Do you believe? Poll shows Americans subscribe to conspiracy theories

A poll released by Public Policy Polling suggests many Americans believe in conspiracy theories ranging from
by Heather Warlick Modified: April 22, 2013 at 12:30 am •  Published: April 22, 2013
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Are you convinced that shape-shifting reptilian creatures control politics? Is the Paul McCartney we know today the real McCartney from The Beatles, or an impostor: barefoot and out-of-step on the Abbey Road album cover? Do you think the moon landing in 1969 was faked?

These are a few of the somewhat outrageous claims some Americans believe, according to a poll released by Public Policy Polling. The pollster surveyed 1,247 registered voters by phone and found that some popular, and lesser-known conspiracy theories, are alive and well in the minds of some Americans.

“Many of us arrive at weird conclusions which are not based on science, evidence, or validated concepts. I think it's rather easy to buy into a left-field theory, even if a person is smart, because it provides an opportunity to examine atypical ideas — and people are into uniqueness,” said Bryan Farha, author of “Paranormal Claims: A Critical Analysis” and professor and director of applied behavioral studies and Counseling at Oklahoma City University. “But remember, although it's good to think outside the box, it may not be good to think way outside the box.”

Not so far outside the box may be the poll result that 29 percent of people believe in aliens and 21 percent think a UFO crashed in Roswell, N.M., in 1947 and the U.S. government covered it up.

“Believing in aliens means believing there are other planets somewhere that could support life that's intelligent in the same sense that we are. That doesn't mean that they come here and visit earth and crashed in the desert in New Mexico,” said Wayne Wyrick-Harris, director of the planetarium and “Celestial Wizard” at Science Museum Oklahoma.

“I believe that aliens are all over the universe,” he said. “There are an estimated trillion planets in just the Milky Way galaxy alone. And the significant hunk of those, in numbers of hundreds of millions, are probably earthlike in the sense that they could support the same sort of environmental conditions we have on earth.”

Additionally, Wyrick-Harris said, he believes that if the government did have actual aliens on ice in a secret lab somewhere, someone would, by now, have let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. With the anonymity the Internet affords, people are able to leak government secrets more easily than ever.

Does that mean aliens are roaming among Earthlings, hidden by the government or disguised as the rest of us?

“I don't think that they hop in rocket ships and come here and observe us,” Wyrick-Harris said. “If they're here, you're not going to ever see them. They're going to have technology to make them completely invisible to you.”

Farha agrees that belief in aliens likely is based on logical possibilities.

“If scientists find a single microbe on a distant planet from a faraway galaxy, technically, that's an alien,” he said. “So we don't know if those 29 percent believe humanlike alien beings have visited Earth. That's extremely unlikely and a different issue entirely.”

A common question Wyrick-Harris gets at the planetarium is about the moon landing as a hoax. The poll suggests that seven percent of Americans believe the landing never happened.

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by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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