Novella on Germ Theory Denial

Man-crush Steven Novella writes awesomely on germ theory denial:

Denialism is always fascinating – the bold-faced denial of facts that are fully in evidence and easily verifiable. It is a testament to the profound psychological effect that ideology can have on the human brain, and the mechanisms by which it is maintained. And before we wax too self-righteous as skeptics in this regard, we must always remember that we are all susceptible to these psychological mechanisms. We are all human. That is precisely why we need the rigorous, transparent, and self-critical process of science to sort through complex questions such as disease and immunity.

I’m stealing his conclusion here, but the whole thing is very much worth reading.

6 Responses to “Novella on Germ Theory Denial”

  1. knarlyknight Says:

    He’s preaching to the choir and settles on comfy conclusions. To be great, Novella needs to take it a step further and address how to reach those who are too arrogant or ignorant to self-reflect on their human foibles & psychological mechanisms that prevent them from easily seeing beyond their current ideology. I would posit that it is pretty much hopeless and not worth the effort in the short term and that secondly that there are not enough experts to address all the ignorant critics in the world.

    In longer term it would pay huge dividends to ensure as many people as possible get a great education and appreciation for the depth and breadth of existing and potential human knowledge. Alas.

    Two more items. (1) Deniers usually do not have any trust that the science meets all of Novellas criteria: rigorous, transparent, and self critical therefore where deniers have criticisms, such as shcbs parroted criticisms of Manns climate work and hidden lost data, the criticisms must be taken seriously and responses to the criticisms must be and appear objective without any hint of simply being defensive mechanisms in support of the original. To do otherwise is to do the opposite of what Novella implores in his last sentence.

    (2) I really like part of one of the comments, so have pasted below:

    # Robert Webbon 04 Nov 2010 at 9:34 pm
    I was the guy who forwarded that link to Steve, so thanks for blogging about it! Much appreciated. I’ve had a lot of posts back and forth with punter, and with Meryl Dorey too (“shotinfo” on the AVN blog).

    I know the term “denial” is popular among skeptics, though I steer clear of it personally for two reasons. One is that it immediately puts the people who most need to hear what you’re saying on the defensive. The other is that it presumes the person is aware of, understands, and accepts the evidence against them in order to deny it. Hell, I don’t understand much of the evidence myself! At least not for the detailed stuff.

  2. shcb Says:

    A couple items here, those of us that are promoting reason over hysteria in dealing with this problem of man-made global warming aren’t “deniers”. We don’t suffer from an affliction where we see a boogie man under every rock, but it is easier to paint us in that light so that is our opponents have chosen to attack us. The point is many of the facts are on our side and not theirs and it is just easier to use this as a tactic to defeat us. We’ve looked at the evidence presented to us have made our decision regarding this single issue

    I don’t trust Mann because I don’t trust scientists who act like politicians and I don’t trust scientists who do sloppy work, in my mind Mann is and did both. Now this isn’t just my opinion this is the opinion of every group government or private that has investigated the work of Mann and Jones, then just becomes a matter of degree, does what they have done rise to the level that a person doesn’t trust their conclusions, in my mind it does, and JBC’s mind it doesn’t. I doesn’t completely invalidate their work but it puts things in better perspective for how we should proceed.

    Here’s an example, we have coal reserves adequate to produce electricity for the next several hundred to several thousand years depending on whose estimates you read. We have natural gas reserves available for at least several hundred years if it is being used to heat our homes. From an ecological standpoint it makes more sense to heat our homes with natural gas because it just naturally is a cleaner source of energy in their homes are using this energy at non-centralized locations where it is harder to monitor the efficiency of its use. Using coal to produce electricity on the other hand while not as clean as natural gas can be used in a centralized situation since it can be so closely monitored. Because of this hysteria of man-made global warming we are producing much more of our electricity using natural gas, this is depleting our supplies of natural gas much quicker than if we were still producing electricity with coal. This eventually will become detrimental to the environment, all because of a hoax.

  3. NorthernLite Says:

    “if we were still producing electricity with coal.”

    Do you want your grandchildren to have to wear masks when they go outside and play? Even if you don’t trust the AGW science you have to remember that coal spews smog-causing pollutants and dramatically increases respiratory illnesses.

    We closed most of our coal plants in Ontario over the past few years and this past summer we saw much cleaner air. There was hardly any smog at all in Toronto and the smog that we did have? Guess where it came from? Unfortunately air pollution doesn’t respect international borders…

    It’s ironic that many from the same crowd who doubt climate science buy into the whole “clean coal” shtick.

  4. shcb Says:

    No, I want to find a replacement for coal but using natural gas doesn’t seem to me to be a good choice. This is what happens when something is over hyped, people make bad decisions. It’s like when you come on a car wreck and someone is screaming that the person injured is bleeding, well, yes there is blood but the bleeding has almost stopped, the real problem is the back injury, the more rational calm person will make a better assessment of the situation. Wind is fine for some locations but it has limitations, same with hydro, I saw your rivers for the first time a few weeks ago, my god man we don’t have lakes that big out west. Using natural gas to produce electricity has its place too, but it isn’t the best use of our resources to use it for large scale production, unless the hype is real, but I don’t think it is. I think we have a problem but not a crisis, and you handle those situations differently.

    And just to be clear, I don’t doubt the science, just the hype (and a few of the scientists).

  5. shcb Says:

    Let me give you a quick example, 10 or 20 years ago we had a real smog problem in Denver, it was only in the winter, the general consensus was it was from cars, in particular idling cars, so they changed the laws to allow people to make right hand turns on a red light, a good idea for any number of reasons but the smog problem didn’t get better. Then they blamed it on any number of geographic and atmospheric phenomenon. Someone finally looked outside the box and tested the air for stuff they normally don’t look for and found out the real problem was dust, it seems the sand they laid down after each snow would get ground against itself, since the new sand was sharper than the old sand it turned the old sand into dust. The solution to Denver’s smog problem was the sweep the streets between snow storms! As an extra bonus they could reuse the old sand if they got it up quick enough.

    The point is all kinds of useless solutions were tried because Denver was getting a bad rap so politicians rushed to judgment and expended a lot of time, effort and money on hype.

  6. enkidu Says:

    thx for reminding me to get the H1N1 shot

    I took my 11 year old son to his ‘wellness visit’ Dr appt. They offered the vaccine for free and I asked him: do you want to be protected against the H1N1 flu? there are some minor risks, but to me they are outweighed by the benefits. What kind of risks? The Doctor explained the risks: probably not, but maybe a mild fever, maybe headache, maybe worse, just watch carefully for a couple days. And the benefits? It boosts your immunity to a killer disease. It killed Logan and Desi’s Dad last year…
    I want it, he said.

    Smart boy.

    On the walk home we talked about probabilities and the math behind making decisions in a rational, scientific way, rather than an emotional way. I think wwnj does not think rationally about much of reality: he is sure Mann (etc) is an Evil Bad Guy ‘scientist’ and that libs is teh stoopid no matter what. Libs is Evil Bad Guys, so they are wrong by definition. a priori anyone? Actually it is much much worse than that, but I’m trying to be nice.

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