Instructor Spotlight: Max Eimbinder and Jacob Zimmerman

The ExCollege dove into the world of conspiracy theories with Max Eimbinder and Jacob Zimmerman, the Explorations Leaders behind, Conspiracy Theories and the Epistemology of Belief.
Max Eimbinder and Jacob Zimmerman

What inspired you to teach this course?

Max Eimbinder: Most of my previous coursework revolves around doing things in order to understand them. For me, this includes lab reports and experiments. Jacob and I started talking about conspiracy theories and how confusing it is, especially to someone from the outside. We wanted to apply some of those same ideas to this course, and that guides every decision we make. In our syllabus, we wrote that you might not remember the specifics of any class that you took in college, but we want the ideas discussed in this class to help inform the way you look at the world.

Jacob Zimmerman: I love conspiracy theories, and I have always been interested in the ways narratives shape culture. I felt that conspiracy theories are the perfect lens to analyze how these narratives lead a group of people to share beliefs.

What has the experience of teaching and designing this course taught you?

ME: My confidence and my ability to speak in public have gone up significantly. I have also learned a tremendous amount about how to effectively keep someone’s attention and how to structure content in a way to make it easy to understand.

JZ: Teaching has taught me a lot about being a student, and most importantly that finding something you are truly interested in or and ideally not quite certain about is the key to learning deeply.

Do you have a favorite documentary or docu-series about conspiracy theories?

ME: Qanon: Into the storm. It is wild to think that some internet troll can deliberately manipulate the direction our society is going. I also really like Capricorn One.

JZ: I love watching actual conspiracy theorists' movies. Above Majestic is a really fun and kind of hilarious alien conspiracy theory movie.

What do you hope students will take away from this class?

ME: The class is designed to make people challenge their beliefs, and I would be overjoyed if someone had changed their way of thinking after scrutinizing it further.

JZ: Hopefully, years after taking the class, students still remember how loose the foundations of our belief systems really are. It's important to examine whether you can trust the things that you know.

Finally, what is your favorite conspiracy theory?

ME: I’m not sure if this counts, but I believe that Aliens do exist. To be fully honest, I do not really believe in any conspiracies, but they reflect society in a really interesting way that allows us to better understand our own beliefs.

JZ: My favorite conspiracy theory is that many of the corporate and government elite go to a camp in California called Bohemian Grove and participate in, let's just say, "interesting activities."

Max Eimbinder (He/His) grew up in Tenafly, NJ. He is a senior at Tufts studying Biology, Biotechnology, and Finance. Outside of his coursework, Max can be found in the Xu Lab working on Lipid Nanoparticles, at Tisch Library working at the front desk, or at Greentown Labs, where he works for a start-up called Phytoform Labs.

Jacob Zimmerman (He/His) is from Philadelphia but grew up in Beijing, China. He studies Computer Science but loves Cultural Anthropology. At Tufts he plays Club Soccer and also is starting the Tufts CS Side-Projects Collaborative. He also spent a semester as a galleried landscape painter in Taos, New Mexico.