Thursday, May 27, 2010

Is using the term "Denialist" unfair?

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Took one of my infrequent trips to RPJr, was annoyed by the limp nagging to "play nice" that is his staple of trade, and found this garbage:

"The Tyranny of Denial" by Edward Skidelsky - Words that think for us -

It is very poor undergraduate level writing.
  • "Ours is a relentlessly positive culture." is given as a reason why "Denialism" is a naughty word.  Irrationality by culture is no impetus to hamstring my own vocabulary.
  • "An accusation of “denial” is serious, suggesting either deliberate dishonesty or self-deception." Packing a moral judgement into a word is supposed to be an affront to gentility? He then says something mushy and vague about the Holocaust.  Pathetic.
    You don't need to be much of a Bayesian to see value in being informed by judgements of motivation. Forums where there are peculiar restrictions on when motivation can be considered simply exists to aid the Art of Controversy.
  • "It is a form of the argument ad hominem: the aim is not so much to refute your opponent as to discredit his motives." It is not "ad hominem" if the logical errors are laid out as well - judgmental language has no infective property to discredit all the text around it. Bizarre that Eddie gets in some jabs at people who use the term "denialist"; Eddie is under no burden to follow the spirit of his own censure.
  • "One of the great achievements of the Enlightenment—the liberation of historical and scientific enquiry from dogma—is quietly being reversed." - this is a silly overstatement of achievement - The Enlightenment rid us from all dogma?  The gross overstatement is part of a naked plea to join in the author's own hysteria.  And those laying down the charge of "Denialist" are anything but quiet - the moral judgement is foremost.  There is no point here.
Blubbering from those tarred with the epithet 'denialist' notwithstanding, the issue is Skepticism vs. Denialism. If you value judgement, you value skepticism.  Much foolishness tries to impersonate the appearance of skepticism, and that foolishness can be assuredly called Denialism.

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