Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nothing twisted in upon nothing.

The headline of this article: "The science of why we don't believe science", immediately caught my eye when I saw it a few days ago. It's taken me a few days to get around to reading it though. It started to make a lot more sense when on page 3, I figured out who the author was. Chris Mooney. Up until that point, I'd been scanning through looking for the new insight this was going to be reporting. Something new and interesting, related to something that worries me considerably sometimes, namely the public comprehension of science. Then I figured out the author was Mooney. For those that don't know, Mooney is a battler in the whole religion/atheist battle that rolls around certain parts of the blogosphere. He's an atheist who continually critiques what people like Harris, Dennet, Dawkins, Hitchens and PZ are doing, his theory being that they are all to confrontational, that what they are doing is hurting atheism and that when someone tells you about their magic sky fairy, you shouldn't call them up on it, you should smile and "be nice". This despite the fairly significant upswing of people in the US and the UK identifying as atheist. This, despite the huge popular success of the books that the 4 horsemen have written over the past decade. Lots of people buy their books. Not many people buy Mooney's books.

So here is an article about people not believing in science. Or at least being unwilling to change their beliefs in the face of the evidence. There is something to this, but nothing new is presented in the article. He links to one social science paper which I haven't had time to go through so I don't know how well it supports his point. Near the end of page four, we get "All we can currently bank on is the fact that we all have blinders in
some situations. The question then becomes: What can be done to
counteract human nature itself?"
Funnily enough, it boils down to : "be nice". There may (or may not) be something to this approach he's advocating when it comes to vacine or global warming denialists. I've found that those who are convinced in these things are generally beyond convincing otherwise, no matter how nice you are. I would have thought a better approach would be to present your arguments to those who are not yet entrenched, those who are undecided and sod those who refuse to accept the possibility that they are wrong. Or perhaps I'm just being belligerent today.

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