History has shown any cataclysmic event in the world has resulted in not just grief and shock among the masses but a host of conspiracy theories also.
From the assassination of former U.S. President John F Kennedy to the death of Princess Diana, a member of British royal family; from the world-changing collapse of the twin towers in New York to the baffling disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, people have never shied away from putting their own spin on the details of an event when the reasons from the authorities concerned have failed to satisfy them.
Some conspiracy theories have been simply outrageous, while others have offered a kernel of truth. But there’s no denying the fact that conspiracy theories strongly influence the outlook of a certain section of people. Now the question is why do people give in to these conspiracy theories?
A study published in the journal Social Psychology in July tries to answer this question by suggesting that the need to be special and unique drives the people to believe in conspiracy theories.
More than 1,000 people took part in the study titled “I know things they don’t know!” that was co-authored by Anthony Lantian, Dominique Muller, Cécile Nurra, and Karen M. Douglas of Grenoble Alps University. “An intriguing feature in the rhetoric of people who believe in conspiracy theories is that to justify their beliefs, they frequently refer to secret or difficult-to-get information they would have found,” Lantian was quoted as saying by psychology news website Psypost in a report published in August.
“This fascination for what is hidden, emerging from conspiracy narratives, led us to the concept of need for uniqueness,” he added.
The researchers found evidence to support three main tenets of their hypothesis:
News reports are coming out of India of a “rare medical case” involving a newborn infant who apparently spontaneously bursts into flames. This has occurred four times so far. The baby is now in the hospital being treated for these burns.
The International Business Times, with a headline declaring a “mystery baby,” reports:
Rahul, a native of Tindivanam, Tamil Nadu was admitted to Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital on Thursday for burns reportedly caused by a rare medical phenomenon known as Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) wherein a person catches fire due to emission of inflammable substances through the body.
They do contain some token skepticism, but then go on to discuss the “controversy” over SHC and the various theories about how it might occur. The earliest reports of this case did not even contain the token skepticism, which seems to have crept into the later reports.
Some of the doctors treating the baby seem to take the SHC theory as a given – a rare medical condition. They are seeking to explain how a baby can spontaneously burst into flame. The Daily Mail quotes one doctor as saying.
‘We will carry out tests to find out the kind of gases generated by the baby’.’
I think she meant “if” the baby is generating gas. Others speculate that the baby has inflammable sweat. These are nothing but wild speculations, but they are presented as serious medical hypotheses, while SHC is presented as a real medical condition.
The media has apparently been waiting for medical tests that they somehow felt might shed light on the case. As far as I can tell, these were nothing but routine blood tests, perhaps with some specific tests thrown in, to see if there was anything unusual. Unsurprisingly, these tests came back normal.
At least some of the doctors at the hospital where the baby is being treated understand that SHC is a “hoax theory,” as they are calling it. That is true enough. I have written about SHC previously – there are no confirmed cases and no plausibility to the phenomenon. A typical alleged case involves an infirm overweight individual with an obvious external source of flame, such as a lit cigarette. This is one of those cases when a non-mystery is treated as if it is a mystery and then “explained” with wild pseudoscientific speculation.
Given that the SHC explanation is nonsensical, the most likely (unfortunately) explanation remaining is child abuse.
- Spontaneous Baby Combustion (theness.com)
- 3-Month-Old Baby Self-Ignites (theepochtimes.com)
- How to Explain Spontaneous Human Combustion (psmag.com)
- Indian Baby Suffers from Rare Spontaneous Human Combustion Condition (icantbelieveit.org)
- Indian baby catches on fire – Spontaneous combustion or abuse? (doubtfulnews.com)
- Baby Has Randomly Gone Up in Flames 4 Times (newser.com)
- Baby boy on fire: skin biopsy today at KMC (thehindu.com)