WOTD: Agnotology

Here’s a little something off the request line. I’d like to dedicate today’s WOTD to Cissi, Shark and the other upstanding members of Random Misanthrope.

Today’s word is a relatively new discipline, developed in recent years by two historians of science at Stanford University, Robert Proctor and his wife, Londa Schiebinger. Agnotology is defined as of the study of “culturally-induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data.”

There sure is a lot of bullshit masquerading as scientific research these days, which is why I’m not surprised to learn that this is such a new discipline. It used to be that scientific cranks could rarely get anything published because, well, they were hacks and quacks, and everybody knew it. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, just about any nut with any nutty idea can publish that belief for the whole world to see. One can find websites that offer definitive proof that 9/11 was a government plot, the Apollo 11 mission was a hoax, vaccines cause autism, homeopathy can effectively treat any disease including cancer, there are huge and powerful “lasers” currently orbiting the earth, and of course that President Barack Obama was not only born in Kenya, he’s also a Muslim.

Just look around. If you want confirmation for any crackpot idea then the internet will provide it.

My ex was a real tin-foil hat club type who was frequently out of work and spent his days reading about various conspiracies on the internet while I was at the office. One day he arrived to pick me up at work wearing a surgical mask. The explanation he gave was that there were a lot of jets flying over head that day and he read on the internet they were secret government planes generating “chemical trails” which rain down toxic chemicals that penetrate our bodies and control our minds.

I said that if that were really the case, then a surgical mask probably wasn’t going to provide very much in the way of protection.

Until next time…

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