I apologize in advance if this sounds more like an opinion piece than a question, but I think it might deserve some discussion here.
Learning about rationality, fallacies, psychology and argumentation is fun. At best, it makes you more humble by helping you find the gaps in your own thinking, and at worst, it is a form of entertainment: It helps you exercise your own mental muscles but it doesn't really lead to the accomplishment of any instrumental objectives.
All that is probably okay.
But does rational argument really help change someone's preconceived opinion?
As an example, let's take the subject of climate change. People who don't take climate change seriously usually fall into a couple of categories. Apologies if the categories are too arbitrary.
People who have very little knowledge of the facts. For example, those who do not know that a 97% consensus exists, or have not learned simple facts like the increase in CO2 levels and temperature throughout recent history.
People who have some knowledge of the facts, but end up making fallacious and/or irrelevant arguments.
People whose arguments are somewhat logically sound, but rest on extreme global skepticism: for example, a fundamental distrust of all kinds of scientific expertise, a belief in conspiracy theories, or a belief that an extreme bias exists among the scientific community and that all the scientists are deluded. A recent blog post by Scott Adams is a good example of someone in this category.
If you put the facts in front of someone in the first category, it's possible that they will change their opinion. This is much more likely to happen when the argument is made in person.
However, it seems almost impossible to convince someone in the second or third category. By the time you have to go as far as explicitly point out to the person that his or her argument is fallacious, you've already lost. Doing this just makes the person angry, and at that point, the argument goes off into too many tangents to resolve itself properly.
So it's possible that learning about fallacies and the different aspects of rationality for the sole purpose of argumentation, is ultimately a form of mental masturbation and doesn't accomplish any instrumental objectives.
Am I right, or am I resorting to just another form of extreme skepticism?