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Source: (consider it) Thread: Unhealthy scepticism
Jane R
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# 331

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I daresay I am not alone in worrying about the modern tendency to believe conspiracy theories in the teeth of all the evidence. The people who believe the pyramids were built by aliens and the ones who (still) believe in the Bermuda Triangle are relatively harmless, but there are a lot of conspiracy theorists out there who aren't.

Anti-vaxxers risk their children's lives - and the lives of anyone else within range who has a compromised immune system.

Climate change deniers are now (officially) in charge of the most powerful nation on earth.

Oh, and they were elected as a result of a barrage of fake news stories including the Pizzagate 'scandal' , which despite being a total fabrication resulted in a shootout at the restaurant named as the centre of the conspiracy.

Lest anyone think this is an invitation to indulge in a pond war - we have our fair share of nutters on this side of the Atlantic, too. And some of them are in charge of the asylum.

What can ordinary people do against such an overwhelming tide of wilful ignorance?

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Stetson
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quote:
What can ordinary people do against such an overwhelming tide of wilful ignorance?
Well, personally speaking, for a lot of these issues, about the only thing I could do is say "Do you really think all those experts could be wrong?"

Fact of the matter is, I have no training in, for example, immunology, so I can't honestly give a logical refutation to the idea that the MMR vaccine causes autism. If I had to go only by information that I personally can understand, I'd have to declare myself agnostic on the question, and likely to remain so for a very long time.

And, from my experience dealing with the nutters, most of them aren't going to accept "Well, the scientists all say this, so it must be true" as a valid argument. They'll just consider that to be evidence that I'm one of the "sheeple" who goes along with whatever the establishment says.

Not that I disagree with the establisnment on most of these issues. But it's basically the same reason that I agree with the label on a can of food as to what the ingredients of the food are. I have no qualifications for analyzing the contents, I just assume that the company isn't gonna lie, or, as a last safety clutch, the government won't let them lie.

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I have the power...Lucifer is lord!

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Humble Servant
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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
But it's basically the same reason that I agree with the label on a can of food as to what the ingredients of the food are. I have no qualifications for analyzing the contents, I just assume that the company isn't gonna lie, or, as a last safety clutch, the government won't let them lie.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_horse_meat_scandal
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Brenda Clough
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There are huge numbers of things we take on faith. Somewhere else on SoF we've discussed Sicily. Have you been there? Could they all be lying to us? All those alleged natives of Palermo, dupes?

At some point you have to take things on faith. OTOH, relying upon the government to guard your drugs and food safety is probably going to change, at least here in the US.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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Stetson
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quote:
There are huge numbers of things we take on faith. Somewhere else on SoF we've discussed Sicily. Have you been there? Could they all be lying to us? All those alleged natives of Palermo, dupes?

I know that's the classic example(places you've never been to but still believe in), but I'm not sure it's exactly parallel to the faith that we're asked to have in experts.

I've never been to China, but I have met dozens of people who have, most of whom did not know each other or even have any knowledge of each other's existence. So, I think it unlikely that all these people would, independently of one another, have gotten the idea to lie about a place called China.

But in my everyday life, I rarely if ever encounter people with the qualification to debunk the idea that vaccines cause autism. If I were to ask someone for evidence on this matter, they would probably refer me to a body of research produced by small handful of scientists, most of whom probably know, or at least know ABOUT, each other. Since I am unlikely to ever meet any of these people, or for that matter anyone who knows them, it's easier to believe that I'm dealing with a shadowy cabal of conspirators, foisting bogus theories on an unsuspecting public.

And, in partial defense of the wackos, Andrew Wakefield's research WAS originally published in The Lancet. Granted, that by itself is not proof that the it's true, but, if someone at the time had asked me "Is there any validity to these theories that vaccines cause autism?", I would likely have replied "Well, possibly. There was an article in The Lancet which argued that."

[ 13. December 2016, 14:34: Message edited by: Stetson ]

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I have the power...Lucifer is lord!

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Stetson
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quote:
Originally posted by Humble Servant:
quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
But it's basically the same reason that I agree with the label on a can of food as to what the ingredients of the food are. I have no qualifications for analyzing the contents, I just assume that the company isn't gonna lie, or, as a last safety clutch, the government won't let them lie.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_horse_meat_scandal
Heh, good one!

And yeah, when I cite the label as proof as to what a particular food contains, I'm basically just playing the odds. I know that there are A FEW cases where products get mislabeled, sometimes with government connivance, but I also know that, statistically speaking, the food that I'm being asked about at that particular time is not not likely to be an instance of that.

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I have the power...Lucifer is lord!

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Marvin the Martian

Interplanetary
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quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
Anti-vaxxers risk their children's lives - and the lives of anyone else within range who has a compromised immune system.

The whole anti-vax thing is rooted in a combination of fear of autism and distrust (let's face it, not entirely unjustified) of Big Pharma.

It all started because a few parents couldn't accept that their child being autistic was just one of those things that happen, and looked for someone to blame (and sue). Once the idea got traction there were always going to be enough parents who were too scared of having an autistic child to risk anything that might make it happen, and as is so often the way no amount of denials from those in authority was ever going to be enough to convince them otherwise.

I can't imagine the fact that people in the US have to pay for vaccines has helped the matter - they're free here in the UK and we don't seem to have had anything like the same level of anti-vax hysteria.

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Hail Gallaxhar

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Jane R
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Even in the UK there are people who refuse the MMR vaccination for their children. Maybe not so many now that the original study "proving" a link between that and autism has been discredited, but a few people still seem to believe there's a link despite repeated assurances to the contrary.

But yes: the basic problem is that people don't trust experts any more. Or the government, or religious leaders.

I am asking for personal reasons: my parents read the Daily Mail (oh, the shame of it!) and probably voted for Brexit (I haven't dared ask). Last week when we spoke on the phone, my mum ticked me off for 'believing everything you read on the BBC website' and I said the BBC wasn't perfect but more likely to be accurate than the Daily Heil. The conversation went downhill from there.

I can ignore her, or challenge her (when she says something that is just too outrageous to let pass) or refuse to talk politics with her. But arguing with me is not likely to change her mind.

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Humble Servant
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I see a tendency for people to to believe whatever is most convenient for them. There are so many sources of opinion in the media that you can latch onto any you feel comfortable with. Health stories are a classic case. You want to eat fat or drink red wine, there’s never a shortage of research telling you these things are good for your health. You can ignore the research that tells you otherwise; before long there'll be another story about a new piece of research that “turns advice on its head”. The government agencies seem to get caught up in it sometimes, changing advice to fit the latest research and then getting lambasted for changing their mind and giving us wrong advice for years.
I think the rhetoric from some political campaigns – most notably climate change, but other examples come to mind – can be off-putting. The way that techniques such as attacking the opponent, casting dissenters as “deniers” (by implication, as morally reprehensible as holocaust deniers), constantly changing the language to make the case more emotionally appealing – global heating rather than warming; now climate change, because we like warmth, but not change. If they’re playing all these tricks then what’s to choose between these politicians and the ones who want to make America Great Again? Just choose the ones who are most appealing and you most want to believe.
I once saw a documentary on the lunar landings conspiracy. Arguing that the space suits would have shielded the user from the radiation that they didn’t even know at the time would have been a problem, the astronaut said something along the lines of “these suits are pretty tough you know”. No science, no attempt to explain what the problem was and how they overcame it. Just a “trust me, we went to the moon and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise because my dad’s bigger than your dad” kind of response.
These things have me siding with the skeptics, even when I can see that the scientists are doing the right thing. I think education is the answer, not playing the ignorant at their own game.

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Boogie

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Yes, there's a lot of denial going on - we humans are masters at it.

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lilBuddha
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Science and technology have gone to the point where most people do not understand the concepts much less their workings.
On top of this, Big Pharma don't care about you as much as they do profits.
The government does contain collusion and fools.
Sometimes things are thought to go one way, then go another from more research.

There is the standard of preponderance of credible evidence and it is not rocket surgery to evaluate all this. But it does take effort.

The maddest thing, to me, is that people conclude that X cannot be trusted for the factors listed above, so then trust Y implicitly with no evidence at all.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Jemima the 9th
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Having done a lot of arguing with anti-vaxxers over the years, (there's a reason my house is a tip...), I would tentatively disagree with Stetson. Yes, the original research into vaccine safety is done by scientists, but one doesn't have to be a scientist to understand it. I have degree in nutrition & medical science, but am not a virologist, immunologist etc. There are plenty of resources produced either by the researchers or by independent bodies, blog writers etc, which the lay person can read. And they're clearly less wacky than the anti-vax blogs and equivalents.

I suppose one of the oldest was Ben Goldacre's badscience blog, which he no longer writes. There's the oxford vaccine group, independent of the nhs and govt http://vk.ovg.ox.ac.uk/

Various random stuff crops up all the time, like the Information is beautiful graphic on the hpv vax. http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2011/is-the-hpv-vaccine-safe-v-2-0/

Skepticalraptor is also an excellently researched, and well argued blog, so's Orac (though more sweary). I'll spare the hosts any further links. My point is that you don't have to be a specialist to argue the point from a good research base.

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Stetson
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Jemima wrote:

quote:
Having done a lot of arguing with anti-vaxxers over the years, (there's a reason my house is a tip...), I would tentatively disagree with Stetson. Yes, the original research into vaccine safety is done by scientists, but one doesn't have to be a scientist to understand it. I have degree in nutrition & medical science, but am not a virologist, immunologist etc. There are plenty of resources produced either by the researchers or by independent bodies, blog writers etc, which the lay person can read. And they're clearly less wacky than the anti-vax blogs and equivalents.

Well, anti-vaxx was just an example of something I'd be unable to explain; I haven't really followed it that closely. Though, were I to read the supposedly lay-friendly material you mention, I think there's still a pretty good chance it would fly over my head.

I have tried to follow the debates around 9/11 Trutherism, and my eyes glaze over after a few paragraphs of whatever article I'm reading by whatever side. So, beyond saying that, from a political perspective, it seems like a really odd false-flag for that particular band of alleged conspirators to put together, I just basically get by with "Well, most of the engineers I've heard quoted seem to think it's possible that the planes took down the towers".

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Jane R
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Back in the 80s when I was doing my year abroad at a French university, I encountered a fellow overseas student who was from Morocco. He was convinced that Yvonne Fletcher had been murdered by the British Secret Service and the Libyans had been framed. I tried to point out how unlikely this was (and it didn't fit with the official Libyan position either; they claimed their embassy had been attacked by terrorists), but nothing I could say changed his mind.
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Jane R
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Stetson:
quote:
I have tried to follow the debates around 9/11 Trutherism, and my eyes glaze over after a few paragraphs of whatever article I'm reading by whatever side. So, beyond saying that, from a political perspective, it seems like a really odd false-flag for that particular band of alleged conspirators to put together, I just basically get by with "Well, most of the engineers I've heard quoted seem to think it's possible that the planes took down the towers".
I never even knew there was a theory that the planes hadn't taken down the towers until now (I obviously lead a much more sheltered life than I thought).

Just had a look on the BBC website at the top five 9/11 conspiracy theories and they all sound ludicrous to me (with no engineering expertise whatsoever, but many years of experience as a librarian and indexer of academic books).

The answer to the questions "why didn't the intelligence agencies pick this up" and "why weren't the planes intercepted" is the same as the question "why didn't the Enigma team pass on the warning about the raid on Coventry until the first bombs were falling". It's easy to be wise after the event. Intelligence agencies sift through mountains of data every day in an attempt to identify real threats. Sometimes they miss one.

The suggestion that the US chiefs of staff would deliberately wreck their own headquarters building and kill some of their staff in order to discredit a terrorist organisation would be laughable if it wasn't so offensive. Heck, I find it offensive, and I'm not American.

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quetzalcoatl
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I thought that part of the intention behind some conspiracy theories, is to be offensive, or to lob grenades into our normal assumptions. Most of them do seem so barmy, that they don't elicit horror, but tedium.

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no path

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Jane R
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I do wonder if some of the anti-vaxxers are put off vaccination by the concept of 'herd immunity'; perhaps if health experts could find an alternative term that didn't include a word normally only used for humans in a pejorative sense (as in 'following the herd') it would help.

Yes, it's stupid. But the whole advertising industry is based on the belief that you can increase sales if you choose the right slogan...

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Brenda Clough
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If so they are fragile flowers indeed, to give up so proven a benefit for such a silly issue.

I have a writer friend, an older lady who was widowed some years ago. She has been tentatively dipping into online dating -- many older women do, simply to widen the possible pool. She actually found someone congenial, and all was progressing well on line with a possible face-to-face meetup coming up on the horizon. But then the fellow revealed his big secret: he is a 9-11 truther. He pleaded with her to hear him out, but it was impossible.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
# 15560

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If a liar publishes, like Wakefield did, it isn't scepticism of vaccinations to believe his fraudulent research, it is just ignorance. Or perhaps as someone noted, a way of blaming something specific for something we haven't other explanations for.

On climate change, this one is more straightforward. Oil companies and their wish for profit has lead them to be deceptive, dishonest and deliberate about propagating false information, and creating doubt about which there actually isn't. There used to be something about spreading false news that both are guilty of. (I expect the oil companies and their ilk will ultimately be fined out of existence, if the planet is viable and money still means anything. It would be reasonable to jail some.)

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Maybe I should stop to consider that I'm not worthy of an epiphany and just take what life has to offer
(formerly was just "no prophet") \_(ツ)_/

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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Communication on the internet certainly seems to have revealed a level of conspiracy theories which I for one would never have believed was possible before. They defy facts and common sense. Thank goodness there are - I think, but do not know - enough people prepared to counter the crack-pot ideas the Cters come up with.

[ 15. December 2016, 16:53: Message edited by: SusanDoris ]

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Lyda*Rose

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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
Anti-vaxxers risk their children's lives - and the lives of anyone else within range who has a compromised immune system.

The whole anti-vax thing is rooted in a combination of fear of autism and distrust (let's face it, not entirely unjustified) of Big Pharma.

It all started because a few parents couldn't accept that their child being autistic was just one of those things that happen, and looked for someone to blame (and sue). Once the idea got traction there were always going to be enough parents who were too scared of having an autistic child to risk anything that might make it happen, and as is so often the way no amount of denials from those in authority was ever going to be enough to convince them otherwise.

I can't imagine the fact that people in the US have to pay for vaccines has helped the matter - they're free here in the UK and we don't seem to have had anything like the same level of anti-vax hysteria.

There is another simple thing that fuels the fear of childhood vaccines: autism often emerges and is identified just about the time kids are getting a lot of their shots. Parents looking for a cause grab an obvious event under their noses and make a false correlation. Tragic all around. Anti-vax puts children at risk of deadly diseases and for a while took study money away from real leads on the roots of autism while people hared after vaccines.

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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Dark Knight

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An interesting question. Once people believe that they should adopt a skeptical attitude, it is difficult to know when to stop. It's pretty clear that an awful lot of Americans were skeptical about what they were seeing and reading on the mainstream news outlets and papers in regard to Donald Trump.
I think there is a problem of logic here. Pure skepticism is both completely self-defeating, and basically dogmatism in a disguised form. I have a good friend who is a militant atheist who is a classic example of this - he is always banging on about the need to be skeptical, but a pure skepticism ends up denying the possibility of truth of any kind whatsoever. So he just ends up falling back on his former position of atheism, under the false presumption that he has actually skeptically assessed that position, by denying and challenging all other possible positions. It is really infuriating.
What is needed is a critical position, rather than a skeptical one. This would mean accepting that one has axiomatic positions, and doing the really hard work of doing our best to assess the validity of arguments and positions and evidence on all sides. This means knowing a lot of shit. As one of the earlier posters indicated (Stetson, I think? Forgive me if I'm wrong), there is no way most of us can rise to that level of expertise. So the communication of science (for example) is really important, so that people can understand in plain language the issues and the evidence on both sides. I guess we used to rely on journalism for some of that, but now that people have taken a skeptical attitude to the press - and it would be naive to suggest that skepticism has not been warranted in the past - we really come back to where we are on a vicious cycle. So, we have people conducting their own "research" - leading to the Islamophobes, anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers, birthers, and all of the nonsense we are seeing, as people's "research" leads them to uncritically support their own assumptions.

TL,DR: Agree it is a problem. Don't know what to do about it. Sorry.

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Wronger than a drooling idiot on stupid juice - but I understand his argument.
mousethief (paraphrase)
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Love is as strong as death (Song of Solomon 8:6).

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Jane R
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Lyda*Rose:
quote:
There is another simple thing that fuels the fear of childhood vaccines: autism often emerges and is identified just about the time kids are getting a lot of their shots. Parents looking for a cause grab an obvious event under their noses and make a false correlation. Tragic all around.
Yeah, I got tired of saying post hoc non propter hoc* . My main counterargument was that if the MMR vaccine really did cause autism you'd expect to see equal numbers of boys and girls affected... of course, that was before people realised that autism presents differently in girls.

Most people are not good at risk assessment, either. Accepting a lift in a car which is being driven by a 17-year-old who has just passed their test is far more dangerous than getting on a plane... but more people are afraid of flying, because when a plane crash does happen a lot of people die at once and it's all over the media. And parents are particularly bad at risk assessment (understandably); the minute the baby is born you are bombarded with (mostly well-meant, often contradictory) advice from all directions, and you naturally want to keep your child safe.

And people aren't as scared as they ought to be of the diseases that the vaccines protect you from, because they're so rare now. A hundred years ago everyone would have known a family that had lost a child to measles or polio.

*Translation for non-Latin scholars: just because one thing happens after another thing, it doesn't mean the first caused the second. More concise translation: shit happens.

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Helen-Eva
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# 15025

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quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:

What can ordinary people do against such an overwhelming tide of wilful ignorance?

According to The Heretics by Will Storr (which I read a while back and which I may be misremembering) the more you argue against a belief someone holds - such as a conspiracy theory - the more it entrenches their belief. Changing people's minds would be more likely, though not guaranteed, to work if you could offer them a more face-saving way out than just admitting they were crackers. As for example helping them to uncover for themselves the reasons why the conspiracy theorists would want to mislead them.

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I thought the radio 3 announcer said "Weber" but it turned out to be Webern. Story of my life.

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sharkshooter

Not your average shark
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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
Yes, there's a lot of denial going on

No, there isn't.

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Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. [Psalm 19:14]

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Humble Servant
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quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
I do wonder if some of the anti-vaxxers are put off vaccination by the concept of 'herd immunity'; perhaps if health experts could find an alternative term that didn't include a word normally only used for humans in a pejorative sense (as in 'following the herd') it would help.

Yes, it's stupid. But the whole advertising industry is based on the belief that you can increase sales if you choose the right slogan...

But this is exactly what I was talking about. If you have to stoop to these levels, you leave nothing to choose between you and the deniers. Just two sides concocting empty slogans and manipulative rhetoric. Why should I care which of you is right. I'll go with the cheaper option.

"All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one" - Mat 5:37.

quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
On climate change, this one is more straightforward. Oil companies and their wish for profit has lead them to be deceptive, dishonest and deliberate about propagating false information, and creating doubt about which there actually isn't.

But you can play the same "follow the money" game for the scientists. Their grants and therefore their livelihoods rely on there being something to research. We must understand the climate and the big problems it causes if it changes, so give me a grant to do some research. My first priority is to convince you that there's a problem - my second one is to look to next year's grant.
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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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quote:
Originally posted by sharkshooter:
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
Yes, there's a lot of denial going on

No, there isn't.
Panto thread already?

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Might as well ask the bloody cat.

Posts: 17444 | From: Chesterfield | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
mdijon
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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
Yes, there's a lot of denial going on

quote:
Originally posted by sharkshooter:
No, there isn't.

Look behind you!

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mdijon nojidm uoɿıqɯ ɯqıɿou
ɯqıɿou uoɿıqɯ nojidm mdijon

Posts: 12277 | From: UK | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged
mdijon
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quote:
Originally posted by Humble Servant:
We must understand the climate and the big problems it causes if it changes, so give me a grant to do some research. My first priority is to convince you that there's a problem - my second one is to look to next year's grant.

Being the first one to provide really credible evidence that the climate change agenda had been misguided would be a massive career boost.

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mdijon nojidm uoɿıqɯ ɯqıɿou
ɯqıɿou uoɿıqɯ nojidm mdijon

Posts: 12277 | From: UK | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged
quetzalcoatl
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# 16740

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Are there some real live climate skeptics here? Oh, joy, frabjous joy. Now this forum can take its place in the fragrant ranks of internet bollocks.

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no path

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Boogie

Boogie on down!
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Like I said, we humans are good at denial. We often use it as the first stage of coping. Worrying, frightening change happens or maybe trauma of some sort - which can bring with it the impulse to disbelieve.

Most people will then begin to deal with the change/worry/problem over time. But some will never face it, they repress it and pretend it's not happening. A lot of emotional intelligence is needed to face some huge changes.

So some people never reach the stage of acceptance enlightenment which would lead to sensible action.

Rather like alcoholics or drug addicts, but on a collective rather than a personal scale.

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Garden. Room. Walk

Posts: 12543 | From: Boogie Wonderland | Registered: Mar 2008  |  IP: Logged
Horseman Bree
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Seems to me that this topic has been hanging around for at least a century or so. May I offer Bertrand Russell:
quote:
“If a person is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.”


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It's Not That Simple

Posts: 5366 | From: more herring choker than bluenose | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Jane R
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Humble Servant:
quote:
But this is exactly what I was talking about. If you have to stoop to these levels, you leave nothing to choose between you and the deniers. Just two sides concocting empty slogans and manipulative rhetoric.
You're right, but that does leave The Truth labouring under a massive handicap...

quetzalcoatl:
quote:
Are there some real live climate skeptics here?
I really doubt that mdijon is a climate change sceptic. Quite the reverse, in fact; what he's basically saying is that all these scientists who are studying climate change/global warming/whatever you want to call it have a huge incentive to find that it ISN'T happening. Because then they'd be responsible for the Next Big Paradigm Shift and could basically name their own terms of employment to whichever top university they fancied working at.

Also, everyone who isn't an environmental scientist would really rather be told that it's OK to carry on trashing the environment as usual. Therefore, with two compelling reasons to find that climate change is NOT happening, it is quite telling that 97% of the scientists working in this field are in agreement that climate change IS happening and that it is being caused by humans.

See? No expertise in geoscience required; just a basic knowledge of human nature and a bit of critical thinking, as Dark Knight said.

Posts: 3866 | From: Jorvik | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
lilBuddha
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Originally posted by Humble Servant:
quote:
But you can play the same "follow the money" game for the scientists. Their grants and therefore their livelihoods rely on there being something to research. We must understand the climate and the big problems it causes if it changes, so give me a grant to do some research. My first priority is to convince you that there's a problem - my second one is to look to next year's grant.
Yeah, but no. Climate affects everything. Understanding those patterns is vital to our modern society, whether or not we are causing warming (Spoiler: we are!)
The scientists who first formulated global warming already had jobs and, since we are far from being perfect at predicting the daily weather, their jobs are in no danger.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

Posts: 16601 | From: the round earth's imagined corners | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged
Luigi
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Jane R and lilBuddha spot on.

Just to add. I remember UK scientists saying that we would have warmer and wetter weather in the future (I'm doing this from memory) but this report was released in the middle of an extended drought! Once more recent years have been added in it is apparent that 4 of the 5 wettest years on record have been in the past 10 years.

Whatever the reason for the wetter weather, this sort of information is always going to be valuable.

[ 17. December 2016, 10:04: Message edited by: Luigi ]

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Jane R
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...and actually, I've been thinking a bit more about the question of terminology and despite what Humble Servant said, it does matter. Experts talking about their own subject are concerned with selecting the most precise terms available to describe the concept under discussion. They quite often coin new terms (if they want to talk about a new discovery, such as the Higgs boson) or change the term they use for something when they find a better way of describing it (global warming -> climate change, because although overall global temperatures are going up this doesn't necessarily mean warmer weather for everyone). That's normal. That's the way language works; it changes all the time.

But when they're talking to people who *aren't* experts and use a word which means one thing to them and another in common usage... that causes problems. Thus, when a doctor talks about obesity they mean something very specific; someone whose weight and distribution of body fat is so high it is adversely affecting their health. Whereas journalists tend to use 'obese' to mean 'anyone who looks even slightly overweight'.

That's why I thought that talking about herd immunity might be a problem. It's a perfectly good term which explains the concept admirably, but to someone who isn't a scientist and has no understanding of epidemiology it might sound offensive.

Posts: 3866 | From: Jorvik | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
balaam

Making an ass of myself
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In Britain we do not only have the problem of those with an agenda, some of the problem is in the way the BBC judges being unbiased.

In giving equal time to both sides of a debate they create a false impression that, say, climate change denying scientists are equal in number to those who warn of it, when in fact the deniers are a small minority. That is not being unbiased, that is showing a bias to the minority.

However, outside the debates, local BBC news has been carrying a story that squid and chips may replace the traditional English cod or haddock and chips as cod and haddock are being driven north as the seas warm up and other species, squid, anchovies and sardines populate our waters.

Mmm. Can't wait.

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Fearfully and wonderfully mad

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