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Thread: Working against deliberate misinformation campaigns

  1. #1
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    Thumbs up Working against deliberate misinformation campaigns

    It happens with climate science, and it happens with every science. How to win against anti-science lies.


    https://phys.org/news/2019-01-reveal...formation.html

    Research reveals strategies for combating science misinformation
    January 14, 2019, Yale University

    Just as the scientific community was reaching a consensus on the dangerous reality of climate change, the partisan divide on climate change began to widen. That might seem like a paradox, but it's also no coincidence, says Justin Farrell, a professor of sociology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). It was around this time that an organized network, funded by organizations with a lot to lose in a transition to a low-carbon economy, started to coalesce around the goal of undercutting the legitimacy of climate science. Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Farrell and two co-authors illustrate how a large-scale misinformation campaign has eroded public trust in climate science and stalled efforts to achieve meaningful policy, but also how an emerging field of research is providing new insights into this critical dynamic.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

  2. #2
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    Thank you for sharing that - it seems like not just things like conspiracy theories but a very anti-science kind of thinking (decide what's true then cherry pick the information to support what you think) is swarming out of the woodwork. I work in science education and it feels like there is a general swing toward undermining science and the credibility of scientists, and it worries the hell out of me.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Working against deliberate misinformation campaigns
    What bothers me is that outright lying to the public is not a crime. Free speech and all that. Don't seem right. And the only recourse that I've heard is free speech in opposition to the lies. Man, that seems pretty weak.

    I guess the problem is, there are a lot of pretty ignorant, gullible people in this country. So the standard answer is "education." Now we have people denigrating that! deriding universities as training grounds for "elitists." It's a darn sad state of affairs!
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

  4. #4
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    Does anyone here take part in active debunking - e.g. joining conspiracy websites and (with great manners and respect) debunking and offering evidence and reason based viewpoints. It's a mistake, I think, to assume that they will just go away. We live in a time when popular opinion, driven by less than factual data, is proving to be apowerful force. In the end reality catches up with everyone - but a lot of harm can be done between now and 'in the end'.

  5. #5
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    If someone is not going to listen, there is no point. I leave them alone to do whatever.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

  6. #6
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    Only within my own industry and it's an exhausting and despiriting uphill struggle. As a manufacturer and evidence based engineer, it is sad to be told in effect, "we don't want experts' opinions, you are just trying to sell."
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  7. #7
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    I don't hold out any real hope of changing the mind of a true conspiracy theorist, but every post pushing the point of view of evidence and good logic helps (I hope) make it a bit less likely that someone with a poor science background, coming to the site out of curiosity, will get sucked in. I've been working on one forum, which I wont name since I don't want to be promoting them, but it's my busy (exam) time now so I'm taking a break - for the sake of my sanity too: My wife called me out as caving to my obsessive streak after I was still, at 3am, debating a guy who'd made it clear at the start of his thread "evidence can always be faked in principle, therefore obviously I don't need to actually see any flaws in your evidence to be fully justified in suspecting it's fake". I could have just put the laptop down but it would have kept me from sleeping to have left what they were saying unchallenged (my own pridefulness and neurosis at work there)

    That's the 's*** shovelling' aspect of it, and yes it's draining, and as I said I hold out no hope of changing the mind of someone like that (at least, not until they hit paranoid rock bottom). But this kind of thinking seems to be being encouraged and these groups are getting more and more of a media platform. Oh what a wonderful system we have, where popularity and profitability outweigh truth so easily, but I digress.

    I think those of us who care about science and keeping the things it does to help the world going need to be willing to do some s*** shovelling. If anyone does decide to go see the 'true believers in their temple' the debunking handbook is a good resource, and here are two interesting articles to get started with:

    https://www.theguardian.com/technolo...urvivors-truth

    https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman...lex-jones.html

    The last has some good advice - it is counterintuitive, how to best deal with some of them. The link at the top of this thread is a good one too. My own advice would be :
    1) Don't insult or mock them, give their group a belittling name, or rise to baiting and insults
    2) Don't assume that because they're living in a fantasy they're truly stupid - living in a fantasy, of some kind, at least some of the time, is a very common and human trait from what I've seen of the world.
    3) This may be obvious but make sure you've checked your own facts and logic before you wade in - you only need to offer up one flawed bit of evidence to have gone from debunking to enabling them, regardless of how many good bits of evidence you've already provided.
    4) If they show an interest in taking action on finding out the actual truth encourage them - that can sometimes mean doing their own experiments or seeking data from original, independant and /or impartial sources etc
    5) Don't think yourself defeated if you don't manage to change the mind of the person you're talking to - your target audience is the invisible (but very probable) lurkers who have come there out of curiosity.

    The number of 'debunkers' I see on facebook and other social media who clearly know no more about science than the CT's, and who seem to be there to just insult and mock the CT's is horrifying - and it's worse than useless, as that's shown to make then shut their minds to evidence and entrench. Anyway, I'm bending everyone's ears, but as I said: I work in education, and I think we have a big problem with this that is already making itself felt. We need to do what we can to address it. My 2 cents.

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