It’s been known, like, forever that there are such things as ‘perceptual defence’ where people appear not to be able to see or hear something (let’s say ‘perceive’) that would upset or disturb them. So many experiments have been conducted in this area of psychology which conclusively demonstrate the effect. It’s also a well-known and demonstrable phenomenon that people’s beliefs tend to support a personal coherent world-view – which may be ‘needed’ by the individual because of some underlying fear or underlying appetite. I guess all this kind of stuff is genetically hard wired into us and makes us a more effective or ‘fit’ species – perhaps because it makes for faster, more effective fight-flight activity – I dunno.
But what I think I do know is that, say, anthropogenic-global-warming deniers will be pretty immune to rational argument, and ‘turn away’ from or deny any ‘facts’ that might upset their world-view – most especially if it threatens their job or their comfortable lifestyle. And, of course, exactly the same might be said of those, say vast majority of climate scientists, who are convinced by anthropogenic global warming – except that science, as a procedure, is (eventually) self-correcting – even if an individual scientist may hold on to an untenable belief long after its sell-by date – to do with stuff in the first paragraph: scientists are human beings too. But (eventually) science is self-correcting.
Similar things can be seen in the fields of economics – where some truly weird stuff may be observed currently regarding beliefs about deficits and debt (always ‘bad’ – must be eliminated now, now, now, generally by means which will do exactly the opposite; inflation, nomatter it’s imported, must be fought vigorously on the domestic front, even when there is no sign whatsoever that it is becoming domestically endemic) – and public health (the triple vaccine ’caused autism’ – and never mind the severe increase in measles since the scare – morphing in some quarters into to the belief that immunisation is always ‘dodgy’ – at the extreme: ‘the government is trying to put something into our bodies’). But whereas medical science is science, much of economics is not – even when it’s mathematical – because it may be based on untested axiomatic foundations (eg the ‘efficient market’).
What I’m trying to get at – is that while there are most certainly rogues among us, who promulgate beliefs they know to be counterfactual – it’s quite likely that someone like Nigel Lawson, or the people on the Daily Mail, or maybe the odd mining or energy company chief, are not actually rogues. They may just be suffering from what I like to call ‘instrumental psychosis’. And it’s something we all have a touch of. And it may make us immune to argument.