In particular denialism.com deals with the methods of denialists: conspiracy theories, selective use of evidence, fake experts, impossible expectations and faulty logic.
Denialism.com doesn't mention, as I did, alternative medicine, anti-GM food and perpetual motion. It is explained here that there isn't the same kind of organised denialism going on for alternative medicine. I guess largely this is correct, alternative medicine is interested in asserting its own efficacy, and not so much attacking the efficacy of conventional medicine. But it may be a close call.
GM food seems to be off the agenda now, and perpetual motion I suppose is just too silly to spend any time on.
Denialism.com's subjects that I didn't mention are these:
- Anti-regulatory/Industry Apologists/Fake Consumer groups/Astroturf
- HIV/AIDS Denialism
- Stem Cell Denialism/Adult Stem Cell Hype/Fake Bioethicists/Cloning, Eugenics and Euthanasia Paranoids
Group 2, good point.
Group 3, again surprising. I'm not sure how one might qualify as a fake ethicist - I tend to take the view that we're all ethicists, in the sense that we're all entitled to express our views on ethics, and that all these views matter - the idea of believing what is right or wrong on the authority of an ethicist seems bizarre. Glancing at the sites listed, I would agree that there are some terribly bad arguments being used out there to oppose stem cell research. But I do think - as I said here - it is reasonable for people to argue a position that they have only religious and not scientific reasons for believing. But on the face of it, this does seem to be denialism of a similar quality to the others, so perhaps I am being too generous. Please comment.
Anyway, while we are drifting into the denialisms of politics and ethics as well as those of science, what else could we add to the list? How about denialism of the benefits of free trade?
Remember this is about methods. 1. Conspiracy theories: Anti-traders assert that free trade is just a consipiracy by the rich and powerful to drive down wages and environmental standards. 2. Selectivity: The huge gains in prosperity in Asia-Pacific are ignored. 3. Fake Experts: The New Economics Foundation? 4. Impossible Expectations: Economists all disagree anyway, Economics doesn't work. 5. Bad logic: What ever it is, we're smart enough to make it here. (Being able to make anything doesn't mean we are able to make everything we currently consume, when giving up economies of scale.)
So far, so good, I suppose. But might this work for denying theories that should be denied because they are bunk? Like Marxism:
1. Conspiracy Theories: Anti-marxists assert that Marxists are trying to take over the world. 2. Selectivity: Er, the soviet economic boom from agrarian backwater to superpower in 50 years? 3. Fake Experts: Tories 4. Unrealistic Expectations: Worldwide revolution hasn't happened yet, so Marxism is bunk. 5. Bad logic: Trying to make the world better will only make it worse. (This is an argument you occasionally hear from some on the right who can't be arsed trying to make the world any better. Panglossian rubbish.)
So, while I very much like what denialism.com is doing, I am also a little underwhelmed. The point to keep aware of is that dealing with the poor arguments in favour of a proposition does not deal with the proposition. Denialism.com is all about identifying and disposing with common poor and deceptive arguments for certain propositions. It is the fact that most perpetrators of these poor arguments don't have any good arguments that deals with their propositions. Why make the weak argument if you have a strong one?
But the arguments that are found in politics, economics and ethics generally are weaker than those found in science, and this makes the denialism.com approach rather less biting in these fields.