A few years ago, I tried engaging with the flat Earth conspiracy. I mean I know it sounds ludicrous, but the idea that the Earth is flat and government authorities are covering up that fact is popular and held by hundreds of thousands of people at least.
The conspiracy theory only came to my attention because my friend and business partner’s brother subscribed to it. He came to us with YouTube videos and other internet resources to show us his astounding discovery.
My friend and I tried very hard to respectfully engage his brother. We took him seriously, watched the videos he wanted us to watch, and did our homework.
I was trained as an engineer in college, so I had some of the math and physics skills necessary to dissect the claims flat Earth people make.
My friend and I set up experiments we could do with his brother to independently determine whether the Earth is flat or a sphere.
We even went so far as to use navigation instruments to measure the distance to the moon and then use pretty simple math to determine its size. Not a big deal, the ancient Greeks did the same thing 2500 years ago.
In short, we were respectful, interested, and active about exploring the conspiracy.
Oddly, while my friend’s brother came along with us every step of the way, he never ended up abandoning the conspiracy. To this day, he strongly believes the Earth is flat and governments are covering up that fact, going so far as to fake satellites and the international space station.
Sometimes, there just isn’t much you can do. Psychologically, I think conspiracy appeals to some people. They enjoy the idea that they are among a small group of people in the know.
Facts and reasoning often can’t do much to counter that psychology.