The limits of evidence based marketing and climate science

Despite the millions spent by the Brothers Koch to convince us that climate science is a conspiracy, I often wonder why so many people call themselves skeptics.  After all, climate change denialists seem to be playing a game of Whack-a-Mole, where no matter how many times you disprove their critiques, they offer them again and again.  Seth Godin talks about the limits of evidence-based marketing in his blog, offering a vision of how the tide may end up turning against the Flat Earth society.  Godin infers that at this point, there is nothing that scientists can do to convince a hardened skeptic:

“Here’s the conversation that needs to happen before we invest a lot of time in evidence-based marketing in the face of skepticism: ‘What evidence would you need to see in order to change your mind?’  If the honest answer is, “well, actually, there’s nothing you could show me that would change my mind,” you’ve just saved everyone a lot of time. Please don’t bother having endless fact-based discussions…What would you have to show someone who believes men never walked on the moon? What evidence would you have to proffer in order to change the mind of someone who is certain the Earth is only 5,000 years old? If they’re being truthful with you, there’s nothing they haven’t been exposed to that would do the trick.”

Instead, Godin writes that the best tactic to convince skeptics is a necessarily slow, painful process: eventually enough of the right opinion-makers will be convinced:

“Of course, evidence isn’t the only marketing tactic that is effective. In fact, it’s often not the best tactic. What would change his mind, what would change the mind of many people resistant to evidence is a series of eager testimonials from other tribe members who have changed their minds. When people who are respected in a social or professional circle clearly and loudly proclaim that they’ve changed their minds, a ripple effect starts. First, peer pressure tries to repress these flip-flopping outliers. But if they persist in their new mindset, over time others may come along. Soon, the majority flips. It’s not easy or fast, but it happens.”

Where does that leave us?  It means that we should appreciate conservatives that do have sensible views of climate science; it means that birthers and climate science denialists will make a lot of noise, but ultimately will not be swayed by reason; it means that we should continue to use reason, but expect that it will get us nowhere with certain people.  It means that for the immediate future, America will continue to have a very complicated presence in climate negotiations.

According to Jim DeMint’s logic…

This week I volunteered at the Tennis Hall of Fame, and received access to watch the matches Tuesday on the grass courts.  I enjoyed seeing Nicholas Mahut up close after the historic match at Wimbledon.  However, Tuesday afternoon the temperatures in Newport were 105, considering the high humdity.  It was so hot that I could only stand to stay in the stands for a few games at a time before I had to seek out the shade.  While I was hydrating and cooling off, I couldn’t help thinking of the Washington, D.C. snowstorm this past February, when DeMint posted this on Twitter:

‘It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries “uncle”‘

See, Republicans like DeMint, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh were howling that February day that the record snowfall meant that Global Warming was a myth.  Well, by that crazy logic, the localized weather we New Englanders felt this week is evidence of runaway Global Warming.  Denialists try to poke holes in bits and pieces of climate science, and take pride in their lack of faith in science.  The problem is that there is no logic to their beliefs.  If there were, they would take this localized heat wave as evidence of Global Warming.  However, don’t be fooled, logic is not their purpose; rather, they just want to obfuscate to prevent any sacrifice on their part.