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The Denial of Reality

Many people deny truths even when presented with irrefutable scientific data.

There's an old (and corny) joke, which goes:

What is "denial?"

It's a river in Egypt."

There's another meaning of "denial" in psychoanalytic theory: A psychological defense we all use at times to reduce our anxiety when something feels particularly disturbing.

Finally, there is a particular type of "denial" we are witnessing nowadays: When seemingly intelligent and sane adults vehemently deny truths despite a body of irrefutable data.

This type of denial is akin to Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness” in that these deniers adamantly refuse to accept verified scientific facts because they get in the way of their own rigid ideas.

Here are just a few examples of their beliefs:

  1. There is no such thing as manmade global warming.
  2. There is nothing that we can do to improve our climate.
  3. Most immigrants are a drain on social services, schools, hospitals, and other public resources.
  4. Many immigrants are criminals, rapists, dealers or terrorists.
  5. The availability of guns has nothing to do with the uniquely American epidemic of shootings.
  6. Gun death rates have not dropped in countries with gun control legislation.
  7. Vaccines are dangerous, cause autism and other disorders.
  8. Muslims are out to destroy us and our way of life.
  9. Latinos are lazy, Jews are greedy, African-Americans are violent, etc.
  10. Marriage is sacrosanct only between a man and a woman.
  11. Planned Parenthood sells fetal parts.
  12. LGBT people are either "sick" or "bad."
  13. The USA is the first/greatest in the world in health, education, nutrition, generosity, cleanliness, happiness, and safety. (It is indeed first in weaponry, shootings, military spending, prisoners, drug trade, and other indices of "greatness.")

In psychiatry, the word “delusion” means a firm belief in some idea which is known to be false, and it can be a symptom of paranoia or psychosis. While the believers in the above untruths aren’t mentally ill, they do strongly adhere to their false credos in spite of clear evidence to the contrary which is presented to them, especially if based on scientific findings.

These deniers are indeed "true believers" for whom there is only One Absolute Truth. They are the very people whom Pope Francis recently called "fundamentalists," and they are found in all religions and other "isms." The writings of their texts are taken literally or reinterpreted to suit their prejudice and hate.

This kind of closed-mindedness is prevalent in every country of the world and in all religions. Call it zealotry, bigotry or fanaticism, these ultra-controlling beliefs are dangerous to our civic morale. Worse, they give a quasi-intellectual rationale for a momentum towards control, misanthropy, and hate.

Let's please remember that the precursors of today’s deniers vehemently proclaimed that: Earth was created in 7 days, was flat, and the center of the Universe; gravity did not exist; diseases were caused by evil spirits; and Caucasians were the supreme race.

There is no doubt that science is not perfect, which is why scientists the world over are always attempting to discover and understand more about our bodies, minds, planet, and cosmos. But when people refuse to accept or believe scientifically proven factual data because these interfere with their mind-set, we are indeed in deep trouble.