The social dynamics of “alternative facts”: why what you believe depends on who you know
“Empowering and thoroughly researched, this book offers useful contemporary analysis and possible solutions to one of the greatest threats to democracy.”—Kirkus Reviews
Editors’ choice, New York Times Book Review • Recommended reading, Scientific American
Why should we care about having true beliefs? And why do demonstrably false beliefs persist and spread despite bad, even fatal, consequences for the people who hold them?
Philosophers of science Cailin O’Connor and James Weatherall argue that social factors, rather than individual psychology, are what’s essential to understanding the spread and persistence of false beliefs. It might seem that there’s an obvious reason that true beliefs matter: false beliefs will hurt you. But if that’s right, then why is it (apparently) irrelevant to many people whether they believe true things or not?
The Misinformation Age, written for a political era riven by “fake news,” “alternative facts,” and disputes over the validity of everything from climate change to the size of inauguration crowds, shows convincingly that what you believe depends on who you know. If social forces explain the persistence of false belief, we must understand how those forces work in order to fight misinformation effectively.
Cailin O’Connor is associate professor of logic and philosophy of science at the University of California, Irvine. James Owen Weatherall is professor of logic and philosophy of science at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the New York Times best-seller The Physics of Wall Street. Both are members of the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Science. They reside in California.
“Methodical and earnest.”—Jennifer Szalai, New York Times
“The Misinformation Age covers big subjects like truth and the fate of the species” —Jennifer Szalai, International New York Times
“The Misinformation Age fills an important void in the literature on misinformation . . . a valuable aid to anyone concerned with the alarmingly increasing prevalence of misinformation and polarization.”—Davis Kuykendall, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
“An important book for an era of weaponized information.”—George Musser, contributing editor, Scientific American and Nautilus
"Fake news has revealed a dark side of networks: an almost unstoppable ability to spread false and misleading information, changing people's perception of reality and shaking the political establishment. The Misinformation Age is a timely, engaging narrative of how this happened and how the mix of fake news and networks is changing our world."—Albert-László Barabási, author of Linked: The New Science of Networks
"In this perilous moment—when knowledge is powerfully eroded by new and effective campaigns of misinformation—O’Connor and Weatherall offer a critically important philosophical defense of evidence, facts, and above all, the truth."—Allan M. Brandt, Harvard University
“The Misinformation Age is the best book I've read on why the fake-news epidemic is afflicting us and what we can do about it. It offers in-depth reporting and provocative analysis delivered in lively prose, a rare combination.”—John Horgan, director of the Center for Science Writings, Stevens Institute of Technology
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