This post originally appeared in the Newton blog on RealClearScience. You can read the original here.
Faced with unfortunate facts or inconvenient truths? Tired of closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears, and screaming "LA LA LA LA LA LA?" Well, simply read RealClearScience's handy guide for denying scientific consensus. It's 100% proven to work against a variety of well-substantiated topics, such as:
I'm sure you've got a long day of crafting aluminum foil hats ahead of you, so let's get going!
Tip #1: Claim a conspiracy. Feel like the whole world is against you? Well that's because it is! Scientists, politicians, journalists: they're all in collusion! Take climate change, for example. It's obvious why all those scientists "agree." They've been paid off by Big Solar and Big Wind, and are probably throwing lavish parties, complete with dancers that jump out of giant cakes shaped like beakers.
Tip #2: Use fake experts. The other side has their experts, so you need to get some, too. Finding somebody with respected credentials will be difficult, so to make up for it, just dress whoever you select in a white lab coat. If you can recruit a celebrity, do it! The public already trusts them. (Note: The more attractive the celebrity, the greater is his or her credibility.) To the anti-vaxxers out there, I recommend Jenny McCarthy.
Tip #3: Cherry-pick scientific data. Every once in a while, a scientific study will be published that supports your claims. When this happens, latch on and don't let go (despite it's obvious errors)! After all, the key to convincing others is simply to repeat your message more often than your opponents repeat theirs. If you're opposed to genetic modification, allow me to recommend a 2012 study by Gilles-Éric Séralini which found that genetically modified corn causes cancer in lab rats. Never mind that it's been universally denounced and recentlyretracted. The public doesn't need to know that.
Tip #4: Create unrealistic expectations of the evidence. Science is inherently uncertain; even scientists admit that! What can they ever really prove? Nothing! Climate change deniers, take Pascal Diethelm and Martin McKee's advice and "point to the absence of accurate temperature records from before the invention of the thermometer."
Tip #5: Employ logical fallacies. Straw men, red herrings, false analogies: all of these are your friends. Misrepresent the opposition! Change the subject! And here's a foolproof false analogy for evolution deniers: "As the universe and a watch are both extremely complex, the universe must have been created by the equivalent of a watchmaker." Deep, isn't it?
Okay! You're ready to go! But first beware: there's a guaranteed side effect of utilizing this guide. You'll look like a total dunderhead.
But hey, it sure beats sticking your head in the ground!
Source: Pascal Diethelm and Martin McKee. "Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?" European Journal of Public Health, (2009) Vol. 19, No. 1, 2–4