Debunking myths is at the heart of the Garden Professors blog. The impetus for initiating the blog is rooted in Linda’s ‘Horticultural Myths’ Series and Jeff’s “The Truth About…” books. Unfortunately, I’ve never been especially good at myth-busting or debating. When confronted with someone with deeply held beliefs that are based on misinformation, it usually doesn’t take long for me to lose my cool and my arguments devolve into, “Pull your head out of your a— and face the facts…”
At a holiday dinner not too long ago, a relative suggested “You know, there may be something to the anti-immunization thing…” The words were barely out before I could feel my wife’s hand on my thigh in a futile effort to keep me calm. “Are you fricking nuts?” I shot back automatically. “The only reason Jenny McCarthy or anyone else can even THINK about not vaccinating their kid is because the rest of the herd already took care of business.” Fortunately cooler heads at the table changed the subject before the debate escalated to violence.
Now for the myth-busting challenged among us, Australians John Cook and Stephen Lowandowsky have developed the Debunking handbook. The guide looks at some of the psychology of myth-busting (A simple myth is cognitively more appealing than an over-complicated correction) and suggests debate strategies (Adhere to the KISS principle). The guide is linked at the SkepticalScience website and is largely geared toward dealing with climate change deniers, but the principles and tips are useful for dealing with all manner of scientific misinformation