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In Denial about Denial

Last month Senator Ted Cruz discussed climate change with Glen Beck:

Because climate change is not science, it's religion. Look at the language where they call you a 'denier'. 'Denier' is not the language of science. Look, I'm the child of two scientists, my parents are both mathematicians, computer programmers, my dad was a self-taught geophysicist. The essence of the scientific method is to start with a hypothesis and then look to evidence to disprove the hypthesis. You're not trying to prove it, you're trying to disprove it. Any good scientist is a skeptic. If he's not, he or she should not be a scientist, but yet the language of the global warming alarmist, 'denier' is the language of religion, it's 'heretic'.

A Bible search on the term "denier" shows how it is used in a religious context. Well, it would if the word actually appeared in the Bible.

The related words "deny" and "denial" do appear:

Leviticus 23:27-29

Now, the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you: you shall deny yourselves and present the Lord’s offering by fire; and you shall do no work during that entire day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God. For anyone who does not practice self-denial during that entire day shall be cut off from the people.

Matthew 16:24-25

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

You can see, then, how denial is synonymous with heresy. I mean, you can't see it here, obviously, because self-denial isn't usually considered a bad thing. Within some religious groups, it's actually recommended. But the other kind of denial—let's call it "living in denial"—sounds like it ought to be heretical, and it seems like it should be condemned in Scripture somewhere. Unfortunately my Bible search gave me no results for that kind of denial.

I did, however, find a short article on denial on the Mayo Clinic's website:

If you're in denial, you're trying to protect yourself by refusing to accept the truth about something that's happening in your life.

That sounds exactly like a description of climate change deniers. Something bad is happening that they don't want to accept.

In some cases, initial short-term denial can be a good thing, giving you time to adjust to a painful or stressful issue. It might also be a precursor to making some sort of change in your life.

But denial has a dark side. Being in denial for too long can prevent you from dealing with issues that require action, such as a health crisis or a financial situation.

Or the destruction of the planet.

So there's your heresy charge. Except...the Mayo Clinic is not a religious organization but a medical one. And the term "denial", as they use it, is psychological rather than religious.

Senator Cruz would gladly accept the "heretic" moniker if it were being offered, because it would help cement the outsider image he would like to craft. The reality is, his being called a "denier" is not a religious proclamation; it's a diagnosis. And his denial runs so deep, he doesn't even acknowledge that.

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