Taking a class to inoculate against denialists

Inoculating Against Climate Science Denial
[Via DeSmogBlog – Clearing the PR Pollution that Clouds Climate Science]

This is a guest post by John Cook, The University of Queensland.

Science denial has real, societal consequences. Denial of the link between HIV and AIDS led to more than 330,000 premature deaths in South Africa. Denial of the link between smoking and cancer has caused millions of premature deaths. Thanks to vaccination denial, preventable diseases are making a comeback.

Denial is not something we can ignore or, well, deny. So what does scientific research say is the most effective response? Common wisdom says that communicating more science should be the solution. But a growing body of evidence indicates that this approach can actually backfire, reinforcing people’s prior beliefs.


I signed up for the class. It includes some of the researchers I have followed for years. It will focus on the science, not only of climate change but how people adopt mental processes that allow them to deny the data.

There is a great figure that gets to the key of this:



These five characteristics are seen not only with climate denial but also evolution and vaccine denial. It appears to be a basic part of human thinking, particularly with things people do not want to analyze.

In fact, there is a 6th approach called a Gish Gallop, after its denialist creator, which moves rapidly between these 5 aspects in an effort to exhaust and confuse the listener.

It will be interesting to see what I learn.

Image: Ryan Tyler Smith