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Half the people surveyed believed these 6 conspiracies. Prepare to be frightened.

This image arguing that the cure for cancer has already been found has 100,000 shares on Facebook

The image to the left of this story has well over 100,000 shares on Facebook.

But this theory isn’t some viral fluke.

A study by the University of Chicago has revealed that half of Americans believe in at least some scientifically unfounded health conspiracies, and one of these crackpot assumptions might have serious public health consequences.

Others aren’t quite dangerous, but they are ridiculous. What is almost as troubling as the number of people who believe the conspiracies is the number of people who are on the fence about them. Here they are in order of worst to… uh, worst?

1. Doctors and the government still want to vaccinate children even though they know these vaccines cause autism and other psychological disorders.

A full and hideous 20 per cent of people surveyed believe this lie that is literally killing children. And another 36 per cent neither agree nor disagree with the statement. For those playing at home, that means less than half of Americans definitively believe that vaccines don’t cause autism.

2. The Food and Drug Administration is deliberately preventing the public from getting natural cures for cancer and other diseases because of pressure from drug companies.

Now I’m not saying that large pharmaceutical corporations aren’t dodgy at best and downright evil at worst, but this is a bit rich. And yet, 37 per cent of people agree with the statement and 31 per cent neither agree nor disagree.

3. Health officials know that mobile phones cause cancer, and yet are doing nothing to stop it because large corporations won’t let them.

There’s actually no evidence that mobile phone use causes cancer. Which doesn’t stop 20 per cent of Americans agreeing, and 40 per cent of Americans neither agreeing nor disagreeing with this statement.

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4. The global dissemination of genetically modified foods by Monstanto Inc is part of a secret program called Agenda 21, launched by the Rockefeller and Ford foundations to shrink the world’s population.

Despite the fact that only 19 per cent of those surveyed had even heard of this before, a full 12 per cent agreed with it, while 46 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed.

5. The CIA deliberately infected large number of African Americans with HIV under the guise of a hepatitis inoculation program.

While the United States’ treatment of its African American citizens hasn’t always been stellar, this one does seem a bit far fetched. And yet, 12 per cent of people believe that this happened, and another 37 per cent aren’t sure either way.

6. Public water fluoridation is really just a secret way for chemical companies to dump the dangerous byproducts of phosphate mines into the environment.

The biggest problem with this theory is that chemical companies don’t need ‘secret way’ to dump their dangerous by-products. They just do it, and face the fines later. Nothing secret about it. Rather than acknowledging the awful truth, 12 per cent of those surveys believe this story instead, while 41 per cent neither agree nor disagree.

There’s a general theme to all of these theories, which is that you can’t trust huge corporations or the government. There’s a certain sensibility to that. The CIA did, after all, arm and fund the Taliban, and Erin Brockovitch doesn’t have a career for nothing. But there’s a huge difference between a natural skepticism of powerful interests and believing in full-blown craziness.

And guess what? If you buy into the conspiracies, it’s a lot harder to effect change in reality.

Do you know anyone with their own conspiracy beliefs?

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