Arguing with the anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, flat earthers, and climate change deniers is a heck of a job. If you've ever tried, you’ll know what I am talking about.
And even though you recognize the fallacy in their arguments, like saying that masks don’t help to stop the coronavirus, you sometimes need heavy artillery.
Luckily, some people who know what they’re talking about have done everyone a service and stepped in to school the science deniers big time. From biochemists to sport scientists, these are some of the most mic-drop moves in stopping the spread of misinformation.
These days, when there are so many science deniers, it may feel like arguing with them is absolutely pointless. But a 2019 study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior showed that it’s in fact worth arguing with them.
Philipp Schmid and Cornelia Betsch of the University of Erfurt in Germany conducted six experiments with 1,773 subjects. They assessed “how to mitigate the influence of a denier on the audience.”
The results showed that “not responding to science deniers has a negative effect on attitudes towards behaviors favored by science (for example, vaccination) and intentions to perform these behaviors.”
Facing deniers can be treated as a concerned and important effort to fight misinformation. The authors of the study suggest that “not turning up to the discussion at all seems to result in the worst effect.”
Meanwhile, showing up on an acquaintance's Facebook post, even if you think it's pointless, will surely do some good.
Interestingly, the authors claim that science deniers use the same rhetoric across domains. It means that “uncovering their rhetorical techniques is an effective and economic addition to the advocates’ toolbox.”