In the new book “Against Reality” (ed. Papirus 7 Mares; 90 pages; R$ 44,90), microbiologist and researcher Natália Pasternak and journalist Carlos Orsi are engaged in one of their favorite activities: fighting denial.
For the concept of denialism not to become ethereal, he arrives quickly in the book: “it is the attitude of denying, to oneself and to the world, well-established facts or a scientific consensus, in the absence of conclusive evidence”.
The menu ranges from more traditional denials, such as that practiced by the tobacco industry until the second half of the last century, to more recent ones, such as that that rejects the human influence on climate change.
Along the way appear denial of the holocaust (murder of millions of Jews by the Nazis), creationism (for those who believe that the Earth is the Universe were created by God almost exactly as they are today, in an inter. more literal translation of the Bible, and generally in opposition to the Theory of Evolution), earth leveling (the name says it all), among others.
Since 2018, when the Instituto Questão de Ciência (IQC) was founded, the couple’s hobby gained official status. Pasternak presides over the organization, and Orsi directs the Revista Questão de Ciência, a publication of the IQC. The non-profit non-governmental organization promotes and encourages the adoption of public policies based on scientific evidence — a cry that has been especially repeated throughout the Covid pandemic-.
It was fateful, the authors assess, that the invitation to write the book and the release of the book coincided with a time when denial was so in evidence, with denial, for example, the power of dissemination of Sars-Cov-2 (the new coronavirus), the severity of the virus infection, the effectiveness of vaccines and even the very existence of the pandemic.
“The book would be written anyway, it was in our plans, but we didn’t expect the timing to be so important. We’ve never had a government as denial as this one”, says Pasternak to Folha
“If it weren’t for now , it would be a cold book, like so many others, including great ones, that exist. The context makes the book a ‘hot’ work, in journalistic jargon. It’s really cool to release a work that talks about the current situation, but it’s also frightening”, says Orsi.
Exposing the denials and dissecting their methods, as the authors do in the book, is a way to fight them. But what about who promotes them? Why, after all, are there people who are deniers?
Today it is easy to analyze the situation of the tobacco industry, for example. Even with the growing pile of evidence that the incidence of lung cancer was closely linked to tobacco consumption, the industry still fueled doubt, funding partial studies and lobbying to influence governments and the media on their behalf.
Of course, the cigarette manufacturers, with this, sought to ensure the continuity of the business. And with the (misleading) messages that the cigarette was not so bad or with the relentless (and dishonest) criticism of studies that showed the harmful effects of smoking, whoever smoked could maintain the same behavior — and with a clear conscience.
There is not always an economic interest behind a denial, but the denialist, yes, is commonly so “invested” in those messages or narratives that he becomes make it a mental and social burden to get rid of that, explains Orsi.
The cost of not being welcomed by a group can be decisive for these behaviors to even outweigh the quantity, the quality and the availability of good information.
Still, defends Pasternak, it is essential to inform in an accessible way. “Our role is not to convince. We want scientific information to circulate in an appropriate language and in a way that people understand. If someone Googles vaccines, that person can’t just land on antivaxxer [antivacina] pages”
But even statistics like the 4 million deaths averted each year from immunization agents do not convince some people — the numbers, they claim, could have been invented and spread in a global plot across industries, governments and the press. All in favor of some hidden economic interest.
And this type of denial behavior is common in people of higher classes. The high educational level ends up serving only to find excuses, debunk scientific knowledge and convince, based on any argument, that it is necessary to avoid injections and do the same with your children.
To change the panorama, the solution is to improve the communication of science, especially regarding uncertainties — often, the information is transmitted with the air that it is definitive, immutable, which goes against the modus operandi of science, of self-improvement .
“Not even the WHO was prepared to communicate uncertainties at the beginning of the pandemic. The change in orientation generated panic, distrust and affected the credibility of the institutions. And denial movements feed on this fear ; and they are full of absolute certainties — this is a marked difference. If we do not communicate the uncertainties with honesty and transparency, these movements will only grow”, says Pasternak.
The best that you can do it in a difficult time like the current one, argues Orsi, is to extract the most from the set of data and information available at any given moment. “Every second, we have to assume what is correct based on this evidence and take the most responsible attitudes possible.”
That would be precisely to stop denying reality and embrace it in all its complexity.