Misinformation, Disinformation, and BS in Science Communication
It’s a jungle out there. The world is awash in hucksters, tricksters, frauds, scammers, grifters, and thieves. And there’s no shortage of easy marks, suckers, dupes, and fools. Classic cons like the pigeon drop and three-card monte aimed to heist a bundle from a few. The internet and cable TV have changed the game. Now the goal is to nick a bit from a crowd. You’re one of the suckers, so are your friends, so am I, so is everybody. We don’t notice we’re being scammed because what is being stolen is not our money. What’s being stolen is our attention and our time. We’re all suckers for clickbait. What’s wrong with clickbait is that it leads you down a rabbit hole of misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories that have created and sustained widespread skepticism and mistrust of science and scientists resulting in covid-19 conspiracy theories, vaccine hesitancy, bogus drug treatments, climate change denial, anti-evolution, and so forth. Even the most educated and savvy consumer of information is easily misled in today’s complex information ecosystem. This seminar is clickbait vaccine to boost your critical thinking. It is designed to help you identify and refute misinformation, disinformation, and BS rampant on the internet. It will help you recognize sensationalism when science is communicated in the press. It will familiarize you with the main logical fallacies that students and scientists themselves are prone to. As a framework for discussion, we use Bergstrom and West’s book “Calling Bullshit” along with supplemental readings.