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Links to a parallel universe

September 15th, 2010

A few stories about what theorists of postmodernism call “the social construction of reality” on the political right

* The Irish science minister, who planned to launch a book denouncing evolution as a hoax, has pulled out after a lot of criticism and some embarrassing revelations about the author

* Newt Gingrich is touting a new version of birtherism, developed by Dinesh D’Souza, formerly one of the bright young things at the Hoover Institute

* The standard ploy among anti-science amateurs has been to compare themselves to Galileo. But now Robert Sungenis and Robert Bennett have taken the War on Science to its next logical stopping place, with a work in favor of geocentrism, entitled Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right

* The tobacco industry is secretly funding a “grassroots” campaign against plain packaging for cigarettes. This is obviously close to home, but tobacco money spreads far and wide, supporting anyone willing to tell lies about health and environmental science. Among their many targets was Rachel Carson.

* On the global warming front, Lord Monckton is still at it. Here (via Tim Lambert) is a demolition of his latest nonsense, from Alden Griffiths.

A particularly interesting feature of all this is what might be called “cafeteria craziness”. I’m referring to the kind of person, common on the Australian right, who takes the anti-science line on climate change, DDT and so on, but is indignant about being associated with the (virtually identical) arguments of creationists and geocentrists. Or, even pickier, those who are embarrassed by Monckton’s claims of a plot to establish a communist world government, but still want to cite him as a scientific authority

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  1. September 15th, 2010 at 23:57 | #1

    C’mon John, you know derned well that social constructionism is not belligerently anti-science, but simply doesn’t accept that positivism is the last word in determining what questions to ask or what humanly matters. Constructionism is pragmatic, progressive and earnest, hardly in line with the blinkered, irrational and disingenuous noise that you’ve just pointed to.

  2. jquiggin
    September 16th, 2010 at 05:07 | #2

    Its certainly true that the general tenor of social constructionism is earnest and progressive. OTOH, some well-credentialled social constructionists have supported creationism (Steve Fuller) and global warming delusionism (Aynsley Kellow). Latour (I think) wrote a very good piece worrying about this, and implicitly retreating from some of the stronger claims that had been made.

    More to the point, the term “social construction of reality” and much of the associated analysis does provide a very good description of what’s going on here. Granted the result is blinkered, irrational and disingenuous, but what kind of reality would you expect the US Republican Party and its allies to construct?

  3. gerard
    September 16th, 2010 at 06:15 | #3

    that geocentrism book looks great. It’s always an indicator when the author puts “PhD” after their name on the cover.

    speaking of all this, on monday I was in the car at 4, “LNL will be on”, I thought, but put the radio on and it was “counterpoint” with that guy Duffy(?) – this is RN’s bone for the Rightwingers who resent Phillip Adams’ show. normally I couldn’t stomach it but I was quite amused to hear both him and his ex-Cato (“libertarian”) guest going on about the Tea-Party-Beck-Palin-Fox axis of evil and how dreadful it was, and how far the Right had fallen from the good old days of “intellectuals” like Bill Buckley.

  4. Rationalist
    September 16th, 2010 at 06:42 | #4

    Isn’t the argument on DDT something along the lines of its use in certain areas is OK since the people in those areas do not generally live long enough to experience the significant ill effects of it? This seems to be a perfectly rational judgement on DDT if it is indeed true.

  5. el gordo
    September 16th, 2010 at 07:19 | #5

    ‘…the anti-science line on climate change…’ is coming from the looney left. Nobody in their right mind could possibly blame a harmless trace gas for global warming.

  6. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 16th, 2010 at 07:56 | #6

    No Ron Lubensky, bulldust does not enhance our epistemology about the subject matter for unless it can be validated it is just science fiction.

  7. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 16th, 2010 at 08:25 | #7

    Rationalist, what JQ is trying to convey is that all the above are pushing a particular line of thought trying to make you believe in what he or she ‘wants you to believe’ no matter it is bulldust which usually involves falsehood.

  8. robert (not from UK)
    September 16th, 2010 at 09:57 | #8

    I first heard of Robert Sungenis taking the geocentrist line back in the 1990s, and I see that the Amazon-sold book which he co-wrote was issued in 2007, so it’s not as if geocentrism represents a new activity on Sungenis’s part.

  9. Neil
    September 16th, 2010 at 10:26 | #9

    There is no such thing as the social constructivist view. Rather, everyone sane is a social constructivist about some things and not others. The debate is not over whether some things are socially constructed, but about what is and what is not socially constructed. As Ian Hacking said, the social construction of what?

    None of this detracts from JQ’s main point: ideologically driven social constructionist attitudes toward mind-independent reality has migrated from being largely a left phenomenon to being largely a right phenomenon.

  10. Ronald Brak
    September 16th, 2010 at 10:32 | #10

    The nonsense I have most often seen about DDT on the internet generally goes along the line of, “Evil hippies banned DDT causing millions to die from malaria.” This is a lie. No country has ever banned the use of DDT for disease control purposes. Most countries have restricted the use of DDT for agricultural purposes. Unrestricted use results in mosquitoes developing resistance which reduces the ability of DDT to prevent malaria.

  11. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 16th, 2010 at 10:42 | #11

    Neil, one only needs to look at the Rendon Group to realise you can buy whatever you want even start a war.

  12. jquiggin
    September 16th, 2010 at 10:49 | #12

    So el gordo, I’m pegging you as a fan of cafeteria craziness. Or do you have one-line dismissals of evolution, astronomy and so forth to go with your delusional talking point on climate science?

  13. peterm
    September 16th, 2010 at 11:02 | #13

    Rationalist. I believe the DDt is banned for agricultural pest control where it amplifies up the food chain to reach unacceptable levels in the top preditors. This ban was mainly due to the effort of Rachael Carson. It can still be used to control insect vectors for deseases such as malaria. The propaganda from the right was that x million people have died from malaria because they were banned from using DDT to control malaria spreading mosequitos and these death should be on the conscience of Carson. This is a batant lie.

  14. Ron E Joggles
    September 16th, 2010 at 11:15 | #14

    I observe in every area of discourse, a rising tide of irrationality, and a shrill insistence that whatever one prefers to believe must be right.

    Thinking about what is driving this, I can only conclude that it is anxiety generated by accelerated change, a sense that events locally and globally are spinning out of control, that all our old certainties are gone unless we clasp them passionately to our breasts, crying, “No, no, say it isn’t so!”

    Quite a reasonable reaction, if you ask me. Not helpful, but reasonable.

  15. jquiggin
    September 16th, 2010 at 11:29 | #15

    Just to be clear on how silly your comment was, El Gordo, the claim that a “trace gas” can’t affect climate was shown to be false by Arrhenius in (IIRC) 1896. But, the whole point of the rightwing style of social construction is that its adherents don’t care. Just keep jumping from one silly talking point to the next, and you’ll never run out.

  16. el gordo
    September 16th, 2010 at 12:23 | #16

    Just to get the record straight, I’m from the far left and love Julia as PM. Like most of you here I accepted the AGW dogma, but on closer inspection the whole thing looks like a put-up job.

    Where to start?

  17. Neil
    September 16th, 2010 at 12:40 | #17

    @el gordo: ” I’m from the far left and love Julia as PM.”

    You seem as confused about what constitutes the far left as you do about climate change.

  18. Chris Warren
    September 16th, 2010 at 12:41 | #18

    el gordo :
    Just to get the record straight, I’m from the far left and love Julia as PM. Like most of you here I accepted the AGW dogma, but on closer inspection the whole thing looks like a put-up job.
    Where to start?

    Ha, ha, ha,

    The so-called “far left” do not love Julia as PM because, for example, she supports the retention of ABCC. See Passant’s blog.

    Anyone truely from this “far left” (a fake label) would not use that language.

    el gordo is a distasteful, disruptive, provocateur.

  19. Ronald Brak
    September 16th, 2010 at 12:49 | #19

    I know where to start! First el Gordo you have to work out whether you are:

    1. Denying that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, or

    2. Denying that human activity has increased its concentration by about a third over the past 200 years.

    Then if it’s 1. we can explain who much basic physics would have to be wrong for that to be the case and how Kirks and Coca-Cola and so on would have to be part of a massive conspirousy for it to be true as they use the infrared absorbtion of CO2 to mearsure the carbonation of their softdrinks.

    If it’s 2. we can explain to you how combustion works, particularly with relation to fossil fuels.

    After that, as I’m certain that you are dedication to the truth and not in spreading lies, I’m certain you you will realize that you have been mislead and will start immediantly sending messages to anyone you may have mislead yourself.

  20. jquiggin
    September 16th, 2010 at 13:35 | #20

    I see El Gordo has already moved to the sandpit, and further discussion should follow him there.

  21. gerard
    September 16th, 2010 at 14:11 | #21

    it was only a matter of time…

    Australian TEA Party

    Sir Joh Effect = 2 Terms for President Palin? wtf

  22. September 16th, 2010 at 14:21 | #22

    Can I say PrQ that this El Gordo character is a regular over at Deltoid. This is just a reiteration of his standard fare over there including his “far left” claim.

    For the record Chris, I’ve been know to self-describe as on “the far left”, though recently I’ve shied away from doing that because it’s too imprecise a descriptor. Conservative folks say Bob Brown is on the far left, which is plainly silly.

    The far left describes those who advocate world socialist revolution, the dissolution of the wage labour system, the disappearance of private property in the means of production, class society in general and the state that stands behind it [i.e. various Leninist-Trotskyists, and anarchists]. Bob Brown doesn’t advocate that and I’ve never read El Gordo attesting to it either. Nobody who held to these things would be thrilled or even much interested in Gillard’s victory in the recent electoral hijinks.

    El Gordo is a bona fide gish galloper and I promise you will get nothing out of him beyond the standard groundhog day-style naysaying dissembling. Unless you’re happy to do pointless banter, give him a wide berth. Every now and again, he says something which concedes he’s simply trolling.

  23. Tim Macknay
    September 16th, 2010 at 15:31 | #23

    @Ron E Joggles

    I think your observation is erroneous. Levels of irrationality in the community are no greater or lesser than they ever were.

  24. Rationalist
    September 16th, 2010 at 18:02 | #24

    @Ronald Brak
    Cheers for the explanation re:DDT.

  25. September 16th, 2010 at 18:10 | #25

    Pr Q said:

    * Newt Gingrich is touting a new version of birtherism, developed by Dinesh D’Souza, formerly one of the bright young things at the Hoover Institute.


    Don’t know, or care, much about Gingrich’s latest brain-act.

    But D’Souza is not , AFAIK, promoting a “birther” agenda. (Quotes, please?) His interminable piece in Forbes does not address the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate or any “birther” tropes.

    D’Souza only mentions Obama’s relation to Kenya when describing his epiphany over Obama’s Snr. failed political career. His argument is that Obama is following a radical agenda in the US to compensate for his father’s failed radical agenda in Kenya. Sort of “sins of the father” visited on the new country of the son.

    There is a grain of truth in D’Souza’s argument. Obama is obsessed with his father’s political legacy. His political career started as a genteel form of “Mau-Mauing the Fak Catchers” in Chicago, as a radical “community organizer”. Not for nothing did he attend Rev Wright’s black liberation church for nearly 20 years.

    But I think that D’Souza vastly over-states the case. “Shaking down the Man” is one thing, in one form or another it is a long and distinguised Chicago tradition. (Mayor Daley used the same techniques with Catholics against WASPs). But its a stretch to call this a transplanted form of “anti-colonialism”.

    Mr & Mrs Obama are just a couple of well-spoken yuppies who have tapped into a rich vein of SWPL-approved ethnic pandering and epatier le cracker. Mainly because he is “the one you have been waiting for” ie finally a black politician who comes accross like Sydney Poitier. NTTIAWWT.

  26. el gordo
    September 16th, 2010 at 18:36 | #26

    Tim Mac said ‘levels of irrationality in the community are no greater or lesser than they ever were.’

    Probably true, but hard to prove. For example, in theory a warmer planet would see the winter cold air mass become milder, while the jet stream weakens and retreats poleward. What we see now, by direct observation, is the opposite.

    Call me irrational, but the consensus appears to be faltering.

  27. September 16th, 2010 at 18:55 | #27

    Pr Q said:

    A few stories about what theorists of postmodernism call “the social construction of reality” on the political right.

    Steve Sailer, a conservative science journalist who knows what he is talking about, has been flailing Right=wing post-modernism for most of the noughties, to little avail. Here is a sample taken from OCT 2003on the REPs blatant attempts to bolster their false claims about Iraq’s WMDs:

    The Foucault-ification of Republican ideologues continues apace. In French postmodern thought, there’s no such thing as “truth,” just power.

    Increasingly, that way of thinking is popular among the more frenzied defenders of the Iraq Attaq. Thus, the WSJ is outraged that the Niger Yellowcake hoax wasn’t “investigated” by a gung ho Republican fanatic who would have reported back exactly what the WSJ wanted to hear.

    Look, guys, the President has already admitted that Wilson was telling the truth — we got pranked by forged It’s time to pull yourselves out of your deconstructionist death spiral.

    Sailer observed the same kind of up-beat reality-denial in Bush’s debates with Kerry:

    Well, the mood of the country seems to be moving increasingly toward what I call Christian post-modernism: the feeling that reality is less important than thinking positive thoughts, that problems don’t so much exist in the real world as merely in the heads of those awful, negative-thinking cynics. They are the real problem!

    Sailer calls this “The Heroic Age of Epistemology”:

    Between CBS’s dogged defense of their apparently forged documents and the Republican Convention’s repeated conflation of the War on Terror with the actual War in Error in Iraq, American elites appear to have entered into a collaboration to prove Foucault right: that power and the will to impose one’s interpretation are all-important and that “truth” is obsolete in our post-modern era.

    I suspect, however, that reality gets the last laugh.

    Sailer speculated that post-modernism infected the Right through Marketing courses in advertising and public relations:

    The White House’s working philosophy seems to be what I call “marketing major post-modernism”: the belief, often acquired through osmosis while studying public relations or advertising in college, that some egghead over in Europe proved that there’s no such thing as truth or reality, so … spin away!.

    I think it goes deeper than that. Post-modernism is imprinted into the political zeitgeist, mainly through the baby boomer experience in universities.

    Botht the Radical Left and Radical Right believe that social reality is amenable to voluntary acts of political will. Both are incorrigble ideological dogmatists. Both took a paranoid attitude towards their more Centrist enemies.

    In many ways, the Radical Right in the nineties has copied the organizing and propagandising techniques of the Radical Left from the seventies, all the way down to post-modern social constructivism. And in many cases, the Radical Leftists of the seventies actually became the Radical Rightists of the nineties eg Horowitz.

    No wonder Stove compared the spread of post-modernism to a “disaster area”, like “an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle”. Its certainly not something that can be contended by rational argument.

  28. Ronald Brak
    September 16th, 2010 at 18:57 | #28

    We’re discussing global warming here? No probs. El gordo, do you believe one or both of the following:

    1. CO2 is not a greenhouse gas.

    2. Human activity has not increased CO2 concentration by about a third over the past 200 years.

  29. Alan
    September 16th, 2010 at 19:16 | #29

    I do not think the problem is postmodernism as such. The problem is the religion of positive thinking where increasing numbers of people, from Oprah on down, claim that wanting a thing is enough to get it, and conversely that failure to achieve a goal flows only from not wanting it enough. That language turns up in megachurches, in reality shows, in job interviews, in corporate training courses. It is actually a fairly ancient Christian heresy and I doubt the invention of postmodernism really contributes a lot to its prevalence.

  30. el gordo
    September 16th, 2010 at 19:28 | #30

    If you google ‘CO2 greenhouse gas’ it will get more than 2 million blog spots who believe as you. So I will neither confirm or deny CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

    CO2 has probably increased through human activity, but the effect is negligible. Natural climate change will overwhelm the AGW signal in the coming decades.

    Monckton is a character, but after Lambert had his debate with the Lord the leader of the Deltoid larrikins changed his strategy. He stopped discussing climate change and began abusing journalists.

    I tried to convince Tim that this was an irrational thing to do, but he wouldn’t listen to a worthless troll.

  31. Alice
    September 16th, 2010 at 19:39 | #31

    @el gordo
    I thought you had taken your discussion to the sandpit el gordo.

  32. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 16th, 2010 at 20:06 | #32

    Alice, he is one confused individual who says on one blog he is a card carrying ‘denier’ of global warming but then on another blog says ‘even the most hard core deniers admit there is warming’ and that ‘temperatures have been warming over the past 20 years’. All bull.

  33. Chris Warren
    September 16th, 2010 at 20:38 | #33

    Some worthless troll has said the CO2 increase is negligible.

    Here is the data:


    Ignore the troll

  34. JM
    September 16th, 2010 at 20:38 | #34

    Let me get this right – geocentrism (the earth is a preferred frame of reference) is valid because special relativity holds that there is NO preferred frame of reference.

    Methinks these medieval monks have a problem with logic.

    (el gordo – I’ll bite on your idiocy as well. CO2 has – provably – increased by about 40% over the last 100 odd years, and it is – provably – due to human activity and it – provably – has a non-negligible effect. The scientific argument is well and truly in, get over it.)

  35. Alice
    September 16th, 2010 at 20:45 | #35

    @Ron E Joggles
    I agree with Ron E Joggles comment “I observe in every area of discourse, a rising tide of irrationality, and a shrill insistence that whatever one prefers to believe must be right.”..and the rest a very insightful comment.

    Perhaps we need to have a little patience. For some the facts may be too much to take on and denialism is easier.

  36. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 16th, 2010 at 20:52 | #36

    Jack Strocchi, what is the difference between someone attending a Communist fund raising event and Obama attending Rev Wright’s black liberation church for nearly 20 years.

  37. el gordo
    September 16th, 2010 at 21:15 | #37

    “I observe in every area of discourse, a rising tide of irrationality, and a shrill insistence that whatever one prefers to believe must be right.”..

    That would be the Dunning/Kruger Effect.

  38. Chris Warren
    September 16th, 2010 at 21:24 | #38

    Ignore it.

  39. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 16th, 2010 at 21:26 | #39

    Com’on Jack, if Obama accepts Rev Wright’s ethos of black liberation was for the greater good then why are you not doing the same for the Communists. Surely it was for the greater good, wasn’t it? And what is all this Libertarian bulldust you being raving on about? Was it a change of heart?

  40. jquiggin
    September 16th, 2010 at 21:40 | #40

    El Gordo, Jack S, and followups – to the sandpit please. Last warning.

  41. Michael
    September 16th, 2010 at 23:34 | #41

    Anyone frequenting Deltoid over the last few months would know the handle ‘el gordo’ as a particularly blatant and persistent AGW troll.

  42. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 17th, 2010 at 05:37 | #42

    Jack Strocchi, I’ve deleted the comments to which this reply refers. Anything further from, or to, Jack should go to the sandput

  43. Ernestine Gross
    September 17th, 2010 at 08:25 | #43

    The type of boneheaded stupidity illustrated in JQ’s post is much more widespread than what I had imagined a decade ago. The ‘methodology’ used by the practitioners of this version of post-modernism seems to be governed by one simple rule, namely to make demands on the mental energy and time of those who debunk the verbal non-sense generated. Isn’t it time to study the real resource costs of these practitioners and send them ‘disentanglement invoices’? Yes, some changes in legislation would be required.

  44. fredn
    September 17th, 2010 at 08:51 | #44

    The internet has made the anti science nonsense more easily accessible, I wonder if it is more widespread.

    Problems arose in Australia when “the Australian” decided to give the view some credence, to understand why I don’t think you have to look much further than Murdock trying to save an empire.

  45. Alice
    September 17th, 2010 at 10:14 | #45

    @Ernestine Gross
    Hi Ernestine. Nice to see you.
    JQ I note your spelling error – is that a freudian slip? meaning someone should go to the sandpit and stay put?

  46. may
    September 17th, 2010 at 14:26 | #46

    (small voice from the gallery)

    is tha turge (id) the same person as el gordo?

  47. may
    September 17th, 2010 at 14:33 | #47

    fredn :The internet has made the anti science nonsense more easily accessible, I wonder if it is more widespread.
    Problems arose in Australia when “the Australian” decided to give the view some credence, to understand why I don’t think you have to look much further than Murdock trying to save an empire.

    antiscience has always been accessible at your nearest religious ideology centre.

    the internet is the greatest disseminator of verifiable data since wide spread literacy became a reality.(imho)

    as far as saving an empire.

    boy oh boy.
    when the Deng kids are grown up there is going to be an almighty fight

    edited for coarse language – JQ

  48. Alice
    September 17th, 2010 at 17:52 | #48

    No May – its not – Terje is more subtle that el Gordo.

  49. Donald Oats
    September 18th, 2010 at 19:56 | #49

    There is an article in a newspaper – please excuse the lack of link – concerning the $60 AUD “Power Balance” wristband, which does something or rather to assist balance a person’s power or energy or something, or even all three, and this is done with some futuristic-sounding Jargonifier which produces impressive mesmerising sound-bites for the advertisement. “Everyone is getting one” said one particularly glued-on individual; “Even Rusty has one”, said another [the journalist, perhaps], further implying that it must be good – and in the process committing what I regard as sublime use of reason and Rusty intertwined as one!
    Oh blow it, for those that want one, it is here…don’t blame me!

    PS, have you ever watched the episodes in a more recent season of a successfully performing TV series, only to realise – aghast – that set construction, script and direction have been replaced with second raters (or primary school flunkies)? Watching it is like watching a new car crash while the driver is fiddling with a mobile phone or something. Pointless and somehow banal.

  50. Alice
    September 18th, 2010 at 20:13 | #50

    @Donald Oats
    Don – cant believe it. Spent a glorious ten mins last week laughing my head off at the stupid thing my husband was wearing around his wrist which is just black rubber with what appears to be a tiny silver circle of patterned alfoil on it – but the most hilarity came with his grave explanation of ithe wristbands uber supernatural powers. In all other ways – he is a very down to earth person. Should I be worried? I was when I heard what he paid for it. Does it fix madness?

  51. Ken Fabos
    September 19th, 2010 at 08:49 | #51

    Isn’t a big part of this about popular media’s unwillingness to act as gatekeeper to keep out irrational nonsense? They are sources of entertainment not information and are dependent on advertising revenue that derives from corporations with their own interests, which also have no particular interest in keeping people well informed and can even find it in their interests for people’s irrational fears to be played upon. Not much mention – for example – that plain old soaps and detergents keep things clean enough to make the plethora of disinfectants unnecessary. Between newsfomation and infomercials there’s not much room for informing people in order to promote informed democratic discourse.

  52. Donald Oats
    September 19th, 2010 at 16:00 | #52


    Alice, everyone gets sucked in at some stage by hype, the wristband just being the latest in a long line of such things. Perhaps as a consolation you could give him the book by A. C. Grayling, titled “Skepticism”, that might cheer him up – or not – at the thought of the money he paid. Or the book “Gorillas in the Midst” which is about how we are quite easily fooled by attentional and cognitive illusions, for want of a better way to say it.

    BTW, I’ve got a deal on the Sydney Harbour Bridge going, he might want to know about it… 😀

  53. Alice
    September 19th, 2010 at 16:27 | #53

    @Donald Oats
    Don – I just could not believe it. I was laughing so hard ….until I heard the price then I just said “you have really lost it now. Next stop nursing home for you if we have any money left!”
    He is a skeptic – an old country liberal / national skeptic about everything else but protection for farmers – no free market for him (and I live with him? Weird! But on some things we agree.)
    Well – the rubber bangle made from old tyres and tinfoil just about says it all DON! Mad as a hatter. I hope he doesnt joing scientology or the brethren next.

  54. Jill Rush
    September 20th, 2010 at 12:01 | #54

    The difference with irrational believers now compared to the past is that now they think they should be taken seriously whereas in the past they knew that they weren’t too smart – at least once the population as a whole became educated.

    They like to dispute the opinion of experts because they are busy fighting feelings of inadequacy developed in the school rooms where their inability to think was evident for all to see. Finding friends on the internet who are equally as stupid they think that they weren’t stupid at all. Whereas once they would have just shut up and realised that their thoughts if expressed would be ridiculed now they think they are being brave and exposing lies.

    Belief is a wonderful thing. Today in the SMH there is a story of women who are covered from head to toe and asking their husband’s permission to speak, telling us all about how much more liberated they are than other women and because they can’t be seen they will be judged on their merits rather than their appearance. This is another kind of delusion because of course they are judged on their appearance which is why there has been so much controversy about those who hide their faces in public.

    There is a life time of work in studying this kind of phenomenon which means that inconvenient facts are dismissed, said to be lies or contradicted by “evidence” which is usually far from scientific.

  55. peterm
    September 20th, 2010 at 17:12 | #55

    Jill, it appears that irrational beliefs are a normal human condition. Apparently it is called “Backfire ‘ in the PR Spin doctoring business. Please have a listen Michael Duffy interviewing Michael Duffy on Radio National Counterpoint for some very depressing recent research:


    The following is the section of the interview I found depressing :

    “Michael Duffy: Right, and if they don’t I guess that’s a problem for democracy, which is why these academics were looking at it. What did they find? What happens to people when they’re exposed to more facts?

    Joe Keohane: One of the major studies published recently was by a guy named Brendan Nyhan at the University of Michigan, and he came up with this idea around 2005 amid all the calls for better fact checking in America due to the misinformation that got out about the Iraq war, about weapons of mass destruction and all that. So he gathered a group of people and he would present them with stories that touched on several hot-button issues. So it would be WMD in Iraq, it would be tax cuts, things like that, things that people tend to lose their temper about relatively quickly in America. He presented something that in the past had been presented as fact, so for example that WMD were found in Iraq, and then presented a correction right under the statement in this fake news story that he was handing out.

    So he gave these people these news stories. Before he gives them to them he asks them a series of questions about their beliefs, and the people who believed that WMDs had been found in Iraq (and bear in mind that by this point that had been demonstrated to be false) actually believed even more strongly that they had been found in Iraq after their original misperception had been contradicted.

    Michael Duffy: That’s a very depressing finding.”

    Joe Keohane: It’s awful. It’s a phenomenon known as backfire, where you believe something that’s false and someone sets you straight and you respond to that by believing even more of what was false in the first place.

  56. peterm
    September 20th, 2010 at 17:15 | #56

    Sorry I meant Michael Duffy interviewing Joe Keohane, a freelance magazine writer.

  57. Chris O’Neill
    September 20th, 2010 at 22:18 | #57

    Joe Keohane: It’s awful. It’s a phenomenon known as backfire, where you believe something that’s false and someone sets you straight and you respond to that by believing even more of what was false in the first place.

    That’s exactly what happens with climate science denialism.

  58. Alice
    September 21st, 2010 at 06:56 | #58

    Another reason people believe nonsense is because of the long history of Rupert Mudochs partisan media that has completely defaced journalistic standards…according to an article in today’s SMH even Mathew Freud, Murdoch’s son in law said he was “sickened and ashamed” by Fox’s “horrendous and sustained” disregard of journalistic standards…


    and you heard it here first – Fox news has actually registerd “fair and balanced” as its signature trademark. What a tragic joke.

    It was also Murdochs empire that allowed clowns and charlatans like Monkton whatever status they pretend to have.

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