Denialists’ Deck of Cards: Nit Pick, and Muddy the Waters

Two more tactics for those of you who want to be an industry lobbyist, or for those who want to recognize their two-bit tactics.

i-963b322f26df7f5e113263f3a0f65b39-9c.jpg With nit picking, the denialist finds one problem with a fact asserted or the proposal for reform, and then harps on the problem incessantly.

A variation on the 8 of Clubs (red herring) is “muddying the waters.” This is where the denialist brings forth any information, whether specious or not, to confuse the issues.


4 thoughts on “Denialists’ Deck of Cards: Nit Pick, and Muddy the Waters”

  1. ancient greeks studied how easily human mind can come up with or absorb bad arguments. then they created formal logic to exclude fallacies from debates.

    2500 years passed.

    denialists studied how easily human mind can come with up or absorb bad arguments. then they used it to support their agenda.

  2. I’m pretty sure that a lot of creationists use this one too, it’s not just industry lobbyists.

    As a matter of fact I think this is one of the most common tactics I’ve seen in denialists because it’s so good at derailing the discussion.

  3. This has to be the quintessential Denialist characteristic. Present a Denialist with any number of scientific papers that present evidence against their pet belief and they will find some trivial or completely imaginary justification for ignoring/denying the evidence.

    Funding by industry is one reason. Funding by a government granting body such as NIH or equivalents such as the NHMRC are also a reason. This of course by itself covers the vast majority of all research.

    The quality that separates Denialists from skeptics is that Denialists will continue until they find any excuse to ignore a paper no matter how trivial or inconsequential that reason is.

    Denialists are also completely hypocritical when it comes to their own pet belief. They do not apply the same level of infinite scrutiny to their own beliefs. They often use “mainstream” papers that they misrepresent to support their beliefs. They ignore any weaknesses in these papers. The only difference beween the vast majority of “bad” papers and the small number of “good” papers is whether they can be twisted to support their beliefs.

  4. Another clear indicator of denialism is an unreasonable attachment to examples of error or fraud. For evolution denialists, the key talismans are Piltdown Man and Haeckel’s ontogeny/phylogeny drawings. To hear them argue, one would imagine that these are linchpins of modern evolutionary theory, not arguments that were long-ago discredited and refuted by evolutionary scientists and have played no role in evolutionary theory for many decades.

    For global warming deniers, errors in the original analysis of “hockey stick” graph seems to play a central role. Again, this is typically misrepresented as a linchpin of modern climate theory. The fact that this is actually a rather minor piece of evidence, and that subsequent analyses reached similar conclusions after correcting the errors is happily ignored.

    Similarly, AIDS/HIV denialists seem to have an unreasonable attachment to allegations of violations of scientific ethics on the part of Gallo, while ignoring the fact that Gallo’s results have been replicated and re-replicated so many times that his original findings are now little more than a historical footnote.

    Why this fetishistic clutching at isolated instances of error? I can only speculate that it is a way to avoid facing just how massive the evidence against their cherished beliefs actually is. In all of these cases, there are literally thousands, and in some cases hundreds of thousands, of peer-reviewed scientific publications supporting the scientific consensus and a pitiful few, if any, supporting the denialist cause. The only way denialists can avoid taking such an overwhelming imbalance seriously is to clutch their cherished example of error close to their heart, and tell themselves, “Surely, if this could be wrong, than all of that huge mass of troubling data could perhaps be wrong as well.”

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