by Karl Arnold Belser
31 March 2014

Robert M. Proctor, who is a science and technology professor at Stanford University, coined the word agnotology, the study of culturally induced doubt, which in turn results in ignorance.  Judith Curry's  Blog entry called Agnotology, Agnoioloy and Cognitronics elaborates on the agnotology concept more than I will describe here.

An example of casting doubt that results in ignorance is the labeling of both evolution and Creation as "theories". With this naming , both subjects take on doubt. The implication is that evolution is just a theory denies the facts that there is over 100 years of repeatable science behind explaining evolution, even though the explanation is not complete today, whereas there are no reproducible results for creationism. In creationism, God said it and it was written in the Bible, hence it is true. The result has been that a large percentage of the American population believe in creationism and have profound doubts about science even though science has enabled the high standard of living that many people enjoy today.

For example, I have a niece who is fond of saying that "science is the work of the devil" while she enjoys her household appliances, her late model car and her smart phone. This is true ignorance.

I am clear that because I am human I have to constantly be on guard about my ignorance. I have written the posts Attention Economics and Thinking Errors to try to train myself in clearer thinking.  

The video Here Be Dragons by Brian Dunning is an excellent review of critical thinking tools that can be used  to counter agnotology.  The term Here Be Dragons identifies unknown and dangerous territories in which metaphorically there might be dragons (danger).

In a broader context, the new TV series of COSMOS by Neil DeGrasse Tyson seems to be a rational way to deal with public ignorance. The main message of COSMOS is to educate people about science.  The veiled message is to cast doubt about creationism
, I have even heard that the creationists are going to sue the FOX network in order to get equal time for an explanation of creationism.. 
Last updated March 31, 2014
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