Peter Moore: Why people are so interested in conspiracy theories

It is helpful to ask why people are so interested in conspiracy theories

It is helpful to ask why people are so interested in conspiracy theories - Credit: Archant

So now we know all about the origins of the coronavirus. According to the internet the epidemic is entirely down to the new 5G phone network. But will 5G be dangerous for the Devon pixies at the bottom of my garden?

Musician Hayley Brown

Musician Hayley Brown - Credit: Archant

There is no evidence that 5G affects coronavirus and the idea doesn't make sense scientifically. Even so advocates of the theory have burnt down 5G masts, some of which were supplying NHS hospitals.

Even in Devon, BT Openreach workers have been abused even though there is no 5G in Devon.

There are multiple 5G coronavirus theories. Some argue that 5G makes the virus worse, another that there is no virus but the illness is all due to 5G and finally the whole outbreak is a gigantic hoax so that they can install 5G during the lockdown.

Try telling that to my colleagues working in the NHS.

This is all fake news but it is helpful to stand back and ask why people are so interested in conspiracy theories whether 5G, 911, Kennedy's assassination or the moon landings.

All conspiracy theories rely on an idea that there is some maleficent power undermining our lives and probably controlling the world. Maybe they've seen too many James Bond movies.

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These maleficent groups can be big business, large pharmaceutical companies, the CIA or GCHQ.

The conspiracy theorists believe that most of the population are being duped; perhaps they are not clever enough to see the conspiracy.

If anyone in authority or an expert points out the fallacies they are seen as part of the conspiracy.

With the internet conspiracy theories gain traction.

It is a natural human desire to explain and give reasons for disasters.

In Japan, earthquakes were due to Namazu, a giant catfish moving his tail, thunder was caused when the Gods were angry and tsunamis were explained by the Moken people on islands off Myanmar by the sea spirit Katoy Oken sending monster waves to purify the people.

There is always concern about new developments. When steam trains were new the British Medical Journal was concerned that travelling faster than we could go on a horse would be dangerous. Thirty miles an hour would seriously damage the body.

The Savoy Theatre in London was the first theatre in the world to install electric lighting but many of the audience were concerned.

The entrepreneur behind the theatre, Richard D'Oyly Carte, came on stage and smashed a light bulb to show that it was safe.

The public were happy with the open gas lights but frightened of these new electric lights.

Sadly, there is still fake news surrounding immunisations but even the most extreme antivac campaigners would not accept the arguments of a Victorian religious group.

When doctors were trying to encourage smallpox vaccination it was argued that we should not vaccinate.

If God wanted people to die from smallpox we should not interfere with God's will.

If stopping people from dying is against God's will then my whole career was against God's will but then so was Mother Teresa's.

When I worked in maternity in the 1970s ultrasound scans were new and only used when there might be a problem.

At the time there was a myth going round that scans damaged the baby and many women refused scans making our job harder and increasing the risk to their baby.

In science it is never possible to prove anything conclusively. We look at all the evidence and build up a picture. Eventually a theory is so established that it becomes fact. The safety of 5G is fully established.

I cannot prove absolutely that there are no Devon pixies at the bottom of my garden. I have found no evidence and the idea of Devon pixies does not make sense scientifically. Where I am certain is that there are no Cornish pixies. Now that would be fake news.