Denialism blogging

I’ve been remiss about this (mainly because I’ve been aware of it for a few days now), but it turns out that Mark and Chris Hoofnagle have started a rather promising-looking blog, It’s a blog dedicated to discussing six main areas:

  1. HIV/AIDS Denialism
  2. Global Warming denialism
  3. Creationism/Intelligent Design Denialism
  4. Holocaust Denial
  5. Anti-Vaccination denialists
  6. Animal testing denialists

Hmmm. Looks like they’re muscling in on my territory a bit, although I seldom write about global warming for the simple reason that I don’t know as much about it as I know about other topics.

Oh, well. As long as they leave the quackery deconstruction to me…


  1. #1 Clark Bartram
    March 22, 2007

    “Oh, well. As long as they the quackery to me…”

    Might want to fix that big guy.

  2. #2 SteveM
    March 22, 2007

    when will people ever stop putting blue text on black backgrounds?

  3. #3 Joseph Hertzlinger
    March 22, 2007

    It might be worth looking at types of “denial” that are no longer common. For example, unemployment denial used to be common on the right side of the political spectrum. It was assumed that anybody who really wanted a job could find one and that unemployment just represented laziness. We don’t hear that much any more.

  4. #4 Nat
    March 22, 2007

    Isn’t ID/creationist denialism the odd one out there?

  5. #5 Orac
    March 22, 2007

    Not if you call it “evolution denialism,” which is a much better term than what they are using. The way it is now, they seem to be saying “creationism denialism,” which would imply that people are using fallacious arguments and science to refute creationism!

  6. #6 Sastra
    March 22, 2007

    So it’s “Skeptics” vs. “Denialists.” That works.

    Within a rather narrow scientific, educated circle, pretty much everyone understands what being a “skeptic” has come to mean: Skeptic Society, James Randi, Skeptical Inquirer, etc. An approach which uses science and reason to fight against woo and other fashionable nonsense.

    However, in the Real World, the inhererent vagueness of the term means the clicky little phrase is often misunderstood. Saying “I’m a skeptic” or “I’m into skepticism” or whatever often means either jack nothing to the uninitiated, or it’s misconstrued as meaning being what is here called a “denialist.”

    “I’m skeptical of evolution/allopathic medicine/science.”

    I like being able to make this distinction.

  7. #7 Bronze Dog
    March 22, 2007

    Animal testing denialism? That’s a new one for me. Let me guess: Denying that animal testing has ever aided mankind or something like that?

  8. #8 Davis
    March 22, 2007

    Animal testing denialism?

    I was wondering the same thing — that’s the first time I’ve seen that phrase. I’ll be interested to see their writings on that topic, to see how they tie it into the denialism theme.

  9. #9 CJ Croy
    March 23, 2007


    The skeptical retort to those sorts is to refer to their beliefs as “pseudo-skepticism”.

  10. #10 Paul
    March 23, 2007

    I think the inclusion of opposition to animal testing as a denialism is interesting. There are certainly those who oppose animal testing while at the same time agreeing that it has been scientifically and medically useful, while still claiming that it it morally wrong. I don’t think you can call this denialism.

    On the other hand a lot of anti-vivisectionist propaganda relies on what is termed “scientific anti-vivisection”. Scientific anti-vivisection as put forward by groups such as Europeans for Medical Progress, and the ironically named Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine does rely on the kinds of cherry picking, misrepresentation, misquotation and distortion (and in the case of Peter Thatchel outright lies) that are a characteristic of other “denialist” movements. So it seems fair to include this category of anti-vivisectionists in the denialist list.

  11. #11 Paul
    March 23, 2007

    Orac, I’m afraid that you also have some strong competition on the quackery deconstruction front from David Colquhoun at UCL

    He had a good commentary in this weeks Nature on quackery in some UK universities

    Perhaps a transatlantic alliance is in order?

  12. #12 Kelly
    March 23, 2007

    Many reputable scientists are skeptical on global warming, its causes, its effects and on what timeline. That’s not a “hey, there’s loonies out there denying global warming” in the same sense as Holocaust deniers, which is an historic event or those that insist vaccines cause autism, which is a concept that can be disproven with chart and statistical review.

    The science involved with global warming is changing from minute to minute, year to year, senate hearing to senate hearing. It’s a little early to put your foot in the dirt and call skeptics and scientists who don’t buy the leftists’ global warming claims “denialists”. Many, like the president of the Czech Republic, are also starting to catch on that global warming and the environmentalist movement is nothing more than a thinly-veiled movement towards European-style socialism and its problems such as high taxes and high unemployment.

  13. #13 Andrew Dodds
    March 23, 2007

    Kelly –

    That’s what we call ‘Classic denialism in action.’

    Why, for instance, is the president of the Czech republic an authority on climate change? Is WorldNetDaily an authortitive source on ANYTHING?

    How many currently practicing climatologists and geologists are publishing peer reviewed articles in the literature that are critical of the CO2/Climate connection and/or postulate valid alterative hypotheses?

  14. #14 anonimouse
    March 23, 2007

    How many currently practicing climatologists and geologists are publishing peer reviewed articles in the literature that are critical of the CO2/Climate connection and/or postulate valid alterative hypotheses?

    A few. But I think at this point we’re really discussing the real extent of global warming and the likelihood of doomsday scenarios rather than whether there’s actual human involvement. I think holding on to that card is creeping very close to denialism.

  15. #15 mark
    March 23, 2007

    Thanks for the link Orac.

    A few things. I’m sorry that I’ve committed some horrible design error for blue on black, I’m considering a redesign given how many people objected to black backgrounds, maybe I’ll just reverse it.

    You’re right, evolution denialism is clearer. It should probably be Creationism/Evolution Denialism. But you guys get what I mean.

    The Animal rights anti-vivisection denialism comes from claims by PCRM and others that animal testing doesn’t benefit science. It’s not representative of the majority of people who are concerned for animal welfare, is vehemently anti-science and biology, and engages in the tactics of denialists.

    Oh, and the global warming denialists hate being called denialists, it cracks me up. One already showed up and gave a mixed global warming/anti-vivisection argument. It was bizarre.

  16. #16 mark
    March 23, 2007

    Oh, and you can have the holocaust deniers. I like to think they’re so marginalized they are essentially irrelevant to policy debates. That and they just turn my stomach.

    It’s just they’re a good reference point for what these kinds of non-arguments allow one to believe.

  17. #17 Kelly
    March 23, 2007

    I didn’t say the Czech Rep president was an expert on climate change; he’s just someone who realizes at least a good portion of the ‘global warming=end of civilization as we know it soon’ crowd is the same crowd that is anti-corporation, anti-business, anti-capitalist. If anyone denies this, just go to any environmentalism rally and read the signage. Most of the battle cries are anti-capitalism.

    ‘Global warming’ as a phrase generally refers to warming caused by human factors, not from el Nino or whatever. My Viking ancestors, for example, farmed on Greenland during a period of global warming in the 900s to 1300s. The Earth’s temp rises and falls all the time without human involvement. Calling someone who wonders how we can determine which part of the average 0.6 degree temperature difference over the last 150 years is due to people and which is due to non-people causes a “denialist” is a little rude and anti-science/anti-reason.

  18. #18 mark
    March 23, 2007

    Kelly, you’re a denialist. All the signs are there, the selectivity, the fake experts, the conspiracy mongering (it’s all an anti-capitalist conspiracy).

    Sorry, you’re a crackpot. If you’re going to have crackpot ideas you’re going to be insulted every once in a while. I’d say get used to it.

  19. #19 phil
    March 23, 2007

    All the signs???
    Selectivity – like cherry picking just one of the 13 recognized populations of polar bears to show how the whole species is endangered without mentioning that other populations are growing or stable?
    Fake experts – you mean like the failed divinity student Al Gore who is preaching down to all of us?
    Conspiracy Mongering- labeling anyone questioning global warming as “bought by the oil companies” or deniers while academics getting millions of dollars in grants from left wing foundations to promote the idea of global warming are offering “pristene” opinions?
    Your projection is astounding.

  20. #20 mark
    March 23, 2007

    When did I ever talk about polar bears? Since when is Al Gore not a world expert on climate change? Granted, he’s a lay expert but he has done an excellent job representing the consensus. And attacking him because he went to divinity school? A Harvard degree isn’t enough? And to whom did I allege a conspiracy? I didn’t say anyone was part of a conspiracy. Talk about projection.

    I did none of these things. Just straw men and red herrings, with a little poisoning the well. The usual denialist garbage. That this passes for argument is pretty pathetic.

  21. #21 HCN
    March 23, 2007

    Just a little aside, there was a pointer to an article posted at the World Net Daily… that is not an objective news source. Sometimes it is referred to as the Wing Nut Daily.

  22. #22 chaos_engineer
    March 24, 2007


    Most of these comments are shedding more heat than light. Let me see if I can take a stab at it.

    We’re not experts in most fields, so we can’t make sense out of the raw data. All we can do is trust the people who are experts. Now, most of the experts are saying the global warming is real, that the Holocaust happened, that vaccines are beneficial, and so on. We can find a tiny number of experts that disagree, but the mainstream experts think that they’re crackpots and don’t take them seriously.

    Note that the minority viewpoint isn’t always rejected like that. Sometimes the mainstream will say, “Well, that’s consistent with the data, but it seems pretty unlikely. We’re going to disagree with you for now, but we might change our minds if you come up with some more evidence. Feel free to apply for a research grant!”

    So: Given that I’m not an expert in a field, how can I believe one of the “crackpot” theories? How can I say that my judgement is superior to the combined judgement of all the people who are experts?

    About the only way I can do it is to embrace a bizarre conspiracy theory. The experts “know” the truth, but they’ve been bullied into silence by the Jews/the Secularists/Big Pharma/Greenpeace.

    But that way lies madness. Where’s the evidence of the conspiracy? Who’s in charge of making up the data? How did they enlist so many thousands of people without a leak? Why are they so oddly ineffective at times? (Suppose Big Pharma knows that vaccines are too dangerous to use, but they’re suppressing the information to protect their bottom line. Why have they been forced to pull other drugs from the market? Couldn’t they have suppressed that information too?)

    As far as I can tell, people only embrace that sort of conspiracy theory when their ideology requires them to. I take it that you accept Global Warming denialism but reject Holocaust denialism. Why do you feel that way? Is it just because you hate Greenpeace but you don’t have a grudge against Jews? If you’ve got a deeper reason then I’d love to hear it!

    Also, did you know that Environmentalism is inherently pro-capitalistic? Suppose I run a factory, and I decide that I can increase profits by dumping pollution into the environment, but that increases everyone else’s medical expenses. So I’m indirectly getting everyone else to subsidize my production.

    Environmental regulations level the playing field by making sure that I pay the true costs of production.

    So people who oppose the idea of environmental regulation aren’t capitalists, they’re feudalists. (They want an economy where the ruling class enjoys the benefits of production, and can shift the costs of production onto the underclass.) Sometimes feudalists will use capitalist rhetoric to trick people.

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