This You MIGHT Believe

A couple years ago I created a list of various theories and beliefs — part of a “This I Believe” writing assignment — to see how many of these my freshman writing students believed could be true.

Belief Meter

Here are the rules.

Cross out the items you think are fake or bogus or unlikely. Put a check mark to the left of items that could be legit.

If you have no idea what the item is even about, just leave it unmarked.

These are not trick questions where true of false depends on clever wording. If you think there’s a good possibility that the item may be true, check mark it. (E.g., if you think there’s a good chance, or even a moderate chance that 9/11 was planned by the U.S. government, check it. However, if you’re pretty sure the item is bogus, cross it out.)

Go ahead and take the survey yourself. I’ll reveal how my students did below.

1.  Area 51 – secret government work on captured alien spacecraft takes place there 10

2. Alien abductions – sometimes happen 10

3. Crop circles are caused by aliens, “earth energies,” plasma vortex or electromagnetic fields (in other words, they are not man-made) 9

4. New World Order – a secretive power elite plans to rule the world. 9

5. Raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk 8

6. 9/11 – was staged by the U.S. government 7

7. Camel’s milk is healthier than cow’s milk 7

8. Roswell – was the site of a UFO incident, not simply a government weather or spy balloon project 7

9. Bigfoot – there is evidence that this creature exists 6

10. GMO food is poisonous 6

11. Chemtrails ─ the white trails from aircraft are actually chemical or biological agents that governments are using to “geo-engineer” or affect the weather 5

12. Hydrocolon therapy is useful for detoxification 5

13. Aspartame is a very dangerous food additive, perhaps the most dangerous 5

14. Volkswagen’s 300mpg car has been banned from US because of Government/Big Oil conspiracy) 5

15. Vaccination of children causes autism 4

16. Fluoridation – it’s bad 4

17. Ionic foot bath therapy is effective for detoxification 4

18. Aliens built the Pyramids of Egypt (that is, extraterrestrials) 4

19. Cancer dietary therapies are better than surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy (that is, people should instead choose a dietary strategy) 4

20. President Obama – was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, as claimed 3

21. Rothschilds – world governments and economies are secretly controlled by the Rothschild banking family 3

22. Homeopathy is effective for some ailments or diseases (not a placebo) 2

23. Cupping therapy is effective for some ailments 2

24. Dairy products (especially casein) are associated with autism 2

25. The Holocaust (extermination of Jews in WWII) – did not happen 1

N = 19 freshman writing students
Total # checked = 132
Avg = 7; High = 16, Low = 0


The items are actually listed in the order of most-checked to least-checked. You can see the number of students who checked each item by running your mouse over the light blue type at the end of each line. As the stats indicate, most students checked more than one item.

FYI, I’ve conducted this survey for two years now and I’ve never had any item, including, sadly, the last one, go unchecked by at least one person per class.


6 comments on “This You MIGHT Believe

  1. charleycrews says:

    And they’re now all voting for The Donald.

    • jveeds says:

      The classroom discussion on the survey results for some of these items was both enlightening and disturbing. Some of the more outrageous items (e.g., Holocaust, the Obama “birther” item) were met with gasps of dismay, while others (esp. the alien items) were roundly affirmed. “Of course there are aliens!” And “Yes, Bigfoot exists…I saw it on TV… on the History Channel!” As a result of that last one, I have now outlawed the History Channel as a source for any upcoming research essays.

  2. Absolutely right! but the world is getting crazier and crazier. TV and media are actually helping spread misinformation and superstition. Take Newsweek’s Feb 2016 article about quack faith healer john of god. Extolling his quackery in the Science and Tech Category. Unbelievable.

    • jveeds says:

      I’ve heard of the infamous “john of god”– a complete fraud. What on earth is Newsweek doing covering him? (Unless it was an example of … I dunno) Well, I guess I’m going to have to check this out. Thanks for the heads up. Are you sure this wasn’t on The History Channel, along with Ancient Aliens?

      • I remember when we did school reports and we would cite and source materal from Newsweek as valid references. I was surprised, outraged and saddened after reading this garbage. There ought to be a law. But there ain’t. Newsweek = National Inquirer, etc.

      • jveeds says:

        Something like that happened to The History Channel too. They are now the garbage heap for speculative nonsense about everything from ancient aliens to Bigfoot.

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