Due deference to denialism

explaining ordinary people's rejection of established scientific findings

Neil Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


There is a robust scientific consensus concerning climate change and evolution. But many people reject these expert views, in favour of beliefs that are strongly at variance with the evidence. It is tempting to try to explain these beliefs by reference to ignorance or irrationality, but those who reject the expert view seem often to be no worse informed or any less rational than the majority of those who accept it. It is also tempting to try to explain these beliefs by reference to epistemic overconfidence. However, this kind of overconfidence is apparently ubiquitous, so by itself it cannot explain the difference between those who accept and those who reject expert views. Instead, I will suggest that the difference is in important part explained by differential patterns of epistemic deference, and these patterns, in turn, are explained by the cues that we use to filter testimony. We rely on cues of benevolence and competence to distinguish reliable from unreliable testifiers, but when debates become deeply politicized, asserting a claim may itself constitute signalling lack of reliability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-327
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Early online date30 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Belief
  • Climate change
  • Deference
  • Irrationality
  • Psychology

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