I’m not entering a 12-Step program for science denial, but I feel that way.
I’m a “facts” person. My natural inclination to go with the data is so strong, I don’t understand when others don’t. “If I give them the facts, they’ll agree with me” is so…logical.
Shortly after I decided to bring the UnSpace blog back, I wrote a post on Facebook with a series of statements. One respondent commented that there were no “facts” anywhere to back up what I said. I posted a point-by-point rebuttal. In researching the rebuttal, I avoided Snopes and tried to use conservative sources like Fox News and the Daily Mail1. I also included video whenever possible. The “respondent” replied that they didn’t believe any news sources and that they had their own special personal sources of information on Benghazi and what the Russians are doing and many, many other “special” things.
Well, that person got blocked pretty quickly. What would the point of further discussion be? I wish I’d gotten a screen capture, but I blocked them too quickly. Oh well.
The irony of the interaction struck me, though. Psychologists have known for years that facts alone won’t change peoples’ minds. If someone’s identity and world view contradicts the facts, more facts will harden their beliefs. Simple fact dumps don’t work.
I know that. If asked, I will tell you all about it. But when someone questions something, I dump facts. I’ll even pull out the math, which probably shuts down people who agree with me. My brain doesn’t “get” the idea that facts might make things worse. How could facts make things work? I love facts! I absorb them like a sponge! I’d sing Data’s “Lifeforms” song right now if “facts” weren’t only one syllable. I know fact dumps don’t work, but my actions deny the facts.
A couple years ago, I tried to take a class called “Making Sense of Climate Denial.” It was a free online class and…I just didn’t get it. I read the words, but the way my brain works, I…I couldn’t connect. I’m not sure I really understood. I gave up. I gave up pretty quickly.
If I’m going to restart this blog, I need to understand that facts alone are not enough. If someone is in denial, I need to approach them in a way that makes things better…not worse. I need to accept the facts aren’t everything.
So I signed up for the 7 week course again and, to make sure I stuck with it, I paid $49 to take the class for a certificate of completion. If I don’t complete the class with at least a 70%, I wasted the $49. It’s surprisingly strong motivation for me.
I suspect the class will generate blog posts, so there’s that. Or…maybe I just dump my homework into blog posts. Either way, it’s going to be interesting.
Some chunk of my brain is convinced that if I and other science communicators can just do a good enough job of presenting the facts about Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), everyone will come to understand the problem, we’ll fix it and stand around singing Nickelback’s “If Today Were Your Last Day.”
I was wrong.