Book Denialism

How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives




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Michael Specter’s direct, elegant New Yorker-style prose renders the complexity of his assertions entertaining, easy to read and eminently digestible. Specter dissects many advocates’ widespread insistence on denying accepted scientific and medical facts when the truth might undermine their financial or emotional self-interest. His style makes the pages turn, except in the few places where he seems temporarily to run out of gas, and his book is full of revelations. Its episodic nature works in its favor, since you can read any chapter as a stand-alone article, with no loss of Specter’s big ideas or editorial purpose. Are you interested in the malfeasance of drug companies and how that affects your daily health? Do you buy organic foods? Do you pursue alternative medical care? Do you know how much impact genetic science may have on you? Or do you enjoy reading about the shockingly smug ignorance of others (who doesn’t enjoy that?) and how they insist on their own enlightenment? getAbstract highly recommends Specter’s astute overview of today’s bunk, and how not to subscribe to it.


A World of Denial

Denial is a psychological state in which individuals ignore – or pretend they don’t know – the truth. Denial can be healthy in the short term, enabling human beings to accept events gradually that are too traumatic to deal with when they occur, but living in denial over the long range means never coming to terms with reality. “Denialism” is the willful suspension of belief, or deliberate ignorance about facts that might undermine a self-serving emotional or financial position. Denialism – whether purposeful or unconscious, well-meaning or cynical – obstructs progress in many arenas, including medicine, food, science, and so on. It creates a pervasive, morally self-satisfied mythology that has destructive real-world consequences.

Denialism sustains misguided, firmly held opinions that may not alter the world (though some denialism has broad, dangerous costs), but that do keep the denier in a state of blissful ignorance. In that state, the denier makes life choices based on fantasy, not fact. “The issues may be complex but the choices are not.” The alternative to accepting scientific facts or “new technologies, along with their limitations and threats...

About the Author

Award-winning writer Michael Specter covers technology and science for The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1998.

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