As Alters and Alters write, to replace a misconception with a scientifically accurate one “[students] must understand these scientifically valid conceptions, think that they make sense, and find them useful in solving problems.” In other words, people accept controversial science when we help them convince themselves that the science is right.
How do you defend science when people ignore information they don’t like? One answer, according to a study published last month, is to emphasize the consensus of scientists, and explicitly “inoculate” people against deliberate misinformation campaigns. Researchers at the Yale Program on Climate Change Information presented study subjects with a simple statement of the scientific consensus — that 97 percent of climate scientists agree human-caused climate change is occurring. They followed that statement with an “inoculation” message that “some politically motivated groups use misleading tactics to try to convince the public that there is a lot of disagreement among scientists.”
These two approaches seem to be at odds. The first is entirely sensible, in my view, in that it empowers people with knowledge. The second is a logical fallacy in the form of an appeal to authority. Trying to appeal to authority to a group of people who think the ultimate authority is a supernatural entity that provided mankind with a set of infallible dogma back in the Bronze Age would seem to be a lost cause.
In fact, climate science is not that difficult if you just break it down to its constituent parts and give people the tools needed to understand said parts. In my view, Global Warming is Easy to Understand. Climate science is even in keeping with Bronze Age doctrine. Consider God’s command in Genesis 1:28:
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
By the logic of Judeo-Christian doctrine, mankind has dominion over earth. Mankind can subdue the earth. So, if it is God’s will that people can have this degree of authority over the earth, then of course we can influence earth’s climate. So, since Christians know it isn’t merely possible for us to influence the entire globe, but that it is actually God’s will that we do so, the next step is just to show them how the absorption and emission of photons by matter works so that they understand the physical mechanism of action upon which global warming rests.