Why people go anti-science

Mark Hoofnagle at Denialism Blog hits the hail on the head:

In fact, if there is a unifying theme of denialism, it is that any extreme of ideological thinking leads to the necessary denial of fact. When one considers the causes of denialist worldviews, one sees again and again some form of fundamentalist belief. Fundamentalist religion leads to the rejection of evolution. Free-market fundamentalists are the leading source of anti-global warming denialism. On the liberal side, a mixture of technophobia and neo-luddism leads to paranoid suspicions about everything from GM crops causing non-existent illnesses to fear of harmless radio technology such as wifi to the fear of vaccines and medicine innovations exemplified by the HuffPo cranks and the evidence-based medicine/HIV/AIDS denialists like Mike Adams and Gary Null.

Any dogma that gets any followers is likely to be (a) simple and (b) emotionality satisfying, at least to some people. In fact any belief system must be simpler than reality, since reality is vast and probably not fully comprehensible to the human mind anyway. Once people become adherents of a dogma, they are likely to hold tight to it, since it’s their intellectual comfort blanket. And when reality proves that their dogma is at least partly wrong — as all dogmas must be, even though they are probably partly right, too — then the adherent is drawn into conflict with reality, and resolves that conflict by simply pretending that the uncomfortable truth isn’t there. And then the more serious of the adherents erect whole intellectual edifices, founded on bullshit and wish-fulfillment fantasy, as to why reality isn’t real.

What’s the cure for this? Simply to realise that any simple, pat, belief system isn’t going to be the whole truth, even if it does have good points. Put simply, no belief system about how the human world works is entirely correct, or is any widely-held belief system likely to be entirely nonsense. For example:

Religion: God may not exist, but nevertheless it is still bad for people to murder or steal from each other.

Free markets: are an efficient way of allocating scarce resources, under many circumstances, but they are not the solution to all human-organisation problems.

Medicine: some medicines have genuinely harmed patients, but most do good, and by spreading panic about vaccines etc one is almost certainly doing more harm than good.

Technology: most technology leads to humans living longer, more fulfilled lives; but some technologies have lead to a diminution of human happiness (e.g. telemarketers and spammers)

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9 Responses to Why people go anti-science

  1. Pingback: Keep it Complex « Fitness for the Occasion

  2. Jennie says:

    There is good and bad in everything. Well, except Hazel Blears. I don’t get why this isn’t obvious.

  3. jonathan says:

    absolutely.. ;)

  4. batguano101 says:

    More us against them, liberal vs conservative, wrong assumptions give wrong conclusions smoke and mirrors.

    God created the whole shooting match so He knows all science and created all science.

    There is zero conflict between God Almighty and science.

    Trying to pit science against the God fearing and visa versa is ridiculous.

    Your post is not about Christians vs Science but doctrines you believe in which deny God and avoid the obvious- there is nothing in the Universe that God the Creator did not form, including all that science has outlined so far and all that science has not discovered of God’s handiwork to date.

    God is God, men are not.

  5. Greypowered says:

    I think a response to this issue is what one calls “intellectual honesty”, that is the capacity to investigate things genuinely, without a hidden political agenda and with the least ideological bias as possible (absolute objectivity being also impossible). It also means accepting to deal with sometimes complex dilemna for which there are no easy answers. I know that it sounds quite banal, but it’s actually an attitude that is more easily talked about than implemented.

  6. God says:

    Thankyou Batguano! I appreciate your fellating of Me, however I must disagree.



  7. bluewaveted says:

    People are gullible, really.

  8. Personally, I think the term “denialism” is a convenient lable for a complex issue.

    It would be better to say that fact (what is accepted) is relative to the observer. Observers have several vertical filters: goals, alliances, processes, data, schedules and locations. When an observer receives input they have several layers of horizontal filtering that occur. The input must first be among the media that the observer is able to communicate in. Second, the input must be within the defined events of the observer. Third, the input must be within the domain the observer is prepared for. Fourth, the input must be within the logic of the observer. Fifth, the input must be within the context the observer is accustomed to. Sixth, the input must be within the conceptual framework of the observer. Only if input can pass all of these vertical and horizontal filters will it be accepted as fact.

  9. batguano101 says:

    Flip me a taco.

    The finger mullet have massed on the flats.

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