Dignifying most conspiracy beliefs with the label “theory” is almost criminal, since this leads to the subsequent devaluation of scientific theories by making them seem like peers. They’re not. Scientific theories, such as relativity, evolution, and the Big Bang, provide the best explanation for the entire body of existing evidence and are falsifiable. Scientists gain maximal glory by altering existing theories or creating new ones – not by parroting existing paradigms.
In contrast, many conspiracy adepts will not engage in debate that will allow falsification. This means that their beliefs are hardly hypotheses either. They are, most often, items of faith.
Here’s an example, made all the more obvious by my recent move to the DC area. A distressing number of people contend that no plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. They point to one or two bits of highly circumstantial evidence for their belief and discount other, inconclusive evidence that supports the generally held view that a plane hit the Pentagon. But, because the Pentagon is in the midst of an urban area with lots of slow-moving traffic, zillions of eyewitnesses saw the plane hit the building. As far as I have seen, the doubters don’t even address this evidence.
And so it goes, from faked moon landings – all of them! – to the reptilian takeover of Earth. Trying to convince full-fledged adults with such beliefs is as pointless as arguing over the existence of a deity.