how to deny that which is right in front of your nose

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Down is up! The sun is green! Pigs have wings!

An associate professor at a Florida university has been harassing the parents of one of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. He claims the shooting never happened and their child never existed. He sent the parents a certified letter requesting proof that the child had actually lived.

There are lots of people who believe that mass shootings don’t happen. Here are some additional claims that deny what’s right in front of your nose

“Evolution doesn’t happen.”
“The Jewish Holocaust never happened.”
On 9/11 the Twin Towers were felled by our government, not hijacked airliners.”
“Vaccines ruin people’s health – especially children.”
“Global warming isn’t happening or is greatly exaggerated.”
“Eating GMO food will damage your health.”

It’s easy to do. Here’s a tutorial on how to defend a position that’s plainly nuts. Thanks Wikipedia, for compiling these.

  • Pick apart what the “other side” is saying rather than provide support for your own idea. Because actual support for your own argument is weak-to-nonexistent.
  • Favor conspiracy theories. Thousands of doctors/scientists/historians are lying in order to somehow pad their own pockets or to cover something up. Since the evidence is against you, smear the evidence-providers.
  • Cherry-pick your reasons. Carefully screen all available information, ignore the consensus, and trumpet a few scraps that seem to support your thesis. Because you want to pretend you have some credibility.
  • Use false experts. Use an expert who is not actually an expert in the subject at hand, or pay someone to provide “evidence.” Because you want to pretend to some credibility.
  • Move the goalposts. If your argument is lost, then demand even more evidence than initially requested, or ignore the point altogether and introduce a new one.

I think when people’s ideology is so deeply ingrained that it’s a fundamental part of who they are, then changing their minds is like destroying part of themselves. 

For example, a 9/11 “truther” may bank on being one of the elect, cool, radical folks who knows the truth. He gets to call everyone else “sheeple.” Rather than lose out, it’s better to not think too hard and double-down on the original belief.

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I harp on this subject because politicizing and denying evidence is a bad habit. It’s like driving a car toward a wall and saying the wall isn’t there. Somebody’s going to get hurt. People are already getting hurt.

Reality testing can be uncomfortable but it’s a good habit.

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