Orac has a great post skewering an ambitious gambit over at Age of Autism: One Julie Obradovic lectures us there on how to actually save the vaccine program. Much of the advice has to do with accepting the incorrect premises of the vaccine skeptics, and humoring them.
All of Orac’s criticisms are on target, but I actually thought Obradovic wrote one thing worth listening to–at least if we take the more abstract point out of the biased context in which she introduces it. It is this:
Additionally, [vaccine skeptical parents] don’t take kindly to propaganda or threats, and they most definitely don’t like to be insulted. Telling them their choice is to go with the scientific side is juvenile in its approach, suggesting that any parent who researchers [sic] both sides of the debate, personally knows someone with a different experience, and disagrees with the one size fits all approach to vaccination is by default, non-scientific. Brilliant.
Well, they actually are unscientific when they do this. However, it probably is true that the confrontational, “you’re clueless and irrational approach” is unlikely to unclog their minds or shatter their misconceptions.
Why? Human beings just don’t work that way. We have vast bodies of social science research showing that people fight hard to cling to their worldviews and belief systems–and when it comes to vaccine skepticism and denial, we’re definitely dealing with a belief system, one rarely susceptible to rational refutation or dislodging.
Does that mean we shouldn’t refute anti-vax nonsense and set the record straight? No.
But at the same time, we should be realistic about what such debunking can achieve. It certainly isn’t going to lead to mass conversions on the other side of the aisle–not on an issue so polarized, where the vaccine skeptics have their own science to turn to and make themselves feel good and right and righteous.
If changing minds is the goal, I’m pretty sure that something beyond debunking is going to be needed. Such is Obradovic’s fairly unintentional insight.
Discover is a science magazine. DiscoverBlogs is a science blogging site. And as far as I can see, pretty much everybody here accepts the well established scientific consensus on global warming, which is that it is real and human caused.
Whenever I blog about the matter, though, there is always a cascade of denialist/skeptic comments, frequently of enough magnitude to overwhelm the pro-science commenters. That cascade has been particularly pronounced as I’ve blogged more and more about “ClimateGate,” but it has been a smouldering fire for a long time. And as far as I can tell, although we have gotten some anti-climate science links, such as from Morano, they are not sufficient to explain the phenomenon.
So here’s my somewhat befuddled and honestly, generally curious question–and I really don’t have an answer to it–do a lot of regular online readers of Discover doubt the science of global warming? Or, alternatively, are a lot of the “skeptics” that we’re getting here non-regular readers who are coming from elsewhere for some reason?