Dealing with denialists

Ars Science Q&A: How to deal with science denialists
[Via Ars Technica]

Someone asked how to deal with a denialist/skeptic on scientific topics. I think the process can be best explained using a flow chart.

The first question is whether you’re dealing with a fully committed denialist. You’re never going to get Peter Duesberg to admit HIV causes AIDS or someone from the Heartland Institute to accept that we’ve got over a century’s worth of science behind climate change. So if your first answer is “yes,” then you have to think about whether an audience is present or likely to ever see the conversation. If not, then there’s no point in engaging. You’re never going to get anywhere with the individual, and nobody is going to benefit from the time you will spend trying.


Here is the excellent flow chart he created:


And he uses, in my view, the right term. These people are not deniers, which describes what people do. These people are denialists, which describes who people are.

And the key one I learned some time ago – it is not worth trying to convince a true denialist. You never will. Concentrate on those in the audience who might be convinced.

Because while you might be able to change what a person does. You seldom can get a person to change who they are.

Image: David Goehring