Monday, April 30, 2007


Denying Denialism

Mark and Chris Hoofnagle have moved their over to Scienceblogs, now calling it Denialism blog, and it will doubtless be a very worthy addition to that site. I had come upon their old location only recently while looking up reactions to Dr. Michael Egnor. I hope it prospers in its new home.

Their very first post deals with some basics that they will then expand upon. The following struck me:
We don't argue with cranks. Part of understanding denialism is knowing that it's futile to argue with them, and giving them yet another forum is unnecessary. They also have the advantage of just being able to make things up and it takes forever to knock down each argument as they're only limited by their imagination while we're limited by things like logic and data.
Boy! I couldda saved a lot of time in if I had taken that approach. Oh, wait a minute! That is the fun part of! In fact, was created to drain such wastes of time away from those parts of the usenet with aspirations towards seriousness and gather the creationist cranks and loons in a single location to facilitate making fun of them. On the other hand, the effort of listening to and addressing the creationist arguments did lead to the wonderful resource on the subject contained in the Talk Origins Archive.

Still, the Hoofnagle's are right that arguing with such people is a low-return investment (though a few creationists of the more rational sort were "converted" in over the years).
Recognizing denialism also means recognizing that you don't need to, and probably shouldn't argue with it. Denialists are not honest brokers in the debate (you'll hear me harp on this a lot). They aren't interested in truth, data, or informative discussion, they're interested in their world view being the only one, and they'll say anything to try to bring this about. We feel that once you've shown that what they say is deceptive, or prima-facie absurd, you don't have to spend a graduate career dissecting it and taking it apart.
In the more accessible blogoshere, visited by people with less specialized interest in these sorts of topics, it is probably wise to avoid bogging down in the endless argumentation that engages in and go straight to the exposure of the denialist sleight-of-hand.

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