At a time of anxiety about fake news and conspiracy theories, philosophy can contribute to our most urgent cultural and political questions about how we come to believe what we think we know.
Democracies are especially vulnerable to epistemic threats because in needing the deliberative participation of their citizens, they must place a special value on truth….Indeed, a striking feature of our current political landscape is that we disagree not just over values (which is healthy in a democracy), and not just over facts (which is inevitable), but over our very standards for determining what the facts are. Call this knowledge polarization, or polarization over who knows—which experts to trust, and what is rational and what isn’t.
These statements reflect a real problem of vaccine advocacy. Proponents of the vaccine are unwilling or unable to understand the thinking of vaccine skeptics — or even admit that skeptics may be thinking at all. Their attempts to answer skepticism or understand it end up poisoned by condescension, and end up reinforcing it.
Interesting cartoon that explains the dangers of fake news and how to combat it in your own mind. Unfortunately I am skeptical about the value of laying out such processes to deal with this problem. How can you stop someone from being “fooled” into believing something that they already believe? That confirms and conforms to their deeper world views? The deeper issue is motivated reasoning rather than an ignorance of how to deal with new information. All that being said, this is a fun cartoon, there is more than just this one panel featured below, click on the image for the full cartoon.
Knowledge Questions: What is the impact that knowledge has on the knower? What are our limitations in acquiring knowledge? What are the limitations in our abilities to reason? What is the role of skepticism in acquiring knowledge?
The episode shows how human fallibility can lead scientists astray, even when they appear to be conducting valid experiments. And why not look to magicians for insights into the blind spot in our perceptions? Many of them are experts on ways people can be fooled. As Benvensite showed the world, an advanced degree in something like immunology does not make one immune to self-delusion.
As the famous Richard Feynman quote about science goes: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
“Now we know that many other industries have learned from Big Tobacco’s playbook. Physicians hired by the National Football League have questioned the evidence that concussions can cause brain disease, and soda sellers have financed research to deny that sugar causes obesity. And climate deniers have conducted a kind of scavenger hunt for oddities that appear to challenge the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists.”
“But just having a strange and powerful experience doesn’t determine what you believe. I walked off that train with a new respect for why people believed in magic, not a new understanding of reality. Sometimes people have remarkable experiences, and then tuck them away as events they can’t explain.”
What does this article tell us about how knowledge is constructed in the natural sciences? What makes scientific research “good”? What ethical concerns arise when being paid for your scientific work?
“But more troubling was a conversation I had with Soon earlier in the day. Every scientist has the right to his or her own perspective. But scientists also understand how research communities build their understanding about what is known and how anyone knows it. So, I wondered how Soon could fail to acknowledge that the weight of evidence was overwhelmingly against him when he made his overarching public statements of skepticism. I asked Soon why his testimony to Congress did not begin with something like, ‘I acknowledge that the majority of researchers in my field hold a different view from me, but let me now explain why I am taking such a contrarian position.'”