I lived in Louisiana for many years.
In Louisiana there are people who are educated to follow relatively simplistic expectations of their lives. Men are raised to work in agriculture, they’re raised to take over their father’s vocation, they’re raised to work on oil platforms, or they’re expected to join the military. Women are raised with a little more emphasis on education, as though they’re kind of the “hope’ to make it to college with the tacit, grim acknowledgment most are probably going to end up dropping out and becoming stay at home mothers that end up developing an addiction or cheating on their partners.
They don’t tend to question a lot of things to be frank. They like their LSU football, they like their Nawlins Saints, they do their job, among my generation they ended up really enjoying their video games, they like hunting.
There simply hasn’t been an atmosphere that spurs a lot of scientific inquiry for a lot of people there. It’s not that they are inherently dumb, it’s not that they’re bad people, it just doesn’t affect their day to day so they don’t give it a lot of thought.
So this is where the crux of the issue comes in. My brother has basically gone head over heels for Reddit and tumblresque style abrasive, “anyone who disagrees with me is literally killing science” kind of stupidity. He can be right about things, sometimes he even is, but he swaggers in with this air of superiority to put other people down and acts constantly indignant when he tries to explain things to people by talking down to them and they shut the door on his face.
This comes up a lot over evolution. Believe it or not people in Louisiana aren’t huge on evolution. Again, it just doesn’t come up in their day to day lives very often and even if they believed it, who cares? Mix some people with some fervant biases against evolution and you get more people not believing in it than believing in it.
There’s my brother’s way of approaching the situation. Telling people they’re wrong, they’re idiots, they’re brain washed yokels, acting like he’s doing them a favor by gracing him with his conclusions, all the while snidely talking out the side of his mouth as though he’s distressed he has to actually explain this to anyone.
Maybe this satisfies his ego, maybe it makes him feel good about himself, but what it doesn’t satisfy is convincing 40 year old farmers and their sons about evolution. It doesn’t actually benefit his end goal any longer, he’s not going to convince anyone by talking down to them like that.
And maybe it’s for another discussion, but I don’t think he wants to change their minds, I think he wants to feel vindicated and validated by belittling them.
If I try to talk the merits of evolution with someone from Louisiana I don’t wax poetic about minds in the North East that think you’re backwards and stupid, I don’t attack their faiths. I don’t get into all the little ugly muck things. I realize immediately that they have kind of fallen into a defensive trap where a lot of people (and yes redditors, come to terms with yourselves, a lot of you fall into this category) have weaponized evolution and see it as some sort of metric to beat people over the head with. Evolution just “is”, and the more people you get to accept that, the better life will be. When it becomes a tool to batter people with or it becomes literally anything else than “it is”, you’re being a fucking chode and you need to stop.
So when I deal with them I go “You know how when you breed cows, you’re picking ones with certain milk qualities so they get passed on to the young ones?” Sometimes I’ll mix it up and go “You know how you want to breed two kinds of dogs to look a certain way or have certain features?” They’ll usually agree. And I’ll go “That’s all it is on a grand, terrestrial scale. Things with features live, features continue on, things without features die. After you do that long enough, the animal looks different.”
My favorite response was when someone goes “Like making a copy of a copy of a copy.”
And we’ll come to an agreement and usually they’ll go “Hell that’s all it is?”
Because the opposition is so often college age kids that want to feel superior to their parents, people like Bill Nye with his famous “Well look we don’t need you, what we need is your kids,” and radical atheists that believe that because genes pass on through selection God is dead, they’ve seen accepting that position as the absolute break down of everything about their lives, and to some people (like my brother) the evolution argument does represent an attack on everything about that person and their way of life.
So find a relatable term and break away the biases and the politicizations that make them toxic.
That’s how you do it.
As an additional tip, opinions aren’t conclusively decided exclusively by someone putting the facts together. They’re anchored to something inside of them. If you want to see change in someone you have to figure out what that conclusion is anchored to. Sometimes it’s just a fact, something legitimately that simple. “I read an article that said strawberries have hog testicles in them and I don’t want to eat hog testicles.” “No they don’t.” “Well I’ll be, guess strawberries are back on the menu boys”.
Sometimes it’s utterly irrational associations. For instance someone knew a gay kid in high school. The gay kid was a complete fucking asshole that used his homosexuality as a way to bully people. He would go out of his way to pester, annoy, and sexually harass people, then use the fact that he had a left leaning principle to shield himself from criticism or responsibility, so he always got away with it. The person now associates that kind of behavior, at a development stage, with homosexuality and they approach the topic leerily. Not hostiley, they may not even be homophobic, they may not hate gay people at all, they may even vote yes on gay marriage bills, but they still have that association that makes them err on the side of gays, but never want to be their ally.
Then there’s associations of belonging and something akin to pride. We all know about being too stubborn to admit you’re wrong, but this is an important distinction. Sometimes you meet people who believe X, Y, and Z. But X isn’t totally on point and they feel that if you remove X, they can’t believe in Y and Z. They’re betraying their past selves b y abandoning it, they’re betraying a group of people they like, or they simply feel that they will have to admit Y and Z are wrong too and that’s too much for them.
We’ll use WMDs as an example. Someone could genuinely believe that a) Saddam Hussein had WMDs b) Was a threat to international stability and c) Was a man who deserved to be toppled.
They are extremely reluctant to concede A, even in the face of the reality, because they’re anchored to the fact that they think Saddam Hussein was a threat. They wanted him gone, they feel glad he’s gone, they are confident in that position, but internally, if they start to regress on a single point, they’re also advocating an opposite point they detest, which is the idea that Saddam should have been there.
You have to find that anchor. You can find out what people think, but if you legitimately want to change their minds you need to figure out why they think it too.
And frankly, as I think about it, it’s a little pretentious to assume that someone should change their opinions so easily. Opinions and thoughts are complex things that come from long, complicated catalysts. No shit they aren’t going to change that because you put up a bullet point with some facts you found. If you can’t grasp that thoughts originate somewhere other than willful ignorance (and not precluding those that are willfully ignorant) and actually deserve to be reckoned with something that requires a little more effort than typing > at the end of a line of text on a reddit post, then you’re not in a position to be convincing anyone.
Imagine a world where people changed their minds so feebly and fickly based on things presented as facts. We get that from tumblrinas and radical femcrazies enough. Now imagine everyone in the world is like them, seeing something that others they trust call a “fact” and just automatically swallowing it.
The price we pay for scrutiny and all of its positives is that sometimes we have to accept that some people reach the wrong conclusions.