In February this year, the author organized a colloquium on what he called 'Weird History.' One of the things that came out of that colloquium was that many of the writers of weird history, and those who take it seriously, are intelligent and sophisticated people. Three recent books provide different perspectives on the human capacity to believe in things that on close inspection are weird, fraudulent or simply unbelievable. In Counter knowledge: How we surrendered to conspiracy theories, quack medicine, bogus science and fake history, Damian Thompson discusses a whole range of forms of what he terms 'counter knowledge,' a type of knowledge that runs counter to real knowledge, ranging from strange medical notions to bogus history to creation science and get rich schemes. Thompson blames a number of things for the success of counter knowledge, including the way in which the Internet spreads all sorts of ideas, the loss of respect for traditional experts and the post modern belief that one form of knowledge is as good as another.
Why Smart People Believe Stupid Things
In February this year I organised a colloquium on what we called 'Weird History'. It focused on some of the strange and downright preposterous versions of history that are currently floating around. These included Gavin Menzies' fiction masquerading as fact that a giant Chinese fleet sailed around the world in the early fifteenth century and the very popular writings of the Russian Anatoly Fomenko who apparently believes that Ghengis Khan was actually a Russian.One of the things that came out of that colloquium was that many of the writers of weird history, and diose who take it seriousl...