Nov 18, 2021
Our Responsibility to Defend the Truth
Science denialism has existed as long as science has existed. As a part of our social contract, we’re responsible for challenging the spread of misinformation and understanding, especially when it comes to science. If we open ourselves up to these difficult conversations, we can offer up a path into more logical reasoning and avoid a culture where science and truth are rejected.
Science Denialism is Dangerous
All science denialism relies on a flawed blueprint of cherry-picking evidence, trusting conspiracy theories, trusting fake experts, and relying on illogical reasoning. The internet has given denialism a chance to be amplified, which is especially dangerous because it confuses people and muddies the line between fact and falsehood. Science denialism hurts us in so many ways, from killing our planet by ignoring climate change to taking lives because people don’t trust vaccines and masks.
Content rebuttal is using facts to combat false claims. Technique rebuttal is challenging the logic of the argument. It may seem logical to defend the truth with the facts, but you can make more progress by talking about the core of people’s beliefs. If someone has already made the choice to deny the facts, presenting them with even more facts will not be effective. Instead, build trust by making them feel heard, then point out inconsistencies in their reasoning and use facts judiciously.
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Lee McIntyre is a philosopher of science and the author of the 2018 book Post Truth. His new book How to Talk to a Science Denier, tries to figure out how we can have constructive dialogue with Flat Earthers, Climate Deniers, and Others Who Defy Reason. Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and an Instructor in Ethics at Harvard Extension School. Formerly Executive Director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, he has also served as a policy advisor to the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard and as Associate Editor in the Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
McIntyre is the author of several books, including Post-Truth, Respecting Truth: Willful Ignorance in the Internet Age, and How to Talk to a Science Denier: Conversations with Flat Earthers, Climate Deniers, and Others Who Defy Reason. Other work has appeared in such popular venues as the The New York Times, Newsweek, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the New Statesman, the Times Higher Education Supplement, and The Humanist.
You can follow Lee on Twitter at @LeeCMcIntyre