Let's Discuss Agnotology, the science of creating stupidity
Agnotology is the science of creating stupidity.
First coined by a history professor,3 agnotology (from the Greek for “not knowing”) is the study of culturally constructed ignorance, usually manufactured by special interest groups to suppress facts and create confusion. Its specious methodologies are often deployed in complex scientific issues, by sowing the seeds of doubt with inaccurate or misleading data.
For decades, cigarette companies notoriously implemented the tactics of agnotology, ignoring any evidence that huffing a carton of Marlboros might cause harm. As millions died from lung cancer, the tobacco industry actually hired thousands of scholars to produce a mountain of research about all aspects of smoking—except its health risks. “Doubt is our product,” said one tobacco marketing exec, “since it is the best means of competing with the body of fact that exists in the mind of the general public.”
This is the insidious conceit of agnotology: It succeeds not by a lack of information but by a surfeit of it. Agnotologists inundate the citizenry with enough disinformation to cast doubt on an entire issue. Masters of the discipline have muddied countless scientific waters, formulating questions that already had answers: Is global warming a hoax? Do football concussions create chronic brain damage? Are prescription opiates addictive? Do vaccines cause autism?
This is the dilemma of living in the age of plentiful data. Someone out there has created the answer you want—the one that matches your preexisting beliefs. They have it down to a science.
The Encyclopedia Of Misinformation
by Rex Sorgatz
Abrams Publishing 2018
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