Robin Ince – Comedy, Skepticism, And Happiness Through Science - now out over on my Curiouser and Curiouser column! It’s from the interview I conducted for the Token Skeptic podcast, episode #128.
Sturgess: I have another quote by you, which I think is a wonderful one: “You’re not going to woo people by attacking what they believe in. You woo people by showing them something more exciting and more interesting.” Now that must be very difficult to maintain at times, I think, but still very valuable.
Ince: I think sometimes you can just have fun being facetious. There’s no reason not to. Some of the engagements that I have with climate change deniers!
When you are at the level of journalists who are enjoying their contrarian position, just these rather unpleasant showoffs who are like men doing a little dance for their mother… they’re all ghastly people. Then you can speak facetiously because they’re not interested in knowing anything else apart from sitting in their very dogmatic and profitable position.
But I think overall when we’re dealing with day-to-day people who may well have been misinformed: that’s different. If you’re dealing with someone who is a creationist or believes in intelligent design—for many people the reason they believe in it is merely because they have been fed a lot of nonsense: there are no transitional fossils; the eye is too complicated; the flagellum; and so on. And there you do get a chance of telling them tremendously exciting stories about this long journey to selfconscious life that has happened.
You can first of all say, “Well, you’ve been in some ways misled by some of the facts you’ve been given.” But I think you can also start to tell them these wonderful narratives, this very slow process that has led to the creature that is wired as it is. I think that’s going to be much better than merely laughing in their face.
Also, a very lovely interview with the great Sharon Hill over on the CFI site, conducted by Paul Fidalgo: Helping the Truth Get its Shoes On: Sharon Hill and the Long Slog of Skepticism.
PF: I know that for me trouble arises when I am skeptical of something that someone, say, in my family totally buys into. I think a big challenge for skeptics these days is learning how to persuade—even converse—with people we love and respect, people who are otherwise smart or educated, but who give unwarranted credence to the unprovable or the absurd. For that friend who, for example, insists they have spoken to the ghost of their dead relative, or for that family member who can’t understand my reticence to spend money on alt-med herbs and whatnot, how do I have that conversation without getting trapped in “That’s exactly what theyWANT you to believe!”
SH: Very true about people around you — I don’t like confrontation. But, I’ve had some success with talking to people online who have a 180-degrees view from my own. It requires you treat them with respect and engage in a discussion. We all arrive at this moment as a result of different journeys. No one has experienced exactly what another person has. Experiences shape your worldview and your worldview is not something that one just wakes up and discards one day. So, I try to consider that a person’s beliefs are their rock. The best way to disavow them of a dangerous or nonsensical belief may be to gently chip at the rock, crack it, or persuade them it might be time to let it go. Being harsh usually does nothing but make the other person dig in deeper. Persuasion takes a long time and the person must agree to give up one view in place of another view. I will try to ask that person questions about why they believe. How do they know? Making them feel stupid means you lose them entirely.
Also – Sharon has a fantastic column over at the CSI site too, so do check out Weird news: Believe it? Or not? for Sounds Sciencey!