When Evidence Backfires

Neurobonkers, , Apr 18, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

People like me sometimes are inclined to think that if people had more and better education, they would not believe anti-scientific myths. For example, they they were told that the Sun is in a cooling cycle, they would not be inclined to blame Sun cycles for global warming. Actual evidence, however, suggests that people continue to believe myths despite the scientific evidence. Myths provide explanations, and merely debunking a myth leaves a gap in that explanation. In some cases, the provision of evidence contrary to the myth can actually strengthen their belief in the myth. Why do I raise this? Education is not a magic remedy for misinformation. See also the Debunking Handbook (PDF) by John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky.

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