Scepticism V Denial

Posted by Crispian Jago on Friday, 5 June 2009

Labels: Denier, Sceptic

This short post was born out of a tweet exchange between @giagia and @glinner that I was eye-wigging in on this morning.

I’ve blogged before on the overloading of the word scepticism outside of the scientific and sceptical community leading to confusion and false assumptions. @glinner’s tweet this morning is a perfect example. In his tweet, Graham said:

“@giagia ugh. I do hate that. Moon landing sceptics are the ‘space’ version of holocaust deniers.”

I quite agree with him, but I do want to take issue with the semantics. The use of the word sceptic for those non accepting of the moon landings, but denier for those non accepting of the holocaust made me think about the distinction between the two words.

Surely if we reserve the word “sceptic” for views and opinions on items without scientific consensus and reliable evidence and use “denial” for the non agreement of widely accepted scientific theory it would avoid confusion.

So for example you could talk about:

Astrology sceptics
Paranormal sceptics
Alien Abduction sceptics
Alternative/pseudo medicine sceptics
Bigfoot sceptics
Dowsing sceptics
Past life regression sceptics
Etc etc

And then use the term “denier” exclusively for those who argue against the scientific consensus, thus:

Evolution deniers
Holocaust deniers
HIV causing Aids deniers
Moon Landing deniers
Climate Change deniers

Adhering to these semantics might help alleviate people outside of the scientific and sceptical community making association with my views and the later list, thus avoiding annoying comments like “Yes I’m a sceptic too, I don’t believe in evolution or the moon landings”

Sorry, just re-read that post and it seems a bit whiney and preachy, normal service of sarcasm and attempted witticism will be resumed in the next post.

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2 responses

  1. uknowispeaksense | Reply

    No, its a very important distinction you make. As a member of the Australian Sceptics Society, I can assure you that I am yet to meet a member of the organisation that denies climate change, evolution, the moon landing etc. I can equally assure you that they are all sceptical of the pseudoscientific nonsense that you mentioned. The true sceptics in this world are those that can apply real critical thinking skills to information. The climate change deniers are so lacking in critical thinking skills they don’t even stop to critically self-evaluate. They call themselves ‘sceptics’ to try and legitimise their loony positions and probably truly believe that they are in the right. It’s sad.

    1. Apollo story was just a mere example. The aim was to define interfaces between the skepticism and denial, this is the fact.Finally, if you are ever 2 * 2 = 4 skeptical, well, you’ll be a denier.

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