New Scientist: Denialism is an illness

There’s a great introduction at New Scientist:

HEARD the latest? The swine flu pandemic was a hoax: scientists, governments and the World Health Organization cooked it up in a vast conspiracy so that vaccine companies could make money.

It then continues on to describe how Denialists are all ‘birds of a feather’, which I have found to be true online anyway.

Kalichman, feels that everyday reasoning alone is not enough to make someone a denialist. “There is some fragility in their thinking that draws them to believe people who are easily exposed as frauds,” he says. “Most of us don’t believe what they say, even if we want to. Understanding why some do may help us find solutions.”

He believes the instigators of denialist movements have more serious psychological problems than most of their followers. “They display all the features of paranoid personality disorder”, he says, including anger, intolerance of criticism, and what psychiatrists call a grandiose sense of their own importance. “Ultimately, their denialism is a mental health problem. That is why these movements all have the same features, especially the underlying conspiracy theory.”

Living in denial: Why sensible people reject the truth – opinion – 19 May 2010 – New Scientist.

A nice summary from a commenter over at Brave New Climate sums up the rest of the article as highlighting the strategies by which Denialists promote their weird delusions.

From the article: bullet points on how to be a denialist.

1. Allege that there’s a conspiracy. Claim that scientific consensus has arisen through collusion rather than the accumulation of evidence.
2. Use fake experts to support your story. “Denial always starts with a cadre of pseudo-experts with some credentials that create a facade of credibility,” says Seth Kalichman of the University of Connecticut.
3. Cherry-pick the evidence: trumpet whatever appears to support your case and ignore or rubbish the rest. Carry on trotting out supportive evidence even after it has been discredited.
4. Create impossible standards for your opponents. Claim that the existing evidence is not good enough and demand more. If your opponent comes up with evidence you have demanded, move the goalposts.
5. Use logical fallacies. Hitler opposed smoking, so anti-smoking measures are Nazi. Deliberately misrepresent the scientific consensus and then knock down your straw man.
6. Manufacture doubt. Falsely portray scientists as so divided that basing policy on their advice would be premature. Insist “both sides” must be heard and cry censorship when “dissenting” arguments or experts are rejected.

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