Scientific skepticism

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, anti-vaccine sentiment, alleged psychics, opposition to genetically modified crops, climate change denialism, misuses of statistics and many others. The hope is that this website 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 questionable claims by asking for evidence and using scientific knowledge. A skeptical approach often leads to the collapse of pseudoscientific claims and beliefs because of the lack of evidence for it or because the evidence contradicts it or both.

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.

Debunking Denialism in the media and other places

Debunking Denialism articles have been used as a source in several newspaper/magazine articles and on other high-profile websites. Examples include the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung on how anti-immigration activist abuse rape statistics, Slate magazine on GMO safety, IFLScience on conspiracy theories, Skeptoid about Bill Gates and vaccines, BoingBoing on homeopathy, Buzzfeed on poisonous candy as a rhetorical device, RawStory on alternative medicine, EU vs disinfo about conspiracy theories about Bill Gates and Vaccines and Bloomberg on predatory publishing.

Material from Debunking Denialism has also been used for university courses, such as Advanced Bioinformatics for Human Diseases at Ohio State University and Writing 259 at University of California, Santa Barbara.


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