I'm skeptical of denialism

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June 9 2009 2:00 PM

I'm skeptical of denialism

Sometimes, words matter. Crispian Jago brought this up recently on his blog, discussing the difference between the words "skeptic"and "denier".

I have used the phrase "global warming denialists" in the past and gotten some people upset. A lot of them complain because they say the word denial puts them in the same bin as holocaust deniers.

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That's too bad. But the thing is, they do have something in common: a denial of evidence and of scientific consensus.

Moon hoax believers put themselves in this basket as well; they call themselves skeptics, but they are far from it. Skepticism is a method that includes the demanding of evidence and critical analysis of it. That's not what Moon hoax believers do; they make stuff up, they don't look at all the evidence, they ignore evidence that goes against their claims. So they are not Moon landing skeptics, they are Moon landing deniers. They may start off as skeptics, but real skeptics understand the overwhelming evidence supporting the reality of the Moon landings. If, after examining that evidence, you still think Apollo was faked, then congratulations. You're a denier.

Really, it's this difference that biases people against skeptics like me. I am always accused of having a closed mind -- of being a denier. But that's not only not true -- I can be convinced I am wrong by evidence or a logical argument -- but it's usually the person accusing me that has a mind closed against reality. No matter how much evidence you put in front of them showing them clearly and obviously that they are wrong, they refuse to see it. Just go read the comments on my latest UFO post for evidence of that.

I guess the most ironic thing of all is that people who say I should be more open-minded are too open-minded, and have closed their mind to the one true thing: reality itself.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!