Counter-Knowledge and the Decline of the West

My friend Damian Thompson, author of one of the better books on apocalyptic thought, The End of Time is now pursuing a really interesting project on “counter-knowledge”. (He’s the anonymous questioners in the second opening anecdote of my article on post-modern conspiracy theory. His exploration draws our attention to a critical dimension of (an often unconscious) information warfare that we are conducting, in many cases, against ourselves. Nothing illustrates the danger of using post-modernism (e.g., “there is no such thing as objectivity”) to detach ourselves from the kind of “reality testing” that only a sober form of self-criticism can assure.

Lies, damn lies and ‘counterknowledge’
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 12/01/2008
By Damian Thompson

Outright fiction is being peddled as historical and scientific fact, warns Damian Thompson in an extract from his provocative new book

George Bush planned the September 11 attacks. The MMR injection triggers autism in children. The ancient Greeks stole their ideas from Africa. “Creation science” disproves evolution. Homeopathy can defeat the Aids virus.

The fantasy that the US government was behind the 9/11 attacks has wormed its way into the mainstream

Do any of these theories sound familiar? Has someone bored you rigid at a dinner party by unveiling one of these “secrets”? If so, it is hardly surprising. In recent years, thousands of bizarre conjectures have been endorsed by leading publishers, taught in universities, plugged in newspapers, quoted by politicians and circulated in cyberspace.

This is counterknowledge: misinformation packaged to look like fact. We are facing a pandemic of credulous thinking. Ideas that once flourished only on the fringes are now taken seriously by educated people in the West, and are wreaking havoc in the developing world.

We live in an age in which the techniques for evaluating the truth of claims about science and history are more reliable than ever before. One of the legacies of the Enlightenment is a methodology based on painstaking measurement of the material world.

That legacy is now threatened. And one of the reasons for this, paradoxically, is that science has given us almost unlimited access to fake information.

Most of us have friends who are susceptible to conspiracy theories. You may know someone who thinks the Churches are suppressing the truth that Jesus and Mary Magdalene sired a dynasty of Merovingian kings; someone else who thinks Aids was cooked up in a CIA laboratory; someone else again who thinks MI5 killed Diana, Princess of Wales. Perhaps you know one person who believes all three.

Or do you half-believe one of these ideas yourself? We may assume that we are immune to conspiracy theories. In reality, we are more vulnerable than at any time for decades.

I recently met a Lib Dem-voting schoolteacher who voiced his “doubts” about September 11. First, he grabbed our attention with a plausible-sounding observation: “Look at the way the towers collapsed vertically. Jet fuel wouldn’t generate enough to heat to melt steel. Only controlled explosions can do that.” The rest of the party, not being structural engineers (for whom there is nothing mysterious about the collapse of the towers) pricked up their ears. “You’re right,” they said. “It did seem strange…”

Admittedly, no major newspaper or TV station has endorsed a September 11 conspiracy theory. But more than 100 million people have watched a 90-minute documentary, Loose Change, directed by three young New Yorkers who assembled the first cut on a laptop. The result is super-slick: computer-generated planes glide menacingly towards their targets, to the accompaniment of a funky soundtrack; buildings collapse in a comic theatrical sequence. This is one cool movie – and a masterpiece of counterknowledge.

The makers suggest that a missile, not an airliner, hit the Pentagon; that the occupants of Flight 93 were safely evacuated at Cleveland Hopkins airport; that the panicked calls made by the passengers were faked using voice-morphing technology.

The directors make basic errors and play outrageous tricks: quotes from experts and official documents are cherry-picked and truncated. Airline parts are misidentified and pictures cropped in a way that leaves out inconvenient rubble and wreckage. “Expert testimony” is lifted from the American Free Press, a hysterical news service with strong links to the far Right.

Yet the makers of Loose Change are pushing at an open door. More than a third of Americans suspect that federal officials assisted in the September 11 attacks or took no action to stop them. September 11 conspiracy theories have gained such a following in France that even a member of President Sarkozy’s government has suggested that President Bush might have planned the attacks. Christine Boutin, the housing minister, when asked in an interview whether she thought Bush might have been behind the attacks, said: “I think it is possible.”

Another who believes this is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, who reckons that September 11 could not have been executed “without co-ordination with [US] intelligence and security services”. Ahmadinejad is also a well-known Holocaust denier, having referred publicly to “the myth of the Jews’ massacre”.

In the world of counterknowledge, wild theories are constantly mating and mutating. As the editor of Skeptic magazine, Michael Shermer, puts it: “The mistaken belief that a handful of unexplained anomalies can undermine a well-established theory lies at the heart of all conspiratorial thinking, as well as creationism, Holocaust denial and the various crank theories of physics.”

We do not normally think of creationism and maverick physics as conspiracy theories; but what they have in common with Loose Change is a methodology that marks them as counterknowledge. People who share a muddled, careless or deceitful attitude towards gathering evidence often find themselves drawn to each other’s fantasies. If you believe one wrong or strange thing, you are more likely to believe another. Although this has been true for centuries, the invention of the internet has had a galvanising effect. A rumour about the Antichrist can leap from Goths in Sweden to Australian fascists in seconds. Minority groups are becoming more tolerant of each other’s eccentric doctrines. Contacts between white and black racists are now flourishing; in particular, the growing anti-Semitism of black American Muslims has been a great ice-breaker on the neo-Nazi circuit.

In June 2007, the home page of The Truth Seeker, a conspiracy website, included claims that Aids is a “man-made Pentagon genocide”, that Pope Paul VI “was impersonated by an actor from 1975 to 1978″, that new evidence about the Loch Ness monster had emerged – plus a link to Loose Change.

Yet, as we saw earlier, more than 100 million people have seen that film. In the 21st century, bogus knowledge is no longer confined to self-selecting minority groups. It is seeping into the mainstream, cleverly repackaged for a mass market. This crisis goes beyond traditional political ideology. Yes, the Left has helped to spread counterknowledge by insisting on the rights of minorities to believe falsehoods that make them feel better about themselves. Afro-centric history aims to raise the self-esteem of black youngsters by feeding them the fantasy that the origins of Western civilisation lie in black Africa. Last year, a British government report revealed that some teachers are dropping the Holocaust from lessons rather than confront the Holocaust-denial of Muslim pupils.

But Left-wing multiculturalists are not the only guilty ones: entrepreneurs are turning counterknowledge into an industry. Publishing houses pay self-taught archaeologists and pseudo-historians large amounts to turn fragments of fact into saleable stories. Titles are placed in the history sections of bookshops whose claims have been thoroughly demolished – yet the publishers carry on bringing out new editions.

The dividing line between fiction and non-fiction is becoming increasingly hard to draw. These days, public opinion is so malleable that a product does not even have to pretend to be fact in order to affect perceptions of truth: the success of The Da Vinci Code has persuaded 40 per cent of Americans that the Churches are concealing information about Jesus.

Meanwhile, publishers, television channels and newspapers are making huge profits from another branch of counterknowledge: alternative medicine. Unqualified nutritionists make claims for vitamin supplements and “superfoods” that are unsupported by scientific literature; conveniently, these people often have a commercial interest in selling the supplements in question.

Fashionable advocates of alternative medicine, and the executives who profit from them, are as reliant on counterknowledge as any bedsit conspiracy theorist. Their miracle diets and health scares undermine science by distorting the public understanding of cause and effect, and therefore of risk.

The fingerprints of the alternative medicine lobby are all over the worst British health scare of recent years, in which thousands of parents denied their children the MMR triple vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella following the dissemination of flawed data linking it to autism. In that case, distrust of orthodox medicine increased the danger of a measles epidemic.

But that is nothing compared to the impact of medical counterknowledge in underdeveloped countries. In northern Nigeria, Islamic leaders have issued a fatwa declaring the polio vaccine to be a US conspiracy to sterilise Muslims: polio has returned to the area, and pilgrims have carried it to Mecca and Yemen. In January 2007, the parents of 24,000 children in Pakistan refused to let health workers vaccinate their children because radical mullahs had told them the same idiotic story.

These incidents cannot be dismissed as examples of medieval superstition: these people are not rejecting life-saving vaccines because they reject modern medicine, but because their leaders are spouting Islamic takes on Western conspiracy theories. Counterknowledge, with its ingrained hostility towards a political, intellectual and scientific elite, appeals to anti-American, anti-Western sentiment in the developing world.

Islamic countries, in particular, have embraced counterknowledge to a remarkable degree. In 2006, the Pew Research Centre asked Muslims in Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and Pakistan whether Arabs carried out the September 11 attacks. The majority of respondents in each country said no. Indeed, most British Muslims – 56 per cent – also thought that Arabs were innocent. A quarter of British Muslims believe that “the British Government was involved in some way” with the London terrorist bombings of July 7, 2005.

The battle between knowledge and counterknowledge is not just a struggle to protect the public domain from bogus facts. It has profound implications for the safety of the West. And, make no mistake about it: this is a battle we are losing.

Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science and False History by Damian Thompson (Atlantic) is available for £11.99 + £1.25 p&p. To order, please call Telegraph Books on 0870 428 4112 or go to books.telegraph.co.uk © Damian Thompson 2008

Mind you, being susceptible to counter-knowledge — conspiracy theories, propaganda, and the like — do not make one self-destructive. On the contrary, prime-divider societies run by ruthless elites thrive on this kind of stuff. It’s civil societies that prize freedom and mutual respect that need to reality test.

31 Responses to Counter-Knowledge and the Decline of the West

  1. [...] Augean Stables added an interesting post today on Counter-Knowledge and the Decline of the WestHere’s a small reading [...]

  2. [...] Augean Stables created an interesting post today on Counter-Knowledge and the Decline of the WestHere’s a short outline [...]

  3. [...] Counter-Knowledge and the Decline of the West Nothing illustrates the danger of using post-modernism (e.g., “there is no such thing as objectivity”) to detach ourselves from the kind… [...]

  4. fp says:

    sooooo, am i right about the collapse of education and the fall of knowledge and reason or not?

    fp
    http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

  5. [...] Counter-Knowledge and the Decline of the West [...]

  6. Eliyahu says:

    fp, education didn’t “fall,” as you say. It was pushed.

  7. Richard Landes says:

    i don’t know. remember that conspiracy theories are the norm rather than the exception and that the internet has a great deal to do with its metastasis. after all, WWII was largely the result of the success of conspiracy theories among the nazis and imbecillity among the brits. i personally don’t think it’s a good idea to idealize the past, but rather to work on the present.

  8. Knowledge and Counter-Knowledge

    Last week Damian Thompson, in the Telegraph, wrote an important article about Lies, damn lies and ‘counterknowledge’: [HT: Richard Landes]Outright fiction is being peddled as historical and scientific fact, warns Damian Thompson in an extract from hi…

  9. slenderdog says:

    Conspiracy theories emerge in a climate of widespread disinformation from “mainstream” sources. When news is reported with an evident bias people develop a healthy mistrust of authority. “Reality testing” must be applied to the generally accepted “truths” as much as to conspiracy theories.

  10. I wasn’t comfortable reading much of the “Counterknowledge” essay. Perhaps it was the constraint of the space, but I found too much dismissive and even flippant.

    As examples, the all inclusive attacks on “Creationism,” Alternative Medicine and the origins of Western civilization in Africa.

    I have space and time constraints, as well, but a few comments please.

    Concerning creationism, aside from my religious belief and very satisfactory proofs of G-d’s presence (and I will communicate this with any serious inquirer),as a physician I am near infinitely impressed that the deeper the dissection in a biologic form the more complex the structures and physiology that is encountered. A single cell is impossible to conceive in its precision. The workings of any organ, or system in coordination allows no experimentation in its survivability. Just considering the ocular system allows no evolution in any species. Its unimaginable complexity is there up front. There are no evolutionary parts. Just the thickness of the eggshell immediately perfect for every species should be enough to stop the ranting.

    Concerning the claim that African culture antedated the Greek, I don’t understand the pejorative attack. The pyramids existed when “Greeks” were living in caves, yes? Egypt in in Africa. They had to have perfected mathematics, geometry, astronomy…

    As I physician my Oath begins, “I swear by Aesculapius…” I have been told that that is the Greek name for Imhotep, admittedly a multigenius, one of the few in history, an African.

    Concerning so-called Alternative Medicine, traditionalism is many times not substantial. You are invited to my website to view my 50 year battle with my colleagues on only one facet of fundamental medicine that for decades was cynically relegated to the fringes. Traditional medical appreciation of the power of nutrition has been severely lacking throughout my career. Medicines, be they natural or synthetic, are only pushed if they are profitable. There are a host of potent therapies available that are never considered. A new, remarkable organization (MedInsight) is about to go on the Internet that for the first time presents and corelates virtually all potentially valuable therapies regardless of their commercial value and/or attention. This discourse could continue for a long, long time. Be well.

  11. fp says:

    eliyahu,

    well, of course there was pushing. but also neglect.

    rl,

    you don’t know. hhhmmm.

    what idealization? I did not say the education in the past was ideal, or even optimal. there just WAS one. increasingly now there isn’t one. for somebody who says that the west should face and understand the enemy, we should also face and understand our own failures.

    the internet is a tool — it can be used for good and bad purposes. the fact that it facilitates so many conspiracy theories, anti-semitism and so on is an indication that there are audiences there who lack knowledge and ability to reason.

    slenderdog,

    right. but both the ability and the appreciation for reality testing need to be developed and rewarded. when society does the opposite — it fails to instill and punishes them — there are no reasons to expect anything but the consequences we now see.

  12. [...] take “comfort” in these kinds of “promises.” It’s a form of “counter-knowledge” that’s particularly appealing as “reason” commits [...]

  13. fp says:

    paul,

    >aside from my religious belief and very satisfactory proofs of G-d’s presence (and I will communicate this with any serious inquirer)

    that’s a contradiction in terms there: those who want to inquire into those proofs cannot possibly be serious.

    my guess is, however, that we have fundamentally different notions of seriousness.

  14. (comments by RL in italics)

    fp,

    Sorry but your points miss me. Why cannot a person have a belief that is reinforced by objective experience (which I suspect you might also conclude is a contradiction of terms)?

    don’t let fp bait you. he rejoices in his skepticism. whatever you do with fp, don’t get defensive. at that point, he’s won. :-)

    So – why can’t somebody be serious about inquiring into proofs (carefully defined – eg can and do miracles occur)? I know they do or I would have died when I was 19. And there were a number of others, why I do not know.

    Perhaps of interest, when Bush landed in Israel, an unseasonal tornado hit Jerusalem, Arkansas – in the morning, not the afternoon. It totally destroyed the Mt. Zion church. At least interesting. I was told his car convoy to Ramallah was composed of 70 cars. That day was the largest wreckage accident on a densely foggy Florida Highway. Guess how many cars crashed?

    Yes, 70. Check it out.

    Paul

    Be well,

    Paul, this is what i call “semiotic arousal” — i.e. seeing everything, esp. coincidences, as signs. the number of coincidences in the world — esp when you’re looking for them, is innumerable. and, of course, what do they mean — eg your account of 70 cars? if you want some interesting thoughts on this, see Carl Jung’s essay called “synchronicity”. i personally don’t go for this, and i must confess that i roll my eyes (inwardly) when i hear it. you’re welcome to your beliefs, but remember that it cuts both ways: when the columbia crashed with an israeli pilot (the one who took out osirac in 1981) aboard, a large piece of the ship landed on Palestine, Texas.

  15. Richard says:

    Paul, I suspect that the point raised in the article about the “origins of western civilisation” laying in Africa has been misunderstood – perhaps you have done so deliberately.
    The point was attacking a belief raised by “pro-black” scholars, namely that the Greek philosophers were trained in Egypt and that the intellectual foundations Western civilisation was discovered in Africa. Unfortunately this is not true in the smallest degree. The evidence shows that the Greek philosophers and intellectuals practised their craft in Greek cities and territories. Herodotos was born and resided in Miletos, Socrates was Athenian and Aristotle taught in Athens and Pella.

    I suspect that your brand of literalist theology, searching for the “signs” belongs in the Middle Ages and not in an age when we should rightly be using sceptism and the rational tools of our faculties to explore the world and explain its mysteries.

  16. Richard:

    I apologize if I opened myself to be correctly criticized as dichotomous in my conclusions. Your point is well taken, and I am impressed with your thinking and writing on your site. That said, it was not my intent to impress that ALL Greek thinking came from Africa. But, categorically, and without truly being accusable of being an anachronism from the dark ages, it would be impertinent to propose that Greece was a closed in box that only radiated its thinking outwards. Whether Aesculepious (Imhotep) or Euclid, there was art and science in Africa long before Greece ascended, and they were only a sea apart. Their ships went back and forth for millennia. Yes?

    Be well,

    Paul

    Paul, this is another Richard, not RL.

  17. Richard Landes says:

    response to Dr. Goodley in italics RL

    I wasn’t comfortable reading much of the “Counterknowledge” essay. Perhaps it was the constraint of the space, but I found too much dismissive and even flippant.

    As examples, the all inclusive attacks on “Creationism,” Alternative Medicine and the origins of Western civilization in Africa.

    I have space and time constraints, as well, but a few comments please.

    Concerning creationism, aside from my religious belief and very satisfactory proofs of G-d’s presence (and I will communicate this with any serious inquirer),as a physician I am near infinitely impressed that the deeper the dissection in a biologic form the more complex the structures and physiology that is encountered. A single cell is impossible to conceive in its precision. The workings of any organ, or system in coordination allows no experimentation in its survivability. Just considering the ocular system allows no evolution in any species. Its unimaginable complexity is there up front. There are no evolutionary parts. Just the thickness of the eggshell immediately perfect for every species should be enough to stop the ranting.

    i don’t think you understand the arguments of evolution. there were surely many eggs that were not perfect in thickness, and those animals who laid them, their genes died out. eyes evolve over time from light sensitive cells, and given how valuable the ability to “see” is for a complex organ, one can well imagine the evolutionary pressure for eyesight to evolve. nothing in evolution is immediate. i personally don’t see a contradiction between creation accounts and evolution (personally think that the tale of adam and eve and the tree of knowledge is a “myth” — in the good sense of a narrative that clarifies a highly complex and freighted process/experience — about the [experience of the] acquisition of language).

    and i thoroughly approve of and participate in the sense of wonder about the marvelous universe that we live in. i just don’t see the need to insist on “creationism” with its bizarre arguments about god creating relics to “test” man’s faith, as a particularly valuable direction to go in.

    Concerning the claim that African culture antedated the Greek, I don’t understand the pejorative attack. The pyramids existed when “Greeks” were living in caves, yes? Egypt in in Africa. They had to have perfected mathematics, geometry, astronomy…

    perfected is a big word. but as someone has already noted, this is about how black africa produced science and technology and the greeks “stole” it, and represents an elaborate and rather bizarre scholarship whose stated goal is to give the black community a sense of pride which will encourage blacks today to excel. aside from the inappropriate use of “therapeutic” scholarship (which has poisoned our understanding of the middle east conflict), even as therapy it has produced more of a “victim” narrative than an serious assessment. as i made clear in my response to shrinkwrapped, the more honest one is, the less one asserts claims for the sake of ego (eg a conspiracy against me explains why i’m a failure), the more effective one is. my experience — limited but consistent — with the black community is that conspiracy theory is rampant, and constitutes one of the biggest brakes on their ability to rise to the occasion.

    if you want my proof of why the jews are the least paranoid people in the world, i’d be happy to give it to you.

    As I physician my Oath begins, “I swear by Aesclypius…” I have been told that that is the Greek name for Imhotep, admittedly a multigenius, one of the few in history, an African.

    an Egyptian, and if you think the egyptians made no distinction between themselves and the sub-saharan blacks, then i can probably convince you that Arab Muslims have no racist attitudes towards sub-saharans and that their slave trade of the blacks is just a zionist propaganda claim.

    Concerning so-called Alternative Medicine, traditionalism is many times not substantial. You are invited to my website to view my 50 year battle with my colleagues on only one facet of fundamental medicine that for decades was cynically relegated to the fringes. Traditional medical appreciation of the power of nutrition has been severely lacking throughout my career. Medicines, be they natural or synthetic, are only pushed if they are profitable. There are a host of potent therapies available that are never considered. A new, remarkable organization (MedInsight) is about to go on the Internet that for the first time presents and corelates virtually all potentially valuable therapies regardless of their commercial value and/or attention. This discourse could continue for a long, long time. Be well.

    I personally have no problem with some forms of alternative medicine. there’s no doubt in my mind that modern medicine is over-scientized (eg. we are treated by doctors [learned ones] not healers. but some of it is loopy as the day is long. i’m all for serious people assessing these matters who are not in the pay of pharmaceuticals and who have not been deformed by the experience of medical training. it ain’t easy. but what those who oppose counter-knowledge are concerned with are those who believe something — eg, an alternative medicine — not because it’s effective, but because it’s not scientific medicine.

  18. [...] so Dr. Evil plants his Dezinformatsiya in complicit media and it becomes counterknowledge that will be swallowed whole by millions of stupid people whose reeducation is a Herculean task [...]

  19. Prologue: I’m gratified, grateful and frankly amazed at the harvest of responses to my initial entry. I originally returned here just wondering if anyone noticed; now it’s become an obligation. Like the man said, ‘those who write letters get answers.’ I should have considered that a readership here would not only be articulate but/and highly critical, so I deservedly got it for not being more careful with my statements.

    That said, concerning the Egyptian mathematics, if not perfect then sufficient to build and align the pyramids near perfectly and, I read, reproduce the constellation Aries with them though separated by long distances, and, I read, virtually “perfectly” aligned with Stonehenge.

    If an “African” can be defined as some living in the African continent, Egypt is in Africa. Yes, they weren’t Watusi’s. I easily concede the point.

    In my summary from a few comments, I never implied that the Greeks imported African tutors. I’ve already answered what I did imply by my statements opposing that all knowledge started in Greece. I’m not interested in the politicizing polemics from Blacks who are attempting to magically enhance their history.

    Now, focusing on matters of faith, be it known that I am an observant Jew much more now living in Israel than before but,for whatever reason I’m marked by having witnessed a Biblical caliber miracle (1979) and having had my life saved on a number of occasions when I had to die. Such events have a way of focusing the attention. I can’t explain why. Maybe someday.

    Regarding the “eggshell,” sorry, the attempted explanation is too glib. Fractions of a millimeter make the shell of a species too fragile or too thick- and it’s species specific. A host of physiologic acts, the coordination of male/female interactions for for one insemination boggles the mind that’s capable of it.

    I’m sure you’ve heard the challenge of x # of monkeys sitting at typewriters (computer keyboards) eventually coming up with the equivalent of a Shakespeare Sonnet. Anyone who believes that with sufficient millennia one of them will make it, good luck.

    Evolution is active. But the library shelves are starting to load with the reasonings of intellects such as I will never possess that the intricacies of a life form are “simply” too complex to ever explain by random occurrence. I believe (as matter of faith if you must) that belief in evolution from the conception of life, not after and interspecies, requires more faith than G-d ever required.

    Got to go. Be well.

  20. Richard Landes says:

    it’s not monkeys at random, it’s a selection process, so every time a monkey writes the “right” word, it gets selected. not even a several thousand years necessary to get shakespeare that way.

  21. fp says:

    the other richard has put it quite well. rl’s bending back over backwards to “engage” nonsense goes over the top. one SHOULD NOT be skeptical about proofs of the existence of god??? wow.

    I am not skeptical, am reasonably certain. after all,what better proof of my position than a MD with no understanding of natural selection. and if i understand correctly, he did not understand much else either.

    coincidences as proof of god, huh? that’s what i suspected.

  22. Eliyahu says:

    Dr G & RL, as to the Egyptian influence on mathematics among the ancient Greeks, Giancarlo Duranti has argued affirmatively with quotes from Plato & Aristotle in Filosofia Oggi [article in English], April-June 1994; vol 17, no. 66, fasc. II.

    Moreover, the first so-called “Greek” philosopher was Thales [the first of the Seven Sages], who was a Phoenician. Pythagoras too was a Phoenician. This leaves them open to Jewish influence and I believe that Jewish influence on both Thales and Pythagoras is found in ancient writings on them [see Diogenes Laertios, Iamblichos, Porphyry, Hermippos, etc., on Pythagoras]. [see Diogenes Laertios on Thales].

  23. Rich Rostrom says:

    SF author David Brin touched on the problem in his essay “The Dogma of Otherness”. Essentially, he noted that in the modern West, the controlling dogma is that there are no dogmas. There is a reflex among Western intellectuals to champion dissent over authority.

    This reflex was useful in overcoming the reactionary authorities of the past, but today it has degenerated into an autoimmune disease.

  24. fp says:

    rostrom,

    there is some of that, yes. but what about the new left dogma — israel oppressor, arabs oppressed — regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

    it is the bastardization of the old left dogma after they lost the fight over the economic structure of western society.

  25. fp says:

    dissent against authority can be dogmatic and in this case is.

  26. Sue says:

    Speaking of the parameters that inform the book Counterknowledge and the even every day common sense which you presume to defend (at least when it suits you!).

    Isnt the belief in the “resurrection of jesus” (and all of its associated mumbo-jumbo) an exercise in pure psycho-babble. Pure childish superstition and even less provable than anything that Thompson points to.

  27. Sue says:

    One of the things that Thompson also rightly criticises is the growth of the nonsense peddled by the “creation-science” (CS) or “intelligent-design” (ID) movement both in the West and in Turkey for instance.

    In the West, particularly in the USA, one of the key institutions that promotes this CS/ID movement is the “Discovery” Insitute which has all sorts of links and associations to the various right-wing think tanks that you (Richard) associate with.

    So we dont want to take ALL of the criticisms of the various forms of psycho-babble in Thompsons book too seriously do we!!!

  28. Richard Landes,
    It is difficult for me to imagine you as a follower of the Right Wing.
    You seem far too sensible for that.

    However, I take mild exception to your objections to the Da Vinci Code hypotheses. Not that I believe it for a moment, but you should have mentioned that the loudest objections come from people whose creed includes a human male “born of a virgin”. The idea that Jesus loved and even impregnated Mary Magdalene is far less improbable than that his mother was a virgin.

  29. The art of war…

    ……

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