People tend to limit their reading to sources that agree with their beliefs. We find ourselves mostly preaching to the choir; our message usually doesn’t reach those who most need to hear it. I recently received an inquiry from a science-based medical doctor asking how to approach others in building a bridge to clarify so much misinformation.
My first thought was that you can build a bridge but the real challenge is persuading people to cross that bridge. Like leading a horse to water…
How to approach others? That’s a tough question. The best approach varies with the individual and with where he is in his journey. Confrontation seldom works: it just makes people angry. It is counterproductive: it only serves to make them invent more rationalizations to defend their beliefs. Although sometimes anger can be a good thing. I got an e-mail from an acupuncturist who was incensed by an article I wrote saying that acupuncture was not based on good evidence. He set out to prove me wrong by looking up the evidence behind what he had been taught by his teachers about acupuncture’s efficacy for specific conditions, and when he couldn’t find any, he realized that his teachers and his textbooks had misled him with lies. He gave up acupuncture and went back to school to learn a science-based health profession.
If someone has never had his belief challenged and thinks it a universally accepted truth, it might do some good to show him otherwise. When I was in the dentist’s office earlier this week he asked me what I thought about detoxification. I told him I thought it was a pseudoscientific concept with no scientific validity, that proponents couldn’t even tell you what those “toxins” were, much less measure how much had been removed, and that there was no evidence that detox objectively benefitted patients. He had me repeat this to his assistant who was currently doing a detox. She looked at me very strangely and I may have created an enemy for life. But just possibly I may have started a small crack in her certainty that might someday widen to let accurate information seep in.
Some people respond to accurate information. I belong to the Healthfraud discussion list on Quackwatch and we have had several people thank us for providing accurate information, debunking false information, showing the fallacies in arguments for claims, and helping them learn about the scientific process. They tell us they have discarded their previous false beliefs because of what they read there.
When I spoke at a local college I mentioned that diet supplements are not regulated like FDA approved drugs and have been found contaminated with everything from insect parts to prescription drugs, and that dosages sometimes vary wildly from what the label says. One older student got very upset and said she was going right home to clean out her cabinet and throw all those products away.
I have gotten e-mails from people who decided not to waste their money at the Amen Clinics or on treatments with the DRX-9000 spinal decompression machine after reading my articles.
Unfortunately, many people do not respond to accurate information. Some people choose to form strong beliefs on hearsay or personal perceptions or ideological grounds without any input from science. Scientific information is irrelevant to them so they are not likely to change their minds no matter how much evidence from scientific studies you throw at them. It is useful to ask people what evidence it would take to change their minds. True believers frequently say nothing would change their minds: they know they are right and they are sure that testing would only serve to demonstrate the truth of their beliefs. It’s a waste of time to talk to these people.
I met a believer in dowsing and I gave him a book explaining the ideomotor effect, showing that dowsers had never been able to pass controlled tests, and debunking dowsing in detail. We held a public debate afterwards, and what he said was as if he had never read the book. He managed to just ignore everything in it: his “pro” side of the argument boiled down to two points: he’d personally seen it work and lots of people believed in it. That was enough for him.
Then there are people who are capable of responding to new information but don’t want to hear it. Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind’s made up. It’s more comforting to have a belief and stick to it than to deal with uncertainty.
Something I haven’t tried yet but want to: ask them if they know of something that doesn’t work but that some other people believe in. Once you find something they reject, you might be able to argue that logical consistency requires that their pet remedy be rejected on the same grounds. For instance, if they reject bloodletting to balance the humors but accept reflexology, you might point out that during the many centuries bloodletting was used, there were far more testimonials from patients and doctors than there are for reflexology today. So if they accept reflexology on the basis of testimonials, they should logically accept bloodletting on the same basis. If they reject bloodletting because science showed it didn’t work, they should look more closely at what science says about reflexology.
Humor can be effective in making a point, like the comedian who said “Of course science doesn’t know everything; it KNOWS it doesn’t know everything, otherwise it would stop.” And like Mark Crislip’s “Alternative Flight.”
The best strategy would be to guide people to discover the truth for themselves and claim it as their own, but I’m afraid I don’t have the patience or the psychological acumen to carry that out. It’s too bad Socrates isn’t around to help.
I am not foolish enough to think I could ever influence true believers; but even for them, it might be possible to plant a tiny seed of doubt that might be reinforced by future experiences and might eventually grow into a plant. Dripping water can wear away the hardest stone over time. But realistically, I can only hope to reach the fence-sitters: those who have not yet irrevocably made up their mind.
I hope readers will share their own success stories and bridge-building ideas in the comments section.
- Journal | Annals of Internal Medicine - July 18th, 2015
- Week 2 of tga genetics, organic medicine - Video - April 14th, 2015
- 3398 how to draw medicine easy step by step video - Video - April 14th, 2015
- Flea Medicine for Cats and Dogs - Best Deal Online! - Video - April 14th, 2015
- The Poisoner s Handbook - Medicine in the Early 20th Century (HD Documentary) - Video - April 14th, 2015
- Dr. K's Medicine Show @ The Compound 4/11 - Video - April 14th, 2015
- 24 In. x 29 In. Recessed or Surface Mount Medicine Cabinet with Bi-View Beveled Mirror in Silver - Video - April 14th, 2015
- 5 Simple Steps To Reduce Stress Fast Naturally (No Medicine) - Video - April 14th, 2015
- Flea Prevention Medicine Harms Dogs, Trifexis - Video - April 14th, 2015
- Foundation Medicine Announces Timing for First Quarter 2015 Financial Results and Conference Call - April 14th, 2015
- Regenerative Medicine Symposium set for April 24 at GRU - April 14th, 2015
- Jason Soklofske assault charge prompts police reminder - April 14th, 2015
- Dr Samantha Anandappa,International Conference on Health & Medicine - Video - April 13th, 2015
- China's cruel 'farms' that harvest bear's bile for medicine - Video - April 13th, 2015
- Magnito - Mr Medicine [Official Video] - Video - April 13th, 2015
- Golf ball & Medicine Ball - Video - April 13th, 2015
- Tornado in Medicine Lodge, KS 4/8/15 Full Version - Video - April 13th, 2015
- 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe in Medicine Hat, AB T1B 3Z9 - Video - April 13th, 2015
- Clint Sock - Medicine - Beat Prod By: TgSoundz - Video - April 13th, 2015
- The Social Transformation of American Medicine The rise of a sovereign profession and the - Video - April 13th, 2015
- Download By Chamberlain s Symptoms and Signs in Clinical Medicine An Introduction to Medical Diag - Video - April 13th, 2015
- The Sims 4: Get To Work Part 3: Medicine Time! - Video - April 13th, 2015
- Full-Body Medicine Workout - Video - April 13th, 2015
- Modernizing Medicine to Showcase Third Generation Cloud, Mobile, Data EHR Technology at HIMSS15 - April 13th, 2015
- Emergency Medicine Physicians and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe Announce Formation of US Acute Care Solutions - April 13th, 2015
- Study Reveals Why Emergency Medicine Physicians Are Sued - April 13th, 2015
- Penn Medicine pain management study reveals patient confusion about opioid addiction - April 13th, 2015
- South African Sports Medicine Leader Serves as AMSSM International Visiting Fellow - April 13th, 2015
- Great Timing For Athersys, Other Stem Cell Companies Amidst Improving Regulatory Landscape - April 13th, 2015
- Alnylam and Collaborators Publish Pre-clinical Study Results in Nature Medicine on ALN-AT3, an Investigational RNAi ... - April 13th, 2015
- What one of the anti-vaccination movements least favorite doctors discovered about Jesus - April 13th, 2015
- Sports Medicine Physicians of AMSSM to Restore Recreational Area For Boys and Girls Club Carver Ranches Unit - April 13th, 2015
- Medicine Cabinet Makeovers - Video - April 12th, 2015
- April 8, 2015 - Medicine Lodge, KS Hook Slice - Video - April 12th, 2015
- creative medicine - Video - April 12th, 2015
- FOX Sports Keck Medicine of USC Report: Treating Rotator Cuff Injuries - Video - April 12th, 2015
- Admissions for Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) Degree and PreMed Program at IUSOM - Video - April 12th, 2015
- BuildingNY: Jan T. Vilcek, MD: NYU School of Medicine & The Vilcek Foundation - Video - April 12th, 2015
- FROMBall - Medicine Ball - Instructional Performance Training - By Reactsport.com - Video - April 12th, 2015
- Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman Season 2 x Episode 04 The Incident - Video - April 12th, 2015
- San Juan Bautista School of Medicine Class of 2018 (Goofy Games) - Video - April 12th, 2015
- Witness - Baba Yetu by the UST Medicine Glee Club - Video - April 12th, 2015
- San Juan Bautista School of Medicine Class of 2018 GOOFY GAMES 15 - Video - April 12th, 2015
- Side Effects Of Fertility Medicine - Video - April 12th, 2015
- Full automatic medicine packaging production line manufacture email@example.com - Video - April 12th, 2015
- Download Bicycling Medicine Cycling Nutrition Physiology Injury Prevention and Treatment For Ride - Video - April 12th, 2015
- Download Central Pain Syndrome Pathophysiology Diagnosis and Management Cambridge Medicine PDF - Video - April 12th, 2015
- 4/8/15 - Medicine Lodge, KS Tornado - Time Lapse & Chase Video - Video - April 12th, 2015
- Bad Medicine@captains quarters/Zep/Good time"cover" - Video - April 12th, 2015
- Copy of Lifestyle Medicine Seminar on Mindfulness and Health, 10/1/14, St Clair Hospital - Video - April 12th, 2015
- Homeopathic medicine from snake venom can arrest spread of HIV: Researchers - April 12th, 2015
- IN PHOTOS: Indonesian integration in a medicine shop - April 12th, 2015
- 04-08-15 Justin Hoyt Tennis Ball Sized Hail Medicine Lodge, KS - Video - April 11th, 2015
- Medicine Lodge, KS Tornado 4/8/15 - Video - April 11th, 2015
- Medicine Bear and Son Monarcos LIVE at HASHTAGBAR Staten Island 4/8/15 - Video - April 11th, 2015
- Century Dual Grip Medicine Ball, Black, 16 Pounce - Video - April 11th, 2015
- Tinnitus Goes Away On Its Own Ringing In The Ears Relief Medicine Phone 1 800 314 2910 - Video - April 11th, 2015
- Moreno Boxing Medicine Ball 1 Training NY Kingsway Gym 2011 - Video - April 11th, 2015
- Meet Dr. David Gerst, Podiatric Medicine & Surgery - Advocate Health Care - Video - April 11th, 2015
- The Problem and Promise of Precision Medicine | TIME - Video - April 11th, 2015
- Medicine (Bullying Awareness Short Film) - For LunaLpsTV - Video - April 11th, 2015
- BBC Documentary 2015 The Truth About Your Medicine Cabinet - Video - April 11th, 2015
- Iboga: Tradition, medicine and politics - Dimitri Mugianis interviewed by Haydn Rippon - Video - April 11th, 2015
- Medicine, Science and Football - Video - April 11th, 2015
- The Hush Sound - "Medicine Man," "Not Your Concern" and "Honey" (Live in San Diego 4-9-15) - Video - April 11th, 2015
- Jix tape Great Medicine Ft Spydamonkee - Video - April 11th, 2015
- LIGHT! The Medicine of the Future! short 2015 04 10 1415 - Video - April 11th, 2015
- Steelers LBs' Offseason Workout Includes 'Danney-Ball' - Video - April 11th, 2015
- Journal of Sports Science and Medicine - April 11th, 2015
- Helomics to Present at the Personalized Medicine World Conference in Oxford, England - April 11th, 2015
- Scripps Translational Science Institute Director Dr. Eric Topol to Deliver Keynote Address at the 2015 BIO ... - April 11th, 2015
- AMSSM Launches New Sports Medicine Website Geared Toward Parents and the Public - April 11th, 2015
- Mount Carmel Community Outreach Mobile Coach and Street Medicine Program - Video - April 8th, 2015
- Dr. Tiffany Groen Family Medicine - Video - April 8th, 2015
- Dr. Jerome Daly Family Medicine - Video - April 8th, 2015
- Pokemon Soul Silver - Episode 2 - Ganja Gamers - Cyndaquil = Medicine / Let's Play / Gameplay - Video - April 8th, 2015
- Mumbai doctor develops promising medicine for AIDS patients - Video - April 8th, 2015
- Premier Chiropractic in Highlands Ranch, CO | Premier Chiropractic & Natural Medicine - Video - April 8th, 2015
- Ashley Nicole Greene - Medicine (Official) - Video - April 8th, 2015
- How to stop suffering with Pain and stop with Pain Medicine. - Video - April 8th, 2015