Following Clarke (2002), a Lakatosian approach is used to account for the epistemic development of conspiracy theories. It is then argued that the hypercritical atmosphere of the internet has slowed down the development of conspiracy theories, discouraging conspiracy theorists from articulating explicit versions of their favoured theories, which could form the hard core of Lakatosian research programmes. The argument is illustrated with a study of the “controlled demolition” theory of the collapse of three towers at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Steve Clarke is a James Martin Research Fellow in the Program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences, James Martin 21st Century School, University of Oxford and Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University. His most recent book is Informed Consent and Clinician Accountability: the Ethics of Report Cards on Surgeon Performance, edited by Steve Clarke and Justin Oakley, 2007, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.