Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Freedom of Speech and the Challenge of Alt-information

Strongly biased media offers varied interpretations of the same information.  Alt-truth? Untruth?
  • Climate is or isn't changing.
  • Muslims are bad or not.
  • Politicians are crooked, or ... okay, that may be true, pretty much.
Climategateas one example, was a manufactured controversy.
True, but it took time to sort out the truth.  Emails and files at the East Anglia University's Climate Research Unit were hacked and distributed a few weeks before the Copenhagen Summit on climate change.  Quotes from the content were published as evidence of a conspiracy among climate change scientists.

Was it deliberate misinformation via the media?  Perhaps.  We subsequently spent months and money on official investigations that found there had been no scientific misconduct or inappropriate data handling.  All work had been openly discussed and appropriately peer reviewed. Further, we found that criticisms and accusations were unsubstantiable and based on partial statements taken out of context and misinterpreted.  All the accusations proved false, but public trust in the science community suffered.

That sort of thing has become the norm, and it seems folks are often believing what they prefer, perhaps as the easier path.  Critical thinking is somewhat rare in the public forum, especially on social media.  Exaggerations, gossip, and misinformation; they're perhaps all the same in validity and intent.

Critical thinking follows an ethic of inquiry without bias, a basic element of honesty.  That's asking a lot.

Unfortunately, everyone demonstrates all of the traits listed in the illustration here.  That's everyone of us and all of the critical thinking errors, some more some less.  Note that the errors are the 'easier, quicker path' solutions to resolving internal questions.  Rising above such error is a tedious, lifelong task, one required for knowing truth.

Are we able to monitor ourselves about such things?  The last time I objectively considered an opposing viewpoint was ....

Convictions about truth need never change.
Acceptance of information, however, should perhaps be critically refined.

False news, then, is a difficult problem as the number of media sources and our exposure to them continue to increase.  Suggestions?

No comments: