Dumping on Denial

New Scientist on “denialism”:

SPECIAL REPORT / DENIAL: From climate change to vaccines, evolution to flu, denialists are on the march. Why are so many people refusing to accept what the evidence is telling them? Over the next 10 pages we look at the phenomenon in depth. What is denial? What attracts people to it? How does it start, and how does it spread? And finally, how should we respond to it?

First, they dispel any doubts that denialists are wrong wrong wrong:

All denialists see themselves as underdogs fighting a corrupt elite. …

How to be a denialist …. Six tactics that all denialist movements use: 1. Allege that there’s a conspiracy. … 2. Use fake experts. … 3. Cherry-pick the evidence. … 4. Create impossible standards for your opponents. … 5. Use logical fallacies. … 6. Falsely portray scientists as … divided … Insist “both sides” must be heard and cry censorship when “dissenting” arguments or experts are rejected. (more)

Eventually they offer solutions.  Here are all remedies offered:

  • [Don’t] confuse these two types of questions – scientific and ideological. (more)
  • [Use] anecdote and appeals to emotion when speaking to lay audiences. (more)
  • Set the record straight. (more)
  • Stand up … with a full-throated debunking repeated often and everywhere. (more)

So if you saw yourself as an underdog fighting a corrupt elite, wouldn’t these four approaches win you over? Me neither. I’d be far more won over by betting market odds giving a low probability to my position, backed by folks who put their money where their mouth is. If that didn’t persuade me I’d at least see the betting system as less corrupt – it offers me big rewards when my side is proven right.

Now why do you think this betting solution is so much less appealing than “full throated debunking,” that it wasn’t even worth mentioning? If you think this solution just didn’t occur to them, do you think they’ll embrace it with enthusiasm if they are told? Me neither.

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