Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Study of Ignorance

Turns out there is a field of study for the propagation of ignorance.
Agnotology is as important today as it was back when Proctor studied the tobacco industry’s obfuscation of facts about cancer and smoking. ... In another case, some political commentators in Australia attempted to stoke panic by likening the country’s credit rating to that of Greece, despite readily available public information from ratings agencies showing the two economies are very different. (BBC News, "The Man who Studies the Spread of Ignorance," January 6, 2016.)
That's true with the United States as well. Some said that the United States is more indebted than Greece but that is a false equivalence because unlike Greece the United States has a sovereign currency and they cannot be forced to default since the debt is in its own currency.

But Greece does not have a currency of its own but uses the euro which is controlled by the European Central Bank. So Greece was unable to print more money to resolve the debt crisis it was in.
Proctor explains that ignorance can often be propagated under the guise of balanced debate. For example, the common idea that there will always be two opposing views does not always result in a rational conclusion. This was behind how tobacco firms used science to make their products look harmless, and is used today by climate change deniers to argue against the scientific evidence. (BBC News, "The Man who Studies the Spread of Ignorance," January 6, 2016.)

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