Equation shows that large-scale conspiracies would quickly reveal themselves

An Oxford University researcher suggests that you would be better off cutting back your ideas if you're thinking of forming a large-scale conspiracy.

We can all maintain secrets, but according to a research by Dr. David Robert Grimes, a big number of people involved in a conspiracy will eventually reveal themselves. The report appears in the online edition of PLOS ONE.

In addition to doing cancer research, Dr. Grimes is a physicist who writes and broadcasts on science. Because of his notoriety, he frequently gets correspondence from those who think there are conspiracies in science. He decided to investigate the viability of widespread collusions after receiving such texts.

"A lot of conspiracy theories center around science," he clarified. It might not be dangerous to think that the moon landings were staged, but it might be deadly to think false information about vaccinations. But not all conspiracy theories are false; for instance, several hypotheses regarding the operations of the US National Security Agency were validated by the Snowden leaks.

Conspiracy theories and their proponents are sometimes written off out of hand, but I wanted to examine these beliefs' plausibility from the other angle. In order to achieve that, I examined concealment, which is a crucial component of a workable conspiracy.

Initially, Dr. Grimes devised an equation to represent the likelihood that a conspiracy would be unintentionally discovered by a bungler or willfully disclosed by a whistleblower. For those conspiracies that don't need constant upkeep, this takes into account the quantity of conspirators, the duration of the conspiracy, and even the consequences of conspirators passing away—from old age or by more sinister ways.

But the formula needed a reasonable approximation of the likelihood that any one person would expose a plot. This was provided by three real conspiracies, one of which being the NSA Prism programme that Edward Snowden exposed.

In every instance, the extent of the conspiracy and the duration until it was exposed were exaggerated to guarantee that the likelihood of a leak occurred was a 'best case scenario' for the conspirators - almost a four in a million risk of purposeful or unintentional disclosure.

After that, Dr. Grimes examined four purported conspiracies, calculating the highest number of participants needed to make the conspiracy plausible. A few of these theories are: the belief that the US moon landings were a hoax (held by 411,000 people); the belief that climate change is a hoax (held by 405,000 people); the belief that unsafe vaccinations are being concealed (held by 22,000 people if one assumes that only the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are conspirators, and by 736,000 people if, as would be more likely, pharmaceutical companies were included); and the belief that the world's top pharmaceutical companies are suppressing the research on cancer (714,000 people).

In 3 years and 8 months, a hoax moon landing would have been exposed, in 3 years and 9 months, a climate change fraud, in 3 years and 2 months, a vaccine conspiracy, and in 3 years and 3 months, according to Dr. Grimes' calculation using the equation. Put plainly, long before now, any one of the four plots would have come to light.

Next he examined the furthest amount of participants that an intrigue may have in order to remain intact. The greatest number of persons in a plot for a five-year duration was 2521. A program can include less than 1000 people and remain undiscovered for over ten years. Less than 125 people should ideally be involved in a century-long deceit. If over 650 persons are involved in the cover-up of a single incident, even a simple one that requires no more intricate planning than everyone remaining quiet is likely to be exposed.

"Not everyone who believes in a conspiracy is unreasonable or unthinking," Dr. Grimes stated. By demonstrating how very improbable some of the claimed conspiracies are, I want to persuade some individuals to change their anti-science views.

Of course, not everyone will be persuaded by this; there is plenty of data to show that conspiracy ideas are fostered in echo chambers and that conspiracy believing is frequently ideological rather than rational. This makes it more harder to refute the more repugnant myths. We must accept facts over ideologically driven fictions if we are to handle the myriad issues that confront humanity, from climate change to geopolitics. To this purpose, we need to learn more about how and why some notions survive and become ingrained in specific populations in spite of the facts, as well as how we could challenge this.