Agnotology


We have previously pointed out how accreditation is sold like a toiletry – gain *confidence* by paying money to UKAS and wasting lots more on unnecessary things that they might chance to inspect.

Image result for ring of confidence

Professional inspection

Michael J. Hope Cawdery has drawn attention to the deception of which some commercial empires rely.

He points to an article by Georgina Kenyon for the BBC, who asks,

How do people or companies with vested interests spread ignorance and obfuscate knowledge?

She introduces the reader to the word, agnotology, which is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour.

To understand UKAS you must understand previous examples of companies that practiced this smoke and mirrors routine.  Despite the comprehensive scope of the deception, accreditation’s sleight of hand is not particularly sophisticated.  It works more because of the authority with which it poses

Getting Gender Stereotyped, Ladies? Combat it with Power Posing

than the cleverness of its arguments or complexity of its evidence.

Image result for no evidenceDespite years of promoting evidence-based medicine, hardly any of the medical establishment is even asking for evidence that accreditation works.

It’s only taxpayers’ money after all.

Here is the full article:

The man who studies the spread of ignorance

6 January 2016

In 1979, a secret memo from the tobacco industry was revealed to the public. Called the Smoking and Health Proposal, and written a decade earlier by the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, it revealed many of the tactics employed by big tobacco to counter “anti-cigarette forces”.

In one of the paper’s most revealing sections, it looks at how to market cigarettes to the mass public: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

This revelation piqued the interest of Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University, who started delving into the practices of tobacco firms and how they had spread confusion about whether smoking caused cancer.

Proctor had found that the cigarette industry did not want consumers to know the harms of its product, and it spent billions obscuring the facts of the health effects of smoking. This search led him to create a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology.

Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour

It comes from agnosis, the neoclassical Greek word for ignorance or ‘not knowing’, and ontology, the branch of metaphysics which deals with the nature of being. Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour.

“I was exploring how powerful industries could promote ignorance to sell their wares. Ignorance is power… and agnotology is about the deliberate creation of ignorance.

“In looking into agnotology, I discovered the secret world of classified science, and thought historians should be giving this more attention.”

The 1969 memo and the tactics used by the tobacco industry became the perfect example of agnotology, Proctor says. “Ignorance is not just the not-yet-known, it’s also a political ploy, a deliberate creation by powerful agents who want you ‘not to know’.”

To help him in his search, Proctor enlisted the help of UC Berkeley linguist Iain Boal, and together they came up with the term – the neologism was coined in 1995, although much of Proctor’s analysis of the phenomenon had occurred in the previous decades.

Balancing act

Agnotology is as important today as it was back when Proctor studied the tobacco industry’s obfuscation of facts about cancer and smoking. For example, politically motivated doubt was sown over US President Barack Obama’s nationality for many months by opponents until he revealed his birth certificate in 2011. In another case, some political commentators in Australia attempted to stoke panic by likening the country’s credit rating to that of Greece, despite readily available public information from ratings agencies showing the two economies are very different.

“This ‘balance routine’ has allowed the cigarette men, or climate deniers today, to claim that there are two sides to every story, that ‘experts disagree’ – creating a false picture of the truth, hence ignorance.”

We live in a world of radical ignorance – Robert Proctor

For example, says Proctor, many of the studies linking carcinogens in tobacco were conducted in mice initially, and the tobacco industry responded by saying that studies into mice did not mean that people were at risk, despite adverse health outcomes in many smokers.

A new era of ignorance

“We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise,” says Proctor. Even though knowledge is ‘accessible’, it does not mean it is accessed, he warns.

“Although for most things this is trivial – like, for example, the boiling point of mercury – but for bigger questions of political and philosophical import, the knowledge people have often comes from faith or tradition, or propaganda, more than anywhere else.”

Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.

Consider climate change as an example. “The fight is not just over the existence of climate change, it’s over whether God has created the Earth for us to exploit, whether government has the right to regulate industry, whether environmentalists should be empowered, and so on. It’s not just about the facts, it’s about what is imagined to flow from and into such facts,” says Proctor.

Making up our own minds

Another academic studying ignorance is David Dunning, from Cornell University. Dunning warns that the internet is helping propagate ignorance – it is a place where everyone has a chance to be their own expert, he says, which makes them prey for powerful interests wishing to deliberately spread ignorance.

The Dunnin­g–K­ruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled indivi­duals suffer from illusory superi­ority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metaco­gnitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accura­tely. Their research also suggests that conver­sely, highly skilled indivi­duals may undere­stimate their relative compet­ence, errone­ously assuming that tasks which are easy for them also are easy for others. The bias was first experi­men­tally observed by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University in 1999.

The Dunnin­g–K­ruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled indivi­duals suffer from illusory superi­ority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metaco­gnitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accura­tely. Their research also suggests that conver­sely, highly skilled indivi­duals may undere­stimate their relative compet­ence, errone­ously assuming that tasks which are easy for them also are easy for others. The bias was first experi­men­tally observed by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University in 1999. Dunning and Kruger have postulated that the effect is the result of internal illusion in the unskilled, and external misper­ception in the skilled: “The miscal­ibr­ation of the incomp­etent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscal­ibr­ation of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”

My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so – David Dunning

So now you know a little more of how the accreditation scam is sold.

And Breitbart tells us the BBC and other mainstream media might not have to worry about climate change “deniers” for much longer:

The US Department of Justice has been considering whether people should be prosecuted for the offense of climate change denial.

US Attorney General: We’ve ‘Discussed’ Prosecuting Climate Change Deniers

How long before the legislators come for the UKAS deniers?

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This entry was posted in Bureaucracy, Cartel, Economics, History, Medicine, Philosophy, Psychology, Science and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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