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The Michael Shermer Show

A series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time.

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EPISODE # 203

Lee McIntyre — How to Talk to a Science Denier: Conversations with Flat Earthers, Climate Deniers, and Others Who Defy Reason

How to Talk to a Science Denier: Conversations with Flat Earthers, Climate Deniers, and Others Who Defy Reason (book cover)

“Climate change is a hoax — and so is coronavirus.” “Vaccines are bad for you.” These days, many of our fellow citizens reject scientific expertise and prefer ideology to facts. They are not merely uninformed — they are misinformed. They cite cherry-picked evidence, rely on fake experts, and believe conspiracy theories. How can we convince such people otherwise? How can we get them to change their minds and accept the facts when they don’t believe in facts? In this conversation based on his new book, Lee McIntyre shows that anyone can fight back against science deniers, and argues that it’s important to do so.

Shermer and McIntyre discuss:

  • McIntyre’s career path to the philosophy of science and activism against science denialism,
  • why no one in the history of the world has ever identified as a science denier,
  • the problems with the demarcation problem (discerning the difference between science and pseudoscience, science acceptance and science denial),
  • falsificationism vs. verificationism,
  • What is science, anyway?
  • Sagan’s dragon,
  • McIntyre’s adventures attending a Flat-Earth conference and what he learned about engaging with people whose beliefs differ starkly from your own,
  • Should you counter pseudofacts with real facts or counter denial strategies with skeptical strategies?
  • why knowing the facts of evolution, vaccines, climate science, GMOs, etc. is not enough,
  • Is there a liberal science denialism?
  • conspiracy theories and science denial, and
  • how to engage crazy Uncle Bob at the next family dinner when he declares climate change to be a Chinese hoax or that QAnon is a real conspiracy.

Lee McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University. He is the author of Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior, Post-Truth, and The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience, all published by the MIT Press.

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This episode is sponsored by Wondrium:

Wondrium (sponsor)

This episode was released on August 24, 2021.

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