HIV does not cause AIDS. Smoking does not cause lung cancer. And burning fossil fuels does not contribute to global warming.
What do these three statements have in common? They’re all rejections of well-established scientific consensus, and recent findings in psychology suggest that people who believe one or more of them are also more likely to believe a number of conspiracy theories: that the New World Order is planning to take over the planet, that the Apollo moon landing was faked in a Hollywood film studio, that the death of Princess Diana was an organized assassination, that an alien spaceship in New Mexico was covered up by the United States’ military, and even more.
I asked Lewandowsky about his experience as a researcher working on the psychology of science denial, and in particular his take on the blogospheric reception to his forthcoming paper. He suggested that the paper engendered such hostility because it not only “cast people who rejected climate science in a less than favorable light,” but also because “it was too close to the truth.” Of course, he points out, “the way the blogosphere responded was really by confirming my finding. What they basically did was spin one conspiracy theory after another, trying to invalidate the data.”
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