Wednesday, January 19

How to deny denialism?

I have a good friend who has not been vaccinated against COVID-19, who claims that this virus was created artificially in a laboratory in Wuhan and that it has gotten out of hand, that there are great interests behind the spread of the virus -economic or reducing the overpopulation of the planet, among others-, that vaccines generate important side effects such as sudden death – “repentinitis”, a term used sarcastically by those who reject this vaccine-, that vaccination gives rise to new mutations and that the new variants of this virus are due precisely to the very existence of vaccines, that there is a clear lock on the theses that cast doubt on official information … and that, naturally, it also denies or rejects practically all containment measures of the virus adopted even in the worst moments of this health crisis – measures in many cases debatable, certainly. In short, a clear example of a denialist thesis regarding this virus and everything that surrounds it.

There are many denials, of course. There may be as many as topics we can think of. In reality, it is still a measure of self-protection against annoying, unpleasant, harsh or incomprehensible realities. Because, certainly, on many occasions it is easier and more comfortable to deny reality than to think about it, assume it, adapt to it or combat it … I am not saying that it is in all cases, since these denialist positions also generate, without a doubt, a high degree of tension personal and social, a tremendous feeling of not being understood, an important feeling of helplessness because of not being able to communicate and expand the ideas that are considered authentic …

But, of course, these are positions that are fed exclusively by certain highly selected sources, who listen only to what they want to hear and who see the conspiracy in other people, political and social groups and in the decisions that are made. they are taking to fight this virus.

I must emphasize that I do not understand by denialism the intellectual and scientifically honest questioning of any subject and the submission of any theory, proposal or decision to debate … To debate, doubt or question is not to deny, but to facilitate the making of well-founded personal and collective decisions.

Denialism is certainly not a new phenomenon. We are familiar with denialist ideas and movements in various fields. In some cases, about science itself, its evolution and its revelations, such as the incredible and bizarre claims, reinforced in recent years, about the creationism of the earth and of the human being, denying the biological evolution demonstrated by the scientific community, or defending “flat Earth”, embracing that prescientific belief and denying empirically accredited evidence ad nauseam.

In other cases, denying some tremendous historical realities, such as the indisputable fact of the Nazi Holocaust and the massacre of six million Jewish people, or even something closer, denying the coup d’├ętat of 1936 and the Dictatorship and their tremendous crimes or putting them mute.

Without a doubt, they are denials of a different kind and of different intentions. It is difficult to understand what benefit or reassurance the denial of the above scientific evidence could provide. Except, I suppose, that of clinging to old ideas, at the time legitimate and innocent, given the knowledge then existing, and then only sustained for a time by the Catholic Church, in an already abandoned thesis. And, I also suppose, with the indirect intention of discrediting all scientific evidence, because if the most elementary theories, some of them consecrated for several centuries, were refuted false or inaccurate, this would lead to questioning the rest of the advances.

And what to do? How to face and deny denialism?

We already have some experiences. In Germany, Austria and Israel, among other countries, Holocaust denialism is illegal. In Spain, however, the ruling of the Constitutional Court of November 7, 2007 declared unconstitutional and null the inclusion of the expression “deny or” in the first paragraph of article 607.2 of the Penal Code, which defines the crimes of genocide. In the EU, the Framework Decision of November 28, 2008 against racism and xenophobia through criminal law was approved, in which it is determined that each Member State will adopt the necessary measures to ensure that intentional conduct of, among others, is punished. , the denial of crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity.

But the Penal Code does not solve everything – nor should it. And, above all, it does not solve the situation now generated by denial about everything that surrounds this virus.

And, as there are many denialists, each one with their reasons and intentions or even without any intention, we must face the phenomenon with the utmost respect for each person, with great calm, great understanding and, of course, with great and good information and facilitating discussion. It is not a question of denying or rejecting these theses or beliefs outright, but of disseminating and arguing better and with greater depth and a superior scientific basis than them, highlighting the inconsistencies and contradictions of these theses, the existence of scientific evidence that can hardly be being denied and the very serious consequences that denial of science is having for many people.

The dissemination of reliable and proven scientific sources is essential, as is generally being done. And also his confrontation with the denialist theses. It is from dialogue and debate that the evidence must emerge, refuting one by one the arguments that deny it and demanding the necessary solvency from the sources that support these theories. Because, where are the people of science who deny this evidence? Why, apart from various forums of dubious origin and implementation, do they not express their thesis loud and clear in academic and similar spaces? Or is there no debate about it, for example, in Spanish universities? And if there isn’t, why is it?

As a citizen, I understand that this would be truly responsible and would allow “knowing the truth”, if this is possible. But, in any case, at least, it would allow us to dismantle ideas that, in moments of anxiety, unease and fear, have an important impact on many people of good will.

Nothing should be easier in a society like ours, in which there are never-before-known means for calm and in-depth debate. Media that, unfortunately, on many occasions are only serving to disseminate theses based on more than debatable references from people with dubious expertise and worse intention.