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The new science wars: 4 reasons people reject good data

August. May 5, 2022 – Thanks to science, we know the world is not flat, the earth revolves around the sun (not the other way around), and microbes can cause infectious diseases. So, if the crazy stuff you saw on social media this morning from your friends is any indication, why is science skepticism a global phenomenon — and it seems to be getting worse?

In a newly published paper, social psychology researchers attempt to answer these types of questions precisely. What causes some people to reject science? And how to restore trust in science?

Dr. Aviva Philipp-Muller, one of the paper’s co-authors, said it may now be more important than ever to find answers and restore widespread trust in science.

“If you come to a conclusion by intuition or listen to someone who doesn’t know anything about a subject, you can trust just about anything,” she said. “Sometimes, when people believe the wrong things, there are dangers to society. We are already seeing this in real time, as some people reject a COVID-19 vaccine not for any scientific reasons, but through non-scientific means.”

support Philipp-Muller’s take: A recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that approximately 234,000 COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented if vaccination rates were higher.

Four reasons why people reject science

In their assessment, Philipp-Muller and her team sought to “understand why people may not be persuaded by scientific findings, and what might lead a person to be more likely to follow anti-science Power and voice.”

They identified four recurring themes.

1. People refuse to trust the messenger.

Call it the “I don’t listen to anything on CNN (or Fox News)” explanation. People who spread science will be more likely to reject that information if they perceive it to be untrustworthy, biased, lack expertise, or have an agenda.

“When people study,” said Dr. Spike WS Lee, a social psychologist at the University of Toronto and co-author of the paper. “Certain properties of the source can determine whether a person will persuaded by it. “

2. Pride creates prejudice.

You might think this is contrary to the famous 17 beliefs th century French mathematician and philosopher René Descartes. He famously said: “I think, therefore I am,” and this principle suggests that, for some, it is: “I am , so I think…”

People who build their identity around labels or identify with a social group may ignore information that seems to threaten that identity.

“We are not a blank slate,” Lee said. “We have some identities that we care about. We are willing to protect these identities by believing what appears to be supported by the data. This is especially true when an individual feels they are part of a group that holds anti-science attitudes, or that their views are undervalued or exploited by science.

3. It is hard to break long held beliefs.

Consciously or not, many of us live in a famously restrained rock band Journey: “Don’t Stop Believing.” They are more likely to reject new information when it contradicts important content. This is especially true when dealing with something one has long believed.

“People generally do not constantly update their beliefs, so when new information comes Be cautious about this,” Lee said.

4. Science doesn’t always match how people learn Match.

A thought experiment of eternal debate asks: “If a tree falls in a forest, but there is no surrounding People hear it, does it have a sound? For science, this question might be asked: “If really important information is hidden in a book no one has read, will it affect people?” “

The challenge for scientists The problem they face today is that their work is complex and therefore often appears in content-heavy journals or complex statistical tables. This is in contrast to other scientists Resonates, but is unlikely to affect those who don’t p – value and other statistical concepts. And when new information is presented in a way that doesn’t fit with one’s way of thinking, they may be more likely to reject it.

Winning the Anti-Science Attitude War

The authors of the paper agree: – Science It doesn’t mean blindly believing everything the science says. “It can be dangerous too,” Philipp-Muller said. Rather, “it’s about wanting to understand the world better and taking a deep dive into the science that is discovered through accurate, efficient methods.” Find an open mind. “

To better understand the world around you, backed by science, there are things you can do to help stem the tide of anti-science, she and Lee said. “Society There are a lot of different people on the Internet who can help us with this,” says Philipp-Muller.

They include:

Scientists, can take a softer approach when communicating their findings, and do so in a way that It’s more inclusive to the general audience.

“It can be really hard,” says Philipp-Muller, “but it means using language that’s not super jargon, Or not not alienating people. I think journalists have a duty to help. (Appropriately noted.)

The authors of the paper also suggest that scientists think of new ways to Share their findings with an audience. “For most people, the primary source of scientific information is not scientists,” Lee said. “If we want to shape people’s acceptance, we need to start with the voices that people care about and have the most impact on.” “

This list can include pastors and politicians leaders, television and radio personalities, and — like it or not — social media influencers.

Educators, This means anyone with children and young people Anyone (including parents) interacting can help by teaching their children scientific reasoning skills. “This way, when [those young people] encounter scientific information or misinformation, they can better parse how conclusions were reached, and see if it works. “

All of us, can pass no A jerk’s surprisingly effective technique to fight back against anti-science. If you hear someone promoting anti-scientific views – maybe at your Thanksgiving dinner table – arguing or telling that person they’re stupid won’t help.

Instead, Philipp-Muller advises: “Try to find common ground and common identity. “

Having a calm, respectful conversation about their point of view may help them overcome resistance and even recognize that they are stuck in one of the four modes above.



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