Countering Disinformation

I’m not an engineer, but I think like one. I’ve disciplined myself to be analytical and logical and to distinguish between assumptions and known facts.

Humans are not naturally rational. We must train ourselves to consciously construct a theory about the nature of reality, and then test our theory by experimenting and observing. Absent such scientific practices, we instinctively invent stories to explain patterns we observe. These stories need not be accurate representations of reality to serve as an organizational tool or a memory device. We may call these stories “hunches” or “intuition” about what’s beyond our certain knowledge.

Our stories may influence our behavior more readily than our reason. But stories are inherently fluid, and unlike the laws of physics or chemistry, they can be manipulated. People can lock on to a narrative (story) and act upon it without deliberation. Bad actors exploit this human tendency to their advantage and gain, often to the detriment of individual wellbeing and the common good. We get played and duped by persuasive narratives designed to harm–disinformation.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has come to understand how disinformation and misinformation can overpower factual contrary evidence. People will continue to trust and rely on stories that have been thoroughly debunked by rigorous scientific research to establish a true perception of reality. We need only look at the anti-vaccination movement, the false narratives asserting that global warming is a hoax, or the denial of the risks of smoking tobacco to verify the power of disinformation and misinformation.

Science Rising and UCS have produced training materials that are intended to help science advocates push back more effectively. On Sunday October 16th at 9:45 am, I spoke on the topic using UCS materials as the core of my presentation. The bibliography of all my sources is below.


Video of October 16th Presentation

Here is a video recording of the presentation done on 10/16/22 at Newtown Friends Meeting Adult Firstday School.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.