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Sigal Tifferet

Senior Lecturer, Ruppin Academic Center

TEDCRED 500+

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Can people who deny science be educated? How?

Some of my undergraduate students deny scientific research with the following claims: (1) my experience shows otherwise, (2) scientific results are always changing, (3) each person has his own truth.
Is there a way to change their way of thinking, or should it be treated as a belief, similar to religion which is unfalsifiable?
If it is subject to change, how would you go about achieving that change?
Please do not answer the question "Should people who deny science be educated?", that is a different issue.

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    Feb 25 2011: This is a very tricky problem. People can change, but the durability of belief systems varies with the time invested in them. The great irony is that science deniers are not above benefiting from the fruits of science: cell phones, modern medicine, TV, computers, the internet, automobiles, etc. They fail to acknowledge that most of them would be dead by 35 if it weren't for the advances in medicine and technology. It's as if science and technology is another form of magic to them.

    One way of reaching into their walled complacency is to be subtle instead of confrontational. Screaming "Darwin was right, and you're an idiot" won't benefit both parties. Instead, point out some examples of evolution, such as bacteria adapting to penicillin within a few decades. You can also tie in common technologies with scientific phenomena. In essence, people can be educated out of their science denial, but science denial and an educated state cannot be maintained in the long term simultaneously. Disaster looms if current trends continue.

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