Public trust in facts has been on the decline for about two decades, and it’s taken a toll. Americans no longer agree on a common set of facts. Many can’t tell the difference between a fact and an opinion, and a growing number no longer trust experts or institutions that used to be the source of basic information. These trends together have led to an epistemic crisis known as truth decay.

Conspiracy theories are nothing new. The oldest ones date back to Roman times and have circulated in varying degrees ever since. From the belief that the Earth is flat or that the CIA assassinated JFK to the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was rigged, these theories appeal to people looking for some semblance of order in our turbulent world. Apparently, there’s quite a few of these folks. According to two University of Chicago researchers, half of all Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory.