Local professors break down the idea of a conspiracy theorist

NOW: Local professors break down the idea of a conspiracy theorist

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GRAFTON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Forty-six-year-old Steven Brandenburg, a former Aurora Health pharmacist, is accused of ruining 570 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Grafton Police say Brandenburg took the vials out of the refrigerator on two separate occasions. Brandenburg told investigators he’s a conspiracy theorist. He apparently believes the vaccine could change people's DNA.

“There are more people in our orbits who believe things like this than we are willing to admit, it’s just that very occasionally some of them go as far to acting on it," Dr. Kyle Whitaker said. He is a visiting assistant professor of philosophy of Marquette University.

He says the idea of “conspiracy theories” has been around for years, but it’s become more real for some people.

“They believe there is like a deeper truth to explain some large scale thing that happened, its hidden, it’s concealed somehow," he said.

Stacey Nye is a clinical professor at UW-Milwaukee. She agrees these thoughts don’t come out of nowhere.

“People who tend to have fear, anxiety or control issues be drawn to conspiracy theories," she said.

She says “we” as people have our personal biases.

“Confirmation biases, if we tend to believe one thing then everything we will look for in our environment will confirm that belief.”

Dr. Whitaker says it can be tough to challenge a conspiracy theorist.

“They already distrust all kinds of sorts of information, they already have good reasons they think for not believing your sources of evidence, so arguing with them is not going to pop their bubble.”

Brandenburg was released from jail Monday.

CBS 58 stopped by his home for comment and were asked to leave the property.

It is not yet known if the vaccines were destroyed. The vials will undergo testing.

Brandenburg's next hearing is Jan. 19.

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