Effective strategies for rebutting science denialism in public discussions


Science deniers question scientific milestones and spread misinformation, contradicting decades of scientific endeavour. Advocates for science need effective rebuttal strategies and are concerned about backfire effects in public debates. We conducted six experiments to assess how to mitigate the influence of a denier on the audience. An internal meta-analysis across all the experiments revealed that not responding to science deniers has a negative effect on attitudes towards behaviours favoured by science (for example, vaccination) and intentions to perform these behaviours. Providing the facts about the topic or uncovering the rhetorical techniques typical for denialism had positive effects. We found no evidence that complex combinations of topic and technique rebuttals are more effective than single strategies, nor that rebutting science denialism in public discussions backfires, not even in vulnerable groups (for example, US conservatives). As science deniers use the same rhetoric across domains, uncovering their rhetorical techniques is an effective and economic addition to the advocates’ toolbox.

Read full text


Schmid P, Betsch C. Effective strategies for rebutting science denialism in public discussions. Nat Hum Behav. 2019 Jun 24. doi: 10.1038/s41562-019-0632-4. PubMed PMID: 31235861.

Keywords: effective strategies, advocates for science, rebutting science denialism, vaccination, public discussions, scientific misinformation.

Join for free INPST as a member

The International Natural Product Sciences Taskforce (INPST) maintains up-to-date lists with conferencesgrants and funding opportunitiesjobs and open positions, and journal special issues with relevance for the area of phytochemistry and food chemistry, pharmacology, pharmacognosy research, and natural product science.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments