How to convince a sceptic – just give them the data

Over the years I have constantly heard the view that what climate academics are failing to do is “communicate with sceptics”. This is the biggest load of claptrap I’ve ever heard. It shows those doing this kind of research have no real understanding of sceptics.

The “communication is all that is needed” argument

The logic of this argument is this:

If person A is the authority on a subject and they assert B, then if person C rejects the assertion B, it is either because they have not been able to hear the fact B or they do not know that authority A is the authority.

This is because in social “science” like most arts subjects, most of what is written is mere opinion without many hard facts to back it up. In contrast real science is based on the facts and not opinion. But because social “science” is more an art than a science, when social “scientists” look at climate , they immediately accept that their own colleagues must be right and accept them without question them as the undisputed authority. Therefore when they see sceptics they believe that our rejection of the statements of their authorities must in some way be because the communication of the views of their authorities has not got through for some reason.

The autonomous sceptic

In the previous article I mentioned that I was developing a theory that sceptics tended to be more autonomous and able to think for themselves than alarmists who tend to be group-thinkers who need and value a consensus.
Unfortunately, or in retrospect – predictably, academia doesn’t have much research on “autonomous thinkers”. Indeed, it is as if academia doesn’t recognise the concept of individuality or that people can think for themselves. It certainly has very little research looking at the benefits of having people able to work on their own. And this was the intial hypothesis I was trying to test with the survey (together with getting demographics).
To try to discern some measure of “autonomous thinking” I developed various questions which came from a variety of sources. These are by nature qualitative and without comparison the results are quite meaningless. (Unfortunately, without the necessary academic help I was unable to obtain comparative results. And now these results & hypothesis are being made public any survey will be biased.)

The key question

With all these qualitative questions, I wanted something more quantitative. So I wanted to get hard evidence confirming what my previous research suggested and that was that sceptics were less willing to accept the views of academic researchers.
I hit upon a question which sought to work out how credible the participants viewed the statements of various “authorities”. I needed some authority based on science which most people would accept as credible.¬†In an international scientific debate where we know participants would be “sceptical”, it was difficult to think of any area of science which was common throughout the world and where most participants would have a similar level of knowledge and which was not in some way open to “debate”. Therefore I chose an area common to us all which is medicine.
I needed two extremes and journalists and politicians were one obvious extreme which most people accept are highly dubious. However, I needed the other extreme. I had read somewhere that of all professionals doctors were seen as the most credible. So, I chose the family doctor as the person most people would accept as an authority on something as simple as a flue epidemic. This is because I assumed that because a doctor has immediately knowledge from their own patients and from their colleagues that almost everyone would see them as an undisputed authority.

A medical association reports a flu epidemic.
Doctor: Your doctor says there is a flu epidemic.
Newspaper: A newspaper reports a flu epidemic
Gov: A government scientist reports a flu epidemic.
Acade: An academic journal reports a flu epidemic
You: You obtain data and work out there is a flu epidemic.

The above graph shows where participants placed various possible authorities. Column 1 means they were placed as being the most credible, whereas column 6 means they were placed as least credible.
And, the surprising result (for me at least), is that sceptics overwhelmingly put their own analysis above every other authority even General  doctors who I had assumed would be the acknowledged experts on something like a flu epidemic (Note I have three doctors & four vets in my close family so this might be personal bias).
If it wasn’t for the fact that overwhelmingly the participants of the survey are all very highly qualified in science and engineering and that overwhelmingly all have had over 16 years experience I might have considered sceptics to be arrogant in assuming that if they looked at the data their analysis is more credible than that of doctors dealing with patients and “in the know”. Instead it seems that sceptics are rightly confident in their own ability to analyse the data.
To put it very simply: it appears sceptics are just people who are not only qualified to analyse the data but also very experienced in analysing data, who rightly know they are competent to analyse the data and so more convinced by their own analysis than the statements of any of others.

How to convince a sceptic

So, this shows that it is very easy to convince a sceptic: don’t try to “communicate with them”, just give sceptics the data & let them analyse it themselves.

I’ve now filtered the data of all obvious personal information.
To access this data you must download this data and agree to and enter the following password:
“I will respect all participants whether sceptic or not”

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