Ignorance and Bliss
March 9, 2014 12:59 PM Subscribe
Cultural production of ignorance provides rich field for study.
posted by VikingSword (20 comments total)
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'Proctor, a professor of the history of science at Stanford, is one of the world's leading experts in agnotology
, a neologism signifying the study of the cultural production of ignorance. It's a rich field, especially today when whole industries devote themselves to sowing public misinformation and doubt about their products and activities.' [LATimes link, use privacy setting in browser for access]
'Early in his career, he told me, he asked an advisor if Nazi science was an appropriate topic of research. "Of course," he was told. "Nonsense is nonsense, but the history of nonsense is scholarship." As part of his scholarship, Proctor says he "watches Fox News all the time."'
'The dangers of ignorance's foothold in public discourse are twofold.
First, once allowed to take root, misinformation — whether cultural or manufactured — is very hard to dislodge.
In a recent study, a research team headed by Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College tried four methods to change the minds of parents who had decided not to immunize their children with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine — a factual refutation of the vaccine-autism link; two different means of warning about the risks to children from contracting measles, mumps or rubella, including "a dramatic narrative about an infant who almost died of measles"; and horrific photos of children suffering from the diseases.
Some of the interventions persuaded the parents that the autism link was specious, but not a single one made the parents more willing to vaccinate their children. And some intensified opposition to the vaccine, a "backfire" effect.'