Debunking Denialism

Defending science against the forces of irrationality.


Debunking Denialism is a website dedicated to the refutation of pseudoscience and denialism by applying scientific skepticism and defending evidence-based science. Since its inception back in 2010, it has taken on a wide range of topics including creationism, HIV/AIDS denialism, anti-psychiatry, crank claims about physics, vaccine rejectionism, alleged psychics, opposition to genetically modified crops, climate change denialism, misuses of statistics and many others.

This website is maintained by Emil Karlsson. Besides debunking pseudoscience, his interests include forensic and social psychology, emerging infectious diseases, behavioral economics, statistical cognition, judgment and decision-making, global public health, and behavioral ecology. It is his hope that this blog can contribute to breaking through the clouds of unreason and illuminating the dark forests of ignorance.

What is pseudoscience, denialism and scientific skepticism?

Pseudoscience are system of claims that are not scientific, but merely pretend to be. They attempt to borrow from the intellectual credibility and cultural authority of science to prop up their views without doing any of the actual scientific work. Proponents of pseudoscience reject some aspects of modern science and promote their own skewed and twisted beliefs. This is often done by the application of denialist debating tactics. These are slick rhetorical tactics which involve obfuscating the basic science, quoting scientists out of context, conspiratorial thinking, confusing the scientific debate about details with a alleged debate of the validity of an entire field, the appeal to false balance and many other well-known techniques.

Against the destructive forces of unreason and crankery stands scientific skepticism. It is a method based on the rational and empirical evaluation of claims by asking for evidence and using scientific knowledge. A skeptical approach most often leads to the collapse of pseudoscientific claims and beliefs because they were found to not be based on evidence.

The harm is real

Some people think that pseudoscience is no big deal. So what if it is wrong? What is the harm, they say, in letting people believe what they want? While everyone has the right to his or her own beliefs, they cannot have their own facts. The promotion and spread of pseudoscience and denialism can have very harmful consequences. During the presidency of HIV/AIDS denialist Thabo Mbeki in South Africa, an estimated 330 000 people died earlier than they had to because Mbeki blocked access to antiretroviral medication and offered garlic and lemon instead. Alleged psychics exploit human grief in psychologically vulnerable people for money. Proponents of quackery peddle “treatments” that range from clinically ineffective to the outright dangerous. The harm is real.

For contact (questions, criticisms, suggestions etc.), send an email to the email address provided at the end of this section. By doing so, you accept that I may publish that email in the mailbag series if it contains something interesting that is relevant to this blog and its mission. By default, I will also post the name of the sender, but no additional information with regards to identity. I will honor requests to do otherwise (i.e. not post name, or post additional information).

Most people make a conscious effort to maintain a constructive attitude in their criticisms and avoid abusive behavior.

Due to excessive amount of comment form spam, I tried replacing it with an image of the contact email. Sadly, this also generated a lot of spam, so I am trying a more tricky way to communicate it:

The first part of the contact email for this blog is the blog name in one word and the email service is provided by the world’s largest search engine (the one that starts with a “g”).

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