged dangers: Because they have got lost in an idea and now do not have the backbone to correct themselves. Because they make a lot of money from their research. Because they gain power and influence. Because they want to create a new social order with the help of corrupt politicians who want to restrict civil rights and establish a dictatorship.

"Even now in the pandemic, we are monitoring these mechanisms," explains Soentgen. “The state reacted quickly and forcefully to the spread of the pathogen - with the success that the catastrophe did not occur in Germany.” Paradoxically, it is precisely this success that reinforces many people's doubts. They consider the virologists' warnings to be scaremongering, the government's response to be completely exaggerated - and suspect dishonest motives behind them. "Supporters of conspiracy theories can thus find a new role as enlighteners, liberators or even martyrs," emphasizes the Augsburg scientist. He considers it essential to understand this development in order to find an answer to it. "To this end, I think it is important to compare the arguments of the climate skeptics and the corona conspiracy theorists."

Differentiated perspectives and balance are important

He advocates a differentiated view of the science critics. “You can't just throw the aluminum hat over them and say: You're premodern,” he says. “The criticism of the expediency and the proportionality of the measures - now in the Corona crisis and in the fight against climate change - is legitimate. But where research is suspected and slandered across the board, we have to defend ourselves. "

So it will be important to deal with criticism in a balanced way, because science must not make any slander or generalizations: "As a critic of certain measures against climate change, you are not immediately a conspiracy theorist," says the philosopher. Anyone who denies the legitimacy of his opinion to others is blocking the chance of reaching them with his arguments.

Criticism is essential

To simply ignore the increasing spread of conspiracy theories, however, he would consider fundamentally wrong: "Our democracy is based on the fact that politics bases its decisions on rational criteria," he emphasizes. “Criticism of science and its findings is not only permitted, it is even essential - it is an engine that drives researchers to new findings. If this criticism denies the legitimacy of the scientific knowledge gained, if it places scientists under general suspicion, it becomes an elementary threat to our society and democracy. The enterprise of modern science is under attack today. "