Tag: denial


Denial and the Heartland

Incase you hadn’t yet seen it, a right-wing think-tank has been reported as funding climate change denial on a massive scale:

The inner workings of a libertarian thinktank working to discredit the established science on climate change have been exposed by a leak of confidential documents detailing its strategy and fundraising networks…

The papers indicate that discrediting established climate science remains a core mission of the organisation, which has received support from a network of wealthy individuals – including the Koch oil billionaires as well as corporations such as Microsoft and RJR Tobacco.

Essentially, as these reports are suggesting, scientists (who are not climate scientists) are being paid to spread lies throughout the media and to even stop science being taught in schools, by rewriting various courses. Those who read environmental news all thought this kind of thing went on, but this appears to be the money trail that demonstrates it. The Guardian does a splendid job in revealing who gets paid what. This is making headlines all over the world, too, which is much needed – climate change denial tends to bleed into the US, Australian and British media.

I hope this gets back to the UK very soon. The BBC (which have not yet covered the news item) always wheels out Nigel Lawson, climate change denier extraordinaire, to talk about the environment. I’m not sure why, because he knows nothing about the environment. However, Lawson works for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which has connections to the Heartland Institute. That connection will be under scrutiny, I hope.

Always follow the money…

EDIT: The BBC has now reported this. Also, the Heartland Institute has also responded with the classic smoke and mirrors technique:

Those persons who posted these documents and wrote about them before we had a chance to comment on their authenticity should be ashamed of their deeds, and their bad behavior should be taken into account when judging their credibility now and in the future.



On Denial

Skeptical Science takes a look at people who are in denial of scientific consensuses. An overwhelming number of lines of scientific evidence connects HIV to AIDS, smoking to lung cancer, humans to climate change and so on, yet many people choose to ignore the reality. When you’re not into denial to make a quick buck (perhaps a journalist hoping to take the money of a polluting firm or tobacco company), why else would people believe nonsense?

Certain defence mechanisms are tell-tale signs of denial. In one experiment, people were asked if they believed there was a link between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Those who answered yes were shown evidence that there was no such link, including a direct quote from President Bush. Despite the overwhelming evidence, only 2% of participants consciously changed their mind (although interestingly, 14% denied they ever believed in the link despite indicating so in the initial survey).

The most common response was attitude bolstering. This involves bringing to mind arguments that support pre-existing views while denying any counter evidence. The process is reflexive and almost sub-conscious. Attitude bolstering has an unexpected and unfortunate consequence. When one encounters threatening evidence, the cognitive process of bringing supporting arguments to the fore results in a strengthening of one’s views. This is known as the backfire effect, where debunking a myth can paradoxically end up reinforcing the myth. The effect is strongest among those whose views are already quite strong.

Read the rest – it’s fascinating to place this alongside an examination of the denial industry’s methods.

The older I get, the more fascinated I become by people and their beliefs – what motivates us to think in certain ways (a character I’m creating is a very logical thinker despite having a strong faith in gods, which probably prompted this line of thought today).

Most of the world laughs at David Icke, yet his books sell many copies, and a worrying number of people believe all that he says. When I worked in bookselling, I flicked through one or two of his tomes, out of curiousity; it was interesting to see how he would use references in his essays, yet when you checked them out they were often bizarre or nonsensical connections, so he was merely creating the illusion of truth*. It’s the sort of things climate change deniers also do. (Even when I read Houdini’s writings recently, I felt a sadness for the susceptibility of people.)

I’m not sure I was really going anywhere with this, except to say that denial and illusion seem very closely related.

* I’ve put that there merely to highlight his illusion of authority.