I remember this cartoon from some years ago. I was happy to come across it again, shared by a Facebook friend, in a post Why You Can’t Win That Argument on the Internet by Adam Dachis, which links to an article The Backfire Effect by David McRaney.
McRaney’s point is a simple one:
The Misconception: When your beliefs are challenged with facts, you alter your opinions and incorporate the new information into your thinking.
The Truth: When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.
He supports his claims about this Backfire Effect with evidence from a scientific study. Apparently this happens “instinctively and unconsciously”.
This is why hardcore doubters who believe Barack Obama was not born in the United States will never be satisfied with any amount of evidence put forth suggesting otherwise.
When arguments like this happen on the Internet, this is the result:
Most online battles follow a similar pattern, each side launching attacks and pulling evidence from deep inside the web to back up their positions until, out of frustration, one party resorts to an all-out ad hominem nuclear strike. …
What should be evident from the studies on the backfire effect is you can never win an argument online.
Sounds familiar? Dachis summarises the argument as
McRaney points to several studies showing how people are willing to completely ignore scientific proof that their beliefs are wrong.
How much more true this is, whether the proof is scientific or biblical, when the beliefs are part of their Christian faith!