How to Persuade People to Listen to Reason, from a Former Climate Skeptic
Killing prejudice with kindness is probably the best way to go, says former climate skeptic Michael Shermer. The secularist discusses his history with religion and how he speaks about it now.
Michael Shermer: So how do you win people over? Well this is the big question that skeptics, atheists, seculars have, you know. It’s like okay, we have a position here and we have a set of tenants and beliefs that we believe in science and reason and critical thinking and this is our position on all these different issues. Now how do I convince you of this?
If you attack somebody pretty aggressively and you don’t treat them with respect the wall goes up. Cognitive dissonance kicks in. “These are my beliefs and you’re telling me I’m wrong? Okay, whoa. I’m going to double down.” If I want to sell you a vacuum cleaner or whatever what’s the best thing I should do? Or I want you to take my survey so I mail you the survey and I put a dollar in there. Why do they do that? Because that’s a tried and true tested method of reciprocity. It’s like “Oh I got this dollar,” and you put it in your wallet. “Oh I’ve got a dollar. All right I better fill out the form. I feel obligated because they gave me something. I should give them something back.” It’s a basic principle of human psychology.
I will give you respect if you hear me out and you give me respect if I hear you out. And there you can at least plant a seed of doubt. It’s rare that anybody’s going to listen to the arguments about carbon dioxide or the ice core data and go “Yeah, yeah, you know, that climate skepticism stuff is a lot of nonsense. I changed my mind right now.” That almost never happens. What you want to do is just put a few things in there and then maybe the next day or a month later when they’re thinking about it and the next time they’re reading the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or listening to talk radio the thing – “Oh yeah, yeah. I remember Shermer was saying something about that.” And they just start thinking about it. They change their way of thinking. That begins to shift the paradigm a little bit.
I have had that range of beliefs in my life – I used to be a Christian. For example I used to be a climate skeptic. I was against gun control. So on any of these issues I can say, “You know, I used to be a Christian too.” “You were?” “Oh yeah, I totally accepted Jesus into my heart as my savior. God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son. John 3:16.” I repeated that. “Wow. What happened?” “I changed my mind.” “How come you changed your mind?” “Well, you know, I started thinking about this and that and the evidence, the problem of evil.” “The problem of evil? Oh yeah, yeah.” And so my just saying, “Well here’s what I think,” in a respectful way. “You believe what you want. I understand. I used to believe that too.” But if you do it in an insulting way like, you know, “I used to be a child too but I grew up.” The wall is going up. “You just insulted me. Bam. Well screw you too. Bam.” End of conversation.
Killing prejudice with kindness is probably the best way to go, says former climate skeptic Michael Shermer. If you attack someone aggressively on their point of view, they are more likely to double down on their beliefs. Reciprocity is a better way to go: "I will give you respect if you hear me out, and you give me respect if I hear you out." From here, says Shermer, you can at least plant a seed of doubt. The secularist discusses his history with religion and how he speaks about it now.
But most city dwellers weren't seeing the science — they were seeing something out of Blade Runner.
On Sept. 9, many West Coast residents looked out their windows and witnessed a post-apocalyptic landscape: silhouetted cars, buildings and people bathed in an overpowering orange light that looked like a jacked-up sunset.
A study finds 1.8 billion trees and shrubs in the Sahara desert.
- AI analysis of satellite images sees trees and shrubs where human eyes can't.
- At the western edge of the Sahara is more significant vegetation than previously suspected.
- Machine learning trained to recognize trees completed the detailed study in hours.
Why this matters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2MDQ1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTkyODg5NX0.O3S2DRTyAxh-JZqxGKj9KkC6ndZAloEh4hKhpcyeFDQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="3770d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3c27b79d4c0600fb6ebb82e650cabec0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Area in which trees were located
Credit: University of Copenhagen<p>As important as trees are in fighting climate change, scientists need to know what trees there are, and where, and the study's finding represents a significant addition to the global tree inventory.</p><p>The vegetation Brandt and his colleagues have identified is in the Western Sahara, a region of about 1.3 million square kilometers that includes the desert, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahel" target="_blank">the Sahel</a>, and the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/subhumid-zones" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sub-humid zones</a> of West Africa.</p><p>These trees and shrubs have been left out of previous tabulations of carbon-processing worldwide forests. Says Brandt, "Trees outside of forested areas are usually not included in climate models, and we know very little about their carbon stocks. They are basically a white spot on maps and an unknown component in the global carbon cycle."</p><p>In addition to being valuable climate-change information, the research can help facilitate strategic development of the region in which the vegetation grows due to a greater understanding of local ecosystems.</p>
Trained for trees<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2MDQ3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTk5NTI3NH0.fR-n1I2DHBIRPLvXv4g0PVM8ciZwSLWorBUUw2wc-Vk/img.jpg?width=980" id="e02c0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="79955b13661dca8b6e19007935129af1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Martin Brandt/University of Copenhagen<p>There's been an assumption that there's hardly enough vegetation outside of forested areas to be worth counting in areas such as this one. As a result the study represents the first time a significant number of trees — likely in the hundreds of millions when shrubs are subtracted from the overall figure — have been catalogued in the drylands region.</p><p>Members of the university's Department of Computer Science trained a machine-learning module to recognize trees by feeding it thousands of pictures of them. This training left the AI be capable of spotting trees in the tiny details of satellite images supplied by NASA. The task took the AI just hours — it would take a human years to perform an equivalent analysis.</p><p>"This technology has enormous potential when it comes to documenting changes on a global scale and ultimately, in contributing towards global climate goals," says co-author Christian Igel. "It is a motivation for us to develop this type of beneficial artificial intelligence."</p><p>"Indeed," says Brandt says, "I think it marks the beginning of a new scientific era."</p>
Looking ahead and beyond<p>The researchers hope to further refine their AI to provide a more detailed accounting of the trees it identifies in satellite photos.</p><p>The study's senior author, Rasmus Fensholt, says, "we are also interested in using satellites to determine tree species, as tree types are significant in relation to their value to local populations who use wood resources as part of their livelihoods. Trees and their fruit are consumed by both livestock and humans, and when preserved in the fields, trees have a positive effect on crop yields because they improve the balance of water and nutrients."</p><p>Ahead is an expansion of the team's tree hunt to a larger area of Africa, with the long-term goal being the creation of a more comprehensive and accurate global database of trees that grow beyond the boundaries of forests.</p>
Famous physicists like Richard Feynman think 137 holds the answers to the Universe.
- The fine structure constant has mystified scientists since the 1800s.
- The number 1/137 might hold the clues to the Grand Unified Theory.
- Relativity, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics are unified by the number.
Younger Americans support expanding the Supreme Court and serious political reforms, says new poll.
- Americans under 40 largely favor major political reforms, finds a new survey.
- The poll revealed that most would want to expand the Supreme Court, impose terms limits, and make it easier to vote.
- Millennials are more liberal and reform-centered than Generation Z.