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5 Popular Conspiracy Theories in Science

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Toronto chapter.

Everybody loves a good conspiracy theory. From secret societies such as the Illuminati to aliens, it’s crazy how fun it is to read about and imagine things that the government and other organizations (public and secret) could potentially be hiding from us. But how much is actually true? Read on to find out more about five of the most popular conspiracy theories in science.

1. Moon Landing

It has been more than 45 years since the first moon landing on July 20, 1969. However, that hasn’t stopped conspiracy theorists from advancing claims that the moon landings were one big hoax planned by NASA with the support of various organizations. Proponents of the theory claim that NASA faked the landings out of its desperation to beat Russia in the space race and President John F. Kennedy’s persistence in fulfilling his presidential promise of placing a man on the moon. Theorists argue that astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin acted out the moon landing on a Hollywood set, or on a set deep within Area 51.

Popular arguments for the hoax include:

The suspiciously high quality of the photos released by NASA of the first landing of the moon.

While the quality of the moon pictures might seem too high for the time, there are actually many poor quality pictures of the moon. Only the best ones were selected to be released.

The absence of stars in photos of the landing  if the pictures were taken in space, why were no stars visible in the pictures of the moon landing?

The landing took place during lunar morning – thus, no stars are bright enough to be seen with the sun shining brightly on the moon.

The American flag appears to be being blowing in the wind in photos of the American flag being planted on the moon by Aldrin, the flag appears to be blowing in the wind. Since space is a vacuum, wind should not exist on the moon – thus, how is it possible that the flag would appear to be blowing in the wind?

Since the flag is held up by a horizontal bar, once unfurled, the flag moves as it is being put into position by astronauts. “The flagpole is light, flexible aluminium and continues to vibrate after the astronauts let go, giving the impression of blowing in the wind.”

Read about some other arguments and their debunking here.


HIV/AIDS is no disease to take lightly. Luckily, with the advancement of technology and medicine today, the prognosis of HIV/AIDS patients have increased drastically. However, this hasn’t stopped people from speculating the real origins of the disease.

According to theorists, AIDS was created by the CIA in an attempt to wipe out homosexuals and African Americans as a form of population control. Popular proponents of this theory include South African President Thabo Mbeki and Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai.

However, most scientists come to the consensus that AIDS was likely transferred from monkeys to humans in the 1930s.

3. Area 51

Ah, aliens. There is no shortage of information about Area 51 and the suspected extra-terrestrial life the American government is hiding there. Area 51 is a speculated alien and alien technology research base located outside of Las Vega, Nevada in the United States. It is widely believed that Area 51 is the housing site for an alien spacecraft that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. Other theories claim that the site also houses actual aliens, or is in fact run by aliens attempting to cross-mate aliens with humans.

Area 51 is likely one of the “worst-kept secrets on the planet” and was confirmed in 2013 to exist – however, it isn’t exactly the Area 51 that theorists have imagined. Statements from the United States Air Force claim that the location is for “the testing of technologies and systems training for operations critical to the effectiveness of U.S. military forces and the security of the United States.” 

Despite the widespread speculation about its existence, Area 51 has extensive security measures. Oaths are required from staff and workers at the facility to keep everything they see and research at the facility confidential. Commuters to the area are transported in unmarked Boeing 737s or 732s. The site is a prime testing spot for aircrafts and even bombs.

It could be that because it is the site of aeronautics research and secret aircraft projects that so many speculations about alien spaceships and aliens exist about Area 51.

4. Earth is Hollow

Remember everything that you learned in elementary school about the Earth’s core, layers, crust, and magma? Forget it. According to proponents of this theory, the Earth is actually hollow or contains little tiny versions of the sun. Other versions of the theory propose that a highly advanced species live in the centre of the earth with technology and science much superior to ours.

The opening or door to this “underworld” in fact exists in the North Pole, and once there you should be able to peer into the hole and perceive the centre of the earth or another highly advanced civilization.

This theory has a long and complex origin with explorers and proponents of this theory (such as the author of World Top Secret: Our Earth IS Hollow Rodney Cluff) actually attempting to prove its legitimacy through expeditions. Cluff unfortunately has been unable at present to embark on his expedition to the North Pole to prove his theory correct.

5. The Reptilian Elite

The Reptilian Elite is supposedly an alien reptilian humanoid species with an agenda to control the human race. They drink blood, eat flesh, and can shape-shift.

David Icke, former writer for the BBC and self-proclaimed “son of God” brought this idea to popularity in 1999. In his book titled The Biggest Secret: The Books That Will Change the World, Icke claims that the world is being controlled by the Reptilian Elite.

There are two stories relating to the origin of the Reptilian species. One is that the Reptilians were the original inhabitants of Earth and left after developing space travel, only to return millions of years later. The other origin story is that the Reptilians are actually from another constellation, came to Earth and shared it with humans before deciding (or perhaps being forced) to go into hiding.

Today, the Reptilians (or “Annunaki” as called by Icke) control human society (and have done so since ancient times). Prominent figures in society who are believed to be a part of the Reptilian race or a crossbreed between the Reptilians and humans include Barak Obama, Queen Elizabeth, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the Bush family. Icke also claims that the Reptilians are behind secret societies such as the Illuminati.

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Joy Jiang

U Toronto

Joy Jiang is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto double majoring in Criminology and Political Science, and minoring in English. When not lamenting in bed about the schoolwork she has yet to do, she can be found watching Netflix and home renovation television.