14 July 2009

Different topic, same problem

As the world prepares to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a human being walking on the Moon, this article looks at those who deny it happened.

Because I am interested in belief, there’s quite a bit to chew on.
Ted Goertzel, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University who has studied conspiracy theorists, said “there’s a similar kind of logic behind all of these groups, I think.” For the most part, he explained, “They don’t undertake to prove that their view is true” so much as to “find flaws in what the other side is saying.”

Mark Fenster, a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law who has written extensively on conspiracy theories, said he sees similarities between people who argue that the Moon landings never happened and those who insist that the 9/11 attacks were planned by the government and that President Obama’s birth certificate is fake: at the core, he said, is a polarization so profound that people end up with an unshakable belief that those in power “simply can’t be trusted.”

If you took all the people who denied the moon landing, evolution, climate change, that HIV causes AIDS, that vaccines do not cause autism, the Holocaust, and maybe one or two other ideas that require wild conspiracies... I wonder how large a majority they would form.

And is there any way of reaching such people? Sometimes, I despair...

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