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YJ02

Anti- science, science deniers and 'alt' science, do they have a growing following

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I have background, experience and education, in the psychology field, mainly social-psychology. I was given a few suggestions of where to put this thread, and I chose this because I do not want it to be a psych-social discussion only.

At the same time, I am not necessarily looking for comment on why these theories (word used loosely) are wrong- I know they are by the way- but rather are these denial-beliefs (as in denial of established science and a belief in having been deceived' / 'the truth is out there' type of thing) growing in followers? If you want to post a brief description/method for how you would explain to these people why they are wrong, then please do.

Of course not all of these issues came to my attention due to the internet, but many of them I did find by using it. Particularly YouTube.

We know that many of these denial-beliefs have existed for quite a while, like with the Flat Earth movement, and had many followers before the rise of the internet by everyday users. But has the internet become a great tool of outreach, contact and recruiter for them? 

The flat earth is not the only thing noticed, but for the sake of brevity in this post I will use it as a starter.

But i will make a short list of some of the anti science/alt science and out right denial I have seen, feel free to add to and discuss if you like (i hope):

-Gravity is not real

-Quantum Computing we'll be used to change history and to control society.

-fluoride and other additives in the drinking water is causing ...

-contrails

-the moon landings never happened

-man has never been into orbit nor has any of his machines

-satellites do not exist

-vaccines are actually spreading disease

-science is being taught to stifle our creativity and individualism

-mesas are actually the petrified stumps of long ago cut down trees,done by ancient giants.

-the Chinese have made human pig hybrids and are using them,en masse, to do genetic testing and weapons testing meant for the rest of us.

and many more.....

 

Also of note is that many of these people, if not all, have multiple, cross or co supporting beliefs in these issues. Many flat earthers start out having already believed in other denial-beliefs and will also hold a belief in any or all of the denial-belief 'spectrum' of issues. The flat earther may believe that vaccines are harmful and that contrails are used to spread mind controlling drugs, etc.

Interestingly though, most flat earthers do not believe in aliens or alien abductions as space is not real.An example of how they do think this through so as not to contradict themselves. Most gow through great pains to appear normal and be accepted by society in other aspects of their lives. 

LASTLY for this portion, these people are very good at refusing to come to any type of commonality for discussion to be based on. Everything is a lie or fabrication,such as: "photos of the Earth from space are obvious Hollywood/NASA/JPL fakes, so you cant use that as evidence"

It is almost like trying to have a discussion with someone over why the sky appears blue, but the other person does not even accept the premise that is the sky.

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My thoughts on this. Yes we could absolutely just slough off these people and just say 'the earth is round, done science, bye'. But do we run the risk of our ignoring and discounting these movements to the detriment of the future of our society? That is, consider if and when any of these people get into some low level elected position like a local school board.

And they do so in a manner that several of them are on it and they have a majority. Obviously they would be doing this for one reason; to change curriculum.

Or the growing occurrence of young people choosing to not believe or try to understand what they are taught in school. The "science is just too hard" crowd. So they see a flat earth video on YT and say "Well, that was so well produced and the guy made so much sense, the Earth IS flat!"

Assisting this trend is low level celebrities and sports figures and rappers making public declarations that the earth is flat. swaying those young minds pf mush into believing it as well.

And this is an international occurrence, There seem to be large numbers in Britain and Europe, Canada and Australia. So, it is not just the education system of America that is lacking.

Again, I only used flat earth as an example. The arguments and counter arguments used by these denier-believers are similar for every item out there.

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Here are a few items for reference. 

An article from Psychology Today online:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psych-unseen/201905/flat-earthers-redux-subjective-belief-science-and-reality

 

How average people fall into it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg71tqpsVXY

 

and should real scientists be engaging these people? Does it give them a type of validation by being able to debate with them?:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7yvvq-9ytE

There are thousands more for and against

Thanks!

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The internet is the great equalizer.
It gives ignorant people the ability to spread their lack of knowledge to other ignorant people.

We try to fight a little battle against the spreading ignorance on this forum.

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6 minutes ago, MigL said:

The internet is the great equalizer.
It gives ignorant people the ability to spread their lack of knowledge to other ignorant people.

We try to fight a little battle against the spreading ignorance on this forum.

but how to fight it on a mass and effective level?

just closing one's eyes and waiting for the bad man to go away won't work.

does the silence of scientists and educators on this create a type of 'vacuum' for these people to fill?

"the scientists don't say anything because they know we are right" type of thing?

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First off, there is no truth... Nothing can be proven, that is the nature of science, there is only logical belief. Those that are limited in understanding, for whatever reason, be it intellect, interest, or religious belief... whatever, cannot or will not pursue the logic, they build a framework that works via trial and error. If believing the world is flat works for you, go with it.

14 minutes ago, MigL said:

We try to fight a little battle against the spreading ignorance on this forum

Indeed you do!

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1 hour ago, YJ02 said:

but how to fight it on a mass and effective level?

just closing one's eyes and waiting for the bad man to go away won't work.

does the silence of scientists and educators on this create a type of 'vacuum' for these people to fill?

"the scientists don't say anything because they know we are right" type of thing?

 

1 hour ago, MigL said:

The internet is the great equalizer.
It gives ignorant people the ability to spread their lack of knowledge to other ignorant people.

I think the issue is not only that there is a platform, but the fact that ignorance can be produced and spread much faster. If you try to explain why something is wrong, it takes time and requires folks to pay attention. In contrast, lies can be made on the spot in order to create attractive narratives (whereas facts can be boring). Every explanation is countered by hundreds of lies resulting every time in an uphill battle. This is also why Gish gallops have become such a compelling technique.

I also do not think that scientists and educators are actually leaving a vacuum (there are even studies on flat-earthers). Rather these false narrative have been so prolific, every measured response is likely to be outdiluted many times over. 

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2 hours ago, YJ02 said:

but how to fight it on a mass and effective level?

Once someone has decided that the Earth is flat (or that any of the other ones is true), it is extremely difficult - and in many cases impossible - to get them to see reason. I have been on science forums for a long time now, and never once that I can remember have I seen an adherent to fringe ideas say: “You know what? You guys are right. I got this all wrong...”. It just doesn’t happen, except in extremely rare cases. Generally speaking such debates will quickly deteriorate into ad-hominems and mutual ridicule - leaving both parties with even more deeply entrenched ideas. This is counterproductive. Also, there is some form of social compartmentalisation happening - once someone has chosen to believe something, they will tend to surround themselves with people who share these beliefs, and shut themselves off from dissenting opinions. You get closely-knit, almost cult-like communities.

So in my opinion the only way to combat this effectively is to stop as many people as possible from taking on such beliefs in the first place - stop the virus from spreading. An intellectual vaccination campaign, if you so will. Education plays a big part here, but is certainly not the only factor - I personally know a highly intelligent person, who has earned a university degree in philosophy with academic distinctions, yet is a passionate believer in pretty much all and any conspiracy theory out there. He just accepts them unquestioningly, even though I am sure on an intellectual level he must know they are nonsense. It seems people take on such beliefs in order to fill some void in their lives, to make themselves feel secure and in control in the face of an uncertain and menacing world. I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist, but I think that the problem is a socio-psychological one, not an intellectual one. From a scientific point of view, most of these ideas do not actually need debating, as they are self-evidently in violation of basic principles. Debating them might even give the impression that they have some value, and need to be refuted by science - so this can perchance do more harm than good.

The other problem I see is that many people seem to lack the ability to distinguish valid sources and information from false ones. There is a pervasive attitude of “it came up on my Facebook timeline, so it must be true”. This is a major contributing factor. People must learn to check facts and distinguish valid sources from questionable ones - which I believe should feature in our school curricula in some form, as it is a skill that can at least to some degree be learned.

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I think there are certain parallels between people believing in conspiracy and religious belief (religion being, from a certain point of view, the ultimate conspiracy)

As folks have pointed out from time to time, when people do not use reason to arrive at a position, you will not be able to use reason to talk them out if it. Studies have shown that presenting such people with contrary evidence only tends to harden their resolve.

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We need a reliable system for disseminating accurate knowledge that goes beyond education. Unfortunately, our media is about entertainment, not information. Only those with bad intent want a poorly informed citizenry, and the media today seems intent on constant controversy and conflict. So much of it isn't real.

In the US at least, anti-intellectualism seems to have grown from wealth and educational disparity. Older workers with decades of experience find themselves working for young college graduates making twice as much money while keeping their hands clean. Private schooling vs public schooling drives the rifts even wider. And when you add in our natural proclivity to confirm our own biases, it makes it difficult to persuade someone with an average to below average education that reason should override their emotional reactions. Strong emotions need equally strong emotions to change them, and using reason in those instances is like trying to blow out a forest fire with a big fan. 

 

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12 minutes ago, swansont said:

when people do not use reason to arrive at a position, you will not be able to use reason to talk them out if it

Very well put.

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The schools have failed due to lack of responsibility and lack of standards.

This means many individuals are less capable of understanding or recognizing real science.  This even applies to scientists to greater or lesser extent depending on the specific individual.  Far worse is that specialization occurs earlier and earlier so those individuals who become journalists (entertainers) often can't tell real science from the latest fad among the educated.   They often don't care if something is actual science or something that will generate ad revenue so "soup of the day science" was born.  It is called "science" to give it a mystique among their uneducated readers but it is no more real science than most of the other Look and See Science that is derived from opinion and the belief in the correctness of expert opinion.   

I don't believe the real threat here is ignorance and belief in silly science.  The real threat is most of these people would have had a religion to provide some sort of moral compass a century ago.   Now they are adrift believing in any nonsense that comes down the pike and ripe for some leader who might use them for his own ends.  

Real science won every battle and lost the war.  

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39 minutes ago, swansont said:

As folks have pointed out from time to time, when people do not use reason to arrive at a position, you will not be able to use reason to talk them out if it. Studies have shown that presenting such people with contrary evidence only tends to harden their resolve.

That explains a lot.
Can I quote you to INow on the D Trump impeachment hearings thread ?

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The soundtrack of our lives is, I don't believe you because I'm comfortable...  Now...

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16 minutes ago, MigL said:

That explains a lot.
Can I quote you to INow 

iNow is one of the people who regularly cites the bit about using reason. 

47 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

We need a reliable system for disseminating accurate knowledge that goes beyond education. Unfortunately, our media is about entertainment, not information. Only those with bad intent want a poorly informed citizenry, and the media today seems intent on constant controversy and conflict. So much of it isn't real.

 

One of the things we've learned is that it's often not a knowledge deficit. In those cases it's not that people don't have access to information, it's that they don't care about it. It's one reason why attacking the messenger is effective — who cares if Al Gore says the world is warming? He's fat and flies in a plane, so you don't have to listen to him. Or just lie: besides, he wants to take your car away. It appeals to emotion, not rational thought. It's an effort to ensure that the facts don't matter.

They are using marketing, and it's quite effective with their target audience.

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15 minutes ago, MigL said:

That explains a lot.
Can I quote you to INow on the D Trump impeachment hearings thread ?

Apparently, now I'm taking incoming fire even within threads where I'm not participating. Good times...

 

9 minutes ago, swansont said:

iNow is one of the people who regularly cites the bit about using reason. 

I usually say it this way, and I think I got it from Hitchens or Harris in one of their various debates about religion years ago: It's hard using logic and reason to change the mind of a person who arrived at their position using neither.

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6 minutes ago, iNow said:

I usually say it this way, and I think I got it from Hitchens or Harris in one of their various debates about religion years ago: It's hard using logic and reason to change the mind of a person who arrived at their position using neither.

Unfortunately, the "passionate stance" is a staple in entertainment. This perspective tells us it's not only OK to be emotional about what you believe in, it's the preferred state. Similar to how entertainment gives us the "ruthless businessman" perspective where it's a huge benefit to be cold, calculating, and utterly evil in your pursuit of money. People need to learn to use their brains to make decisions first, then get passionate about THAT.

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Bullshit anti-science spreads on the Internet because people who are making them, are getting paid for ads displayed on their videos and websites...

The more controversial theory, the more visitors, and the more ads and the more money earned!

 

If YouTube and other video hosting services would disable ads on "flat Earth" and other conspiracy theory videos, there would be no sense making these videos. Their creators, to sound reasonable, not cheap, have to invest time and money in creation of their misleading and rubbish videos. At the moment, they are getting return from initial investment, from ads. Disable ads on such videos, and majority of videos will never be made. Disable embedding such videos on 3rd party websites, and their authors won't be able to get money from alternative source of ads like Google.

 

Plentiful of authors are making such videos "just for fun and money", personally not believing in what they are putting on these videos. But since it brings easy money.....

 

If I would be ad creator working in marketing, I would not like my ads being displayed on videos and websites with such controversial topics. Who would like to see their company logo connected to such controversial topic?!

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51 minutes ago, Sensei said:

The more controversial theory, the more visitors, and the more ads and the more money earned!

With so much emotion involved, it's easy to forget that controversy doesn't equal interesting. In so many cases online, it's a matter of one group wanting short, impactive, that-makes-good-sense explanations, while the other group is more interested in accuracy wrt to the definitions used and the information that's imparted, no matter how long it takes. Group 2 thinks Group 1's explanations lack the depth needed for full understanding, while Group 1 thinks Group 2's explanations are overly pedantic and controlling, and possibly deceptive.

Group 1 thinks Group 2 has it easy, while Group 2 thinks Group 1 wants to give everybody a hard time. Group 2 can't believe Group 1 supports the very things that are bad for us, while Group 1 can't believe Group 2 doesn't support the things that are good for us. Each group's reactions to the other fuels these unending arguments. 

2 hours ago, swansont said:

One of the things we've learned is that it's often not a knowledge deficit. In those cases it's not that people don't have access to information, it's that they don't care about it. It's one reason why attacking the messenger is effective — who cares if Al Gore says the world is warming? He's fat and flies in a plane, so you don't have to listen to him. Or just lie: besides, he wants to take your car away. It appeals to emotion, not rational thought. It's an effort to ensure that the facts don't matter.

They are using marketing, and it's quite effective with their target audience.

I think there is a LOT of manipulation by those who're in a position to profit from misinformation, but I do think much of this reaction is simple partisanship. The emotions some people place on their political stance is a little frightening to me. I started out in life as an Eisenhower Republican, and I'd still vote that way today if such a platform were available to me, whatever you call it. I think the current Republican party is morally and economically corrupt, but the Democratic party in general simply serves a less extreme set of billionaires. 

But, you're right, the truly tragic part is that these tactics erode our trust in knowledge, and take away the power of facts as a resource. One of the big facts we seem to have completely misplaced is where government is supposed to be for the benefit of The People, not just the wealthy, because lots of money is sort of its own reward. It all reminds me of how the early Christian church kept folks illiterate so they could control how their religion was interpreted. Make sure there are lots of lies out there so you can claim authority to put a capital T on Truth.

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13 hours ago, Butch said:

First off, there is no truth... Nothing can be proven, that is the nature of science, there is only logical belief. Those that are limited in understanding, for whatever reason, be it intellect, interest, or religious belief... whatever, cannot or will not pursue the logic, they build a framework that works via trial and error. If believing the world is flat works for you, go with it.

Indeed you do!

hopefully you don't believe I think the earth is flat do you? :)

 

i agree nothing can be proven, but the fact the earth is a sphere and there is no dome we hit as we try to go to orbit, has been pretty well established via direct observation by now.

same with most of what  I listed

yes, i had some spec stuff on there (as in spec because it doesn't exist yet, but these ppl are getting ahead of it,so to speak. like with the 'dangers' of quantum computing) but everything else, I BELIEVE to be true and maybe we don't have all the aspects of the 'why' down or fully understood yet, but that does not keep the majority of us from not accepting the fact.

 

thanks!!  

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6 minutes ago, YJ02 said:

hopefully you don't believe I think the earth is flat do you? :)

 

i agree nothing can be proven, but the fact the earth is a sphere and there is no dome we hit as we try to go to orbit, has been pretty well established via direct observation by now.

same with most of what  I listed

yes, i had some spec stuff on there (as in spec because it doesn't exist yet, but these ppl are getting ahead of it,so to speak. like with the 'dangers' of quantum computing) but everything else, I BELIEVE to be true and maybe we don't have all the aspects of the 'why' down or fully understood yet, but that does not keep the majority of us from not accepting the fact.

 

thanks!!  

Replace "fact" with "logical belief". You could say that for flat earth believers, that their science is lacking in evidence.

Columbus speculated that the earth was round because of his observations, there could have been alternative explanations... However he had the interest and intellect to pursue evidence to further the logical belief.

Edited by Butch

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12 minutes ago, Butch said:

Replace "fact" with "logical belief".

I wouldn't use "logical" either. Science doesn't use logic. Perhaps "reasoned belief"?

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12 minutes ago, Butch said:

Replace "fact" with "logical belief". You could say that for flat earth believers, that their science is lacking in evidence.

Columbus speculated that the earth was round because of his observations, there could have been alternative explanations... However he had the interest and intellect to pursue evidence to further the logical belief.

Evidence that the earth was round precedes Columbus by quite a margin. He didn't have to speculate.

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1 hour ago, Sensei said:

Bullshit anti-science spreads on the Internet because people who are making them, are getting paid for ads displayed on their videos and websites.

this is most definitely a big part, but many of these are not monetized

and if people wanted to just make money, there are many other ways to make monetized vids--like those cat videos

also, many of the ppl- like the flat earthers, will spend thousands or more in making their videos and the "experiments" they do

like the ones using laser distance measurement to try and show no curvature

I was a surveyor for 20 yrs and I know how much these devices cost,, definitely not cheap. (and all of them are done so wrong from a surveyors standpoint, they are evidence of nothing save incompetence in using said expensive gear)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Wow! thanks for all the responses

I am glad that you all took the time to respond. I know that many in the hard science fields sometimes do not/will not participate in a discussion like this. I truly do appreciate it.

<< Especially after my ruffling so many feathers elsewhere on this forum >>

I am going to read through everyone's more thoroughly later and respond then.

thanks again!

Edited by YJ02

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18 minutes ago, Butch said:

Replace "fact" with "logical belief". You could say that for flat earth believers, that their science is lacking in evidence.

Columbus speculated that the earth was round because of his observations, there could have been alternative explanations... However he had the interest and intellect to pursue evidence to further the logical belief.

It is a myth that Columbus postulated a round Earth in face of most everyone believing that it was flat.  As swansont has already mentioned, this had already been long established. They even had a pretty good idea on its circumference.  It was on this last point that Columbus disagreed.  He believed in a much smaller circumference.  One that made a trans-oceanic voyage to India feasible.   He was  actually wrong in his convictions, and his running into a new continent was due to serendipity.  He found something, but it wasn't the route to India he expected to find.

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15 hours ago, Butch said:

First off, there is no truth

Are you sure?
Sorry, couldn't resist it.

(It's pantomime season)



More seriously, it's an interesting topic, and it feeds into other areas (which I accept are probably  off-topic)

Is the belief that the Earth is flat essentially comparable with the idea that some bunch of billionaires have your best interests at heart and you should vote for them?

One difference is that it doesn't matter to me if you think the Earth's flat (unless you are my pilot) but your vote makes a difference to my life.

It would, for a number of reasons be very useful to understand  this issue.

I suspect that the Conservative party did- and that's how the lying guy who hid in the fridge from reporters is now PM.

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