Transcript: Dealing with Science Denial | Sep 28, 2021

Steve Paikin sits in his home office. Framed pictures of The Ontario Legislative Building and Walter Cronkite hang on the wall. A calendar is opened to September. Paikin wears a white button-down shirt and a shiny crimson tie.

Text reads, “Dealing with Science Denial”

Paikin begins,
ONCE UPON A TIME IT
DIDN'T REALLY MATTER MUCH THAT A
SMALL GROUP OF PEOPLE SUBSCRIBED
TO SOME QUITE OUT-THERE IDEAS.
HOWEVER, NOWADAYS, MOST OF US
HAVE PROBABLY ENCOUNTERED SUCH
PEOPLE, WHO REJECT THE CONSENSUS
OF EXPERTS OR SCIENTISTS IN
FAVOUR OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES.
LEE MCINTYRE IS A RESEARCH
FELLOW AT THE CENTER FOR
PHILOSOPHY AND HISTORY OF
SCIENCE AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY.
AND HIS NEW BOOK OFFERS SOME
HELP.
IT'S CALLED: "HOW TO TALK TO A
SCIENCE DENIER: CONVERSATIONS
WITH FLAT EARTHERS, CLIMATE
DENIERS, AND OTHERS WHO DEFY
REASON," AND LEE MCINTYRE JOINS
US NOW FROM BOSTON,
MASSACHUSETTS.
GOOD TO HAVE YOU ON THE PROGRAM
AGAIN, LEE.
HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Text reads, “Dealing with Science Denial. Why People Don’t Believe”

Lee sits in a home office. Books fill a white shelf. He wears headphones over his silver hair and a blue blazer over a pink button-down shirt.

Lee replies,
OKAY. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR
HAVING ME BACK.

Paikin adds,
NOT AT ALL. LET'S START WITH
THIS: HOW MANY SCIENCE DENIERS'
MINDS DO YOU THINK YOU'VE BEEN
ABLE TO CHANGE OVER THE YEARS?

Text continues, “Lee McIntyre. Author, How to Talk to a Science Denier”

Lee answers,
I'M NOT SURE. THE PROBLEM IS
THIS: IT'S VERY HARD TO CHANGE
SOMEONE'S MIND ON THE SPOT.
YOU CAN'T THINK OF THIS AS A
KIND OF A HIT AND RUN.
THE GOAL IN TALKING TO A SCIENCE
DENIER IS, FIRST, TO BUILD
TRUST, AND THEN ONCE YOU THINK
YOU'VE GOT SOMETHING ALONG THOSE
LINES, THEN YOU CAN ASK
QUESTIONS, BEGIN TO WORK IN
FACTS.
AND SO MAYBE YOU WON'T EVEN HEAR
ABOUT IT UNTIL LATER.
SO I'M HOPING THAT IT'S A LITTLE
BIT LIKE JOHNNY APPLESEED, THAT
I'VE CHANGED MORE MINDS THAN I
KNOW.

Paikin responds,
WELL, LET'S PICK UP ON THE
SUBTITLE OF THE BOOK AND TALK
ABOUT THE FLAT-EARTHERS.
BECAUSE YOU DID GO TO A
CONVENTION FOR PEOPLE WHO
GENUINELY BELIEVE THAT THE EARTH
IS FLAT AND THEN YOU SAT DOWN
AND HAD DINNER WITH A SPEAKER
AND TRIED TO FIGURE OUT WHAT
WOULD CHANGE HIS MIND.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

Lee says,
I WAS LUCKY THAT HE WAS OPEN
TO THE IDEA THAT THAT WAS AN
IMPORTANT QUESTION BECAUSE THE
FLAT-EARTHERS TEND TO SAY THAT
THEIR VIEW IS NOT BASED ON
FAITH, IT'S BASED ON EVIDENCE.
AND SO THEN THE NEXT QUESTION
THAT I WANTED TO ASK THEM IS:
OKAY, SO IF YOU'RE TRYING TO
REASON LIKE A SCIENTIST, YOU
SHOULD KNOW WHAT EVIDENCE COULD
POSSIBLY CHANGE YOUR MIND.
AND SO HE WAS OPEN TO THAT.
THE NEXT THING THAT HAPPENED IS,
I SAID, OKAY.
SO START TELLING ME WHAT YOU
THINK MIGHT CHANGE YOUR MIND.
AND HIS FIRST RESPONSE WAS, IF
HE WENT UP IN A ROCKET AND HE
COULD SEE THE CURVED EARTH FROM
SPACE, BUT THEN HE TOOK THAT
BACK BECAUSE HE SAID, NO, MAYBE
THE WINDOW IN THE ROCKET WOULD
BE CURVED. AT THIS POINT, I MADE A
PROPOSITION, WHICH WAS, HOW
ABOUT WE FLY OVER ANTARCTICA,
BECAUSE ACCORDING TO THE
FLAT-EARTH INTERNATIONAL
CONFERENCE FOLKS, ANTARCTICA
IS NOT A CONTINENT, IT'S A
MOUNTAIN RANGE SPREAD OUT
AROUND THE PERIMETER OF THE
EARTH WHICH WOULD BY THE WAY
MAKE IT TWENTY-FOUR
THOUSAND MILES LONG RATHER
THAN A THOUSAND OR FIFTEEN
HUNDRED MILES AND HE SHOOK
MY HAND ON THIS BECAUSE AT
FIRST HE SAID, WELL, THOSE FLIGHTS
DON'T EXIST.
AND I SAID, WELL, YES, THEY DO.
AND I PULLED THE ITINERARY OUT
OF MY POCKET BECAUSE I WAS READY
FOR HIM. AND THEN HE SHOOK MY
HAND, SAID WE'RE READY TO GO.
BUT THEN I STARTED TO WORRY THAT
WE NEEDED A CRITERIA BECAUSE I
DIDN’T WANT HIM TO SAY THE
WINDOW WAS CURVED. SO
I SAID HOW ABOUT IF WE STOP FOR
FUEL?
IF WE HAVE TO STOP FOR FUEL,
THEN YOU'RE RIGHT.
BUT IF WE DON'T HAVE TO STOP FOR
FUEL, THEN I'M RIGHT, BECAUSE
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A
THOUSAND MILES AND 24,000 MILES.
HE SHOOK MY HAND AGAIN BUT THEN
HE TOOK IT BACK.
AND THAT'S WHEN THE CONVERSATION
GOT VERY INTERESTING, BECAUSE HE
SAID THAT HE THOUGHT THAT MAYBE
THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF AIR TRAVEL
WAS A HOAX, THAT PLANES NEVER
ACTUALLY NEEDED TO STOP TO
REFUEL, AND THAT'S ABOUT THE
BIGGEST CONSPIRACY THEORY THAT
YOU COULD EVER IMAGINE.

Paikin says,
I MEAN, THIS IS --
YOU'VE REALLY PUT YOUR FINGER ON
THE DIFFICULTY HERE, WHICH IS
YOU CAN MAKE ONE STEP FORWARD OF
PROGRESS, BUT INEVITABLY, YOU'RE
GOING TO FIND YOURSELF TAKING
TWO STEPS BACKWARDS AFTER THAT
AS WELL.
HOW FRUSTRATING AT THE END OF
THE DAY WAS THAT CONVERSATION
FOR YOU?

Lee replies,
WELL, IT WAS FRUSTRATING, BUT
I MADE A SMART DECISION, WHICH
IS THAT I DIDN'T JUST SAY, OKAY,
WELL, THEN, AND THEN GET UP TO
LEAVE.
I CONTINUED THE CONVERSATION.
BECAUSE, AS I SAID, IT'S REALLY
ABOUT CHANGING PEOPLE'S MIND
OVER TIME.
AND IF YOU HURT THE
RELATIONSHIP, IF YOU YELL OR YOU
INSULT THE PERSON, THEN THE
RELATIONSHIP IS REALLY OVER AND
THEY'RE NOT LISTENING ANYMORE.
WHAT I WANTED TO DO WAS JUST
LEAVE THAT IDEA LINGER WITH HIM,
THAT HE'S SAID TO ME AT THE
BEGINNING THAT THERE WAS
SOMETHING THAT COULD CHANGE HIS
MIND, BUT THAT BOTH OF THE
THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT
ULTIMATELY HE TOOK BACK.
NOW, I COULD HAVE BEEN SMARMY
AND SAID TO HIM, WELL, I GUESS
YOUR VIEW IS BASED ON FAITH
THEN.
BUT I DIDN'T WANT TO DO THAT.
I JUST WANTED TO CONTINUE THE
CONVERSATION BECAUSE I WAS
PLAYING THE LONG GAME.
MAYBE OVER TIME, HE WOULD BEGIN
TO SIT WITH THAT AND IT WOULD
BOTHER HIM.

Paikin responds,
ONE OF THE THINGS I
GATHER YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT SOME
OF THE PEOPLE AT THE FLAT-EARTH
CONVENTION IS THAT AT SOME POINT
IN THEIR BACKGROUNDS, THEY HAVE
EXPERIENCED RATHER PROFOUND
TRAUMA.
WHY WAS THAT A SIGNIFICANT
REVELATION TO YOU?

Lee answers,
YEAH. I NEVER EXPECTED THIS.
THIS WAS A COMPLETE SHOCK TO ME
AND IT WAS ONLY ABOUT THE THIRD
OR FOURTH PERSON THAT I SPOKE
WITH THAT I STARTED TO THINK,
YOU KNOW, IS THERE A PATTERN
HERE?
A NUMBER OF THEM HAD MENTIONED
TO ME -- YOU KNOW, I WANTED TO
ASK THEM, HOW DID YOU GET INTO
FLAT EARTH?
YOU KNOW, WHAT WAS YOUR GENESIS
STORY, IF YOU WILL?
AND A NUMBER OF THEM SAID THAT
IT WAS WHEN THEY HAD THIS MAJOR
BREACH OF DISTRUST IN THEIR LIFE
BECAUSE SOMETHING HAD GONE
WRONG.
EITHER IT WAS AN ILLNESS WHERE
THEY DIDN'T TRUST THEIR DOCTORS
OR A PERSONAL CRISIS WHERE THEY
WERE DIVORCED OR SOMETHING OR
BROKE OFF A RELATIONSHIP.
FOR SOME OF THEM, IT WAS 9/11,
WHERE THEY REPORTED THAT THEY
JUST GOT SKEPTICAL THAT 9/11
COULD HAVE BEEN ANYTHING OTHER
THAN AN INSIDE JOB, IT WAS TOO
BIG, AND THAT THAT BROKE THEIR
TRUST.
SO FOR ALL OF THEM, IT WAS THAT
THEIR TRUST WAS BROKEN.
BUT THE REALLY INTRIGUING PART
FOR ME WAS HOW THEIR TRUST GOT
BROKEN, AND IT WAS -- FOR MOST
OF THEM, IT WAS A QUESTION OF
TRAUMA.

Paikin says,
HERE'S AN EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK:

Text reads, “Finding Meaning Through Misinformation. As I sat there, I concluded that perhaps Flat Earth wasn’t so much a belief that someone would accept or reject on the basis of experimental evidence, but instead an identity. It could give purpose to you your life. It created instant community, bound together by common persecution. And perhaps it could explain some of the trauma and other difficulties you might have experienced in life, as the elites in power were all corrupt and plotting against you.”

Paikin adds,
WHAT, I MEAN, THAT FEELS,
LEE, LIKE A REAL BREAKTHROUGH.
DO YOU RECALL THAT EUREKA
MOMENT?

Lee replies,
I DO. IT WAS THE MOMENT THAT I
REALIZED IT’S WHY FACTS WEREN'T
GETTING THROUGH. AND IT'S
BECAUSE IT'S NOT ABOUT FACTS,
IT’S ABOUT IDENTITY.
JONATHAN SWIFT SAID IT BEST: YOU
CAN'T REASON SOMEBODY OUT OF
SOMETHING THAT THEY DIDN'T
REASON THEMSELVES INTO IN THE
FIRST PLACE.
SO WHY ARE WE OUT THERE TALKING
TO SCIENCE DENIERS JUST TRYING
TO BURYING THEM IN FACTS?
THAT'S NOT GOING TO WORK.
IT'S ABOUT IDENTITY, WHICH MEANS
THAT YOU HAVE TO BUILD UP SOME
SORT OF A HUMAN CONNECTION IF
YOU HAVE ANY HOPE OF CONVERTING
THEM.
AND BY THE WAY, THERE ARE PLENTY
OF ANECDOTAL ACCOUNTS IN THE
LITERATURE WHICH SHOW THAT THIS
DOES ACTUALLY WORK, THAT IF YOU
SPEAK TO SOMEBODY WITH AN
EXTREMIST BELIEF ABOUT SCIENCE
OR OTHER THINGS AND YOU ARE A
HUMAN BEING ABOUT IT AND YOU
SHOW SOME EMPATHY AND CALM AND
PATIENCE AND RESPECT, THAT CAN
WORK.
IT DOESN'T ALWAYS WORK, BUT IT
CAN WORK.

Paikin asks,
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT
TO CREATE THAT KIND OF
CONNECTION KNOWING -- KNOWING,
AS I'M SURE YOU DO, ALL THE TIME
YOU'RE TRYING TO CREATE THAT
CONNECTION, THAT YOU THINK THAT
THE PERSON THAT YOU'RE DEALING
WITH IS, WELL, HOW DO I SAY THIS
DELICATELY?
YOU KNOW, MISSING A FEW SCREWS
ALONG THE WAY?

Lee responds,
HERE'S THE INTERESTING PART.
IN A FACE-TO-FACE CONVERSATION,
IT'S A RARE PERSON WHO WANTS TO
BREAK THE CONNECTION.
SO AS I WAS TRYING TO BUILD UP
THEIR TRUST IN ME, THERE'S A
SENSE IN WHICH THEY WERE TRYING
TO DO THE SAME THING, RIGHT?
I HAD TO PUT OUT OF MY MIND THE
IDEA OF WHY THEY BELIEVED IT AND
JUST TALK TO THEM ABOUT THEIR
LOGIC, ABOUT THE WAY THAT THEY
WERE REASONING ABOUT EVIDENCE.
LATER I CAME TO ANOTHER KIND OF
AN IMPORTANT CONCLUSION, WHICH
WAS THAT MOST SCIENCE DENIERS
ARE IN FACT VICTIMS.
THEY BELIEVE WHAT THEY BELIEVE
ON THE BASIS OF DISINFORMATION
THAT'S PROVIDED TO THEM BY
SOMEBODY ELSE, ON PURPOSE.
AND IT WAS THE DAY THAT I
REALIZED THAT SCIENCE DENIAL
WASN'T AN ACCIDENT, IT WAS A
LIE, AND THAT WAS ANOTHER
IMPORTANT BREAKTHROUGH.
SO THAT MADE IT A LITTLE BIT
EASIER TO TALK TO FOLKS BECAUSE
I REALIZED THAT THEY REALLY
WEREN'T GETTING ANYTHING OUT OF
THIS AND IN SOME SENSE THEY WERE
SORT OF MISERABLE.

Paikin replies,
WHEN THE NOTION OF
TRAUMA, OF SOMETHING IN THEIR
PAST, WHEN YOU MIGHT PUT THAT TO
SOMEBODY WHO WAS INVOLVED IN
SOME OF THESE CRAZIER THEORIES,
DID ANYBODY HAVE A EUREKA MOMENT
IN THEIR LIVES SAYING, OH, MY
GOODNESS, MAYBE THIS IS WHY I
BELIEVE AS I BELIEVE?

Lee says,
I DIDN'T SAY THAT.
TO SAY TO SOMEBODY, YOU KNOW,
THE REASON YOU BELIEVE THIS
IS ...
AND THEN FILL IN THE BLANK WITH
WHATEVER PSYCHOLOGY YOU WANT.
THEY'RE GOING TO RESIST THAT.
MARK TWAIN SAID IT'S EASIER TO
FOOL SOMEBODY THAN TO CONVINCE
THEM THEY'VE BEEN FOOLED.
AND SO MY JOB WAS NOT TO TRY TO
SAY, YOU KNOW, THIS IS BECAUSE
OF YOUR IDENTITY OR YOUR
IDEOLOGY, IT WAS TO TALK ABOUT,
WELL, TELL ME WHY YOU BELIEVE
WHAT YOU BELIEVE.
YOU KNOW, WHY DO YOU BELIEVE
THIS THING BUT NOT THE OTHER?
WHY DO YOU TRUST THIS PERSON BUT
NOT THAT PERSON?
SO I WAS DOING SOMETHING THAT
HAS SINCE COME TO BE CALLED
TECHNIQUE REBUTTAL.
I WAS RECOGNIZING THAT THERE'S A
BLUEPRINT TO SCIENCE DENIAL
REASONING, AND HE WAS TRYING TO
UNPACK THAT BLUEPRINT TO SEE IF
I COULD GET THEM TO UNDERSTAND
THE CONTRADICTIONS.
YOU KNOW, ANOTHER IMPORTANT
MOMENT IN THESE CONVERSATIONS IS
TO REALIZE, AS I SAID IN THE
PASSAGE THAT YOU READ, THAT IN
SOME SENSE THIS IS ABOUT
COMMUNITY.
IF YOU DISTRUST, YOU KNOW, THE
ELITES, THE SCIENTISTS, THE
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, THE
TEACHERS, THE ASTRONAUTS, AND
YOU TRUST OTHER PEOPLE, YOU'RE
GOING TO BE CUT OFF FROM SOME
PRETTY IMPORTANT FACTS.
AND SO I WAS TRYING TO ENLARGE
THE CIRCLE OF FOLKS THAT THEY
TRUSTED. NOW, THE ODDS WERE
REALLY AGAINST ME HERE BECAUSE
THERE WERE SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY
FLAT-EARTHERS AND HERE I WAS A
STRANGER WHO DIDN'T BELIEVE
WHAT THEY BELIEVED.
BUT I TOOK SERIOUSLY THE IDEA IF
YOU TALKED TO PEOPLE WITH
RESPECT, YOU COULD BUILD TRUST
AND MAYBE GET THEM TO LISTEN.
AND THAT WAS REALLY MY GOAL.
IT WASN'T NECESSARILY TO CHANGE
THEIR MIND, THOUGH THAT WOULD
HAVE BEEN GREAT.
IT WAS TO SEE IF WE COULD HAVE A
CIVIL CONVERSATION, AND WE
COULD.

Paikin says,
WELL, LET'S MOVE ON
THEN FROM FLAT-EARTH TO
CoVID-19 AND THE INTERNATIONAL
PANDEMIC, AND WE'RE GOING TO PUT
UP A BIT OF A CHECKLIST HERE
WHICH YOU HAVE DISCOVERED ARE,
YOU KNOW, ESSENTIALLY THE SAME
KINDS OF THINGS THAT YOU RUN
INTO WHEN YOU RUN INTO PEOPLE
WHO WANT TO ESSENTIALLY DENY THE
ACCURACY OF THE SCIENCE AS IT
RELATES TO THIS PANDEMIC.
FOR EXAMPLE, THERE'S A
CHERRY-PICKING OF INFORMATION
THAT TAKES PLACE, OR A RELIANCE
ON CONSPIRACY THEORIES, OR A USE
OF FAKE EXPERTS, OR ILLOGICAL
REASONING, OR RELIANCE ON
IMPOSSIBLE STANDARDS FOR
SCIENTIFIC REASONING.
AND AS YOU LOOK AT THIS
CHECKLIST, LEE, HOW ARE THE
THINGS ON THIS CHECKLIST PLAYING
OUT AS IT RELATES TO THE
PANDEMIC AND CoVID-19?

Text reads, “Dealing with Science Denial. Pandemic Conspiracies”

Lee answers,
EVERY ONE OF THE FIVE HAS
BEEN CHECKED.
AND IN THE BOOK I GO THROUGH FOR
EVERY INSTANCE, ANTI-VAX,
CoVID, GMO DENIAL, EVOLUTION
DENIAL, ALL OF IT, I GO THROUGH
AND CHECK OFF ALL THOSE FIVE
BOXES. THAT RUBRIC IS SOMETHING
THAT OTHER RESEARCHERS
DISCOVERED, COGNITIVE SCIENTISTS,
BEFORE ME. THAT'S REALLY THE
BLUEPRINT FOR SCIENCE DENIAL
REASONING. I MEAN, THERE ARE
EXAMPLES OF THIS, OF COURSE, WITH
CoVID-19, DENIAL OR MASK
DENIAL, VACCINE DENIAL, HOWEVER
YOU WANT TO THINK OF IT, WHEN
YOU HEAR PEOPLE SAYING THAT
FAUCI IS LYING, THAT HE'S IN
CAHOOTS WITH THE CDC OR THAT
HE'S MAKING MONEY ON IT.
WELL, THAT'S A CONSPIRACY
THEORY.
OR WHEN PEOPLE WILL TALK ABOUT,
YOU KNOW, SOMEBODY THAT THEY
KNOW WHO SEEMED TO GET SICK
AFTER THEY HAD HAD THE CoVID
VACCINE. THAT'S CHERRY-PICKING.
AND, I MEAN, EVEN THEN, YOU
COULD SAY THAT'S ALSO RELIANCE
ON FAKE EXPERTS BECAUSE FOR ALL
THE CLAIMS THAT PEOPLE ARE DYING
AS A RESULT OF THE VACCINE,
THERE'S A FACT-CHECKING
ORGANIZATION THE OTHER DAY
QUOTED IN POLITICO CALLED THE
POINTER INSTITUTE WHICH FOUND
THAT THERE WAS ZERO CASES THAT
HAD CREDIBLE EVIDENCE OF PEOPLE
DYING AS A RESULT OF THE CoVID
VACCINE.

Paikin responds,
NOW, WITH CoVID VACCINES, PEOPLE
WANT TO SEE -- WELL, WITH ANYTHING,
THEY WANT TO SEE THE EVIDENCE, AND
WITH CoVID-19, IT'S PARTICULARLY
DIFFICULT TO ACTUALLY SEE THE
EVIDENCE, AND OF COURSE THE
LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES BEYOND
THAT ARE GOING TO BE DIFFICULT
TO SEE IN THIS VERY MOMENT, IN
WHICH CASE, HOW DO YOU TRY TO
CONVINCE PEOPLE TO TRUST
EVIDENCE, PARTICULARLY IF THEY
CAN'T SEE IT THEMSELVES?

Lee says,
THAT'S A REALLY IMPORTANT
QUESTION BECAUSE YOU'VE GONE TO
THE HEART OF THE IDEA HERE THAT
SCIENCE DENIAL IS NOT ABOUT
DOUBT, IT'S ABOUT DISTRUST.
AND SO THE FOLKS WHO ARE SAYING,
WELL, YOU KNOW, THIS HASN'T BEEN
PROVEN IN ANY LONG-TERM STUDY.
THAT'S TRUE. I MEAN, SCIENTISTS
RECOGNIZE THAT.
BUT HERE'S THE THING THAT YOU
HAVE TO REALIZE: YOU HAVE TO
COMPARE THE RELATIVE RISK.
SO WHAT'S THE RISK THAT THERE
MIGHT BE SOMETHING THAT WOULD
COME DOWN THE ROAD A YEAR OR TWO
FROM NOW FROM THE CoVID
VACCINE, GIVEN AN UNDERSTANDING
OF HOW VACCINES WORK AND THEIR
PAST HISTORY, NOT JUST THIS
PARTICULAR ONE.
BUT, YOU KNOW, ALSO THINKING
ABOUT WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD
THAT SOMEBODY WHO IS
UNVACCINATED MIGHT GET CoVID
AND FACE SERIOUS ILLNESS OR EVEN
DEATH? SO THERE'S SUCH A THING
AS RELATIVE RISK.
NOW, IT IS SOMETIMES HARD TO GET
PEOPLE TO TAKE THAT SERIOUSLY.
I HAD A BACK-AND-FORTH WITH AN
ANTI-VAX PERSON BY EMAIL AND I
WAS TRYING TO -- HE CLAIMED THAT
THERE WERE TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE
THAT HAD DIED AS A RESULT OF
TAKING THE CoVID VACCINE, WHICH
IS JUST WRONG.
I MEAN, THAT NUMBER IS JUST MADE
UP.
AND I ASKED HIM WHAT HIS SOURCE
WAS, AND HE TOLD ME IT WAS AN
UNRELIABLE SOURCE.
AND I SAID, LOOK, EVEN IF YOU'RE
CORRECT, EVEN IF THAT OUTRAGEOUS
NUMBER WERE TRUE, IT STILL MIGHT
BE A GOOD IDEA TO GET THE
CoVID VACCINE BECAUSE LOOK AT
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE DIED OF
THIS AROUND THE WORLD.
AND HE CAME BACK, MEMORABLY,
WITH THE CLAIM, WELL, THAT WAS
RIDICULOUS BECAUSE NO ONE HAD
DIED OF CoVID ANYWHERE IN THE
WORLD.

Paikin asks,
HE THOUGHT NOBODY
HAD DIED OF CoVID ANYWHERE IN
THE WORLD?

Lee adds, IN THE WORLD, CORRECT.

Paikin continues,
HOW DO YOU HAVE A CONVERSATION
WITH SOMEBODY WHO BELIEVES THAT?

LEE Says,
AT THAT POINT THE
CONVERSATION WAS OVER.
I MEAN, THERE ARE SOME FOLKS WHO
ARE SO FAR GONE THAT THERE'S
REALLY NOTHING THAT YOU CAN DO.
AND I ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO
UNDERSTAND THAT SCIENCE DENIAL
EXISTS ON A SPECTRUM, AND THE
TECHNIQUES THAT I'M TALKING
ABOUT IN THE BOOK CAN WORK ON
HARD-CORE SCIENCE DENIERS.
THERE ARE CASE STUDIES TO SHOW
THAT THEY HAVE WORKED.
BUT THEY WORK BEST ON PEOPLE WHO
ARE HEARING SCIENTIFIC
DISINFORMATION FOR THE FIRST
TIME.
SO GET OUT THERE AND SPEAK TO
PEOPLE WHO ARE THE AUDIENCE FOR
SCIENCE DENIAL, THE PEOPLE WHO
ARE CONFUSED, VACCINE-HESITANT,
IF YOU WANT TO THINK OF IT THAT
WAY, BEFORE THEY GO TOO FAR DOWN
THAT RABBIT HOLE.
BECAUSE HERE'S THE THING: IF
THEY BEGIN TO DISTRUST FOR TOO
LONG AND THEY FIND COMMUNITY
AMONGST THE HARD-CORE DENIERS,
THEN THEY'RE GOING FARTHER AND
FARTHER DOWN THAT RABBIT HOLE
AND IT'S HARDER AND HARDER TO
REACH THEM.

Text reads, “Dealing with Science Denial. Changing Minds”

Paikin replies,
IN YOUR EXPERIENCE,
IS IT POSSIBLE TO GET SOMEBODY
WHO IS THAT DEEP DOWN THE RABBIT
HOLE TO GET THEM BACK INTO THE
LAND OF THE LIVING AND THE
THINKING?

Lee states,
SO IN MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE,
I'VE NEVER SUCCEEDED IN DOING
THAT.
BUT, AGAIN, THERE ARE ANECDOTAL
ACCOUNTS THAT I READ IN THE
LITERATURE -- ONE OF MY
FAVOURITES, THIS IS ABOUT
CLIMATE CHANGE BUT IT'S MAYBE
ONE THAT FOLKS CAN VERIFY THE
DETAILS ON FAIRLY EASILY.
JIM BRYDENSTEIN IS A MEMBER OF
THE U.S. CONGRESS, OR HE WAS,
AND HE WAS A CLIMATE DENIER.
HE GAVE A SPEECH ON THE HOUSE
FLOOR SAYING ALL THE THINGS THAT
PEOPLE SAY WHEN THEY DON'T THINK
THAT GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL OR
THAT IT'S CAUSED BY HUMANS.
SO OF COURSE WHAT DO YOU DO WITH
SOMEBODY LIKE THAT? PRESIDENT
TRUMP, AT THE TIME, APPOINTED HIM
TO BE THE HEAD OF NASA.
WELL, BRYDENSTEIN WAS IN THAT
NEW JOB FOR ABOUT A MONTH OR TWO
AND HE COMPLETELY CHANGED HIS
MIND.
HE GAVE ANOTHER SPEECH IN WHICH
HE SAID: I WAS WRONG.
CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL.
AND IT'S CAUSED BY HUMANS.
NOW, WHY DID HE DO THAT?
I THINK IT'S BECAUSE HE BEGAN TO
TRUST THE SCIENTISTS AT NASA.
THESE WERE NOT THE FACELESS EVIL
PEOPLE IN ON THE CONSPIRACY
ANYMORE.
THESE WERE THE FOLKS THAT HE SAW
EVERY DAY IN THE HALLWAY OR HE
HAD LUNCH WITH THEM, HE WAS
THEIR BOSS, AND HE LEARNED THAT
SCIENTISTS ARE PRETTY WARM AND
TRUSTWORTHY PEOPLE. AND I THINK
THAT'S WHAT CHANGED HIS MIND.
AND I DISCUSS MANY CASES IN THE
BOOK OF ANTI-VAXXERS WHO HAVE
CHANGED THEIR MIND.

Paikin says,
ALL RIGHT. HAVING SAID THAT,
THOUGH, DO YOU EVER HAVE THOSE
MOMENTS WHERE YOU HAVE SECOND
THOUGHTS ABOUT YOUR CHOSEN
FIELD OF STUDY GIVEN THAT WE LIVE
IN A TIME THAT IT IS -- WELL, LET'S PUT
IT THIS WAY: THIS APPEARS TO BE A
PARTICULARLY FACT-FREE TIME IN
NORTH AMERICAN HISTORY, AND DO
YOU EVER SIT THERE AND WONDER TO
YOURSELF WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE
JUST BANGING YOUR HEAD ON THE
WALL FAR TOO MUCH?

Lee answers,
I SORT OF DO, BUT WHAT'S MY
CHOICE, RIGHT? GO HIDE OUT
IN THE BUNKER? I MEAN, REMEMBER,
I'M A PHILOSOPHER, AND FOR THE
FIRST TIME THAT I CAN REMEMBER
IN MY CAREER, PEOPLE ON THE NEWS
ARE TALKING ABOUT FACTS, TRUTH,
AND EVIDENCE.
IT'S MY TIME TO STEP UP AND TO
DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.
THIS IS WHY I GOT INTERESTED IN
THIS TOPIC IN THE FIRST PLACE,
IN DEFENDING SCIENCE AND
THINKING ABOUT HOW PEOPLE GOT
TOXIC BELIEFS AND HOW TO GET OUT
OF THEM.
SO I'M REALLY OUT THERE RIGHT
NOW TRYING TO RECRUIT MORE
PEOPLE TO TAKE THIS PROBLEM
SERIOUSLY BECAUSE HERE'S THE
PROBLEM: IF WE DON'T TAKE THIS
PROBLEM SERIOUSLY, IT'S ONLY
GOING TO GET WORSE.
I DON'T SEE SCIENCE DENIAL GOING
AWAY, AND WORSE THAN THAT, I
THINK THAT IT IS CAUSING REALITY
DENIAL, WHAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE
CALLED POST TRUTH.
IN THE UNITED STATES, WE HAVE
PEOPLE WHO ARE NOW MEMBERS OF
QANON OR DENYING THAT THE 2020
ELECTION WAS LEGITIMATE OR WHO
THINK THAT THE JANUARY 6TH
INSURRECTIONISTS WERE JUST
PEACEFUL PROTESTERS OR, WORSE,
THAT THEY WEREN'T EVEN
PROTESTERS, THAT THEY WERE
MEMBERS OF ANTIFA IN DISGUISE.
THIS IS ALL PART OF REALITY
DENIAL.
IF WE DON'T FIGHT BACK AGAINST
DENIAL, I THINK WE'RE IN BIG
TROUBLE?

Paikin says,
AND IN OUR LAST THIRTY SECONDS,
LEE, WHAT WILL CONSTITUTE SUCCESS
FOR YOUR MISSION?

Lee replies,
MY MISSION IS TO WRITE THIS
BOOK AND PUBLICIZE IT AND GET
MORE PEOPLE CONVINCED THAT THEY
ACTUALLY CAN HAVE A ROLE.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO JUST WALK
AWAY.
THERE WAS AN EMPIRICAL STUDY IN
THE SUMMER OF 2019 THAT SHOWED
THAT TECHNIQUE REBUTTAL WORKS, A
SCIENTIFICALLY SIGNIFICANT
RESULT AGAINST SCIENCE DENIERS
AND WE ALL HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY,
NOT JUST THE SCIENTISTS, ALL OF US.
PICK OUT THAT COUSIN OR UNCLE
AND HAVE A CALM, RESPECTFUL
CONVERSATION. YOU JUST MIGHT
CHANGE THEIR MIND.

Text reads, “Dealing with Science Denial. Produced by: Cara Stern @carastern”

Paikin states,
THAT SOUNDS LIKE GREAT ADVICE
AND WE ARE HAPPY TO HAVE PLAYED
OUR PART TONIGHT IN GIVING YOU
SOME AIR TIME TONIGHT ON TVO TO
DISCUSS IT. "HOW TO TALK TO A
SCIENCE DENIER” HAS
BROUGHT LEE McINTYRE TO OUR
AIRWAVES TONIGHT FROM BOSTON,
MASSACHUSETTS.
LEE, AS ALWAYS, GREAT TO HAVE
YOU ON THE AGENDA.

Lee responds,
I REALLY ENJOYED IT.
THANKS FOR HAVING ME BACK.

Watch: Dealing with Science Denial