Thursday, March 12, 2015

On the Fear of Being Wrong

Recently, the anti-vaccine crowd got a taste of reality with a series of necessarily preventable outbreaks that prove that they are a harmful crowd that stupidly denies science with the end result of causing death and disease.  In the microcosm of a single topic, these people are every bit as anti-science and anti-fact as evolution-denying religious cretins*, or anti-GMO nutters.  To be clear, I am not saying that these groups are equal when you generalize across the entire spectrum of science denial, as there are certain groups that reject more scientific principles than others do.  Rather, I'm saying that when you look at the characteristics of abject ignorance of the pertaining subjects, the outright rejection of the evidence, the intransigence with respect to their opponents (vividly illustrated by their preference to hurl accusations rather than actually form a cogent argument), and the apparent belief that their lies are more likely to be true if they're more extreme and terrifying... All of that is basically the same for every science denial movement.

In arguing against these sorts of reality-hating troglodytes, we're most likely to fight back with the real facts on the subject often times because those are the things that we as critical thinkers and rationalists would value most of all.  It is easy to forget, though, that a large part of the reason we do value such things is because we are critical thinkers to begin with, and for those who are not, it just doesn't have any major impact.  A science denier isn't denying it because he or she thinks the facts are really in question, but because he doesn't think something is a fact unless he agrees with it.  The science denier belongs to social groups that hold certain ideas to be beyond reproach, and so anything that dares to challenge that is automatically false 
because it doesn't fit what they already convinced themselves is known to be true.  The truth is a hard pill to swallow, and the most bitter truth of them all is the one that says you're wrong.