The Denial of Reality is a Health Hazard: All Wellness Enthusiasts Should Promote Effective Decision-Making No Less Vigorously Than Sound Nutrition and Exercise

There are dreadful consequences straight ahead for America as a direct consequence of the platforms espoused by all but one Republican presidential candidate (Jon Huntsman), namely, the denial of significant realities. The nation is already awash in dysfunctional thinking, conspiracy theories, media distortions and organized resistance to innumerable facts. Large segments of the population, it seems, cannot deal with certain realities. Though demonstrated by science, certain realities undermine and give the lie to foolish but revered superstitions. Empirical evidence touted by an overwhelming consensus of the world's scientists is, to a large segment of American society, rendered controversial by candidates Perry, Bachmann, Cain and nearly all leading contenders of the GOP nomination. The term "conservative" has been rendered synonymous with Christian. The Tea and Republican parties consist of religionists devoted more to certain ceremonial and other forms of god worship than respect for secular constitutional government. Such people are contemptuous of evidence unsupportive of their ancient dogmas. The world-views of Right Wing fundamentalists persist in the face of facts. This is in part due to early education and in part a continuation of cultural reinforcements. The future well being of individuals and the quality of life of our society hang in the balance, and the 2012 elections could enable a new critical mass of science denial. At present, these people deny scientific evidence: if they prevail, they will next be in a position to question the competence and legitimacy of scientific evidence to establish reality. They already favor an alternative reality, one based partly on biblical myths, the other on making stuff up. The next step would be to implement policies that render such demential normal and legitimate.

It seems to me that those of us who value REAL wellness, particularly the keystone quality of a developed sense of reason, should strive to do all possible to counter the hazards of science denial. Let's make this advocacy a key element of wellness promotion. The dangers of denying science are far greater in the aggregate than the hazards of poor diet and insufficient exercise. The latter are, of course, dreadful and pernicious. Science denial is disastrous to an extent we can only begin to imagine. Being fit and healthy will be of limited value if we remain awash in dysfunctions brought on by climate change and other disasters created by our rejection of reason.

Wellness enthusiasts might initiate or expand a new focus on reality advocacy as part of wellness education by reading popular science writer John Grant's new book, "Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality" (Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, 2011). Grant does a thorough job documenting the extent of the antagonism toward science in America today. The nineteen chapters over the course of 374 pages describes the damages caused by the flood-tides of science denial. Grant's new book also documents the growing hold of pseudoscience and alternative ("complementary") medicine, and shows how advertising disguises the hazards of drugs, smoking and other products and habits. It soon becomes clear to the reader how easily mountebanks of many descriptions are able to obscure sound health programs (e.g., the case of the anti-vaccine movement). Attention is also devoted to the influence the anti-intellectual trend has had on our culture. While Republican candidates for president did not create these disabling conditions, their positions on campaign and other issues do reinforce the worst of the lot. The fact of science denial is also at the root of the successes of New Age gurus, prosperity preachers, healers who channel god, the creationist advance in science classes, the climate change skeptics and others who promote that which is contrary to the clear lessons of established science. This sorry state is a consequence of gullible, easily fooled, under-educated people facing a stark choice - at least for them: whom to believe. Should they look to the science deniers or the scientists? Alas, those who find Republican presidential candidates worth taking seriously are very likely to go with the science deniers.

As John Grant makes clear in the first chapter of "Denying Science," a non-existent god won't help us. We're on our own and all we really have to understand reality is our brains in good working order. There is no better window into reality than what Robert Green Ingersoll called reason: "I admit that reason is a small and feeble flame, a flickering torch by stumblers carried in the starless night. Blown and flayed by passion's storms, and yet, it is the only light. Extinguish it and nought remains. Ingersoll linked reason with observation and experience, calling all three the holy trinity of science."

Consider, for just a moment, the two ways that Ingersoll described as diametrically opposed approaches for understanding reality. Read this quote from Ingersoll and ask yourself which of the two would be embraced by the Republican contenders for that party's nomination for president, and which by those who respect and rely on science: "There are two ways -- the natural and the supernatural. One way is to live for the world we are in, to develop the brain by study and investigation, to take, by invention, advantage of the forces of nature, to the end that we may have good houses, raiment and food, to the end that the hunger of the mind may be fed through art and science. The other way is to live for another world that we expect, to sacrifice this life that we have for another that we know not of. The other way is by prayer and ceremony to obtain the assistance, the protection of some phantom above the clouds."

If, as I imagine given your presence reading TPJ, you favor the first approach Ingersoll described, I think you will very much enjoy "Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality."