Denialists and other animals

Ok ok I promise:  Last arsonist post for today.

The internet has opened many avenues for people to gather information.

Originally, all the information we could gather was by personal experience.  This way I can tell you with pretty accuracy whether clouds are rain clouds or not.  (But believing I can make them rain by practicing the “Spring Sonata” by Beethoven, as I used to do as a teenager, is probably incorrect.)  Likewise a student of mine very accurately predicted <i>snow in Pretoria</i> last year, something that never happens (but did that day), by looking at the shape and colour of those weird clouds.  They were snow clouds.

This kind of information is by force of its nature, both subjective and localized.  It can still be accurate though.

With communities and cities arising, schools, universities etc, information found a way of being transmitted by written medium, across time.  With the invention of the printing press, information could become widespread very quickly.

Of course, so could misinformation.

Humankind is very gullible.  A lot of us still believe we can make it rain by playing the Spring Sonata.

Or that, if we saw it on Facebook (to name but one example), it must be true.  There are the weirdest videos and articles making the rounds, about aliens being sighted by farmers in their barns, a “demon” dog carcass washed up on a beach, you know, rubbish like that.

Our first instinct is to take new evidence at face value (especially if it is visual, i.e. photos, videos etc).  And in many cases, surely that is not wrong.  Or is it?

If we really had to accept everything that gets presented to us visually, as the bare truth, we’d have to believe all those alien sightings and demon dogs as well.  Clearly, a little scepticism is called for.  (Or is it?  Do you at all agree with me here?)

The only difference between Ghost Busters and “denialists” is the amount of evidence they question.  At which level does even the most gullible person pull a face and doubt what she is told?

The trouble with all online evidence is that it is all third-party.  Did you personally confirm those measurements?  Did you personally see the child being mentally damaged by vaccine carrier substances?  Were you at the pole this summer (trying to cross and getting stuck on your yacht in the ice, as they claim happened to 20 yachts plus one cruiser)?  Were you one of those rescue workers pulling people out of their snowed-under houses in Romania,  a winter or so back?  No?

Then how can you know any of it is the truth?

And the converse, too:  How can you know for certain that the “scientists” aren’t leading us around by our noses?

In school we learned the consistency of the atmosphere.

“The atmosphere is a mixture of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%), and other gases (1%) that surrounds Earth. High above the planet, the atmosphere becomes thinner until it gradually reaches space. It is divided into five layers. Most of the weather and clouds are found in the first layer..”

“Other gases” includes CO2.  Only a part of 1%?  Really?

You see:  Who says that this is accurate?  Who says we weren’t already misinformed in school?  Who says that the information I quickly sourced online (do you really think I remember what I learned in school) is true?

There are people that dispute that the moon landing took place.

Hmmm.  I don’t know!  It can of course not be ruled out that it was a hoax.   I think this is a beautiful example to illustrate, because all of us think we know that it was definitely real and we all feel as though we were there.  So we’re likely to scream “denialist” at anyone raising this interesting doubt.

My point being:  Where to draw the line?  Is there anything online one can take at face value, or is one going to be duped one way or the other?

What if the internet is really just one great opinion polling system?  😉

(Better not respond to this post, because Big Brother Is Watching You!)

And now for some real reality value:

Going to give a presentation at the library this afternoon.  So I’d better get my act together now.  🙂


















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