“In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.”
We humans, don’t like mental stress and therefor we will try to avoid information which causes it or which will increase it. In order to reduce it we can change our opinion or behavior if we are willing to do so but many people will ignore or deny any information that is in conflict with existing beliefs.
In his 1956 book “When Prophesies Fails” Festinger recalls that the result of a failed prophecy of a cult believing that a UFO would land and that only cult members would survive the destruction of the earth, did not result in a change of their belief but instead they explained, that the aliens had given the world population a second change and that they now must go out in the world to spread their religion even more strenuously. The failure increased their belief instead of eliminating it.
To many of us where this tendency is not very strong, we are perplexed by these people, who cannot see the illogical position they take and consider them stupid and uneducated. This is not the case. There are many highly educated and intelligent people who have a strong, perhaps inherited, tendency to reduce dissonance by ignoring or denying information conflicting with their beliefs and literally cannot change their position but try to justify it by, what sometimes seems to others, illogical and unbelievable arguments.
We cannot change their opinions or beliefs. That should be understood and tolerated of course. I personally wouldn’t care but I do think that we should attempt to bring both sides of the argument to the public to let fence sitters decide which is the most believable conclusion because there are consequences. Problems arise when they are so convinced of their beliefs that they start to insist to bring their illogical version, such as the one on creationism into the school system or try to change the laws of the land to confirm with their beliefs. In that case we must firmly oppose their efforts.