Highest Rated Comments

thegnome5420 karma

That's a really difficult situation, I'm sorry to hear that. There's no easy solution but I've heard a few things that could help.

1) It's best to treat conspiracy theorists almost like people with dementia. That is, don't argue against their ideas. You don't have to agree with them, but try gently steering the conversation towards positive things you both believe in. It can be good to talk about happy memories you've had together, for example. This will prevent them from getting further isolated from you and hopefully keep you in their life as a source of information and help/comfort when they need it.

2) Conspiracy theories are not really about knowledge. Giving facts and rebuttals will rarely help - more likely, people will dig in. It may seem paradoxical, but conspiracies can give a sense of control and safety when everything seems to be in upheaval. The appeal is often this feeling of control and agency. It may help to focus on the ways that your family member does have control in their life to fill this same need.

3) Liberals and conservatives tend to have different moral foundations. Liberals respond to arguments from fairness and harm reduction, while conservatives favor in-group loyalty, authority and purity. Depending on your family member's beliefs, you may have a better chance focusing on the appropriate framing.

Sadly it's incredibly difficult to reverse conspiracy beliefs. The best you can do may just be to stay in their life as much as you can and make sure their beliefs don't isolate them from their sources of support.

thegnome5413 karma

Great questions! Sorry this will be a bit long as I try to answer them all. Let me know if you'd like any clarification.

  1. The covid mRNA vaccines are the first mRNA vaccines to be used on a wide scale. We've experimented with mRNA vaccines before and there was ongoing research into using them against coronaviruses when the pandemic hit. Thanks to this, the Pfizer vaccine for example was actually on hand by April 2020! In theory we could have begun to innoculate people that early. We just had to wait for extensive safety trials before distributing them.
  2. The vaccine itself doesn't have any 'killing' parts. It's got a one-time, burn-after-reading instruction to create a small harmless piece of the novel coronavirus. This little piece works like a training dummy, and your own immune system learns to fight covid-19. The vaccine just speeds up the natural process your body uses to defend against diseases it has encountered.
  3. This is a vaccine! 'Traditional' vaccines involve putting dead/broken disease agents into your body. These serve as the training dummies for your immune system. The difference is that there are no parts of the virus in mRNA vaccines at all. Just mRNA instructions that your body can use to build a tiny part of the virus. It's kind of like giving instructions to draw a headshot that your immune system can distribute. The instructions (mRNA) are destroyed quickly and just the harmless headshots remain.

thegnome548 karma

Great question! Here are a few tips:

1) Don't repeat misinformation. It can stick with people emotionally even if they don't believe it. Say ‘you may have heard concerns about safety’ rather than ‘some people claim the vaccine itself will give you coronavirus’.

2) Use the truth sandwich - start and end with truth statements so they get more airtime and provide context. You can discuss the misleading ideas in the middle, trying not to repeat them!

3) Allow room to save face. People get emotional about being wrong - it's embarrassing. If you acknowledge that things have been confusing, people may be more willing to change their minds.

4) Pre-bunk misinformation! You can be proactive by talking about how there is a lot of bad information going around. Maybe you can give an example of bad reasoning, or a biased source. People who are warned about these things may be less likely to believe them later.

These are my top tips from the page I put together, and there are sources for them here if you'd like to read more: https://www.communicatetovaccinate.com/blank-7

thegnome548 karma

This is a great question that I struggled to understand when looking for work after my PhD! I wanted to do science communication and had a hard time finding opportunities.

There's a whole world of science media stuff - for example the amazing Kurzgesagt videos are made by a small company in Germany. There are also companies that make documentaries etc.

My current company is sort of academic-adjacent. We have a lot of connections in academia and also a lot of business development skill on our team. We do contract projects with different organizations and also get grants from various institutions and foundations. We might get funding to create videos or websites that connect scientific knowledge to a public need, as we've done with this website about covid-19 vaccination. Other projects aim to help research-funding organizations explain what they do and share their work with the public.

thegnome548 karma

This is a really ugly comment and I don't appreciate you insulting my coworkers like that. Please remove this.