What is it about Thanksgiving that makes us want to argue with each other? Is it because holidays inevitably bring together the conflicting personalities that make up a family? Does communal gorging somehow awaken our thirst for confrontation? Or is it the nature of Thanksgiving itself–the inherent contradiction between the modern themes of giving, and a history fraught with colonialism and ugliness? Perhaps it’s a combination of all these things.
Either way, we have a thought-provoking and awesome list of Controversial Topics like Gun Control, Vaccines, and Free Speech in case you need to prepare for a confrontation with your most opinionated aunt or misinformed cousin.
Of course, these topics can get a little heated, heavy–even hostile. But a spirited debate doesn’t have to devolve into childish name-calling. It could evolve into childish laughter instead. And that’s the point of the list here. These are low-stakes “controversial topics.” Was the moon landing fake? Is Bigfoot real? I don’t know, but who actually cares?
In contrast to topics like Universal Healthcare and Police Brutality, these controversies and conspiracy theories have few real-world consequences. That’s what makes these subjects fun to debate over stuffing and carrot soufflé. Read on for…well, let’s just call this 10 Controversial Topics That Won’t Break Up The Family.
The concept of a spherical Earth dates back to Greek antiquity, possibly even earlier. The ancient Greeks provided evidence in writing of this belief as early as the fifth century BCE. Before this time, writing and cartography—especially that originating from Macedonian sources—suggested a flat earth. It’s not entirely clear where the belief in a spherical earth originated, though there is some speculation that it can be attributesd to the observations of ancient Phoenician voyagers. The idea proliferated through the schools of notable Greek philosophers such as like Pythagoras and Plato .
The Earth is a flat disc. Modern recognition of the Earth’s flatness originated in the mid-to-late 19th century, particularly in the work of English writer Samuel Rowbotham . Rowbotham observed that a combination of common sense and biblical evidence make the notion of a spherical Earth implausible and that, in fact, the North Pole is at the center of a frisbee-shaped object that is bordered on all sides by an Antarctic wall of ice. The Flat Earth Society continues to espouse Rowbotham’s ideas today, especially through social media. The false notion of a spherical Earth is perpetuated by conspirators in the U.S. government, especially those affiliated with NASA. Much of the evidence to support this view can be found in the Scriptures.
Key Source: Zetetic Astronomy, Earth Not a Globe
More than two millennia of scientific consensus find that the Earth is spherical. Writers, philosophers, and physicists of ancient Greece expounded this finding in explicit terms. And in confirmation of these scientific findings, the European voyagers of the middle century offered what might be seen as indisputable proof. In particular, from 1519 to 1521, Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastián Elcano undertook a successful voyage to circumnavigate the globe. Some would argue that their success in doing so without sailing off the edge of the world was fairly definitive proof. Others might argue that this proof has been solidified by humankind’s various forays into outer space, from which we have yielded extensive photographic documentation of the Earth’s shape.
Key Source: Natural History
The great pyramids of Egypt are estimated to have been built more than 4500 years ago. The most famous of these pyramids are clustered in a desert outside the city of Giza and served as both monuments to, and tombs for, the ancient pharaohs. The pyramids are an incredible architectural marvel, constructed from massive but meticulously arranged stones. The pyramids have long sparked curiosity for their scale, positioning, and the technological feats behind their construction, including the speed at which they were erected. It is said that, under the authority of the Pharaoh Khufu, these massive structures were built in just 27 years, using stones that weigh an average of 2+ tons, with some stones weighing as much as 9 tons.
The pyramids were built by extraterrestrial beings who profoundly influenced ancient Egyptian culture and technology. Human beings lacked the technology to create, move, and elevate the enormous stones used to build the pyramids, particularly over such a brief duration of time. Even by today’s technological standards, creating such a structure would be logistically formidable, especially during the relatively brief period overlapping with their construction during Khufu’s reign. Moreover, several of the most noteworthy pyramids are positioned in strategic relation to specific astrological constellations such as Orion. Therefore, the most logical explanation for the pyramids is that beings from another planet visited and provided the technology and architectural oversight for their completion.
There is no concrete evidence that extraterrestrials participated in the building of the pyramids. In fact, fossil evidence has produced a growing body of evidence that offers clues into exactly how the pyramids were built, by whom, and over what duration. Digging at the site of the Giza Plateau has produced evidence of sled ramps that might have been used to move the giant stones, as well as ancient graffiti depicting conscripted laborers working in groups of 40 to transport the stones. Archaeologists have also offered logistical evidence to suggest that a contingent of 3500 quarry workers could have excavated as many as the 250 stones required daily to have completed the pyramids over the estimated duration of 27 years.
Key Source: Giza and the Pyramids
On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley was pronounced dead. At just the age of 42, the best selling solo artist of all time was said to have died suddenly at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. Some disputes exist as to the exact cause of his alleged death, with a combination of chronic drug abuse, obesity, and constipation likely contributing to a massive heart attack. Though the King of Rock and Roll had been in visibly declining health, the public was shocked by the loss of the beloved, larger-than-life star.
Elvis did not die in August of 1977 and has been cited frequently in public in the ensuing decades. Adherents to this view—4% of surveyed Americans in a 1997 poll—hold a number of theories about his whereabouts, the most compelling of which is that Elvis was forced to fake his own death and enter witness relocation to escape an impending Mafia hit. The theory holds that Elvis worked as a mole for the FBI, due to his publicly-stated admiration for the law enforcement agency. He was dispatched to investigate racketeering charges against a group called the Fraternity, but when the mobsters discovered his affiliation with law enforcement, he was forced into hiding.
Key Source: Is Elvis Alive?
There is definitive evidence in reports from the medical examiner, eyewitnesses, and family members that Elvis died in August of 1977 and remains buried under the tombstone bearing his name on the grounds of Graceland.
Key Source: Elvis Decoded
In 1967, with the Beatles at the height of their popularity and in a period of dramatic artistic exploration, a rumor surfaced that singer, songwriter and bassist Paul McCartney was dead, and that he had been replaced by a lookalike. The rumor proliferated widely in the public, especially as a host of clues and messages seemingly appeared in songs and on album covers. College campuses proved a particularly fertile ground for amateur album forensics, with fans and conspiracy theorists eagerly lapping up perceived clues about the coverup. Suspicion of Paul’s death reached a fever pitch in 1969, particularly with the release of the album, Abbey Road.
Paul McCartney was killed in a car crash on November 9th, 1966 and the surviving Beatles, in an effort to shield the public from grief, enlisted the winner of a Paul McCartney lookalike contest to replace their bandmate. A man named William Campbell (sometimes also identified in song as Billy Shears) won the honor and has since lived and performed as Paul McCartney. In order to communicate the news to fans, the living Beatles left a trail of clues in song lyrics and album cover art. For instance, the Abbey Road album cover depicted the four Beatles crossing the famed street outside of their London recording studio. “Paul” was conspicuously barefoot while his bandmates seemed costumed as different participants in a funeral procession. This was one way that the Beatles conveyed the sad news to their fans.
Key Source: “Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?”
Paul McCartney is alive and well. A noted article in a 1969 issue of Life Magazine captured Paul in retreat with his wife Linda and their two daughters. He acknowledged that some of the rumors had been magnified by his recent absence from the public eye. The article quelled the hysteria surrounding the rumors, but did not dissuade some of the most dedicated adherents. Nor have they been dissuaded by the dozens of albums released in both McCartney’s solo career or with Wings, a band that also included Linda as a member. As to the countless clues that do seem to weave through Beatles songs and album art, the commonly held view is that this was a playful hoax perpetrated by a band with a well-established sense for both humor and mystery. In any event, the Paul is Dead hysteria coincided with a sizable uptick in the Beatles’ already unparalleled album sales.
Key Source: Paul is Still With Us
In the mid-1960s, with the Cold War raging and the United States locked in heated competition with the Soviet Union to expand its technological, scientific, and military capabilities, both sides engaged in a costly and ambitious Space Race. By all accounts, the Soviets were well ahead of the United States in the early stages of this race. Russia startled American policy-makers when it successfully launched the first unmanned object into orbit with Sputnik in 1957. The satellite sparked an aggressive American investment of time, technology, and manpower into reaching space. Russia continued its dominance in this contest with the 1961 launch of Vostok 1, a capsule containing cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin . The Russian became the first man in space. As the decade wore on, and the two superpowers vied for astrological supremacy, the United States did eventually claim a series of firsts, the most consequential of which was the Apollo 11 voyage, and Lunar Module Eagle moon landing on July 20, 1969. The widely televised and highly celebrated moonwalk of commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin has long been regarded as a landmark moment in both American and human history.
The moon landing and subsequent moonwalk were both the products of sophisticated studio trickery. A massive government coverup was perpetrated in order to advance America’s flagging efforts in the Space Race. The full series of Apollo missions was an elaborate hoax involving hundreds of knowing co-conspirators working on a secret sound stage. The primary motivation behind this ruse was the pressing need to compete with the superior Russian space program. In surveys, as many as 20% of Americans—and 28% of Russians—believe that the Apollo moon landing never took place.
Key Source: How America Faked the Moon Landings
The moon landing was a major technological achievement produced by the ingenuity of the American space program, and was preceded by a decade of research, development, and preliminary space missions. In order for the moon landing to have been faked, the hoax would have been carried out and maintained by hundreds of participants including the array of civilians employed in various capacities as part of the NASA program. Moreover, an array of more recent satellite images and rover missions have provided further documented photographic evidence of both the original Lunar Module’s landing site and the various American flags which have been posted on the lunar surface to mark each of these landings. This evidence suggests that the original moon landing occurred just as it was presented in both televised broadcasts and in all verified historical accounts offered since.
Key Source: The Right Stuff
For centuries, stories and sightings have been reported both by the members of North American indigenous tribes, and later by loggers, of a large primate-like creature who resides in the forests of the American and Canadian northwest. First identified in the 1940s using the Native American term Sasquatch, the unconfirmed species is more often given the name Bigfoot for the massive bipedal tracks frequently cited in connection to its existence. While science has never confirmed the existence of the species, claims of the creature’s appearance and behavior are deeply embedded in the history and culture of the Northwest including areas of Northern California, Oregon, Washington State, and British Columbia. Much of the activity aimed at confirming the existence of Bigfoot has been concentrated around this region.
Bigfoot is real. There is a long and documented history tracing its way back to Native American mythology depicting in both drawings and oral tradition the existence of a “wild, hairy man.” Descriptions of the creature’s appearance, behavior and whereabouts are relatively consistent throughout a history which leads directly into a number of noteworthy sightings across the 20th Century. Some historical accounts depict the creature as benign and generally inclined to avoid interactions with humanity while others recount violent and even deadly encounters with the large beast. However, the long and consistent resurgence of appearances demonstrates that Bigfoot is both real and highly elusive. Among the most notable strands of proof is the iconic minute-long 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film which is said to capture actual footage of a female Bigfoot in Oregon. The legitimacy of this film has never been debunked.
Key Source: Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist?
Bigfoot is a mythological creature and among the most prominent subjects of the pseudoscientific field called cryptozoology. This field centers around a belief in the actual existence of creatures for which there is no empirical evidence. Zoological experts argue that the vast majority of clues as to the existence of a Bigfoot creature can either be attributed to the common behaviors of other indigenous creatures or to manmade hoaxes. As to the latter, a number of Bigfoot related hoaxes have been prominently debunked over the course of the 20th Century, with the desire of human beings to perpetrate such hoaxes casting meaningful doubt on Bigfoot’s existence.
Finland is a Nordic country in Northern Europe that shares borders with Russia, Sweden, and Norway. It also borders the Gulfs of Bothnia and Finland, the latter of which places it directly across the Baltic Sea from Estonia. For much of its history, Finland was subordinate to one or the other of its neighbors, with Sweden ruling the region for nearly 500 years before Russian annexation in 1809. Finland declared its independence in 1917, joined the United Nations in 1955, and is home to roughly 5.5 million people today. It has also ranked first overall on the World Happiness Report for the last four years running.
Finland is a fictional land created in a secret pact between Russia and Japan aimed at facilitating shared fishing rights in the Baltic Sea. The plan was drawn up at some point during the 1920s and accounts for the reason that Russia and Japan have maintained relatively friction-free relations for the better part of a highly tumultuous century. The world population has been convinced of the existence of Finland as part of an elaborate scam in which Russia enjoys uncontested fishing rights in the Baltic and in which the Trans Siberian railway was constructed entirely with the purpose of transporting fish—under the guise of Nokia products—to Japan. With regard to the 5.5 million inhabitants of Finland—they too are victims of Russian and Japanese subterfuge. All believe they are living in a place called Finland, but most unknowingly reside in the remote rural regions of Sweden, Estonia, and Russia.
Key Source: Reddit
By most accounts, the increasingly popular notion that Finland doesn’t exist is attributable to a single Reddit post that has since gone viral. The original poster, named Raregans, reports that the idea was actually related to him by his parents, and that he himself does not believe it to be the case. However, the post took on its own life via social media, and snowballed into a widespread conspiracy theory which a number of readers believe is fact. To the contrary, the original poster recognizes the existence of Finland, a fact confirmed by humanity’s easily accessible ability to fly by airplane over Finland and view the geographical mass from overhead. Satellite imagery confirms the same.
Key Source: The World Facebook
The first notable account of reptilian creatures assuming human form can be traced to the work of fantasy author Robert E. Howard who, in addition to originating iconic pulp character Conan the Barbarian, published a story called “The Shadow Kingdom” in a 1929 issue of Weird Tales. In it, he drew on stories of lost civilizations like Atlantis and Lemuria to expound upon an also lost race of “serpent men.” In his telling, these creatures used shapeshifting and mind-control abilities to infiltrate human societies. Other writers who expounded upon this theme included H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith . These writings—presented as fiction—ultimately influenced work on the subject which has been presented as non-fictional.
Shapeshifting reptilian humanoids have infiltrated the global seats of power for millennia. These lizard-like creatures likely arrived here as extraterrestrials, and live in plain sight as wealthy elites, dignitaries, political leaders, and military officials. From the Bush Family and the British Royal Family to the Rothschilds and the medieval Frank Kings, the great empires of the world have answered to these alien lizard people. Former English footballer and writer David Icke has played a major role in proliferating awareness of the lizard people. More recently, YouTube videos and reader forums have provided verifiable evidence of a reptilian conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of the U.S. government.
There is no evidence to support the existence of shapeshifting lizard people, let alone proof that they have successfully occupied the seats of wealth, power and influence throughout the world for millennia. The work of writers like David Icke, as well as of more recent ideas espoused by the shadowy QAnon leader known as Q, have been largely dismissed by fact-checkers and journalists as conspiracy theory without proof or grounding in reality. Many of the ideas offered by these influencers can be more readily traced to fantasy and science-fiction influences than to concrete proof.
Key Source: The Shadow Kingdom
In 1995, a woman named Nancy Lieder used her website to describe her experiences as a recipient of messages from extraterrestrials. In this capacity, she was chosen by beings from the Zeta Reticuli star system to warn humanity that a major cosmological event would soon lead to the Earth’s destruction. The originally proposed date of that destruction was in May of 2003. Since that time, the Earth’s destruction has been subject to numerous delays and schedule changes.
A planet beyond Neptune called Nibiru (sometimes also identified as Planet X) will collide with the Earth at some point in the early 21st Century, causing a pole shift that will ultimately wipe out most life on the planet. The number of adherents to this belief grew widely with the approach of 2012, a year marked as the end-date of a calendar created by the Mayan civilization more than 5000 years prior. It was believed that a cataclysmic event would ultimately give way to a spiritual transformation for those humans enlightened enough to receive it. At the time of writing, it is not entirely clear on what date the Earth will actually be destroyed in a collision with a faraway planet.
Theories that an object of any kind is on course to collide with the Earth are not based on scientific fact or findings. No evidence exists to support this claim, and those who believe that such an event will occur are informed by easily refuted pseudoscience. Moreover, the numerous consequential dates proposed by adherents to this viewpoint for the occurrence of an apocalypse have all come and gone, including Lieder’s May 2003 date, the widely-anticipated 2012 phenomenon, and September 23, 2017, which was widely promoted as the end-of-days by Christian numerologist David Meade”.
Key Source: Beyond 2012: Why the World Didn’t End
In 2003, Artificial Intelligence expert Nick Bostrom posed the question, “are we living in a computer simulation?” Bostrom articulated a question of profound interest to quantum physicists and science fiction writers alike. This question drove a wave of existential interest in our relationship to rapidly growing technological capabilities in both scientific communities and in popular culture. In 1999, groundbreaking dystopian science fiction film The Matrix even brought the question to mainstream attention.
All of our experiences, perceptions and interactions are the manifestation of an extremely complex and elaborate computer simulation. Within this simulation, each of us is cast in much the same way that an avatar might be cast in a computer role playing game. For all of humanity, reality is merely an illusion created by an exceedingly sophisticated computer algorithm. This reality forces us to confront a wide range of questions about identity and free will. There is no empirical evidence to refute the likelihood that we are living in a computer simulation.
Even the most powerful computing capabilities known to man can’t simulate the quantum systems that we know to be true in nature today. In other words, it isn’t possible that we could be living in a massive computer simulation not because the idea is beyond our comprehension, but because there simply isn’t enough processing power in the world to create a simulation as complex, elaborate and multifaceted as the world we know.
Now that you have a few fun debate topics at your fingertips, we also strongly urge you to discern fact from fiction. These are fun debate topics, but the actual truth of each matter is pretty clear to a reasoning human being. But that isn’t the case with every issue. Sometimes, the line between truth and fiction is blurred just enough to be invisible. For those occasions, we invite you to check out our important set of tips for How Students Can Spot Fake News.