Why people deny the obvious?

“Despite the fact that we live in an ‘information age’, and are finding out more and more about the universe, some people seem determined to reject knowledge. For example, in the 1950s, tobacco companies knew, from their own research, that tobacco smoking was both addictive and terribly dangerous to health. When scientists and doctors began to say this publicly, the companies hired other scientists and PR people to argue that there was still doubt. Millions died as a result.

More recently, energy industries have attempted to dispute that humans are responsible for climate change. Other people won’t accept that vaccination protects against disease.

It’s hard to understand these deniers, but it seems they are driven by a small number of motives, and they use a pretty standard set of arguments to defend their views. One motive is corporate greed. Another may be religious fanaticism. And almost always they suspect scientists and governments of some sort of conspiracy. It’s fascinating.”

Dr Martin Bridgstock is a senior lecturer in the School of Natural Sciences.

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