Denial is Layered: What is Your Blind Spot?

Denial seems to come in layers.

It is common to break through one layer of denial to see a portion of reality but to then have another layer of denial block an even more important aspect of reality.

For example:

  • Many environmental activists fly to long distance conferences where they condemn fossil energy companies, promote green growth, and ignore population reduction.
  • Most bankers understand all aspects of wealth except what creates it.
  • Most climate scientists believe we can switch to renewable energy without harming the economy despite abundant physics to the contrary.
  • All climate models that predict a livable planet assume carbon capture despite zero evidence that we can scale or afford this technology.
  • Many vegans want to avoid killing despite the fact that all life depends on the death of other life.
  • Many vegetarians think grains are sustainable.
  • Many people try to be green by recycling and buying a hybrid car.
  • Enlightened governments try to address climate change by spending money on the problem without realizing CO2 emitted is proportional to money spent.
  • Many citizens in collapsing societies have large families and assume corrupt politicians are the cause of their problems.
  • The new enlightened Pope has not yet buried any of the Vatican’s wealth.
  • Many atheists are spiritual.
  • Most religions think other religions are wacky.

Denial of denial is a strong force as demonstrated by the very small number of people interested in Varki’s denial theory, and by the strong emotional response discussing it evokes.

Since I claim to understand what is actually going on an obvious question to ask myself is what am I in denial about?

A friend thinks I am in denial about what motivates me. I think I am seeking truth. She thinks I am seeking status. I hope she is not right.

My best guess is that I may be in denial on two points.

First, I may be wrong to believe that we have any ability to influence the outcome.

Life is governed by the laws of physics and evolution. We seem to be doing what the universe and our genes “want” which is to replicate and degrade the energy gradient as quickly as possible.

I like to think we have free will but we may be just along for the ride.

Second, my chance of surviving the upcoming bottleneck might be improved if I was in a state of denial and accumulating wealth as quickly as possible despite the negative effect of this on the planet.

It makes me happier and more functional to think we can influence the outcome and that I am helping.

My feelings are illustrative of why denial evolved in the first place.

Denial increases our reproductive fitness by enabling an optimistic high intelligence that can out-compete other life for finite resources, while ignoring unpleasant things it is capable of understanding that might otherwise cause depression and reduced reproductive fitness.

Perhaps I am in denial about other things. Or perhaps because I can speculate on my own denial I am in fact not in denial at all and am a rare mutant without the denial gene. Many events in my life suggest there may be some truth to this speculation.

Readers are encouraged to speculate and to comment on their own experiences.

5 thoughts on “Denial is Layered: What is Your Blind Spot?”

  1. Hello!
    Sorry for the use of google translator . I am a Spanish who does not speak English .
    Have you noticed the small number of women participating in forums and blogs related to the collapse ? At least in Spain is nil.
    Is it why they are more prone to denial?

    Unfortunately , I can never read ” Denial” .

    Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts . It is very interesting.
    A greeting from Spain.


    1. The quantity of women may be a lower but the quality seems to be higher. Nicole Foss, Gail Tverberg, Gail Zawacki, and Alice Friedemann leave most men in the dust.

      Lookup Gail Zawacki on Facebook and ask for an invite to The Panic Room. That group has a nice balance of male and female, and all members are well informed.


      1. Thank you very much for the information.
        In my case, Gail is the analyst who has convinced me that economic collapse is inevitable ( and the translator of Google … )
        I wish you good luck.


  2. I’ve been re reading some of your older posts hence the comments some 4 years later. Is there any evidence to suggest a difference in reality denial between the sexes? I suspect not but can’t rule out out.
    Have you read “Don’t sleep there are snakes” by Daniel Everett? Daniel went to the Amazon to convert the piraha to Jesus but eventually lost his faith and became an atheist. I’m not totally convinced that an individuals genetic tendency to deny reality can’t be influenced by the environment. I think an individual can overcome their propensity to deny reality.


    1. I have not observed any difference in denial between the sexes however Ajit Varki discussed sex differences in a recent paper.

      Varki introduces a new and very interesting idea that reality denial first emerged in males and an extended theory of mind in females, and that it took considerable time for the alleles to mix and stabilize.

      I have not read Everett’s book, but thanks for the tip, I’ll add it to my queue.

      I’m certain you’re right that it’s possible to override our tendency to deny reality because I went through that transition myself. Having an innate interest in Why? I’m sure helps.


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