Selective Denialism


The New Scientist (one of my favorite popluar science magazines despite its propensity toward knee-jerk leftism) is running a feature section on "denialism" in the current issue. Well, OK. But I tend to agree with Michael Fitzpatrick's opinion piece in the feature section where he argues that trying to suppress the speech of one's opponents by denouncing them as "deniers" of scientific truth is dangerously illiberal:

Such attempts to combat pseudoscience by branding it a secular form of blasphemy are illiberal and intolerant. They are also ineffective, tending not only to reinforce cynicism about science but also to promote a distrust of scientific and medical authority that provides a rallying point for pseudoscience.

He then quotes University of Exeter philosopher Edward Skidelsky who says,

…"the extension of the 'denier' tag to group after group is a development that should alarm all liberal-minded people." What we need is more debate, not less.

The New Scientist then supplies a list of denialisms, under the title "True Disbelievers." The list includes, climate denial, evolution denial, Holocaust denial, AIDS denial, 9/11 denial, vaccine denial, and tobacco denial. For my part, I agree that science and history are against any would-be "deniers" of the listed phenomena. However, I am bemused that some other "denialisms" were not on the list. Perhaps the editors ran out of space. So, using the New Scientist list format, I add a few of the current denialisms that annoy me:

Biotech crop denialism

In a nutshell: Biotech crops are dangerous for human health and environment

Origin: Leading NGOs, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the Union of Concerned Scientists

Call themselves: Environmentalists, or greens

Influence: Five stars*****

Drug war denialism

In a nutshell: We are winning the war on drugs

Origins: Early 20th century progressive prohibitionists

Call themselves: Drug Enforcement Agency, Congress

Influence: Waning, but still four stars ****

Market denialism

In a nutshell: Economies can be better directed from the top down by benevolent politicians and bureaucrats

Origins: Primitive beliefs given the guise of science in the 19th century by Karl Marx and other practitioners

Call themselves: Progressives and socialists

Influence: Unfortunately growing, now three stars ***

I cordially invite Reason readers to identify any other denialisms that they think that the New Scientist overlooked.