How to better dispel myths

Myths are tenacious. Many of us get frustrated in our attempts to try and set things straight because it seems like people will believe them against all the evidence. Trying to convince them they are wrong does not seem to work. But maybe we are going about it the wrong way, two authors argue, with the result that we end up actually strengthening the belief rather than weakening it.
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The rise of racism in the US

Theodore Parker (1810-1860) was an abolitionist who once said:

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

This was abbreviated by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his famous “Where Do We Go From Here?” speech of August 1967 where he said that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
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The great shrimp exercise scam

Science research can be tricky. There are many important questions that for various reasons cannot be investigated directly and so imaginative scientists try to find some proxy method that can shed light on the question. That proxy method can seem outlandish to people who are unable or unwilling to look below the surface to see what the connection is between the visible research activity and the underlying research question. Grandstanding politicians who are anti-science often seize on these things as examples of dilettante behavior by scientists and frivolous use of taxpayer money.
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The Ferguson shooting and the grand jury system

The grand jury has decided against bringing in a criminal indictment against police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown on August 9.

The question of who should get to decide whether a case should go to trial for a criminal offense is an important one. We do not want to clog up the courts with cases that should never have been brought but at the same time we need to ensure that people do not escape prosecution because officials in the legal system and law enforcement were protecting them. Grand juries (called such because they consist of a much larger group of people than regular juries) are one of the means that prosecutors use to decide if there is enough evidence to bring a case.
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When people try to be heroes

Last Friday, Ricky Jackson and Wiley Bridgeman were released from prison after serving 39 years for a crime they did not commit, convicted purely on the testimony of a then 12-year old boy Eddie Vernon who now admits that he did not see them commit the crime. There was no physical evidence connecting the men to the crime. The boy says that after he initially told police that he had witnessed the crime, they later coached him on what to say at trial. A third person Ronnie Bridgman, Wiley’s brother, was released in 2003 after serving 27 years.
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Glenn Greenwald takes apart Sam Harris

While Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins are seen as leading lights of the New Atheist movement of which I consider myself a member, I have come to detest their views on a large number of political and social positions, seeing them as lackeys of the neo-imperialism that is driving the western assault on the rest of the world and responsible for immense amounts of suffering. There is an overweening smugness about their sense of their own, and their tribe’s, superiority over those dastardly Muslims that I find unseemly.
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