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Denialism: what drives people to reject the truth

Add to cart. Be the first to write a review About this product. About this product Product Information Discovering the creator's destiny for my existence has been the greatest thing that has happened to me with the exception of the birth of my son. I feel like I have had a charmed life yet was aware early on that my spirit was placed on this planet for a reason. Hopefully, the thoughts and wisdom that has been given to me will transfer to the readers who pick up this book. I recommend that you meditate on this material and I hope and pray that your spirit will grasp even the smallest of details.

I humbly offer my heart and soul to you. Additional Product Features Publication Year. Show More Show Less. New New. No ratings or reviews yet. Be the first to write a review. Best Selling in Nonfiction See all. Unfreedom of The Press by Mark R. Levin , Hardcover Blue Book of Gun Values 40 40th Edition. Sabatine Ringbound, Revised Edition, The Book of Enoch by Enoch , Paperback Save on Nonfiction Trending price is based on prices over last 90 days. Linda McCartney. Denialism is rooted in human tendencies that are neither freakish nor pathological. All that said, there is no doubt that denialism is dangerous.

In some cases, we can point to concrete examples of denialism causing actual harm. On a smaller scale, in early the Somali-American community in Minnesota was struck by a childhood measles outbreak, as a direct result of proponents of the discredited theory that the MMR vaccine causes autism, persuading parents not to vaccinate their children.

Climate change denialists have not managed to overturn the general scientific consensus that it is occurring and caused by human activity. What they have managed to do is provide subtle and not-so-subtle support for those opposed to taking radical action to address this urgent problem. Achieving a global agreement that could underpin a transition to a post-carbon economy, and that would be capable of slowing the temperature increase, was always going to be an enormous challenge.

How climate scepticism turned into something more dangerous

Climate change denialism has helped to make the challenge even harder. Denialism can also create an environment of hate and suspicion. Forms of genocide denialism are not just attempts to overthrow irrefutable historical facts; they are an assault on those who survive genocide, and their descendants. The dangers that other forms of denialism pose may be less concrete, but they are no less serious. Denial of evolution, for example, does not have an immediately hateful payoff; rather it works to foster a distrust in science and research that feeds into other denialisms and undermines evidence-based policymaking.

Even lunatic-fringe denialisms, such as flat Earth theories , while hard to take seriously, help to create an environment in which real scholarship and political attempts to engage with reality, break down in favour of an all-encompassing suspicion that nothing is what it seems. Denialism has moved from the fringes to the centre of public discourse, helped in part by new technology. No one can be entirely ostracised, marginalised and dismissed as a crank anymore. The sheer profusion of voices, the plurality of opinions, the cacophony of the controversy, are enough to make anyone doubt what they should believe.

S o how do you fight denialism? Denialism offers a dystopian vision of a world unmoored, in which nothing can be taken for granted and no one can be trusted. If you believe that you are being constantly lied to, paradoxically you may be in danger of accepting the untruths of others.

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Denialism is a mix of corrosive doubt and corrosive credulity. Such people do fight back.


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Denialists are routinely excluded from scholarly journals and academic conferences. The most common response to denialism, though, is debunking. Just as denialists produce a large and ever-growing body of books, articles, websites, lectures and videos, so their detractors respond with a literature of their own. Denialist claims are refuted point by point, in a spiralling contest in which no argument — however ludicrous — is ever left unchallenged.

Some debunkings are endlessly patient and civil, treating denialists and their claims seriously and even respectfully; others are angry and contemptuous. Yet none of these strategies work, at least not completely. The judgment bankrupted him, he was repudiated by the few remaining mainstream historians who had supported him, and in he was imprisoned in Austria for Holocaust denial. But Irving today? He is still writing and lecturing, albeit in a more covert fashion. He still makes similar claims and his defenders see him as a heroic figure who survived the attempts of the Jewish-led establishment to silence him.

Nothing really changed. Holocaust denial is still around, and its proponents find new followers. There is a salutary lesson here: in democratic societies at least, denialism cannot be beaten legally, or through debunking, or through attempts to discredit its proponents. To continue to exist is a heroic act, a victory for the forces of truth. Of course, denialists might yearn for a more complete victory — when theories of anthropogenic climate change will be marginalised in academia and politics, when the story of how the Jews hoaxed the world will be in every history book — but, for now, every day that denialism persists is a good day.

In fact, denialism can achieve more modest triumphs even without total victory. A better approach to denialism is one of self-criticism. The starting point is a frank question: why did we fail? Why have those of us who abhor denialism not succeeded in halting its onward march? And why have we as a species managed to turn our everyday capacity to deny into an organised attempt to undermine our collective ability to understand the world and change it for the better? These questions are beginning to be asked in some circles.

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They are often the result of a kind of despair. It appears that nothing works in the campaign to make humanity aware of the threat it faces. The obstinacy with which people can stick to disproved notions is attested to in the social sciences and in neuroscientific research. Humans are not only reasoning beings who disinterestedly weigh evidence and arguments.

But there is a difference between the pre-conscious search for confirmation of existing views — we all engage in that to some extent — and the deliberate attempt to dress this search up as a quest for truth, as denialists do. Denialism adds extra layers of reinforcement and defence around widely shared psychological practices with the never articulated aim of preventing their exposure. This certainly makes changing the minds of denialists even more difficult than changing the minds of the rest of stubborn humanity.

There are multiple kinds of denialists: from those who are sceptical of all established knowledge, to those who challenge one type of knowledge; from those who actively contribute to the creation of denialist scholarship, to those who quietly consume it; from those who burn with certainty, to those who are privately sceptical about their scepticism. What they all have in common, I would argue, is a particular type of desire. This desire — for something not to be true — is the driver of denialism. E mpathy with denialists is not easy, but it is essential.

Denialism is not stupidity, or ignorance, or mendacity, or psychological pathology. Nor is it the same as lying. Of course, denialists can be stupid, ignorant liars, but so can any of us. But denialists are people in a desperate predicament. It is a very modern predicament. The discovery of evolution, for example, is inconvenient to those committed to a literalist biblical account of creation.

Denialism is also a reaction to the inconvenience of the moral consensus that emerged in the post-enlightenment world. In the ancient world, you could erect a monument proudly proclaiming the genocide you committed to the world. In the modern world, mass killing, mass starvation, mass environmental catastrophe can no longer be publicly legitimated. Yet many humans still want to do the same things humans always did.

We are still desiring beings. We want to murder, to steal, to destroy and to despoil.

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We want to preserve our ignorance and unquestioned faith. So when our desires are rendered unspeakable in the modern world, we are forced to pretend that we do not yearn for things we desire. Denial is not enough here. As an attempt to draw awareness and attention away from something unpalatable, it is always vulnerable to challenge. Denial is a kind of high-wire act that can be unbalanced by forceful attempts to draw attention to what is being denied.

Denialism is, in part, a response to the vulnerability of denial. To be in denial is to know at some level.


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  4. To be a denialist is to never have to know at all. Denialism is a systematic attempt to prevent challenge and acknowledgment; to suggest that there is nothing to acknowledge. Whereas denial is at least subject to the possibility of confrontation with reality, denialism can rarely be undermined by appeals to face the truth. The tragedy for denialists is that they concede the argument in advance. Climate change denialism is predicated on a similarly hidden acknowledgment that, if anthropogenic climate change were actually occurring, we would have to do something about it.

    This is an understandable but profound misunderstanding. Certainly, denialism and other forms of pseudo-scholarship do not follow mainstream scientific methodologies. Denialism does indeed represent a perversion of the scholarly method, and the science it produces rests on profoundly erroneous assumptions, but denialism does all this in the name of science and scholarship.

    Denialism aims to replace one kind of science with another — it does not aim to replace science itself. In fact, denialism constitutes a tribute to the prestige of science and scholarship in the modern world. Denialists are desperate for the public validation that science affords. While denialism has sometimes been seen as part of a post-modern assault on truth, the denialist is just as invested in notions of scientific objectivity as the most unreconstructed positivist. Even those who are genuinely committed to alternatives to western rationality and science can wield denialist rhetoric that apes precisely the kind of scientism they despise.

    Anti-vaxxers, for example, sometimes seem to want to have their cake and eat it: to have their critique of western medicine validated by western medicine.