So, I'm Getting an Electric Car
|2013 Tesla Motors Model S|
A place to excogitate.
|2013 Tesla Motors Model S|
Science depends on organized skepticism, that is, on continual, methodical doubting. Few of us doubt our own conclusions, so science embraces its skeptical approach by rewarding those who doubt someone else's. We may rightly call this approach unnatural; not so much because it calls for mistrusting someone else's thoughts, but because science encourages and rewards those who can demonstrate that another scientist's conclusions are just plain wrong. To other scientists, the scientist who corrects a colleague's error, or cites good reasons for seriously doubting his or her conclusions, performs a noble deed, like a Zen master who boxes the ears of a novice straying from the meditative path, although scientists correct one another more as equals than as master and student. By rewarding a scientist who spots another's errors -- a task that human nature makes much easier than discerning one's own mistakes -- scientists as a group have created an inborn system of self-correction. Scientists have collectively created our most efficient and effective tool for analyzing nature, because they seek to disprove other scientists' theories even as they support their earnest attempts to advance human knowledge. Science thus amounts to a collective pursuit, but a mutual admiration society it is not, nor was it meant to be.
I think this cartoon from Calamities of Nature covers the main danger of cell phones, but basically radiation (cell phones, microwaves, etc.) below the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum, won't cause DNA to mutate. As long as your blood is flowing, it won't even cook your brain.
The article also notes that a study of nearly half a million cell phone users from 1982 thru 1995, did not support an association between the use of cell phones and tumors of the brain or salivary gland, leukemia, or other cancers.
[Edited June 11, 2011 to add information from and reference to the JNCI article.]
Martin McKee, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who also studies denial, has identified six tactics that all denialist movements use. "I'm not suggesting there is a manual somewhere, but one can see these elements, to varying degrees, in many settings," he says (The European Journal of Public Health, vol 19, p 2).
The article also sheds some light on why some instigators of denialist movements are doing what they do:
Denialism has already killed. AIDS denial has killed an estimated 330,000 South Africans. Tobacco denial delayed action to prevent smoking-related deaths. Vaccine denial has given a new lease of life to killer diseases like measles and polio. Meanwhile, climate change denial delays action to prevent warming. The backlash against efforts to fight the flu pandemic could discourage preparations for the next, potentially a more deadly one.
If science is the best way to understand the world and its dangers, and acting on that understanding requires popular support, then denial movements threaten us all.
If you are a denialist, you may need psychological help.
Kalichman, however, feels that everyday reasoning alone is not enough to make someone a denialist. "There is some fragility in their thinking that draws them to believe people who are easily exposed as frauds," he says. "Most of us don't believe what they say, even if we want to. Understanding why some do may help us find solutions."
He believes the instigators of denialist movements have more serious psychological problems than most of their followers. "They display all the features of paranoid personality disorder", he says, including anger, intolerance of criticism, and what psychiatrists call a grandiose sense of their own importance. "Ultimately, their denialism is a mental health problem. That is why these movements all have the same features, especially the underlying conspiracy theory."