The Debunking Handbook Explains The Art Of Shooting Down Misinformation

The Debunking Handbook Explains The Art Of Shooting Down Misinformation

The Skeptical Science web site works to debunk the critics of global warming, and works hard to do so. A new handbook put out by the site, The Debunking Handbook, is a veritable how-to guide to the practice of shooting down any misinformation, whether that’s a global science issue or your organisation’s belief that “password123” is a secure password.

In other words, you can glean some really helpful lessons from The Debunking Handbook that you can apply far beyond the endless back-and-forth of global warming discussion. Whatever misinformation you want to dispel — in an email, in a blog post, in a meeting — you need to, for example, avoid the Familiarity Backfire Effect, where mentioning the misinformation specifically only lends to people becoming more familiar with that myth.

Not mentioning the myth is sometimes not a practical option. In this case, the emphasis of the debunking should be on the facts. The often-seen technique of headlining your debunking with the myth in big, bold letters is the last thing you want to do. Instead, communicate your core fact in the headline. Your debunking should begin with emphasis on the facts, not the myth. Your goal is to increase people’s familiarity with the facts.

The Debunking Handbook is a free, short PDF from Skeptical Science that’s a helpful weapon in any war against impractical myths.

The Debunking Handbook [Skeptical Science – PDF link]


  • That should be renamed The Pushing Propaganda Handbook. The fact that they are still using consensus (a purely political concept) in their example to decide who is right and who is wrong in science (and quoting the 97% figure from a discredited and totally flawed online survey) just shows they have no interest in science and scientific method and are only interested in telling others what they deem to be FACT.

  • The vast majority of things we “know” depend entirely on whether we trust the person or institution telling us. Few have the time or skill to test everything. Placing the “fact” in the headline won’t make me trust the fact if I don’t trust you. Re: Global warming: Who do you trust? The IPCC as proven liars or unpaid sceptics pointing out the lies?

  • This should just be called a Persuasion/Brainwashing/Conversion Handbook

    This has nothing on how to actually determine facts from myth, and has everything to do with how to tiptoe around someone’s mental defenses to convert them to your world view/set of ‘facts’, not creating true understanding

    It’s like teaching a parrot to talk like you, the parrot still has no idea what those words mean

  • “The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice versa.” R.A. Heinlein

    See also…
    “No statement should be believed because it is made by an authority.”

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