An Abecedarium of Mass Delusions

Madison Skeptics
Madison Skeptics
Public group

Olive Garden Italian Restaurant

4320 E Towne Blvd · Madison, WI

How to find us

From East Washington Avenue, turn toward East Towne at either Eagan Road or Independence Lane. When you enter the restaurant, ask for the Madison Skeptics dining room.

Location image of event venue



“If all of your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?” For all too many humans, the answer is “yes”, because social conformity is more important than rationality. For tonight’s discussion, we will discuss the ABCDs of mass delusions. This is not an exhaustive list (it doesn’t cover superstitions, quackery, or conspiracy theories, for example), but it gives us a good start. The one thing all these delusions have in common — besides a large number of people who subscribe to them — is that none of them stands up to careful, rational scrutiny.

(A) Adult Absurdities. Adults know (or certainly should know) that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy don’t exist, yet they still lie to their kids about it. And the kids, genetically programmed to trust adults, fall for it. (In their defense, they’ve got actual evidence that materializes in support of the existence hypothesis, which is more than anyone can say about the next category.)

(B) Biblical Bullshit. Creationism, species invariance (anti-evolutionism), geocentrism and flat-Earth belief, heaven and hell, the Great Flood, racial and gender superiority, spirit beings, miracle healings, efficacy of prayer, condign death for witches, atheists, heretics, etc., Dominionism, and many more absurd and/or dangerous beliefs flow endlessly from Christianity’s Big Book of Horrors and are accepted without question as articles of faith by a huge proportion of the populace.

(C) Corporate Confusification. In the heyday of mainframe computing, salesmen from market dominator IBM would spread the “FUD Factor” — that is, fear, uncertainty, and doubt that if you went with anybody other than IBM, you’d be settling for 2nd best and possibly find yourself committed to a technology or company that was doomed to fail. But they never resorted to outright lying. Not so the purveyors of tobacco, perfluorinated chemicals, fossil fuels, leaded paint and gasoline, and pesticides, all of whom were perfectly happy to commission academic “studies”, hire tame “experts”, use every persuasive tactic Madison Avenue could dream up, and essentially buy public policy via campaign contributions and high-powered lobbyists to cast doubt on whether (1) their products were harmful at all, (2) they were as harmful as claimed, (3) anything could be done about it if they were, or (4) the cure would be affordable, especially if the corp just declared bankruptcy and walked away. Many of the myths they promulgated are still circulating today.

(D) Dopey Denialism. In reaction to corporate confusification, many people have become suspicious of anything promoted by corporations, which has led to backlashes against certain technologies, such as nuclear power, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), firearms, bovine growth hormone (BGH), and radiation from cell phones and utility meters (all of which are bête noires of the left); fluoridated drinking water and violence being caused by rock music and video games (decried by the right); and vaccinations (opposition to which seems to be most prevalent among educated, well-to-do people regardless of political leanings).

The Atheist Lounge will tackle this subject on, as usual, the last Thursday of the month. Order food and drink at 7 PM, with short presentation starting about 30-45 minutes thereafter, and plenty of open discussion after that.