How and why do people fall for anti-science misinformation and propaganda?

"Imagine that you can only know what you discover by yourself through trial and error. There are no websites, no books, no teachers, not even other people to talk to. How much could you know about the world? Do you think you could figure out which chemical molecules compose your food? What was happening in another country? What the climate was like 30 years ago? How to hunt or farm? As Philosopher John Hardwig says, “we are irredeemably epistemically dependent on each other.” That is to say, just about everything we know about the world we learn from other people. We depend on other people for knowledge.

This is particularly true as the world gets more complex. There’s simply too much for one person to know on their own and so people start to specialize in areas of knowledge. Hence, we have chemists, physicists, doctors, lawyers, geologists, mechanics, accountants, to name but a few—and, of course, philosophers. Just about everything you know about the world you learned from someone else. This is a good strategy too. There isn’t time or energy for you to get a PhD in every single domain of human knowledge.

Sometimes a problem emerges: There are cases where it’s not clear who the experts are on a particular issue or where two people who appear to be experts disagree. How does the non-expert identify who the genuine experts are? Who should they defer to?

In this post I do two things. First, drawing on a model from cultural anthropology, I explain the strategies that people use to identify experts. Second, I explain how anti-science propagandists manipulate these strategies to confuse the public."
#science #pseudoscience #misinformation #propaganda