This time I want to try and understand why people are so resistent to facts contradicting their personal believesystem. The common thread of all "denialist controversies" is that no amount of evidence is sufficient to persuade denialists that they are simply wrong. This reminds me of what I was taught about the difference between an illusion and a delusion. When we have an illusion we see or hear things, but we are aware they are not actually there, i.e. illusionist, magician. A delusion, however, is seeing or hearing things without realising it is not there. No amount of evidence will convince people, suffering from a delusion, that it is imaginary, i.e. paranoid delusional disorder.
With this in mind I noticed the always invoked conpiracy -Big Pharma, Illuminati, Big Oil, et cetera- to explain away the multitude of scientific evidence refuting the denialist position. Add to that the Matrix-inspired notion that fact and fiction are essentially the same (i.e. evolution is merely one theory of many), together with the always present-both-sides-equally-fallacy invoking media, and science is guarenteed to lose.
Regardless of their idiosynchratic reality-refuting opinions the anti-science crowd shares some interesting characteristics. Skeptical Science noticed this too, and points out five characteristics of the anti-science disorder:
- Conspiracy theories,
- Fake experts,
- Cherry picking,
- Impossible expectations of what research can deliver,
- Misrepresentation and logical fallacies.
- Dogma supercedes evidence,
- The denialist is always right, when he is proven wrong see point 2, 6 and 7,
- Megalomania: the denialist is the only person capable of understanding/seeing The Truth,
- Inconsistency: rigorously applying standards to others while failing to adhere to those standards themselves, see point 6,
- Using invented facts, double-standard and logical fallacies,
- Conspiracy theory: confronted with any evidence to the contrary it is dismissed as fake (scientists and industry work in unison to plant evidence to hide The Truth)
- Cult-like behaviour (because of point 1)
Update: Kimball Atwood makes some suggestions regarding adherents of "alternative medicine," and wonders why:
some people are drawn to implausible treatments, even in the face of compelling, contradictory evidence. Such investigations might begin by looking at the work of Beyerstein and Alcock, for example.Update II: Posted a more detailed explanation on the rationale behind the anti-science crowd.