Efforts At Officially Defining Scientific Disinformation Continue

Efforts At Officially Defining Scientific Disinformation Continue

Phrases like scientifically valid, the late great philosopher David Stove taught us, signal distress. A writer wants to say valid, a strength word, but somehow can’t bring himself to this higher point, and finds himself using a prefix to weaken his claim.

Saying an argument is scientifically valid is like saying an argument is valid in transcendental meditation, or gender theoretic valid, or true in critical race theory.

Incidentally, this is a good time to brush up on the differences between local and universal or necessary truths.

It is also obvious that an argument or proposition can be necessarily (a.k.a. universally) true, and also be called “scientifically valid.” But it won’t be true because of “science” or “gender theory” or whatever. It will be true because the argument is valid itself—true premises and sound logical connections to a true conclusion.

So much is throat clearing. Time for an example of the attempt to leverage “scientifically valid” to define “disinformation”. As I have said many times, in order for there to be disinformation there has to be an official source of official received information.

This information might or might not be true, but it must be official—backed by some authority. Some say “science” is that authority, being, to them, the epitome of knowledge. They say this even though science is silent on math, logic, morals, on its very foundations. The theory of disinformation, then, is the living embodiment of the Appeal to Authority Fallacy. (Examined here: including it’s cousin, the Appeal to Non-Authority Fallacy.)

Enter the peer-reviewed paper “Lateral reading and monetary incentives to spot disinformation about science” by Folco Panizza and others in Nature: Scientific Reports.

This paper represents a general push toward creating official sources of information which cannot be denied legally, or without penalty. This isn’t unique to science and medicine, of course. In Germany, a 93-year-old grandmother was sent to prison the other day for the official crime of “denial”. And if you think she should be jailed for denial, you must agree that people should be jailed for denying the Resurrection, a well documented historical event.

Now we have seen untold numbers of people “canceled”, or fired, or denied employment for “denial”. Some for the “crime” that convicted the ancient old lady, but also for all sorts of “medical” and “science” disinformation. For one instance out of a legion, the Babylon Bee was banned from Twitter for saying the man Levine (the well known US government medical authority) was a man. In essence, they denied Levine was a woman.

We haven’t the space to list all the instances, which are in any case well known to readers. What is clear, however, is that the regime is advocating expanding denial crimes, and will use the name of “science” to do so.

Here’s part of the Abstract of today’s paper (my emphasis):

Disinformation about science can impose enormous economic and public health burdens. A recently proposed strategy to help online users recognise false content is to follow the techniques of professional fact checkers, such as looking for information on other websites (lateral reading) and looking beyond the first results suggested by search engines (click restraint). In two preregistered online experiments (N = 5387), we simulated a social media environment and tested two interventions, one in the form of a pop-up meant to advise participants to follow such techniques, the other based on monetary incentives. We measured participants’ ability to identify whether information was scientifically valid or invalid.

We have seen the work of “professional fact checkers”. Their better title is regime supporters. In any case, they are professional, hence official. They are, and must be, part of the Ministry of Truth, even if this Ministry does not have a formal existence.

And, as above, in order for a proposition to be judged “scientifically valid” or “scientifically invalid” there must exist an official list of approved “scientifically valid” truths. Which need not be necessary truths.

Our authors believe they have such a list. They say that “at the peak of the coronavirus infodemic, only 16% of fact-checked disinformation was labelled as such by Facebook’s algorithms, partly because content creators were able to simply repost content with minor changes, thus escaping detection.”

Escaping detection!

They are concerned unapproved truths can be seen by the unwashed, but if programs were in place, defined by them, “users themselves are empowered against malicious or false content”.

This paper is nothing in itself, of course, but it contains a wealth of woke disinformation jargon. For instance:

Research on countering disinformation has developed substantially over the last decade, bringing a wealth of different approaches. These include debunking, the systematic correction of false claims after they have been seen or heard, pre-bunking, preventive measures before exposure to disinformation, nudging, interventions affecting users’ choices without limiting their freedom of choice, and boosting, the empowering of users by fostering existing competences or instilling new ones.

Pre-bunking? Well, we’ll hit that another time, since we’ve gone on far enough for today.

We can ignore their experiment, which is effeminate and asinine at the same time. Worst, it’s results are already known. Who didn’t know you can pay somebody to pay attention to “official facts” (sometimes also called propaganda)? Wee p-values “confirm”. Etc.

The main point of this paper was confirmation that in order for there to be “scientifically valid” propositions, there must be an official group in charge of creating a list of such creatures. Our authors did so. They had to to conduct their “experiment.”

These efforts will expand beyond academia, as all bad ideas do, and become official policy of certain regimes.

What this means for science, and for us, we’ll continue to discuss.

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  1. me

    What’s a p-value?
    What is the significance of it being wee?

  2. Cary Cotterman

    “…denying the Resurrection, a well documented historical event.”

    Yes, denying the Resurrection is a well documented historical event. It happens all the time and has been extensively documented.

  3. Joy

    Not convinced information is as implied in the disinformation statement:
    One mark on a page brings forth information. One print in the sand, a sound, feather, one spec of dust. Information is one Zero or one One in a calculation.
    22- – – –
    That’s information. For someone with the key it has use and meaning. So information has an infinite quality to it. “pure information”. What is that, is there a word for it?
    The more you know the nearer to truth you travel.
    It is what is said about the information which is good or bad. For shorthand people speak of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ information. Hence the word disinformation. There are only truths or untruths. More or less truthful statements.
    No need to think Machiavellian about these things.
    It’s normal, I would say, for people to want to know the truth. People don’t say,
    “tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies”
    Only in songs.
    So playing around with the definitions creates the impression that the overlords are at it again. Where in “fact”, people are just expressing bias through their use of language.
    That’s not new in science or any other field of authority. Such as the ‘official doctrine’ of Truth.
    Trouble is, powerful organisations have previous. People will not tend to forget even if they forgive. To forget would be failure to learn from error
    People are inherently good, not inherently bad. That has been my life experience. That doesn’t mean that one inherently bad person can’t ruin your life. That’s also been my experience.
    (if you let them). They are rare, though, very rare.

  4. Johnno

    Do not worry! Our Experts are hard at work creating a fak-chak vexxine as we speak! They just need to access that Ukranian facility again once the Russians are defeated. You know? The ones official fak-chaks said don’t exist? So this has led to unfortunate delays, but Herr Biden is working on that ASAP! He’d better! After all he has investments tied up in there… something fak-chaks and 50 or so TV intelligence Experts also said was disinformation… So as you can see, we really need that Ministry in place so our Experts and Fak-Chakers can get their stories straight, otherwise people will lose faith! And they won’t vote the right way and do as we tell them to… it’ll be a disaster!

  5. Johnno

    People are inherently good, not inherently bad.

    No, that is not true. People are inherently FALLEN and are unfortunately inclined towards doing bad things, willingly, unwillingly, ignorantly and idiotically.

    They are usually self-convinced that they are trying to do good, or that their actions are justified or excusable in some way, or because they subscribe to the “it’s not hurting anyone else” fallacy. That’s what Adam and Eve thought too.

    People are only “inherently good” in that God willed they exist, and that therefore they hold a potential to be or do good. So it is their EXISTENCE that is inherently good, their willed actions after that fact are to be judged by objective criteria. Some may be excused condemnation by mitigating circumstances, but the actions in fact are either objectively good or bad.

    The majority of people do inherently WANT to be good… but wishing doesn’t make it so. And for those few that WANT to do bad, never just believe they are doing what is bad, but seek some way to redefine bad into good and seek justification for it first. So in their minds they never do anything bad, for bad is defined to be good. It’s rare that some admit their impulsive faults that lack justification – for example: kleptomaniacs – but even these cases or rare psychological conditions do not make the action right, nor the sufferer inherently good.

    “Inherently good” is therefore another shady qualifier much like “scientifically valid.”

  6. Pk

    The New Jersey office of homeland security opened a disinformation portal on their website this week. I has not been aware of such a department. In other news, Centennial College, also in the now even more secure state of New Jersey, announced a Masters program in Happiness Studies. Hmmm.

  7. Forbes

    I guess the lockdown in Italy left these academics with nothing else to do…

  8. Uncle Mike


    These clowns are so pathetic! Little Hitlers. Ship them all to Moscow. Putin needs them.

  9. Jan Van Betsuni

    Briggs writes: “This paper is nothing in itself, of course, but it contains a wealth of woke disinformation jargon. For instance: ||’Pre-bunking’?|| Well, we’ll hit that another time, since we’ve gone on far enough for today.”

    Meanwhile, let’s look briefly into ||”Nudging”|| another of the listed counteracting approaches for “disinformation”:

    **nudge (n.1): “complainer, nagger,” 1960s, from Yiddish, from Slavic words meaning “fret, ache,” related to the root of nudnik (q.v.).

    **nudnik (n.) “a bore, irritating person,” 1947, from Yiddish, with agential suffix -nik + Polish nuda “boredom” or Russian nudnyi “tedious, boring.

    SOURCE: https://www.etymonline.com/word/nudge

  10. Joy

    No, Socrates also thought that people were inherently good.
    He also had wife troubles, she used to hit him over the head with pans, apparently, according to tabloids of the day
    If you think something’s vague, you can always seek clarification but it isn’t your way, since you know everything about others and so little about yourself.
    Inherrant is a very clear word, vaguely there.
    Good, ironically is where there is so much difference of opinion.
    Jesus said,
    “why to you call me good? nobody is good but God”
    I expect we can understand what He meant by that. Perhaps you don’t think so.
    So if I were being more precise for someone equivocating about what so many believe is true, then I’d say people inherently want the truth. As the rest of my comments really make clear.
    For some, being vague is a way to hide their real intent. That’ snot good either.
    Are all people all good? no, clearly not, but there is inherent goodness in all of us and I believe that Thomas Aquinas agrees with that statement although in rather more words.
    To be rational is to look for truth and reason.

  11. Joy

    InhEREnt is a very clear word, no vagueRy there.
    Innate sense of truth, is something which I believe might br the thing which separates us from animals.
    I wish I’d written that as it’s really what I meant to say, approaching the subject in a conversational way rather than thinking that the word spies and alt right thought police would be out in force. Send THEM to Russia and I wish them well to wear the uniform.

  12. paul hammer

    I don’t think I’ve heard the term “pre-bunking” before but I know I used to do it in the 90s in religious discussions online: “Now you will object that X, but this is wrong because of Y scripture.” I found out eventually that is is silly. People are not all as smart as me and so my prediction of what they might object to a particular doctrine was wrong. They were too dumb to come up with said objection. But after I suggested it they refused to acknowledge it was pre-bunked. Aquinas made this same mistake. Its very easy to read Aquinas’ list of ovjections before the “On the contrary” and still be satisfied with one of them afterwards. His pre-bunking can fail, even backfire. So can theirs—that’s the point. By trying to pre-bunk they may just give some normie exactly the argument that disproves their position, and arming him (or more likely her) with an objection that they would not have been smart enough to come up with on their own. Such is the danger of pre-bunking.

  13. Joy

    “said” before repeating a point is a sign of pretension.
    The problem with prebunking is that it’s projection in disguises. It is a straw man masquerading as an iron man.
    As for Thomas, he got an awful lot wrong. But those fanatics who worship him do not talk about that.
    They worship him as an idol. It’s very wrong.

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