Is That Conspiracy Theory Actually True?

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6 Tests for Evaluating Conspiracy Theories

America is awash in conspiracy theories. There are so many, in fact, that you can take your pick. From UFOs in Roswell, New Mexico, to the notion that power elites are planning to install a New World Order, to believing that the government fluoridated public drinking water for insidious purposes (not just dental hygiene), chances are that almost every American believes at least one. Conspiracy theories are even bipartisan. Similar proportions of both Democrats and Republicans are prone to conspiratorial thinking.

"So what?" you might say. Everyone has a crackpot uncle who believes in nonsense. Well, the problem is that when all of those uncles get together, they can create a serious disruption. For example, in 2011, three years after taking office, President Barack Obama was forced to hold a news conference to release a long form birth certificate, in order to disprove those who believed that he was born in Kenya and unlawfully usurped the presidency. And who can forget the modern-day witch-hunts spawned by McCarthyism?

In light of how powerful conspiracy theories can become, it's important to evaluate their validity before they can potentially do any damage. In their new book, American Conspiracy Theories, political scientists Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent systematically assessed over a century of conspiracy theories in the United States. With science in hand, they created a toolbox of six key tests to gauge whether there's truth behind a conspiracy theory, or none at all.

Click ahead to the right to check them out!

Source: American Conspiracy Theories, Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent, Oxford University Press, 2014

(Image: Shutterstock)

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