Scott Adams embarks on the Johnny Hart road


I don’t normally read Dilbert — I’ve seen far too much of the benighted ignorant psyche of its creator — but this one was just laid out on a table at the coffee shop yesterday, and I knew I’d have to deal with it. In this one, Dilbert goes full climate science denialist. This might be fun, to dissect Dilbert, because even though it will kill what little humor is present in it, at least we’ll have a good time laughing at Scott Adams. Let’s dissect the shit out of this thing.

Here’s the setup.

OK, this is sort of fine. I think it’s a good idea for companies to think about what impact climate change will have on them, and how they affect the environment. I’m at a green university, and we’ve had these sorts of discussions. Still do, all the time.

It is definitely true that human activity is warming the Earth. It will lead to a global catastrophe, depending on how you define catastrophe: it will cause acute economic disruption, resource wars, and the death of millions. Is that catastrophic enough for you?

By the way, I notice that the scientist is a goateed and balding white man in a lab coat. It’s either unconscious bias (that’s how scientists are supposed to look!), or, I can’t help but notice a weak resemblance to Michael Mann.

Next panel, Dilbert asks Scott Adams’ idea of a smart question.

On the face of it, yes, that is a good question. I’d encourage students to ask that every time an instructor told them something. But consider the context. The answer to that question is readily available — google it. You can read the papers. You should have the answer to that from your high school earth science class. So why is Dilbert being made to ask this trivial question right at the start of this meeting? I can tell right away that this is not a sincere question, this is a derailing tactic to justify a software engineer speaking out of his ass to the scientific expert. Sound familiar?

Then we get the eternal dilemma of the science popularizer. Do you just scorch this ass with contempt because you can see right through him, or do you try to take the question seriously and give the primer in kindergarten climatology he’s asking for?

You can’t win, you know. The game is rigged. If you do the former, you’ll be accused of being hostile and mean. If you do the latter, you’re patronizing and people will write scornful blog posts about how you think raw data dumps will cure all the scientific misunderstandings in the world.

So what do you do? Most of us will take the generous view and try to explain exactly what the questioner is asking for, like our Michael Mann surrogate here:

And that’s also fine. So far, the strip has been true to the characters, and the nature of their interactions. It’s denialist vs. scientist, familiar territory, and now it’s time for the funny, clever twist…but Adams can’t deliver. He has to resort to sticking words in the mouth of the scientist that are not at all true to the character.

That’s just wrong. It’s not what climate scientists say or even think. It’s what Scott Adams, who is no scientist of any kind, says and thinks. And with that betrayal of the premise of the joke, it abruptly falls flat and dies. If all you can do to discredit a point of view is to lie and make puppets say falsehoods, it’s your position that fails. Adams does this because he lacks any insightful response to the honest arguments of scientists.

I guess there’s supposed to be a punchline of some sort next. Once again, Adams fails to meet the minimal standards of his medium.

I think the punchline is supposed to be implying that science supporters can only defend their position by calling True Skeptics mean names. Of course, the entire point of the two panels just above that is to call climate scientists conscious liars.

The only people who will find this at all funny are the denialists who see the panels in which the climate scientist openly maligns his methodology as affirmations of their beliefs. That’s OK, it’ll finally be the death of Dilbert — I skimmed the comments and noticed several people were shocked that Scott Adams endorse an anti-scientific claim. Apparently they’ve never read his blog before.

I shouldn’t claim it’ll kill Dilbert, though. Nothing kills syndicated comics. Johnny Hart went full-blown creationist/evangelical Christian/anti-Muslim bigot, and newspapers just kept right on buying up the strips. Hart died in 2007, and B.C. is still going.

And people think tenured professors have it easy.

Comments

  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    ignore the [results] that look wrong to us.
    ??
    then run that data through long term economic models […] that have never been right
    — emphasis added

    Where did Dilbert find this dipshit to call himself a climatologist? Must have been Mr Pointy-hair, the Manager who always pulls up the worst case scenario as his solution to challenge Dilbert to work himself into a frenzy and never accomplish anything productive. “Look busy” is his mantra, “results are irrelevant”.

    I’m sure Adams’ “explanation” (ie “excuse”) will be that it is just an exercise for the reader, as he knows they will ‘of course’ see the flaw, when confronted by complaints. He’ll then duck into the room of sycophants who can’t understand anything but criticism of science, and enjoy high praise for “speekin trooth to those eleetist scientemists in there ivory towels’.
    *spit*
    shit, what happened to Adams? We used to pin his strips up on our cubicles to protest the pointless rigors of cubicle life in cube engineering. With his fame he seems to have run way off the rails into the abyss of stoopidnuss. yuck spit ptuie
    ?

  2. says

    The odd part of it is that just the basic, well-established evidence referenced in the 4th and 5th panels are enough to show that the global temperature is rising, most likely as a result of human activity. There seems to be this trend among more “sophisticated” climate deniers to direct their “skepticism” to computer models predicting the consequences of climate change in order to obfuscate the basic facts that a) CO2 is a green house gas, b) humans have been pumping large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere for the past hundred years or so, and c) as predicted, this has led to a rapid (compared to historical temperature changes) increase in the average global temperature. It’s similar to how intelligent design “scientists” try to conflate evolution with abiogenesis in order to use the weaker evidence for the latter to cast doubt on the former.

  3. themadtapper says

    Wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait. The climate scientist is supposed to be the one running economic models that have never been right? Did I sleep through the mass conversion of climate scientists to the Gospel According to Supply Side Jesus or is Adams projecting on a scale that could put I-MAX out of business? That question was rhetorical, by the way.

  4. robro says

    That’s the first Dilbert strip I’ve read in years. Not only is he still full of BS, but he’s boring and not funny.

    I’ve gotten the “how do we know” question from people in my family who probably get most of their (mis)information from Fox. One person did focus his question on Sarah A.’s “c) this has led to a rapid (compared to historical temperature changes) increase”. To paraphrase: “How do we know that the temperature has risen when thermometers have only been around for a couple of hundred years, and keeping records for the whole world is even more recent.” This obfuscates in a similar way: the technical uncertainties of measuring ancient temperatures using modern scientific methods does not refute the obvious steep increase in temperatures over the last century or so when accurate measurements were possible and were carried out over large parts of the Earth, much less in the last 40-50 years with the advent of satellite sensors.

  5. OptimalCynic says

    The IPCC economic models are some of the most well supported and robust in the whole field.

  6. says

    Adams wants to be that cool-headed college kid in Chick’s BIG DADDY? tract. It’s something you see over and over online—reactionary trolls shrieking at you, and believing they’re projecting cool control (because after unloading, they called their opponent “you silly person” after wishing death on their family).

    ps: It’s not showing my Gravatar or using the display name (Kip T.W.) that I just reset. I’ll go back and try again after I hit send.

    ps: “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail” and “Notify me of follow-up comments by email.” I will say no more.

  7. microraptor says

    All that strip needed was was an angry, man-hating comment from a female character to show all of Adams’s biases together in one place.

  8. zoniedude says

    Well, the engineer does ask “What if I don’t trust economic models” not that he doesn’t trust climate models. If you have kept current with Krugman and other top economists, economic models are notoriously wrong. Krugman has pointed out that more recent models have been more trustworthy but that nobody paid any attention to them in the last economic crisis.

  9. A. Noyd says

    Think Adams is sore over being told that his beloved libertarian economic dogmas aren’t supported by science but climate change is?

  10. jimzy says

    How do I subscribe? I have tried a dozen times over a year. PayPal never completes the order. The wheel just spins and spins. I have donated a couple of times and have just blocked ads on this website.

  11. bachfiend says

    When climate scientists talk of catastrophic AGW, they’re using ‘catastrophic’ in the mathematical or physics sense of Catastrophe Theory, in which in non-linear systems, small changes in one variable produce an abrupt change in the system as a whole.

    Catastrophes are related to ‘tipping points’ and positive feedbacks, of which there are many in the Earth climate system. For example, if the Arctic permafrost melts from a small amount of warming, then the resulting release of methane from buried decomposing plant matter will result in a sudden abrupt increase in global warming – a catastrophe as the Earth system goes from one temperature to a statistically significant warmer one without going through the intermediate temperatures.

    Catastrophic AGW might not produce a catastrophe in the commonly accepted sense of being something you want to avoid at all costs. AGW deniers such as the ecomodernists of the Breakthrough Institute look at catastrophic AGW, and think of ‘catastrophe’ as ‘opportunity’, and want it as a means to an end – catalysing a glorious future of universal prosperity.

    Personally, I think catastrophic AGW will produce a catastrophe in the common use of the word.

  12. quasar says

    Dillbert: “How do scientists know this?”

    Climate Scientist: “It’s easy. We start with the basic science of physics and chemistry. Then we sacrifice a goat to Zuul, and help the lizard people take over the government. Then we tell everyone climate change is real and rake in that sweet, sweet climate funding.”

    Dillbert: “What if we don’t trust the lizard people in the government?”

    Climate Scientist: “Then you will die with the rest when the purge comes.”

  13. bachfiend says

    Perhaps scientists need to adopt a different term other than catastrophic AGW in order to communicate with the public?

    People look at the small amount of current global warming, don’t see any current catastrophes, and think that a further warming of just 1 or 2 Kelvin won’t produce a catastrophe either.

    People are notoriously poor at judging the likelihood of future catastrophes. They happily build on the slopes of volcanoes, on geological fault lines or flood plains, thinking that if an unlikely catastrophe happens they’ll be able to run away in time.

    There’s no place (not the moon, not Mars) to run away to with the completely changed state of a future hotter Earth.

  14. screechymonkey says

    slithey tove @1,

    what happened to Adams? We used to pin his strips up on our cubicles to protest the pointless rigors of cubicle life in cube engineering. With his fame he seems to have run way off the rails into the abyss of stoopidnuss.

    I’d say that Adams has always been the same guy. He’s the kind of engineer that feeds the negative stereotype of engineers: the arrogant SOB who thinks he’s smarter than everyone, knows more about management than managers, more science than scientists, more about economics than economists, etc.

    He found success with Dilbert because making fun of the dumb boss is a pretty relatable formula. Everyone’s either had a dumb boss or thinks they have. And it was all fictional, anyway, so he could make the boss, the evil HR director, the airhead marketing director, etc. as caricatures and it was just normal creative license.

    So it’s not terribly surprising that Adams decided to extend that same approach to evolution, climate science, etc. It’s just that when you do that to real-world situations, the “only sane man surrounded by idiots” shtick becomes arrogance and straw-manning.

  15. m2cts says

    Responding to a denier’s list of assertions seems pointless, as climate change is a scientific matter requiring actual scientific arguments, and typically they present none. That said, one could make short work of it without even diving into the science. It would be perfectly rational to call it an open and shut case by simply acknowledging that the scientific community agrees that global warming is man made and requires that we reduce current CO2 levels substantially: Consensus is the true measure of scientific validity. What else can it mean that every single national scientific organization worldwide has accepted that man made climate change is real? Even organizations tied to fossil fuels and mining have done so because their members – the most honored and qualified people at the very top of a wide variety of fields – have been convinced by the scientific evidence presented. And no, this is not the fallacious Argument from Authority, but the valid Argument from Competence.

  16. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    shit, what happened to Adams? We used to pin his strips up on our cubicles to protest the pointless rigors of cubicle life in cube engineering. With his fame he seems to have run way off the rails into the abyss of stoopidnuss. yuck spit ptuie

    He got one thing right and from that decided the take-home was that he was smarter than everyone else and anything he found counterintuitive was obviously bullshit.

    Same as Dawkins, really.

  17. numerobis says

    bachfiend:

    When climate scientists talk of catastrophic AGW

    I’ve never seen that happen.

    I’ve seen them describe physical effects of climate change, and describe how this would likely be catastrophic. But not once have I seen a climate scientist talk of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

    Who I have seen use that term, over and over, is deniers.

    But thanks for the tone trolling.

  18. asclepias says

    The second I saw that damn cartoon this morning I knew there was going to be something in it that was wrong. I was not disappointed.

  19. bachfiend says

    numerobis,

    I stand corrected. I thought it was used in a science sense, and I thought that actually ‘catastrophic AGW’ was a good term in indicating the tipping point or runaway risk of global warming in the Catastrophe Theory sense of the word.

    The AGW denier Ian Plimer in his book ‘Heaven and Earth’ objected to ‘tipping point’ as not being a science term. ‘Catastrophe’ is. Surely there should be some way of communicating to people that a 1 or 2 Kelvin temperature increase doesn’t mean that it’s going to be 1 or 2 degrees warmer at all locations and places? And as a result is benign? Whereas in a complex system such as the Earth, small changes in one variable can and will have large unpredictable results.

  20. jaybee says

    Wait, Adams claims that the climatologists are the same ones running economic models? That seems unlikely.

    However, it does relate to a point I like to make. Thousands of climate scientists have spent decades collecting data, building and refining models, publishing papers, collecting more data, etc. Deniers feel free to dismiss it on a whim. Deniers also like to say things like, “Even if it is true, what you are proposing would be so expensive to fix as to collapse the global economy.” However, I have never seen that there has been any serious effort on their part to actual calculate and model the costs of taking corrective action — simply hand waving and saying it is impossible is good enough. Such intellectual rigor.

  21. says

    “Catastrophic AGW” is primarily a denialist turn of phrase. Sometimes they will just say “CAGW” as if it were an everyday acronym. It’s basically a way to deny that they’re denying — no, we’re not saying there is no global warming, just that it won’t be “catastrophic”, so therefore nothing needs to be done about it and we arrive at the exact same conclusion as we would if we were saying that the science was all a hoax — but we’re not saying that!

    It fails to make any sense, not just because “catastrophic” is an endlessly malleable concept, but because climate change isn’t like an acute disaster that happens once and then it’s done. Warming will continue indefinitely until we stop increasing atmospheric carbon, so the magnitude of the problem is entirely dependent on when and at what level we stabilize carbon concentrations, a discussion that people who prefer the answers to be “never” and “infinity” cannot meaningfully participate in.

  22. wzrd1 says

    @jaybee #25, indeed, climate scientists have indeed worked for decades in collecting data, building and refining models. What gives me great trepidation isn’t what their models suggest as a prognosis for our climate, but the wildly divergent from reality most, if not all of those models are proving – on a worsening rate side.
    If anything, those models show a far more gradual rate of change than is being observed.

    While weather is a short term part of climate, one cannot ignore things like the north pole hitting 0 Celsius in the heart of winter, the northwest passage opening multiple years in a row, Antarctic glaciers moving at record rates and Greenland’s glaciers moving also at record rates.
    All, while denialists fiddle while Rome burns. Denialists who refer to dead scientists making statements long after they’re dead, to muddy the waters and then further add mud that smells like excrement, redefine scientist to anyone who holds a BS, such as people with a BSN, a nurse. Obviously, a registered nurse is trained as a climatologist.
    As much as a proctologist is trained in disarming thermonuclear warheads.

    Frankly, I’ll not live to see the worst of climate change, which is advancing far faster than what models predict. But, my grandchildren will. That not only scares the hell out of me, it also royally pisses me off. What kind of traitor, for that is indeed they are, would sell out not only their nation, but humanity as a whole, for mere money?
    It makes me tempted to reexamine the prohibition against the corruption of blood and a writ of attainder, just for such cases! And that temptation nauseates me.

    I’m worried enough to have jotted off a quick note to a professor of climatology, requesting either a TA or even a bright student work with me to evaluate the code base of the modeling software. While, I’m not a climatologist, I am rather decent at examining trending of data sets from tens of thousands of disparate data sets.
    Oddly, for someone who is far from being a proper code wrangler, I am good at finding the deficient code is and on occasion, even properly coding a properly working patch. The rest of the time, my input helped the coding team refine the code equally well.
    But then, I do Boolean algebra and RegEx, on occasion, to 10k elements, in my head. Not a clue in the world how that happens, but what works, works. :)

  23. says

    slithey tove@#1:
    shit, what happened to Adams? We used to pin his strips up on our cubicles to protest the pointless rigors of cubicle life in cube engineering.

    Just because someone is your friend about one thing, doesn’t mean they’re not opposed to you on another.
    Adams is aware enough about corporate surrealism and bullshit that he could make it funny because he lived with it and understands it. Once he got famous he moved from his comfort zone and, having been validated and rewarded by a huge readership, it never sunk in that he was out of his safe zone and into the weeds. That happens a lot.

    (I know you were being rhetorical, I was trying to frame an answer for that question because I’ve been thinking it a lot and interested in the process of how one jumps the shark)

  24. Ichthyic says

    @#14

    Personally, I think catastrophic AGW will produce a catastrophe in the common use of the word.

    why are people not realizing that it already HAS?

    when you see things like 80% fishery collapses.

    90% coral reef bleaching.

    entire islands already disappearing.

    huge numbers of species already having huge changes in their distribution and abundance….

    IT ALREADY IS A FUCKING CATASTROPHE

    the only question is whether we will even bother trying to prevent FURTHER catastrophe.

  25. birgerjohansson says

    You know, up here in “marginal” climate zones (northern Alaska, Scandinavia) you can look out the window and see the changes.

    The physical dimensions of Sweden are actually changing since the tallest mountain has a thick glacier on top. As the glacier on Mt. Kebnekaise thins, the vertical maximum altitude of Sweden is adjusted downwards every year.
    — — — — — — — — —
    BTW I have found a companion for Dilbert: Here is a climate change-denying, evolution-denying monster that is consistently rude to everyone (look inside the bucket) http://wpcomics.washingtonpost.com/client/wpc/gz/2017/05/15/

  26. numerobis says

    bachfiend: I recommend you read the scientific literature and its popularizations, rather than the deniers’ versions, to see how things are explained.

    You can start with the video I posted above. Rignot says the word “tipping point” and I wouldn’t be surprised if he says “catastrophic” at some point.

    These aren’t tightly defined, but so what? The use of metaphors to explain a complicated concept doesn’t invalidate the concept except in the eyes of a denier of the concept.

  27. God says

    As a long time reader of this blog and the Adams blog I’m going take advantage of this and attempt to dispel what I see as some misconceptions about Adams being expounded here-
    Adams is not an engineer, doesn’t claim to be an engineer, and does not have an engineering education, software or otherwise. He once worked with engineers so what we see is his perception of engineering personalities and attitudes. His education is in economics. He does claim to be an expert on persuasion based on his being a “trained hypnotist” and extensive reading he has done. He’s gained some credibility for this among his readers (and trumpettes) for predicting Trumps win a year before the election based exclusively on what he saw as Trumps mastery of persuasion techniques.
    From what I’ve seen, his main problem with wholesale acceptance of evolution and climate change arguments is that as a layman he, and most other people, are unqualified to competently judge the validity of the arguments put forth by either side (even though he has stated that he believes both evolution and climate change are likely true). To me, his main concern seems to be with how do you convince one side or the other of the validity of the arguments given that they do not have your experience in assessing the arguments. He thinks science has a persuasion problem.

    What you see in this comic is his (ham-handed?) attempt at addressing the problem by attempting to point out that models are not a good way to convince lay people and that labeling the unconvinced pejoratively may not be effective. At least that’s what I think he’s doing; I didn’t much care for the comic either.

  28. m2cts says

    “models are not a good way to convince lay people”
    That’s probably true and it’s precisely why propaganda apparatus wants to steer public attention this way: easier to create doubt.
    But I’ll reiterate my point from above: We concede to experts willingly all the time, and here we have a case of for all intents and purposes full consensus by the people who know most. The Yale climate project has shown that once people understand about the full consensus they are much more likely to accept climate change and the need for action. It’s the Argument from Competence.

  29. Usernames! (╯°□°)╯︵ ʎuʎbosıɯ says

    As a long time reader of this blog and the Adams blog …
    — Scott “God” Adams (#22)

    I was wondering if Mr. Adams was going to show up; seems like he does every time PZ mentions him!

    Out of the gazillion blogs, facebook pages, twitter streams, pinterests, tumblrs, blah, blah, good ol’ Pharyngula is still where Mr. Adams checks in to see if he’s being laughed at (no wonder he loves Trump, they both have fragile egos) and can’t help but respond.

    [My] main problem with wholesale acceptance of evolution and climate change arguments is that as a layman [I], and most other people, are unqualified to competently judge the validity of the arguments put forth by either side.

    FTFY; it is the old GOP “I’m not a scientist, but…” switcheroo!

    And that’s where you’re wrong. One need only have a modicum of understanding of the Scientific Process, know how to look stuff up, and be able to form simple conclusions.

    Finding warming data is dead easy. The difference between climate scientists and trolls is climate scientists will show complete data sets (e.g., Global temps 1880-present) whereas liars, I mean deniers will cherry pick data to lie about the results (e.g., Global temps from 1997-2008).

    I didn’t much care for the comic either.

    Nope, definitely not a puppet, no way!

  30. says

    Accepting the consensus of a vast array of scientific disciplines is not like taking the word of a single self-proclaimed ‘expert’. One should always be wary of an ‘expert’, but clouds of them, with real credentials, all saying the same thing? Along with our small but observable changes in the local environment and climate? It’d be logically unsound to dismiss this theory, just as it is unsound to dismiss the old Earth theory, or evolution as a theory.

  31. God says

    I see we’re back to accusations of sock puppetry, I suppose there’s no helping it given Scott’s documented incidences. Be that as it may I’ll continue on-
    “And that’s where you’re wrong. One need only have a modicum of understanding of the Scientific Process, know how to look stuff up, and be able to form simple conclusions.
    Finding warming data is dead easy. The difference between climate scientists and trolls is climate scientists will show complete data sets (e.g., Global temps 1880-present) whereas liars, I mean deniers will cherry pick data to lie about the results (e.g., Global temps from 1997-2008).”

    I don’t disagree with any of this, but there appears to be a significant population of people who don’t see a credibility difference between the evidence climate change supporters provide and what the deniers provide. And while you may be able to easily tell the difference between a credible data set and one that’s not, a lot of people can’t or at least don’t want to put in the work to verify. So you can either rail against people’s stupidity at not accepting what you find obvious (and alienating them) or you can try to find a way to persuade them, at least if you’re really interested in changing their minds.

  32. KG says

    God@38,

    Thanks for the tone trolling, but how do you know that railing against people’s stupidity is not the most effective way of persuading them?

  33. God says

    KG@39
    How do you know it is?

    Why would you make such a blatantly stupid statement so easily contradicted? You must have the mental capacity of constipated platypus to put forth such nonsense.

    Are you persuaded yet?

    I don’t know if railing is effective or not. And you have a point about the tone trolling; I don’t post often and didn’t realize that this would come across that way, but I can now see how it could.

  34. wzrd1 says

    @God, what what an interesting moniker! Is it that subject matter experts don’t believe in you the actual reason that you do not believe in the subject matter experts?
    Do you deny what your physician tells you about your health? If so, why waste the time and money going to the doctor?

    There are many areas of expertise out there, not trusting the experts in those fields is a fool’s errand, in that, if one cannot trust those experts, one then has no way to guide one’s opinions.
    So, I trust fire experts in their advice on how to prevent house fires. I trust environmental experts on how to protect the environment. I trust law enforcement experts to enforce the law. I trust climatologists to explain the climate and when the overwhelming majority tell me that the climate is warming due to the activities of humanity, I take them at their word and I review the datasets that they present.

  35. says

    Scott Adams thinks he’s a hot-shit persuader.

    Scott Adams thinks he can make things happen by wishing real hard “affirmations”.

    With all that going for Adams, how could his Dilberito have possibly sank without a trace in the commercial marketplace?

  36. wzrd1 says

    @cubist #42, that was a serious effort? I honestly thought it was a joke gone awry.

  37. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Well ‘god’ might think that persuasion is the important thing. However they don’t appear to be very good at it themselves.

  38. microraptor says

    The New York Times noted the burrito “could have been designed only by a food technologist or by someone who eats lunch without much thought to taste.”

    Well, lack of taste certainly describes Scott Adams.

  39. says

    wzrd1 @43: Assuming the Wikipedia page can be trusted, the Dilberito was around for five years (1999-2003). Kind of a long time to keep a joke running, not so? As well, Adams is quoted as saying he lost “several million” dollars on the Dilberito, but given that it’s Adams saying so…

  40. mountainbob says

    Our local conservative rag removed Jonny Hart several years ago because of his blatant religious bigotry. So, it can happen, if enough people care to make the effort to voice their discontent. Those who are unhappy with the current direction of national affairs also need to heed this: a new election cycle is upon us (’17 and ’18 local, state, and Congressional). If you aren’t happy, don’t sit on it, make your thoughts public and support your preferred candidates at all levels with money, energy, and votes.

  41. KG says

    God@40,

    Stone me, just how stupid are you? I don’t need to know, or claim, that railing against people’s stupidity is the most effective way of persuading them in order to question your expressed certainty that it won’t change their minds. My own hunch is that different approaches will work on different people at different times. We’ve actually had a number of commenters here over the years state that it was something of that kind that led them to question their Christianity andor right-wing views – and in at least one case (“Walton”), seen the process happening in real time. And in your own case, it seems to have led you to question your own conviction:

    I don’t know if railing is effective or not.

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