Whose News Is Fake News?
Somebody, somewhere, has to care about truth and be willing to follow evidence. A little introspection and humility is required.
Mainstream media are understandably concerned about the rise of fake news. Disinformation campaigns have been proven in some notable cases: for instance, countries setting up fake accounts and bots to influence people’s emotions with pure lies, in order to influence elections. Though clearing President Trump of wrongdoing in the Russia collusion investigation, investigator Robert Mueller was adamant that Russia had taken deliberate steps to sow lies in American media before the last presidential election. So when it comes to science news, how can ‘real’ news prove it is not fake?
‘Fake news,’ diminishing media trust and the role of social media (Phys.org). Scientists at the University of Houston conducted polls to determine what people think they are hearing.
As many as 90% of Kenyans, 93% of Nigerians and 76% of South Africans believe they are exposed to false news about politics on a fairly regular basis. In a 2016 Pew Research Center study which sampled just over 1,000 Americans, 71% of respondents say they often or sometimes see fake political news.
Question: are the scientists lying to us about the results of their polls? How would anyone know?
Pseudoscience is taking over social media – and putting us all at risk (The Conversation). Writer Santosh Vijaykumar of Northumbria University uses conspiracy theories about climate change and health risks as examples of fake news he worries about. He believes that more government funding should flow to scientists to combat misinformation, such as employing more fact checkers. But he has a conundrum; he doesn’t want to acknowledge the existence of climate skepticism by mentioning it.
So how do we tackle this problem? The challenge is made greater by the fact that simply providing corrective scientific information can reinforce people’s awareness of the falsehoods. We also have to overcome resistance from people’s ideological beliefs and biases.
Referring to the previous article, Vijaykumar worries, “The study concluded that the more people feel they are exposed to fake news regularly, the more they are likely to say they do not trust the media in general.” But we can ask the same question of him: is Vijaykumar lying to his readers in the article? How would anyone know?
Those in the mainstream media typically expect science to provide expertise on this problem. They worry that people are losing trust in scientific authority. Their readers, however, are not without reason to doubt the integrity of experts. Some recent examples:
- All the mainstream media (with the exception of Fox News) promised Trump’s impending downfall in the Russia collusion story, and said so with confidence for two years, claiming the evidence was irrefutable. They were wrong.
- Google just hosted a conference in Italy about climate change. Politicians, scientists and celebrities who attended flew over 100 private jets to get there, dumping carbon recklessly through the atmosphere, when a simple online meeting could have been a more “green” way to do it. Observers see the hypocrisy of such actions.
- Astronomers have been telling the public for decades that everything they see represents only 5% or less of what exists, but they have no idea what the other 95% is, despite millions of dollars searching for dark matter and dark energy.
- Nutrition news changes constantly. Eggs are bad; eggs are good. Fats are bad; fats are good. Now scientists are even having second thoughts about saturated fat. The “Food Pyramid” taught in schools for years was based on flawed research.
- Science journals acknowledge a huge integrity problem in their own ranks, with scandals and misconduct, often not caught. At the same time, most published papers are irreproducible (the “replication crisis”).
- Cosmologists claim that nothing banged and became everything. Folks understandably think that makes no sense. Other cosmologists escape into a mythical multiverse that could never be observed or proven, even in theory.
- Evolutionists claim that every life form just happened by chance, according to a “law” of natural selection that is no law at all (equivalent to “Stuff Happens“). After 160 years of indoctrination that this is the only “scientific” view, a significant number of people still doubt the tale, and trust the Biblical account of creation instead.
The experts, in addition, often act with arrogant elitism. This rubs many people the wrong way. Scientists need to communicate that they are people, too, just as prone to error and bias as everyone else. They need to be up front about their biases and admit when they are wrong.
There have to be people in the media who care about the truth. That requires honesty, integrity and humility: humility, because nobody gets the truth right all the time, and a everyone must be willing to admit it when wrong. These are moral qualities. How did morality “evolve”?
It also requires belief that truth exists. And yet in the scientific community, the vast majority of academics subscribe to a worldview that is amoral, meaningless, and selfish – Darwinism. How and why would any Darwinian care about integrity? If their readers knew what they believed, they would have every right to suspect their motives as selfish!
For any secular reporters reading this, I have some suggestions for improving your credibility and solving the fake news problem.
- Get off your pedestal.
- Cure your Yoda complex.
- Admit your worldview assumptions.
- Be transparent about your funding sources.
- Stop the indoctrination (one-sided presentations).
- Don’t assume what needs to be proved.
- Stop assuming everybody else has an ideology but you.
- Debunk conspiracy theories, but don’t become a conspirator.
- Stop ignoring and censoring opposing views.
- Quit the logical fallacies, including card-stacking, ridicule and straw-man tactics (see our Baloney Detector). Take on the opposition’s Goliath, not their scarecrow.
- Become educated about the philosophy, history and sociology of science. The consensus has often been wrong.
- Become aware of scientists’ motivations for what they believe. They are not always pure motives.
- Encourage open debate – not just with others who share the same evolutionary worldview, but with knowledgeable and well-spoken representatives of non-materialist worldviews and non-consensus views; after all, sometimes the maverick is right. It’s OK to support your bias with facts and evidence, but let your readers know you have done your homework. This is especially important in the topics of climate change and evolution.
- Explain the origin of integrity, and why it is important. Without the ability to justify integrity, wave good-bye to all credibility!
How’s that for starters?
At CEH, we always show both sides. We link to the Goliaths of the opposition, and quote them, so that you can see for yourself what they are saying, and compare it with our views. You can comment on our articles and respond to our Tweets.
You will almost NEVER hear from a science news reporter that creation or intelligent design has any credibility, or even exists as a scientific viewpoint. If it is mentioned, it is often pictured as a straw man or as “pseudoscience.”
The beatings will continue until attitude improves.