Why Misinformation Is About Who You Trust, Not What You Think

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Two philosophers of science diagnose our age of fake news.

BY BRIAN GALLAGHER & KEVIN BERGER

Ican’t see them. Therefore they’re not real.” From which century was this quote drawn? Not a medieval one. The utterance emerged on Sunday from Fox & Friends presenter Pete Hegseth, who was referring to … germs. The former Princeton University undergraduate and Afghanistan counterinsurgency instructor said, to the mirth of his co-hosts, that he hadn’t washed his hands in a decade. Naturally this germ of misinformation went viral on social media.

The next day, as serendipity would have it, the authors of The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread—philosophers of science Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall—sat down with Nautilus. In their book, O’Connor and Weatherall, both professors at the University of California, Irvine, illustrate mathematical models of how information spreads—and how consensus on truth or falsity manages or fails to…

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How Fake News Works

fake news, journalism

Daniel Payne Stories

Because finding reality is socomplicatedand yet integral to a stable democratic society, it has become a critical issue for humanity to address collectively and individually. This has most obviously manifested itself as fake news, which pits the interests of the individual, society and economy against each other.

Evolution has shaped humankind to survive, but survival and knowing the truth are sometimes at odds with one another. One of the primary ways in which truth and survival have been at odds is in tribalism. Primitive humans had to live in groups to survive, for protection from both predators and scarcity. To keep groups of humans together, narratives formed about what was good and bad in the world; some of these narratives manifested as myths or religious traditions, while others formed as political hierarchies. These stories allowed individuals to work together based on the common values of the group. Some…

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