Agnotology: what is the study of ignorance for?

The term “agnosticology” is not that popular. To understand what it is, we must start from the meaning of ignorance. This is often assumed to be a lack of knowledge. This is even defined by the Royal Spanish Academy.

However, ignorance can take many forms that go beyond this conception and are related to misinformation, censorship, apathy and blind faith.

In this sense, it depends not only on the lack of available information, but on the strategic creation and dissemination of incorrect or misleading data by powerful entities, whose goal is to generate doubts and disinformation to manipulate the masses according to their interests.

Faced with this reality, which is increasingly widespread thanks to new diffusion technologies, an agnology – or study of induced ignorance – which we will describe below becomes pertinent.

What is agnosticology?

agnotology It is the study of the deliberate spreading of ignorance through misleading or misleading information.. Its etymological meaning derives from the conjunction of the Greek term agnosis, meaning “no knowledge”; and ontology, which refers to the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being.

Its origin is attributed to Robert Proctor, a Stanford University professor of the history of science and technology who has begun investigating the tactics used by the tobacco industry to create confusion about whether smoking causes cancer. Also to Lain Boal, who coined the term “agnothology” in 1995.

Proctor’s concern began when, in 1979, a secret memo, written 10 years earlier by the tobacco company, was made public. Brown & Williamson. over there, the practices used by companies in the sector to combat anti-smoking campaigns were demonstratedas well as the dissemination of misleading messages that would guarantee the health of consumers.

In other words, the strategy of this sector was to generate confusion in the population about the harmful effects of tobacco (scientifically proven at the time), with the aim of inducing more people to buy cigarettes.

One of the more controversial passages of this memorandum stated verbatim the following:

In this way, Proctor discovered the tobacco industry he didn’t want consumers to know about the harmful effects of his product.

cigarette and ashtray
Initially, agnothology helped uncover the tobacco industry’s deception of its consumers.

Ignorance as a political ploy

According to Proctor, the 1969 memo and the techniques employed by the tobacco industry became the perfect example of agnotology. In this case, ignorance not only implies the unknown, it is also a political ploy, deliberately created by powerful agents who want us not to know.

This study has become as relevant today as it was when Proctor was studying the withholding of facts about the relationship between cancer and smoking. Just refer to the huge amount of disinformation that is being propagated by social networkswhich do nothing but discredit, question and dismantle scientific knowledge.

Examples of agnosticology

Danah Boyd, a technology and social media academic, says YouTube is the primary research tool used by under-25s to learn about any topic. However, the scientific explanatory content on this platform is scarce compared to those of dubious and conspiracy provenance.

And is that one of the ways to propagate willful ignorance is promote easier access to content with these characteristics. How many times has the scientific community reserved discoveries in certain areas for some monetary benefit in between?

But that’s not all, even if the evidence is available, those involved in spreading ignorance also know how to structure their information on the internet so that those who access the scientific material can also see the conspiracy content. All this through search engine optimization.

For example, Boyd says YouTube has great material on the value of vaccination, but countless anti-vaccination activists they have consistently used this platform to promote their movement.

Thus, when people search for videos from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they also see ones questioning vaccines or parents emotionally speaking about their view of vaccination outcome.

Another fairly common example of agnosticology involves climate change. While there is sufficient evidence to support this reality, There is a disinformation campaign on this topic. which has done nothing but generate confusion in the population and encourage denialism.

The pretext for a balanced debate

As we can see, it is very easy to fall into the trap of considering “both perspectives” to get the full picture of reality. Although it is necessary to analyze all positions to have more accurate knowledge, many times we get fooled by this statement and start echoing wrong content.

On this point, Proctor says that ignorance is usually propagated under the guise of a balanced debate, in which Scientific evidence and fake content are in conflict.

In these cases, a false picture of the truth is created and it is claimed that there are two sides to each story and that the “experts” disagree. However, the reality is that the counterpart of the evidence is pure deception and only seeks to discredit the true knowledge.

As, it’s not enough for quality content to be available to the public and that we assume that the evidence is sufficient for people to gain access to it. It is important to understand that there is an information battle going on in the networks and that we must avoid getting in the way.

At present, the term agnotology has gained relevance due to the manipulation of information in networks.

Importance of the study of ignorance

In short, we emphasize the importance of exploring the concept of “agnosticology” and its potential role in the study of ignorance.

This notion allows us to reflect on what we don’t know and why we don’t know.what is it that spreads ignorance in our society, what are the factors that allow ignorance to be used as a political and social tool, and so on.

Only in this way can we be less naive in the approach to the various contents that are disseminated on social networks and the media.

Post Agnothology: what is the study of ignorance for? first appeared on research-school



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