When the debate goes from whether it is a joke in a kindergarten, to whether covid-19 is a lie, it is really a sign that the world has become too difficult.
The knowledge is Aftenposten’s commitment to research and science, where researchers and professionals from all over the country contribute articles.
In Uviten, Nina Kristiansen, Marit M. Simonsen, Ole Jacob Madsen and Simen Gaure write every week about what they believe is bad research, embarrassing communication, ignorant political proposals and pure cheating.
Under glittering trees all over the country, there was a sure sign at Christmas that we were in uncertain times: crystals in pretty boxes, tarot cards and astrology books. The reason is too much time to think, some say. One close look in the mirror in the insulation of the home, say others.
Disinformation spread on the internet, several say. But the cause of the wave is probably really related to a bigger problem: the state of the world.
For in uncertain times, irrationality flourishes.
Astrology in women’s magazines
When I started caring about science communication and critical thinking about 15 years ago, life was easy. Well then, we were worried about climate change and vaccine denial then too, but the blogs we read, and the conferences we went to, were filled with more light-hearted things.
I was on a course in how easy it was to fake UFO pictures. I also learned to be a fortune teller. We watched in shock as astrology still clung to a page in many women’s magazines.
But then I seemed to see that the trend was starting to reverse. The relative widespread the use of alternative medicine dalte. Public information did it inside to discuss pseudoscience. The festive stuff we were occupied by, such as seeing faces where they do not exist, was even more marginalized.
A short-lived illusion
But it was just a short-lived illusion. For under the surface, bigger things bubbled up: Conspiracy theories began to spread after September 11, 2001, climate deniers appeared in the daily press, vaccine denial became a general concern both after the swine flu pandemic and with the introduction of the HPV vaccine in young girls.
We watched in shock as astrology still clung to a page in many women’s magazines
It was no longer enough to know anything about pop psychology and the placebo effect to answer the question.
We had to go into scientific publications and get an overview of huge research fields in order to be able to argue against. It all became complex over time, and it still is.
The psychology of superstition
So what happened? The Internet is often blamed for the world becoming a wormhole of confused, fanatical and fact-resistant people. And it is clear that the web is contributing. But the big, underlying problem is probably more confusion than factual resistance.
One of the lectures I heard around 2010 was about the psychology of superstition, and that superstition is most often about the loss of perceived control. Sometimes due to their own shortcomings, other times trauma, accidents or just that kind of shit that happens in human life.
The people around us are not ignorant fools, they are just reasonably stressed
For superstition often provides an experience of overview and control.
We see the same thing in the face of today’s conspiracy theories, which are flourishing during the pandemic. When the debate starts about that jokes in a nursery, to if covid-19 is a lie, it’s really a sign that the world has become too difficult.
And now we have it all – both UFOs, witchcraft and QAnon.
Ivermectin and crystals in the Christmas stocking
It has become something of a mantra for me that one should not meet conspiracy theories with discussion, but with anchoring and connection.
The same must apply to those who want Ivermectin and for those who wanted crystals in the Christmas stocking. The people around us are not ignorant fools, they are just reasonably stressed.
My cautious New Year’s wish is of course a better world that does not make us Homo sapiens as resigned as we are now, but in the meantime we should probably just try to take care of each other as best we can.