Thursday, May 12, 2005

Purpose of Denial

The scientist David Bellamy has been practising climate change denial. George Monbiot has spotted some key errors in his argument, and this has prompted a number of bloggers including Chris, John and Tim. John spotted the POSIWID angle before me.

One of the comments to Chris's blog asks: What is Bellamy trying to do, murder us in our beds as we sleep-- thinking everything is going swimmingly?

Which set me thinking. What is the purpose of denial, and what does it achieve? When a famous scientist stakes his reputation on denying some widely accepted environmental belief. Is this akin to other forms of denial, such as AIDS denial or Holocaust denial?

Given that a given belief is a basis for collective support for a given position, denial appears to have the effect (and therefore the implicit purpose) of undermining this position. Thus AIDS denial undermines the credibility of some critical health campaigns, while climate change denial provides certain industrialists and politicians with an excuse to avoid taking action against global warming.

It is for this reason that denial is often regarded not as a legimate form of scepticism but as a dangerous betrayal.

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