The first thing to realize is that the push back against denialism, in all its varied incarnations, is likely to be more successful if we shift the focus from persuading individual members of the public to making political and media elites accountable. This is a major result coming out of Brendan’s research. He showed data set after data set demonstrating two fundamental things: first, large sections of the general public do not respond to the presentation of even highly compelling facts, indeed — as mentioned above — are actually more likely to entrench further into their positions.
Second, whenever one can put pressure on either politicians or the media, they do change their tune, becoming more reasonable and presenting things in a truly (as opposed to artificially) balanced way.
Sure. It’s long since time Americans declared war on the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Other nationals can push our own Constitutional guarantees into the firing line too. Because that is pretty much what we’d all have to do.
Yet Pigliucci goes on to say, incredibly:
Finally, a note on housekeeping: discussions of denialism, be they about evolution, climate change or genocide, involve a delicate balance between academic freedom and academic integrity , as participant Marc Mamigonian pointed out during the Clark proceedings. On the one hand, the academic (and not) freedom of speech of denialists ought to be protected. I am adamantly against laws, popular in Europe and Canada, that criminalize certain types of denialism, like that of the Holocaust. Such laws are clearly poised on a slippery slope that may very well end in a fascistic control of speech by governments and university administrators (though, ironically, that particular danger seems much closer to be realized in the United States at moment, despite the more liberal take that American law has on freedom of speech).
In other words, he wants it both ways; wants something decisive done about doubters and disagree-ers but still wants their academic freedom “(and not) freedom of speech” respected.
Make no mistake about it: denialism in its various forms is a pernicious social phenomenon, with potentially catastrophic consequences for our society. It requires a rallying call for all serious public intellectuals, academic or not, who have the expertise and the stamina to join the fray to make this an even marginally better world for us all. It’s most definitely worth the fight.
No, it doesn’t make any sense, but if these people get the power they want, it won’t need to make sense either.
I have a better idea: Massimo Pigliucci can stop even trying to make “an even marginally better world for us all”. Did anyone ask him to?
While we are here, he also writes,
“…my best moments as a debater (against Institute for Creation Research’s Duane Gish, or Discovery Institute’s Jonathan Wells) came when I was able to show the audience that these people were consciously lying to them.”
Well, if the story about Wells is really one of his best moments, the reader might be well advised to have a look at this rebuttal.
Oh wait. Rebuttal? But isn’t rebuttal a problem? Should you even be reading it?
Or this either?: Here’s Jonathan Wells on destroying Darwinism – and responding to attacks on his character and motives
Well, as kairosfocus likes to say, denial is a river in Egypt. Actually, it’s an accusation of last resort in most cases, when the defenders of a dying or problematic idea can no longer just ignore their opponents, so try to silence them.
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Note: In Canada, we recently abolished a notorious law of the type Pigliucci refers to, Section 13. The best authority on why we had to do that is (Jewish) lawyer Ezra Levant. Such laws virtually never accomplish their well-meaning goals, but they do create pernicious side effects. For example, malicious nobodies become victims and/or heroes, civil servants become thought police, and points of view that should just be banished from polite society acquire a certain cachet. Once again, our hard-earned tax dollars at work.