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.
- Dallas Family Medicine - May 31st, 2016
- Medicine Mound, Texas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - May 31st, 2016
- Executive Medicine of Texas | Heath Consultants Dallas ... - May 31st, 2016
- American College of Sports Medicine - May 27th, 2016
- Old Crow Medicine Show - May 27th, 2016
- The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in ... - April 29th, 2016
- Medicine Merit Badge - U.S. Scouting Service Project - March 1st, 2016
- NYS Medicine - New York State Education Department - February 22nd, 2016
- Hatboro Medical Associates - Hatboro, PA - February 14th, 2016
- Welcome - Penn State College of Medicine - February 14th, 2016
- Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania - PennMedicine.org - February 14th, 2016
- Medicine | University of Oxford - February 1st, 2016
- Medicine - Idioms by The Free Dictionary - February 1st, 2016
- medicine - definition of medicine in English from the Oxford ... - January 17th, 2016
- Welcome to URMC - Rochester, NY - University of Rochester ... - January 4th, 2016
- Department of Medicine - December 29th, 2015
- Medicine - LWW Journals - Beginning with A - December 10th, 2015
- Duke Medicine - Duke University Medical Center - December 3rd, 2015
- Regenerative Medicine at the McGowan Institute - November 28th, 2015
- Falk recommended for appointment as Chair of ... - Medicine - November 25th, 2015
- Virginia Board of Medicine - November 25th, 2015
- What Is Medicine? A History Of Medicine - November 13th, 2015
- Department of Medicine - Massachusetts General Hospital ... - November 13th, 2015
- Medicine - Elsevier Health - November 13th, 2015
- Department of Medicine - University of Rochester Medical ... - November 13th, 2015
- WebMD Drugs & Medications - Medical information on ... - November 13th, 2015
- Medicine Center - November 13th, 2015
- medicine Facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com ... - November 9th, 2015
- School of Medicine - University of Utah - School of ... - November 6th, 2015
- WebMD - Better information. Better health. - November 2nd, 2015
- Medications Information - Index of drug monographs ... - October 19th, 2015
- Medicine dictionary definition | medicine defined - October 19th, 2015
- Journal home : Nature Medicine - October 19th, 2015
- University of Illinois College of Medicine, campuses locate... - October 16th, 2015
- Medicine - HowStuffWorks - October 15th, 2015
- UAB - School of Medicine - Home - October 6th, 2015
- Arts in Medicine - UAB Medicine - October 6th, 2015
- Category:Medicine - Wikimedia Commons - October 5th, 2015
- Medicine - The Fallout wiki - Fallout: New Vegas and more - September 24th, 2015
- Medicine - ScienceDirect.com - September 24th, 2015
- IOM Home - Institute of Medicine - September 24th, 2015
- WVU School of Medicine | Home Page - September 24th, 2015
- Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine - September 24th, 2015
- Science-Based Medicine - September 24th, 2015
- What Medicines Are and What They Do - September 24th, 2015
- Medicine facts and information | Encyclopedia.com - September 24th, 2015
- Medicine Home - University of Mississippi Medical Center - September 24th, 2015
- School of Medicine - September 24th, 2015
- Home : Department of Medicine: Feinberg School of Medicine ... - September 24th, 2015
- Home Page - Department of Medicine - UTHSCSA - September 24th, 2015
- College of Medicine - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign - September 24th, 2015
- University of Connecticut School of Medicine - September 24th, 2015
- Department of Medicine home page - September 24th, 2015
- UTHSC | College of Medicine - September 24th, 2015
- Department of Medicine: University of Maryland School of Medicine - September 24th, 2015
- Medicine | explorehealthcareers.org - August 29th, 2015
- Evidence-based medicine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - August 8th, 2015
- Journal | Annals of Internal Medicine - July 18th, 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
- 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
- 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