I am hoping that this was meant in jest.
But if you look at some of the other comments in the article -- science should be funded through the government, industries that would otherwise contribute to scientific research should instead be taxed -- I'm not so sure how un-Big Brotherish these authors are.
(Yes, obviously, the government already funds a good deal of science, but it sounds as if they're arguing that science funding should all be funneled through the government.)
Modern philosophers are mostly pro-democratic for a number of reasons. They have to invent mental tricks to make democracy compatible with what they think is right. "Ministry of information" or separating voting (based on values) from decision making (based on facts) are examples of such tricks.
IMO, if we value democracy, we'll have to agree that decisions taken democratically will sometimes be wrong. The only way to fix that without compromising the democracy, is to raise the level of an average citizen's education.
It is also very frustrating when you think you discover what is true and what is false and have to deal with people who you think are not as smart as you are. The effects of this can be observed in social media discussions on both sides of the political divide, as well as in the words of the people in this article.
It's funny watching how something said in jest (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uL-KXisUCtU) is turned into yet another meme about how conservatives are stupid, followed by a lecture about misinformation in media.
"Please tell me the ministry of information was just a flippant remark -- I hope that you will never promote such an idea. It sounds great, in a world run by honest individuals. But, No - not ever - has humanity demonstrated that this would be a good idea."
"Yes, of course a joke. I need to learn to be more careful on the record."
-- Bad joke, but better than the alternative.
The piece leads with the story about how Pete Hegseth declared that germs aren't real, and the interview begins with O'Conner and Weatherall joking about how people like Hegseth come to hold "wacky false beliefs."
But Hegseth was asked about the remark and said of course it was a joke.
So ... Hegseth makes a joke about science that O'Conner and Weatherall didn't perceive as a joke, and then O'Conner makes a joke about how a ministry of truth could help address the problem with people like Hegseth -- and that doesn't necessarily come off as a joke.
I guess the key takeaway for all of us is that it can be easy to assume a joke is not a joke if doing so confirms some of our pre-existing views. So ... give people the benefit of the doubt until they erase all doubt?
excerpt from usa today:
Hegseth says the joke is a call-out to germ obsessors to lighten up. "My half-hearted commentary to the point is, we live in a society where people walk around with bottles of Purell in their pockets, and they sanitize 19,000 times a day as if that’s going to save their life," he said. "I take care of myself and all that, but I don’t obsess over everything all the time."
The truth is all here. Will it help though?
No smiling people, no BS 3D animations "inside the body", no BS claims.
Want to advertise a drug? Just post a "boring voice" style of what you drug does, what its name is, what the possible complications are, etc.
It may not work very well with news though: you cannot ban witness interviews, live reporting and other stuff which may get very colorful and emotional.
The one variable here is that the private market does what it wants. So if government 'takes' a larger proportion of the funding 'market' it really means the private market chose.
Now, making private research illegal...
That just isn't true. The federal government funds no where near the majority of r&d, not even the majority of basic research.
Data from ongoing surveys by the National Science Foundation (NSF) show that federal agencies provided only 44% of the $86 billion spent on basic research in 2015. ...
Basic research comprises only about one-sixth of the country’s spending on all types of R&D, which totaled $499 billion in 2015. Applied makes up another one-sixth, whereas the majority, some $316 billion, is development. Almost all of that is funded by industry and done inhouse, as companies try to convert basic research into new drugs, products, and technologies that they hope will generate profits.
Those private sector efforts are now the dominant form of research activity in the United States, with business spending $3 on research for every $1 invested by the U.S. government.
I guess I was talking about funding research, not actually doing it.
Research that is privately funded but published, as an example.
Most of the research we're talking about from your data I assume is not published. I.e. not really research... (If I can go that far.) And I'm not trying to argue a technicality here to win an argument.
Industry has specific problems, scientific findings are often ancillary to other work, i.e. problem solving. Can't tell people to stop solving problems and making discoveries.
Or can you???
Examples might include: eliminating pharma patents or capping pharma prices to 2x the raw materials and manufacturing costs.
Not always military either: Concorde, APT(Pendolino) and TGV, Ariane, hovercraft, nuclear etc.
I'd link Wikipedia, but the entry on UK's National Research Development Corporation is comically short, and I can't find anything for the French equivalent on English wiki. Can't even remember the name of the equivalent US programme to link that.
Nevertheless a lot of significant science and the products that stemmed from that, that wouldn't get done otherwise, came with government funding. It's a good part of the positive image of science in the immediate post war years.
I would love to see some of those huge blue sky national science projects make a return.
EDIT: Atrocious grammar.
I think the concern is about all science funding being funneled through the government.
O'Connor says science should be funded either by "the government or some kind of body held to very high standards of not being influenced by industry" -- as if the government isn't influenced!
Weatherall floats the idea of "taking the money [private organizations] would be spending and redirecting it [through taxes] to an organization that was selecting who was getting funded independently."
In my mind, government funding is at least as capricious as industry funding. Government budgets related to science research get slashed all the time for reasons totally unrelated to the quality of the work being performed or its potential impact on society.
So I think you can both be very strongly in favor of government funding of these national science projects (e.g. NASA) and yet very reluctant to have the government be the sole arbiter of what gets funded.
Thing is, I suspect government in the 1960s could have set up an independent body to oversee science funding, that actually was independent, and had a level of trust by both scientists and the public. On both sides of the Atlantic, by either political party, though my knowledge of US is somewhat more limited.
Today? I don't think I, or pretty much anyone, trusts either public or private. What's left? A BDFL? Well, first find the benevolent dictator I suppose, few of the current crop are benevolent. At which point I don't know how to fix it.
I mean... honestly. We have so much knowledge at this point, and coupled with stuff like what exxon (and many others) are up to:
This can’t be an extreme view these days?!
Also, the physics of carbon dioxide on temperature is understood, but the physics of climate isn't so well understood. Hence why we don't have as great a model of it as we'd like. You can understand the concept of a bit without understanding how a system ( like the OS ) works.
Also, the fact that you think a 5 year old kid read papers published in 1800s about carbon dioxide and started worrying about climate change shows your bias, not mine. A 5 year old kid worried about climate change or anti-vaccination or abortion debate or any of the hot-button political issues is someone who has been brainwashed by their parents or environment.
I agree that climate change exists ( with or without humans ). I agree that humans contribute somewhat to it, but to what degree and to what ends, I know we have no clue.
The only people with evangelical and zealous fervor ( on either side ) are pretty much anti-science agenda peddlers. I'm open to both sides and most importantly to fact and science. I have a feeling that you and these authors "converted" a long time a ago.
You said that you agree the physics of carbon dioxide is well understood. Human activity has drastically altered the net amount of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere annually (all carbin emissions minus all carbon sink absorptions). We emit a relatively small amount compared to nature, but nature was fairly balanced before by also storing most of that in carbon sinks.
Do you not think this is true for some reason? This fact makes it seem pretty apparent to me that we are driving much of the changing temperatures and thus also the changing climate.
You're engaging here in a disinformation tactic that one of the interviewees in the OP described:
> Weatherall: In the 1960s, the scientific consensus had become clear that there was a link between tobacco products and cancer. The tobacco industry recognized a number of things very quickly. One, this was almost certainly true—their own scientists were getting the same results. Two, it was disastrous for them. Three, they were not going to be able to come up with a compelling evidence-based argument that tobacco was safe or beneficial. But they realized they didn’t need to. All they needed to do was emphasize the uncertainty present in any kind of scientific endeavor. They made the case the evidence isn’t in yet and it’s rash to act. It’s too soon for individuals to give up smoking. It’s too soon for the government to intervene.
Nothing I wrote suggests that I think a 5 year old read papers published in the 1800s. I think you did not fully comprehend what I wrote. This conclusion of mine is further evidenced with your last two sentences. It’s been known for quite a while that temperatures are increasing due to man made causes. This is established science as far as these things can be established. One does not convert to accepting scientific fact if the starting point is that scientific facts ought to be believed.
From the article it’s hard to come to the conclusion that the couple are extremists. That they had this concern at a young age speaks to the influence of their parents. But they are now philosophers of science and professors. Presumably they are well informed and well read at this point in their life. They are devoted to the study of scientific misinformation. I find it odd that porpoisely focuses on the fact that at a young age they were concerned about climate change. I think it says a lot about porpoisely that he/she focuses on this. Specifically that he/she is looking at superficial reasons to discredit the couple and ignores what expertise they have. This shows the bias porpoisely has.
At a young age it is a parents and the community's role to shape their values. Brainwashing is a very harsh term. If taught correctly based on these values learned young it would make sense that they would come to a similar conclusion. I do admit however their is a fine line between teaching an opinion vs. teaching core values.
For example, political affiliation in my opinion is not a value. However, the fundamental issues are. It is unfortunate that as a society the two are so closely intertwined which leads to a very binary choice and not insight and learning of the actual issues.
Let's take vaccination. Teaching a child that it is important for their health could be constructive. However teaching a child that there are crazy people who who don't vaccinate their children would not be a lesson I would teach. If you instead stated that there are people with another point of view, but it currently lacks scientific evidence, but their is a possibility they are correct and we should have an open mind and continue to try to understand medicine and vaccinations would lead to a adult with an open mind who would make their own decisions without bias. In a decade we may have scientific proof that both sides had a point. In short, don't look for judgement, but understanding.
Tremendous waste of time and most importantly invalid way to approach current complexity of the world. You would get instantly tangled within insanity of you actually did that. Never learn anything because the opposite may in some alternate universe be true.
Most people who progress open mind actually use availability heuristic instead or more complicated filters on top of that.
At some point, you have to rely on at least pools of experts. There is no way anyone who isn't immortal can even come close to understanding enough about basic physics, biology, much less everything relevant to life. The world is too big and complex for that.
How do you know who is an expert and even if they are one, when they're incorrect? That is a billion dollar plus question.
As it is, for simple small area practical questions the proof is in doing. For complex and wide ranging ones? Who knows.
Perhaps the most trustworthy experts are the ones who know their and the field's limits.
But then, every field had its stages where it failed badly at interpreting world while everyone believed the predictions to be true and they were, given the context... Some multiple times.
The rules I found is to distrust simplicity, simple explanations and prefer data with known methodology to credentials. Distrust higher order sources and especially direct opinions. (But not experience. That's data.)
1. Points out a problem that is fundamentally rooted in human psychology.
2. Proposes that the solution is to have the government take it over.
More seriously, all problems are rooted in human psychology because technology is now good enough for us to live in a utopia if we could only manage to stop turning it against ourselves. So, really that pattern is just proposing that the government take something over, you get the first step for free.
I'm more inclined to agree with the aphorism that government is the problem, not the solution.
We need government precisely because humans are not angels. We need someone to restrain human tendencies toward violence, toward fraud, and so on.
But as you point out, the government isn't composed of angels, either. So we need the government to restrain the people, but we also need to restrain the government.
Well, that and Goodhart’s Law.
As society grows more integrated and specialized you need to tackle the fundamental problems in human psychology.
Only things that seem to have work long term are forms, rules, procedures, formalities, .. in other words, mechanism or algorithm. Market economy, private property, democracy, decision making, law and order, all of these are just mechanisms that try to squeeze peoples behaviour and interactions into forms that work.
So yes, government is a big part of making it work.
Benefits include level playing field, transparency, accountability, recourse thru a fair & impartial court system.
Sadly, regulatory capture remains an unsolved problem, necessitating constant vigilance.
The problem is very well known. Without any proposed soluation, the article would be very uninteresting.
Maybe the idea is designing an efficient bureaucracy that prevents the agents acting within it from corrupting it.
I think making clear the mutual benefits of eudaemonia is a way we can progress towards more equality.
The problem is that insurance products you can buy don't cover that risk (and people have to rely on other dodges to keep their premiums reasonable, like insurance pooling) — and that's market failure.
That's a BS solution, you don't shop around when you need emergency medial treatment, because you're in the middle of a medical emergency. You might not even be conscious.
And lets say you're a weirdo who spent hours researching ahead of time, chose the "best" ER, and etched your choice onto one of those medical alert bracelets. That does you no good when you're away from home, or even just across town.
Yeah, there are certain cases where market-based healthcare reforms could probably do a lot of good (especially around outpatient and elective stuff), but "the market" and "letting the market work" are not the solution to all problems.
Hence the only question about global warming is how to cut CO2 emissions, and almost nothing on things like how to mitigate it effectively using science (like we did with everything else that was threatening us, from hunger to infections).
Epistemology is sorely lacking in public discourse. We should seek to nurture a healthy skepticism as the first impulse in all public debate.
I'd say most of the societal disagreements we're having right now are largely rooted in epistemology as well. Rarely are low level details discussed, and rarely is the truth of the "facts" scrutinized or examined at a level where we could gain some genuine confidence that what the general public, politicians, and & news media thinks & repeats is true, is actually true.
When I think about my own kids, what I want them to get more than anything else is an ability to think critically, and scientifically. People are people, and we’ll always fall prey to emotional appeals and distraction, but critical thinking and the scientific method are our way out of the fog.
The other aspect is compartmentalization of science, and general information overload. It’s hard to keep up with every new study, and it’s hard to reach a deep level of understanding across such a wide array of scientific disciplines. It is why we rely on experts.
We’re in a crisis due to lack of trust in the experts. Part of it is because we’ve become so removed from science we don’t know who trust. The other part is that industry has become quite effective at manipulating experts to work in their interests, eroding trust.
The simple fix? I have no idea. The long view? We need to raise a generation of kids who know how to apply the scientific method, think critically, and filter through the ever growing mountain of information we’re bombarded with on a daily basis.
However, this idea is terrible:
O’Connor: Maybe we should have something like a ministry of information to decide what’s true.
We've long known that believability is rooted in the esteem we hold for the messenger. The art of persuasion, sales, rhetoric, diplomacy, courtship, etc.
What's new is understanding the role of context, or the lack of it.
Someone recently pointed out the virality of twitter (at the extreme) is enabled by the lack of context.
Use web of trust and digital signatures to add citations and ownership (copyright) to every tweet, post, image, video. Then you know precisely who said what. And if you really care about "the truth", you can follow the chain of citations back to the original source and data.
There are millions of demonstrably-false ideas floating around. I live 30 miles from an Alien Welcome Center...a place devoted to welcoming aliens when they appear.
The problem is when fringe ideas become weaponised into culture at large.
This article seems to focus more on the individual cases of misinformation rather than the more general social problem - finding ways to fight remarkable falsehood with dull truth.
What if people's values depend on what they think is true?
"There was a recent study of Wikipedia that showed the most accurate and high quality articles were produced by an ideologically heterogeneous, diverse set of editors and writers. Does that square with your findings?"
I don't watch cable news, but something tells me that the example of a princeton grad on foxnews not believing in germs is distorted or misconstrued. What's the context there? Was it in the context of "you don't have to use anti-bacterial soap" or did the guy truly say he doesn't believe in germs. It would have been great if author provided a link to the video so we can see the context.
O’Connor: "I’ve been worried about climate change since I was 5 years old, and here we are 30 years later and still not doing anything about it."
I think there is climate change ( with or without ) humans, but something tells me this "philosopher" isn't an unbiased thinker or writer. Especially if one was obsessed with this since they were 5 years old. What kid worries about climate change as a kindegartner. Makes me question this person's upbringing.
-- How should science be funded?
"Through the government or some kind of body held to very high standards of not being influenced by industry."
Because governments are infallible? Because governments ( nazi germany, soviet union, china, japan, US, etc ) have such amazing track records? Even if we accept governments are infallible, how are we going to keep industry from influencing government? This is the problem with academics who have never worked and have worried about climate change since they were 5 years old. They know nothing of the real world.
-- What are the best tools for good information?
"Maybe we should have something like a ministry of information to decide what’s true."
Normally, I'd assume the person is joking, but the sad thing is you can't really tell from an academic working in UC Irvine.
So much of the "mis/dis" information rhetoric is "mis/dis" information themselves. As philosophers, you'd think they would say teach the kids logic, reason and history rather than "joking" about ministry of information.
Killing the messenger with bad news has a long tradition. Especially if it's bad news for everyone.