Do they really know how dishonest they are?

Tim Lambert of Deltoid is discussing a book about climate denialism on FDL. I quite enjoyed his putdown of the ubiquitous Viscount Monckton, and also this familiar joke:

Question: What’s the difference between a computer salesman and a used car salesman?

Answer: A used car salesman knows when he’s lying.

The point he’s making is that there are two broad categories of denialists, the ones who are sincerely nuts (like Monckton) and the ones know better but are lying to make a profit for their cause (like the odious Steve Milloy).

I wish I could make that distinction in my personal choice of targets in the denialist clan, the creationists. I think they are all, as far as I know, personally convinced of the truth of their position and are entirely sincere. That even goes for the most reprehensibly dishonest ‘scholar’ of the bunch, Jonathan Wells, who got a Ph.D. in developmental biology and should know better…but everything I’ve read by him has led me to the conclusion that he is also profoundly stupid. He makes the errors he does because he wants to, but also because he floated through a degree program without ever thinking or learning anything.

That’s the catch with the religious motivation: it couples evangelism with willful ignorance so efficiently that you can’t really separate the tangle and assign intent to their misrepresentations.