There is wide agreement that fake news, exacerbated by social media, is a major social problem and threat to democracy. Yet, we tend to view the problem as being caused by "other people." Actually, you should look in the mirror: You're part of the problem.
It's January, with an increase in gym memberships as people vow to get fit; but the fitness craze has its roots at least 100 years ago in Victorian Britain. Did HAL, the super-smart computer in 2001 - A Space Odyssey commit murder? Stories with a kernel of truth and a dash of obfuscation or misdirection make TRUTH somewhat negotiable even in textbooks. Finally, images that capture birds in flight by compressing time.
The question "What is truth?" is perhaps the hardest one ever posed. Science is based on the correspondence theory of truth, namely, that truth corresponds to reality. But others say that truth is based on consensus, while others say that truth is entirely relative. So, what's the truth about truth?
Truth is real but sometimes difficult to ascertain, particularly when political ideologies and motivated reasoning are involved. To eschew these pitfalls, fact-checkers need to be keenly sensitive to such biases. Otherwise, they will be seen as simply another manifestation of "fake news."
Facebook plans to crack down on content that peddles fake health news and other snake oil. While this is a great idea in theory if done properly, FB's track record of policing the content of its social media platform is poor. Their officials should seek outside help. May we suggest the American Council on Science and Health?
Get this: 5G activists say that wireless technology causes cancer; cardiovascular disease; DNA damage; learning and memory deficits; impaired sperm function and quality; miscarriage; neurological damage; obesity; diabetes; as well as autism; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and asthma in children. That's a pretty scary list. A nuclear bomb can't even do all that.
The New York Times objectively reports on how the news media, politicians and science were wrong about "crack baby" epidemic. But they never apologize to their readers or accept responsibility.
What a medical doctor sees in social media posts can tell an entirely different picture than the one intended to be told. As the saying goes "the devil is in the details."
When what's absent in a story carries equal or more weight than what is actually reported, the damage goes beyond ratings. It undermines public health.
The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is a new book by neurologist and science communicator, Dr. Steven Novella. It is both an easy read and a great reference.
An infectious virus or idea plus a susceptible population can cause the flu, a riot or fake news. A study of the 2005 riots in France finds an epidemiologic explanation.
It's quite easily right at the top of the list. In fact, the scientific method is designed precisely to answer it. Rigorously following a procedure involving observation, hypothesis and tightly-controlled experimentation is what separates science from all other disciplines. OK, you ask, so what's the question? Just click here to find out.