We are in the most advanced stage of scientific discovery and knowledge of any point in human history, with inventions and advancements that older societies could only dream of. Despite all the progress that has taken place, the world is still full of people who are skeptical about science as these range from anti-vaxers to climate change deniers to conspiracy theorists. This has been the subject of media attention over the last few years and whether in the online space or in real life, we are likely to come across as science skeptic or denier at some point in time and we might feel compelled to debate them, especially if they are friends or family. Here are a few tips for if you attempt to change their minds:
1. Avoid insults: Many science deniers are under the impression that they have uncovered some hidden truth or have seen through some sort of worldwide conspiracy. As such, insulting them or calling them out as delusional might seem satisfying but will only reinforce their rhetoric of being persecuted underdogs and will make them less likely to listen to you. Also, if the person in question is a friend or family member, you risk damaging your relationship. Refrain from insults even if they resort to insults if you wish to change their mind.
2. Simplify facts: One of the reasons why people deny science is because it seems overly complicated and many would rather believe that space is a myth than try to understand its complexities. If you are trying to change the mind of a science denier, try to simplify the aspect of science that they are skeptical about. This could be through videos, pictures and so on. A good idea would be to explain certain phenomena as though you are speaking to a young teen who hasn’t heard of it before, without being condescending.
3. Point out logic flaws: The reason why science denial and conspiracy theories are annoying to many people is that they are illogical and do not add up. Unfortunately, their supporters do not see them as illogical and if you wish to change their minds, it would be good to point this out. Point out the absurdity of their claims and pose questions that make them see the counterproductiveness of their theories (“Why would the US government risk the health of its workforce by poisoning people through vaccines?” or “What does the government have to gain by lying about space?” This will hopefully lead to them questioning their current belief system and seeing its flaws.
4. Provide resources: A lot of denial and conspiracy theories are rooted in a lack of proper information and to combat this, this information should be made available. Recommend scientific literature or resources to the person whose mind you are trying to change and not only could you root out false beliefs but might even spark an interest in legitimate science.
Changing the mind of a science denier does not always have to end in a heated argument. Follow the above tips to change their mind.