Facts, not Fantasy

Friday, December 31, 2010

About.com: Science Denial for Beginners

Normally I would put this over at my personal blog, but if you look at the methodology and roots of the anti-vax pro-disease movement, you see that they are cranks of the same order as many other denialists.  I thought this article would be a good one to share with folks here then, since one of the denialist targets is mentioned directly in the article.

Science Denial for Beginners - How to Deny Science

Denialism is growing problem in America today. We large numbers of citizens who are in denial about one or more basic fields of science: evolution, vaccinations, climatology, etc. Denial is a means by which people hold on to ideologies that are threatened by reality and preserve a sense of control over a world they cannot directly manage. Every form of denial tends to make use of the same tactics. This is may be because no matter what the topic, denialism stems from common mental processes.

1. Conspiracies Everywhere!

Being a denialist means not only being in a minority, but knowing that you are in a minority. You can't be an effective denialist if you don't understand that most people, and especially those with any sort of authority, disagree with you. Denialism requires that you be able to effectively explain this and the best way is also a time-honored one: it's a conspiracy!
No matter who disagrees with you and no matter what reasons they offer, the "real" reason is always that they are part of a massive conspiracy against you. There is a nefarious plot afoot which is designed to suppress the truth in the service of some ideology — an evil one, of course. This makes you a brave warrior fighting for truth, justice, and the people.

2. Cherry-Picking Evidence

It may become depressing to keep finding evidence that supports the conspirators' case, but if you're persistent enough you're bound to stumble across little nuggets of information which, if presented just right will appear to support the real truth. Yes, it's strange that the truth wouldn't be more obviously supported by the evidence but this is just one more sign of the extent to which the conspiracy against the truth has been successful. The lack of obvious evidence is proof that the world needs you to cherry-pick any evidence you can find.

3. Logical Fallacies

If you allow your arguments to be limited to the rules of logic, you'll be playing by the rules of the conspirators — and when you do that, you're almost guaranteeing that you'll lose. That would be unacceptable! You have a duty to truth that far outweighs any minor importance that logic might have. This means that if you think you can better make your case with a logical fallacy, then you shouldn't hesitate to do so. Most people don't have a clue about logic or logical fallacies anyway, so the chance that anyone will notice is small. Convincing more people of the truth is what matters, not how you do it.

4. Fake Experts

Despite the fact that all the most important authority figures are part of the evil conspiracy against you, it's only natural that you'll develop some envy for the credibility that their authority brings them. You can counter this by creating your own fake experts — and it's OK to have "fakes" since it's really in the service of a "truth" that's being suppressed. Most people don't know the different between legitimate experts and fake experts anyway, so what's the harm? It's better to use fake experts who have no real authority or expertise than to let the truth be silence any longer.

5. Impossible Standards

Given the size and power of the conspiracy against you, it would be unwise to play fair. Remember that the conspirators are try to suppress the truth and that it's your job to stop them. You shouldn’t make it easy on them by giving them easy standards of evidence or logic to meet. Instead, you should make the standards impossible, always making things harder if they ever appear to be coming close to the demands you place on them. The harder you make things on the conspirators, the harder it will be for them to maintain their lies.

6. When in Doubt, Encourage Doubt

Sometimes you won't be able to convince people of the truth, but you can at least get them to doubt the conspiracy that is so popular. Preventing them from being blindly convinced of the lies spread by the conspirators is itself a victory! Get people to believe that the so-called "authority figures" don't all agree with each other. Get people to believe that there is equal evidence for both sides. Prey upon people's sense of "fair play" by hyping the importance of teaching "both sides" of any debate. It doesn't matter whether you really believe any of this; what matters is that the interests of the truth are furthered.

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