There has been much comment about conspiracy theories - in particular, the damage they are doing to the battle against covid-19. There is no doubt that considerable harm has been done by people being fed falsehoods.

The best answer to falsehoods is the truth, hence the need to ask the right questions. The difficulty with that is who decides what is truth. The US president decided early on to keep the covid-19 facts from the public to prevent fear and panic. These noble aims contributed to the US leading the world in covid-19 related deaths. He might have had the best intentions in the world (or he might have had other motivations), but trying to hide the truth did not work in that case.

If he knew history, he'd have known that hiding (or more commonly twisting) the truth never leads to good outcomes. Or if he'd known literature (such as Orwell's works - or if you include movies, The Matrix) again he'd have examples of how hiding or twisting the truth leads to bad results. The truth can certainly hurt, but it leads to growth - often growth that would have happened without the pain (Peter Sellers in Being There).

Thankfully we're not like that in NZ - or are we? It is disconcerting that mainstream journalists have been unable to get answers to some questions. That leaves room for conspiracy theories. It's hard to believe that a new political party seems to exist solely because of conspiracy theories. As insane as it seems, that is just another step along the way. When the Ministry of Health gets wrong a public call for more testing, it adds weight to scepticism, and to the view that if they can't get it right, maybe others can.

Many years ago we lost a baby at birth. Fortunately, social and "fake" media didn't exist. We researched extensively the risk of VDU radiation on unborn children (both my wife and I worked with computers). We concluded that on its own, there seemed to be no direct correlation, although it could be one of the factors in some cases. Today we have flat screens, so that's no longer an issue (although I suppose someone somewhere has a theory they could be harmful.

The difficulty with conspiracy theories is they usually have an element of fact in them. If they didn't they are unlikely to gain traction, although as many have lost the ability to think critically, anything is possible. A big issue is causation. It's relatively easy to find correlations, but whether one factor causes the other (or vice versa) is more challenging. Just like we saw on Holmes the boy from Wainuiomata connect the branches moving to cause the wind, it is very easy to get them mixed up. If two factors correlate, one may cause the other, both may be caused by a third or they may just coincide.

Another difficulty is language, Many people have commented on manipulation of language, not least being George Orwell. When it comes to conspiracy theories, definitions are important. Until we agree on what we are arguing about, there's not much chance of agreement.

But the biggest difficulty with most conspiracy theories is intelligence. By definition, conspiracy requires an agreement. Most conspiracy theories lack signs of intelligence. Some have some truth but much is often extrapolated from the facts.

One of the ones about a century old but still very much around is Alice Bailey's "The plan". For people who don't recognise the spiritual, this whole idea seems nonsensical - life has just continued following the law of entropy. At the other extreme, all that is wrong with modern life is due to this "plan".

There is documentation of Baliey's plan to destroy many of the things most hold as precious - such as family. There is also clear evidence of theosophy and other groups being enlisted. Today we have people like Luciferians promoting it - while at the same time some Luciferian seem to deny Lucifers reality (just as many religious people deny God's reality either specifically or in their lives).

It seems to me that the downhill trend would have continued without Alice Bailey's help. Anyone who thinks she was THE cause is deluded, But there's no doubt she and her followers (even today) play a part when they have the opportunity.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a great example. He did not buy into Hitler's ideas (particularly that Jews (and others) weren't real people, so could be eliminated. He paid the ultimate price but always stuck with the truth he knew.