The human mind can conceive of more things than the universe itself is able to contain. In a fast-moving world with limitless information sharing, we cannot dismiss the importance of a widely-held view.
As J.K. Rowling’s character Professor Dumbledore said: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"
Conspiracy theories can promote a negative and distrustful view of other people and groups, who are allegedly acting based on antisocial and cynical motivations.
This can lead to increased alienation and reduced social capital.
They depict the public as ignorant and powerless against the conspirators, with important aspects of society determined by malevolent forces, a viewpoint which can be disempowering.
The human mind excels at discerning pattern and shape.
We see faces in flower-heads or rocks, and holy apparitions in dappled light.
We see order and beauty or evil in the world around us, indicating the presence of a Creator or a malevolent agent.
These psychological mechanisms of the human brain are vital for detecting resources, such as safe food, or warning us of danger.
They have kept us alive through millennia of hunter-gatherer existence but can misfire in our modern, complex society, highlighting conspiracies where none exist.
Like all things in life, suspicion needs to be applied sparingly.
Ignoring our suspicions can be fatal but over-suspicion can wreck families and communities.
We can't go on together with suspicious minds.
— Alternative facts brought to you by Peter Dowden