NCSE's Rosenau in Trends in Microbiology

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NCSE's Joshua Rosenau's invited essay "Science Denial: A Guide for Scientists" was published in Trends in Microbiology 2012;20(12):567-569. After a discussion of a successful vaccination drive at the Dragon*Con science fiction and fantasy convention, promoted by conference-goers in Harry Potter costumes, Rosenau comments (PDF), "Microbiologists are at the forefront in defending vaccination. Yet they are also in a position to combat creationism, climate change denial, rejection of the link between HIV and AIDS, and many other science denials. Winning on any of these fronts requires an understanding of what science denial is and where it comes from. Science denial is wrong and harmful, but not antiscience nor irrational. It is driven by genuine fears and deep personal values."

After briefly reviewing a variety of the psychological processes and social pressures that produce and sustain science denial, Rosenau recommends, "Scientists and science communicators can use these lessons to improve their outreach to audiences sympathetic to science denial. The messengers most likely to break through will be those who share a social identity with the science-denying audience. Their mere existence undercuts the belief that an individual cannot belong to this group and accept the science. When they discuss how they accommodate their scientific understanding and their social identity, they offer the audience a possible roadmap towards acceptance of the science" — in the case of the Dragon*Con drive, "with a syringe in one hand and a wand in the other."