I was all set to write my own blog post, “How to Argue with a Scientist” today (after some unfortunate interactions with non-scientists last week), but Jacquelyn already beat me to it!
The one addition I would make to her article is that many of us in the behavioral and learning sciences conduct single-subject research. We, of course, use the scientific method, and the extreme rigor of our experimental methodology obviates the need for inferential statistics, thereby allowing us to use a much smaller sample size than Jacquelyn describes here. Have fun reading this! It rocks!
I notice it all the time– on Facebook, in the comments of a science blog, over family gatherings, or listening to a radio talk show. Someone, maybe you, is patiently trying to explain how vaccines cause autism, perhaps, or why so-called “anthropogenic” global warming is really just due to sunspots or some other natural cycle. Perhaps you are doing pretty well at first, making use of passionate, heart-felt rhetoric and well-timed anecdotes. People are nodding their heads in agreement, and perhaps you’re even changing someone’s mind.
And then a scientist joins the discussion.
The conversation tends to devolve from here, turning into a debate and (often) ultimately a debacle. Scientists are notoriously difficult to argue with– for one, they’re so sure they’re right! This is true of most people, though– and it’s probably true of you. What makes it especially frustrating to argue with a scientist is the jargon they use; if…
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