Conspiracy Theories: Solar Eclipse Edition

  • Salon on how solar eclipses are a breeding ground for conspiracy theories;
  • Rolling Stone on how the far right is subject to conspiracy theories;
  • Free Inquiry on why solar eclipses are nowhere close to being evidence of a creator.

While yesterday’s post was about the new Harari book that revisited his ideas of how major human concepts, like money, government, and religion, are ‘stories’ that people agree upon to enable a functional society, today’s is about another application of ‘story,’ the continued propensity of humans to imagine conspiracy theories about everything unusual that happens in the world. Things can’t just happen; they must be part of nefarious plots by the evil ones. Everything is imbued with meaning and intent; it’s a demon-haunted world. (The is a phenomenon on the right, of course, and related to morality, as I’ll explain in future posts.)

Now we have the solar eclipse next Monday. Of *course* there are conspiracy theories about it! Apparently this has always happened, every time there’s an eclipse. Human nature being what it is. (Did we see any of this back in 2017, when my partner and I drove to Oregon to see that solar eclipse? I’ll have to check. But not right now.)

Salon, Nicole Karlis, 5 Apr 2024: Nothing true under the sun: Why solar eclipses are a breeding ground for conspiracy theories, subtitled “Experts explain why astronomical events are frequently fraught with conspiracy theories and magical thinking”

As a total solar eclipse approaches North America on April 8, Americans are gearing up for a spectacular celestial event. But some individuals are using the eclipse as a way to float unhinged conspiracy theories.

Alex Jones, for example, is claiming that the government is planning to use the event as a practice run for declaring martial law during the eclipse, which will allegedly be enacted if former president Donald Trump wins the 2024 presidential election. And of course, it’s not just Jones. As Quartz reports, there are quite a few people on TikTok claiming the solar eclipse will mark the end of the world, drawing nonsensical parallels to biblical events. And apparently Carbondale, Illinois (population 25,000) is predicted to be doomsday’s epicenter, because it sits the center of an X of the totality paths from both this year’s eclipse and the one that graced North America in 2017.

(Jack Smith rule: none of these things will happen.)

Base motivations?

In fact, humanity has a long history of stirring up conspiracy theories around the time of a solar eclipse — and this year is no different.

“There are so many of them,” cult mediation specialist, Patrick Ryan, told Salon in a phone interview. “There are the purveyors like Alex Jones, who make money off these, then religious folks, who put together a story that can somehow make sense of the world, and it’s not new.”

(Is Alex Jones stupid? Or cynical?)

In the Book of Joel, it is written “the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood,” before the lord comes — which has continuously been interpreted that solar eclipses can be a sign of end times.

Even though the end times keep not happening (rather as the second coming keeps not happening), while eclipses do — very predictably — keep on happening.



Rolling Stone, EJ Dickson, 4 Apr 2024: The Far Right Is Crawling With Eclipse Conspiracy Theories, subtitled “Everyone has lost their goddamn minds”

Solar eclipses, like the upcoming one on April 8, are a well-documented scientific phenomenon. As early as 763 BCE, ancient Assyrians were charting the process by which the path of the moon temporarily obstructs the sun, and astronomers have continued to do so for thousands of years since. Our knowledge of eclipses predates our knowledge of gravity, algebra, and toilet paper. We are well aware of their existence, and we are well aware of what causes them. (I mean, I personally am not, but other people ostensibly are.)

What the ancient Assyrians could not have possibly predicted, however, was the singular stupidity of the current incarnation of the American right. Unconvinced by thousands of years of scientific inquiry, as well as driven by a general sense of apocalyptic bloodlust, many on the right are trading conspiracy theories about the upcoming eclipse, ranging from the belief that it signals the End Times to the idea that the Biden administration is using it as an opportunity to shut down cellphone service or bring in the National Guard in an effort to make beautiful blond children who play sports transgender.

Why does this kind of lunacy appear only on the right? I have an idea about that too.


There there are those who see every unusual event as an endorsement by God of things they personally don’t like (referring to this morning’s earthquake in New York): Prominent Cultist: God Sent Earthquake To Punish NYC: “God is pissed at this country like he’s never been before. Especially that area of the country. They’re the epicenter of the lawfare against President Trump. They’re the epicenter of the transgender movement. They’re the epicenter of where everyone is running around campaigning on abortion, abortion, abortion. God is going to smite this nation and it is going to be viscous.”

You can tell they’re just making this up, because they can’t agree. They are not working from the same deck of cards. Bannon: God Sent Earthquake To Support J6 Rioters. (This is a man who, oddly, doesn’t believe in conspiracies, but also doesn’t believe in coincidences. ??)


On a slightly more serious note. Again — this too is about people seeing in the unusual whatever it is they are already primed, by culture and community, to believe.

Free Inquiry, Gregory Paul, 25 Mar 2024: The Great Accidental Illusion: Why Total Solar Eclipses Are Nowhere Close to Being Evidence for the Existence of a Creator

Admittedly, it’s quite a coincidence that the relative sizes of the sun and moon, and their distances from Earth, should coincide so closely. (And yet some don’t believe in coincidences…)

Theists are sort of desperate. Back in the old days believing in a creator was pretty much automatic among the masses. In modern times when science has removed the need for supernatural explanations for our existence and religion is in overall popular decline here and abroad, believers in the supernatural are trying to come up with whatever natural empirical reasons folks should believe in magical entities they can cling to. Among these propositions is that the very cosmos is “fine-tuned” for the presence of intelligent life. Another—minor but pertinent in this country as a total solar eclipse will sweep across the United States on April 8, 2024 (, in the wake of the 2017 event that drew millions of hopeful viewers to the shadow path—thesis also based on extraterrestrial events is the existence of eclipses by the Moon of the Sun. The conceit is that it’s too much to expect people to accept that the extreme beauty of total eclipses, which can occur at and only at those particular times that the Moon is precisely the right distance between Earth and Sun to exactly equal the apparent diameter of the latter, as a mere coincidence. After all, because there is no apparent reason that the Moon could and by the statistical odds should not be markedly closer to or further from Earth, surely the perfection of the spacing cannot be other than a sign to we His creations from God that He is the real and awesome true Creator of our solar system (

And/or, an eclipse crossing a particular nation is not merely a sign of His reality but is a divine message—and perhaps a warning—to the sinful inhabitants of that land (, even though these things are way long prescheduled.

It’s all a bunch of hooey. Here’s why.

The gist: given everything we know about the origin of the moon, the movements of the planets including the changing distance of the moon from earth, there were *far more* eclipses millions of years ago.

These days the peak of total eclipses has already passed. Currently the Moon’s orbit has enlarged a little further than is optimal for producing total eclipses at maximum rates, that occurred back in the late Cenozoic before advanced hominines were available to make up deities. As it is, about 60 percent of eclipses occur when the Moon is sufficiently far away that a brilliant ring of sunlight encircles the entire Moon—that’s one reason total eclipses are so rare—and if the Earth and Moon’s orbits were perfectly circular, all eclipses would be these annulars. Annular eclipses are sort of impressive, but nowhere near as jaw dropping as a totality—they cannot be looked at directly with the naked eye, and because the sky remains fairly well-lit, neither the solar corona nor stars show. But don’t fret too much. For at least six hundred million to over a billion years, total eclipses will still occur; just how long they will last depends in part on the uncertain rates that apparent diameter of the Sun increases as it heats up and our planet spirals away. After that, all solar eclipses will be annular, which will be taken as evidence that God is dead perhaps.

Another long paragraph of details, then,

When all is said and done, the thesis that total eclipses are evidence for a creator is about as wimpy as you can get. Kind of sad, actually.

And then some thoughts about things about our existence the theists don’t want to acknowledge.

Theists have long been working to get us to focus on the supposed sheer existence of a creator via the beauty of our Lord’s creation. That’s because they don’t want us to pay due and necessary attention to the deeply dark underside of the proposed super intelligence. The universe may be pretty, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is correspondingly arbitrary, and can cover profound dysfunction or evil. Far from the universe being truly fine-tuned for intelligent life, it is in many respects hostile to it, to the degree that Earth is a toxic blue dot so infested with lethal microbes that diseases have killed off half of humans born, to the tune of fifty billion dead children ( and see part 2 too). There is nothing pretty about that.

This of course is our old friend motivated thinking: theists decide what conclusion they want to support, promote supposed ‘evidence’ for that conclusion, and ignore everything else. Well, like much else about human nature and culture, it makes for a good story. (See Harari, yesterday.)

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