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Illustration by Jonathon Rosen

The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science

How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.

Mother Jones
Jun 18, 2013 · 16 min read

We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself.

Scientific evidence is highly susceptible to misinterpretation. Giving ideologues scientific data that’s relevant to their beliefs is like unleashing them in the motivated-reasoning equivalent of a candy store.

Head-on attempts to persuade can sometimes trigger a backfire effect, where people not only fail to change their minds when confronted with the facts—they may hold their wrong views more tenaciously than ever.

One study showed that not even Bush’s own words could change the minds of Bush voters who believed there was an Iraq-Al Qaeda link.

A predictor of whether you accept the science of global warming? Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat.

We all have blinders in some situations. The question then becomes: What can be done to counteract human nature?

Mother Jones

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