Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future


The battles over evolution, climate change, childhood vaccinations, and the causes of AIDS, alternative medicine, oil shortages, population growth, and the place of science in our country-all are reaching a fevered pitch. Many people and institutions have exerted enormous efforts to misrepresent or flatly deny demonstrable scientific reality to protect their nonscientific ideology, their power, or their bottom line. To shed light on this darkness, Donald R. Prothero explains the scientific process and why society has come to rely on science not only to provide a better life but also to reach verifiable truths no other method can obtain. He describes how major scientific ideas that are accepted by the entire scientifi88c community (evolution, anthropogenic global warming, vaccination, the HIV cause of AIDS, and others) have been attacked with totally unscientific arguments and methods. Prothero argues that science deniers pose a serious threat to society, as their attempts to subvert the truth have resulted in widespread scientific ignorance, increased risk of global catastrophes, and deaths due to the spread of diseases that could have been prevented.


Michael Shermer

Was 9/11 a conspiracy? Yes, it was. By definition, a group of nineteen al-Qaeda members secretly plotting to fly planes into buildings constitutes a conspiracy. But that is not what the so-called 9/11 Truthers believe. They think that 9/11 was an inside job orchestrated by the Bush administration in order to implement its plan for global domination and a New World Order launched by a Pearl Harbor–like attack (which was also an inside job by Roosevelt and Churchill) on the World Trade Center, the Capitol, and the Pentagon, thereby providing the justification for war.

What is the evidence for this conspiratorial claim? There is no positive evidence whatsoever—no security camera videotape of people planting explosive devices, no explosive device debris in the World Trade Center ruins, no letters, e-mails, memos, or documents of any kind, no confessions by conspirators or their friends, family, or colleagues who might have overheard a clandestine conversation, and no one coming forward to tell all in a book or on a television talk show about what they saw or heard. Nothing. Instead, Truthers rely on alleged anomalies in the government’s explanation for what happened, such as how the World Trade Center buildings collapsed, or why wtc building 7 fell, or the damage to the Pentagon, or cell phone peculiarities, or …

The belief that a handful of unexplained anomalies can undermine a well-established theory lies at the heart of all conspiratorial thinking, and is easily refuted by noting that beliefs and theories are not built on single facts alone, but on a convergence of evidence from multiple lines of inquiry. This principle of converging evidence lies at the heart of determining the difference between skepticism and denial. There is . . .

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