A scientific study found a correlation between young Earth creationist views and belief in conspiracy theories.
The University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland, researchers, social psychologists Pascal Wagner-Egger and Sylvain Delouvée, mathematician Nicolas Gauvrit, and neuroscientist Sebastian Dieguez, were investigating teleological thinking, or a belief system that rejects randomness and assumes an end purpose for events. They theorized that teleological thinking leads to both young Earth creationist views and belief in conspiracy theories, and found a correlation using survey data.
"We find a previously unnoticed common thread between believing in creationism and believing in conspiracy theories," said Dieguez of the University of Fribourg.
"Although very different at first glance, both these belief systems are associated with a single and powerful cognitive bias named teleological thinking, which entails the perception of final causes and overriding purpose in naturally occurring events and entities," Dieguez added, according to a press release.
Lead study author Wagner-Egger, who published his research last week in the journal Current Biology, further explained:
"It's not that they reject randomness everywhere, but in some [historical and social] events, they reject randomness by seeing a conspiracy."
"It's as if they were rejecting human randomness or randomness in human events but not in every world event," such as an event in nature, Wagner-Egger told Live Science.
Two of the conspiracy theories used in the surveys were that the Apollo 11 moon landing was fake and that the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
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The study positioned that a creationist is someone who believes that God created Earth less than 10,000 years ago.
Such a belief remains widespread in America, with 38 percent of the population identifying with the young Earth creationist position, according to a 2017 Gallup survey.
Half, or 50 percent of Protestant Christians supported such a view, the same survey found, along with 37 percent of Roman Catholics.
The Current Biology study says that it asked more than 150 college students in Switzerland to complete a questionnaire about their theological beliefs and conspiracist statements. The questions also included measures of analytical thinking, esoteric and magical beliefs, and a randomness perception task.
The researchers also drew from a large-scale survey in France, where a strong association between creationism and conspiracism was established.
A further 700-person online study has led the researchers to believe that that association is distinct from other variables, including gender, age, analytical thinking, political orientation, education, and agency detection.
"By drawing attention to the analogy between creationism and conspiracism, we hope to highlight one of the major flaws of conspiracy theories and therefore help people detect it, namely that they rely on teleological reasoning by ascribing a final cause and overriding purpose to world events," Dieguez said.
"We think the message that conspiracism is a type of creationism that deals with the social world can help clarify some of the most baffling features of our so-called 'post-truth era.'"
Wagner-Egger added that previous research had shown that it is often minority groups or people "in the fringe of society" that are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, and to think that the government is hiding things from them.
The lead study author clarified that the research is not arguing that it is wrong to think critically about information from sources of authority.
At the same time, he warned that some people "take it too far" and refuse to consider arguments that prove their theories wrong. As examples of conspiracy theories, he mentioned vaccine rejection and climate change denialism.
Conspiracists "are not skeptical in the right way," Wagner-Egger insisted. "If you reject all [arguments], we cannot discuss anymore, and it's clearly a problem for years to come."