by James Tracy
Professor Quassim Cassam has been awarded £250,000 (or $391, 737) by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) UK to study what he calls ‘intellectual vices’. The title of his project is ‘Vice Epistemology’.
He believes his research could help to explain how certain claims – for example that 9/11 was masterminded by the US government – are able to gain so much traction.
His findings may also shed light on why some people are susceptible to becoming radicalised in ways that make them potential recruits for extremist organisations such as Islamic State.
Prof Cassam said: “In 2008, a global poll of over 16,000 people found fewer than half believed that al-Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, with a significant number attributing the collapse of the World Trade Centre towers to a controlled demolition by the US government.
“We live in a world where strange conspiracy theories such as this abound, often with dire social and political consequences. But how are such beliefs to be explained?