Citing an article at Slate by Daniel Engber, Reason magazine science correspondent Ronald Bailey has some good news. As it turns out, when it comes down to it, people (including scientists) willing to accept facts if their conclusions are wrong. In other words, facts do matter to people after all. It was originally suggested that when someone comes to a conclusion about a particular issue, they tend to dig in rather than accept facts that contradict their conclusion.
According to Bailey:
Engber cites a new study, “The Elusive ckfire Effect,” soon to appear in the journal Political Behavior. The researchers tested more than 10,000 subjects for backfire responses to corrections of 52 factually wrong statements made by various politicians. The factually wrong statements included Hillary Clinton’s claim that gun violence is spiraling; Barack Obama’s assertion that discrimination is the sole cause of the gender wage gap; Donald Trump’s charge that Mexican immigrants engage disproportionately in criminal behavior; and Ted Cruz’s declaration that violence against police officers is rising.
An additional study conducted by two psychology students is also cited, respectfully, but what it all comes down to is people do pay attention and are willing to change their minds when presented evidence that contradicts their conclusions. While this will probably garner a no duh from many, oddly enough, academia is resistant to the Backfire Conclusion. Citing Engber Bailey points out:
I asked Coppock: Might there be echo chambers in academia, where scholars keep themselves away from new ideas about the echo chamber? And what if presenting evidence against the backfire effect itself produced a sort of backfire? “I really do believe my finding,” Coppock said. “I think other people believe me, too.” But if his findings were correct, then wouldn’t all those peer reviewers have updated their beliefs in support of his conclusion? He paused for a moment. “In a way,” he said, “the best evidence against our paper is that it keeps getting rejected.”
Ultimately, this is a good sign and the fact that so many Americans changed their minds over time on the issue of climate change after at first believing it was human caused is another example of how people are open to new evidence when it contradicts their original conclusion.
Engber correctly concludes his article stating: The end of facts is not a fact. In many ways, the assertion that facts don’t matter is one other means to try to shut down debate on certain topics and an indirect way to assert no one can know anything about anything. If someone assets facts don’t matter how is it that they know that since their trying to claim their statement is one?