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Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Is Denial an "ism?" Scientifically speaking?

I finished David Lipsky's thoroughly engaging book. Lordy, mercy...
Just submitted a review on Amazon.
How can a book be at once so recurrently hilarious and infuriating?

Read it and find out.

You're welcome in advance.

The author, beyond his formidable analytical acumen and indefatigable attention to the voluminous relevant historical detail on the topic, is a Sensei of Snark. Across the nearly 16 Kindle hours of this book, I have encountered and exceeded my Lifetime Permissible Dose of deft, ROTFL allusive analogies and metaphors. I kept interrupting my wife: "Baby, you gotta hear THIS..."

The Bang for the Buck here is fabulous. The subject could hardly be more important. Do yourselves a serious favor. Get David's book and place it at the front your must-read queue.
OK, so, is there a "science of Denial?"
Just started this one.
Recall an earlier post on "denial?"

Psychologists have been studying a very basic cognitive function that appears to be of increasing importance – how do we choose what to believe as true or false? We live in a world awash in information, and access to essentially the world’s store of knowledge is now a trivial matter for many people, especially in developed parts of the world. The most important cognitive skill in the 21st century may arguably be not factual knowledge but truth discrimination. I would argue this is a skill that needs to be explicitly taught in school, and is more important than teaching students facts.

Knowing facts is still important, because you cannot think in a vacuum. Our internal model of the world is build on bricks of fact, but before we take a brick and place it in our wall of knowledge, we have to decide if it is probably true or not. I have come to think about this in terms of three categories of skills – domain knowledge (with scientific claims this is scientific literacy), critical thinking, and media savvy…

One of my requisite daily web-surfing stops.
Also apropos of the topic—"The Big Myth," "Science denial: attributes and antidotes." And, how 'bout Amanda Ripley's "Conflict Entrepreneurs?"
The Wiki takes a crack at "Denialism."
Finally for now, is there a "science" of "Science Communication?"


Ever since some of the earliest projections of climate change were made back in the 1970s, they have been remarkably accurate at predicting the rate at which global temperatures would rise. For decades, climate change has proceeded at roughly the expected pace, says David Armstrong McKay, a climate scientist at the University of Exeter, in England. Its impacts, however, are accelerating—sometimes far faster than expected.

For a while, the consequences weren’t easily seen. They certainly are today. The Southwest is sweltering under a heat dome. Vermont saw a deluge of rain, its second 100-year storm in roughly a decade. Early July brought the hottest day globally since records began—a milestone surpassed again the following day. “For a long time, we were within the range of normal. And now we’re really not,” Allegra LeGrande, a physical-research scientist at Columbia University, told me. “And it has happened fast enough that people have a memory of it happening.”

In fact, a growing number of climate scientists now believe we may be careening toward so-called tipping points, where incremental steps along the same trajectory could push Earth’s systems into abrupt or irreversible change—leading to transformations that cannot be stopped even if emissions were suddenly halted…
Click the title image. Read all of it.


My new Harper's
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not unusual to enter common spaces across the United States—grocery stores, malls, office buildings—and experience a kind of perceptual whiplash. People wearing N-95 masks and latex gloves stood beside others wearing no mask at all—or else letting their mandatory face coverings slouch flaccidly beneath their chins. As protests broke out both for and against various public health measures intended to combat the spread of the virus, this polarization went beyond policy decisions concerning mandates and lockdowns to questions of medical fact and expert authority. It was as if the authorities had set off the fire alarm in a nation-size movie theater: one half of the audience vacated their seats in muted panic while the rest defiantly continued to eat their popcorn.

The pandemic laid bare the extent to which Americans occupy a split reality. From within the credentialed classes, the demos appears increasingly and disturbingly resistant to rational argument and evidence, with rowdy populist movements undermining at every turn the response to an unprecedented public health emergency. But from within these populist camps, it seems that many Americans have been blindly following—or worse, knowingly supporting—an undemocratic regime intent on imposing its values under cover of scientific neutrality. In this view, the pandemic was just the latest excuse for this regime to advance its technocratic agenda; often, resisting that agenda meant rejecting technical expertise entirely.

The result is that American democracy and scientific authority are suffering parallel crises of credibility, each standing accused by the other. This twofold crisis has many causes, among them political polarization and the spread of misinformation on social media, as well as long-standing antirationalist religious traditions and anti-intellectual strains in American business and culture. None of these factors should be minimized when attempting to understand America’s widespread antiscientific sentiment. But they need to be supplemented by another, far less widely acknowledged, fount of skepticism—one that requires contending with what the populist view gets right: scientific expertise has encroached on domains in which its methods are unsuited to addressing, let alone resolving, the issue at hand...

Unable to reach any kind of democratic consensus, Americans largely faked their way through the early stages of the pandemic. Some fraudulently claimed conspiratorial knowledge in order to challenge scientific expertise. Others disguised their preference for the preservation of bare life or for economic growth as the consequence of inarguable scientific findings, and denounced all dissenters as irrational and immoral.

Many have seen the pandemic as a forerunner to a much darker and more devastating global crisis. The next catastrophe—very possibly ecological in nature—may be far more destructive. Averting such a crisis will require listening with careful humility to scientists and scientific authority. Science’s role as adviser and counselor, keeping the demos in contact with reality, is irreplaceable.

At the same time, American society long ago allowed major institutions to be governed by scientism. If the wonks and data evangelists do not have their power curbed, the country could descend into a battle over whose values trump whose. Such a turn would signal not only the end of democracy in America, but also the imposition of an alien notion of life on those who no longer recognize themselves in the government that presides over them.

Prioritizing democratic dialogue and shifting away from top-down policymaking will not be easy. In a society as large and as varied as ours, there will always be the temptation to outsource contentious decisions to supposedly neutral authorities. But if we want to stand a chance of weathering the next crisis better than we have this one, we’ll need to learn to trust ourselves.
Jason Blakely is an associate professor of political science at Pepperdine University and the author of We Built Reality: How Social Science Infiltrated Culture, Politics, and Power.
A long-read. Worth every second. Like I didn't already have enough to ponder. Bristling at the word "scientism," but, OK. I'd spent most of the day burrowed deep into Jared Del Rosso's Denial before reading the Harper's essay.


Bought his book. I'm never gonna get caught up.

AMAZON BLURB: Over the last fifty years, pseudoscience has crept into nearly every facet of our lives. Popular sciences of everything from dating and economics, to voting and artificial intelligence, radically changed the world today. The abuse of popular scientific authority has catastrophic consequences, contributing to the 2008 financial crisis; the failure to predict the rise of Donald Trump; increased tensions between poor communities and the police; and the sidelining of nonscientific forms of knowledge and wisdom. In We Built Reality, Jason Blakely explains how recent social science theories have not simply described political realities but also helped create them. But he also offers readers a way out of the culture of scientism: hermeneutics, or the art of interpretation. Hermeneutics urges sensitivity to the historical and cultural contexts of human behavior. It gives ordinary people a way to appreciate the insights of the humanities in guiding decisions. As Blakely contends, we need insights from the humanities to see how social science theories never simply neutrally describe reality, they also help build it.
Well, we'll see.


BobbyG is spending the @BobbyGvegas week in Twitter Jail for cracking back on @RepMTG for her endless repetitious fact-free allegations against the President. I tweeted "Provide us with some REAL EVIDENCE, or stifle it."

Elon's snark-bereft AI moderation algorithm determined it to be the egregious ToS violation of "advocating self-harm."

So, I wasn't yet quite ready to launch this (below), but it's serving as an interim work-around. Twitter handle @ArgumentScience.


Horrific. Katrina. Riveting piece, overall. Mediocre acting in many places, but visually arresting and true to The Book.
My wife was at the time Director of QA for the Shaw Group of Baton Rouge LA. She spent the entire fall of 2005 post-hurricane down there with her peeps working 16-20 hours a day pumping NOLA "dry," doing blue tarps roofings, and putting people into FEMA trailer homes. She got home (Vegas) right before Christmas. We then did Mardis Gras in Bation Ruoge the following Feb.
More to come...

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