A generation ago, the flat-earther at the end of the bar or the anti-evolutionist in front of a congregation could be ignored. But today’s science deniers—climate change skeptics and Covid anti-vaxxers—threaten all of us: solutions to both global catastrophes require the public’s collective buy-in. Drawing on the latest academic research and his own experience speaking with those doubtful of established facts—including at a recent Flat Earth convention in Denver—McIntyre outlines the common themes and psychological roots of science denialism, illustrating a throughline from the disinformation campaigns created by tobacco companies in the 1950s to today's climate deniers, anti-vaxxers and Covid-deniers. Importantly, he also offers tools, techniques, and reasoning strategies that are effective in mitigating the effects of scientific disinformation. When science denial becomes a public health threat, all of us—laypeople and experts alike—have a responsibility to help combat it.
Lee McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University. He is the author of Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior, Post-Truth, and The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience, all published by MIT Press.