NYT: Denialism

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hv808ct
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NYT: Denialism

Post by hv808ct » Mon 9 Nov 2015 20:32

The Price of Denialism
NYT, By Lee McIntyre November 7, 2015

[snips]

A good first step would be to distinguish between skepticism and what has come to be known as denialism. In other words, we need to be able to tell when we believe or disbelieve in something based on high standards of evidence and when we are just engaging in a bit of motivated reasoning and letting our opinions take over. When we withhold belief because the evidence does not live up to the standards of science, we are skeptical. When we refuse to believe something, even in the face of what most others would take to be compelling evidence, we are engaging in denial. In most cases, we do this because at some level it upsets us to think that the theory is true.

The throes of denial must feel a lot like skepticism. The rest of the world “just doesn’t get it.” We are the ones being rigorous. How can others be so gullible in believing that something is “true” before all of the facts are in? Yet a warning should occur when these stars align and we find ourselves feeling self-righteous about a belief that apparently means more to us than the preservation of good standards of evidence. Whether they are willing to admit it or not — perhaps even to themselves — denialists often know in advance what they would like to be true. But where does that leave the rest of us who think that our own beliefs are simply the result of sound reasoning?

Surely few would willingly embrace the title of “denialist.” It sounds so much more rigorous and fair-minded to maintain one’s “skepticism.” To hold that the facts are not yet settled. That there is so much more that we do not know. That the science isn’t certain. The problem here, however, is that this is based not only on a grave misunderstanding of science (which in a sense is never settled), but also of what it means to be a skeptic. Doubting the overwhelming consensus of scientists on an empirical question, for which one has only the spottiest ideologically-motivated “evidence,” is not skepticism, it is the height of gullibility. It is to claim that it is much more likely that there is a vast conspiracy among thousands of climate scientists than that they have instead all merely arrived at the same conclusion because that is where they were led by the evidence.

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