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How to approach Science Denial and the illusion of truth

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The book “You are Not So Smart” outlines many of our thinking fallacies and at the conclusion from reading it is I realised I am not so smart as I thought i was, but you might not be either!

Our brains are biased take shortcuts and make assumptions. One of the most potentially damaging is the ‘illusion of truth’ and the impact it may have on science denial.

The “illusion of truth” refers to the psychological phenomenon where repetition of information, even if false, can make it seem more credible to the listener or reader. This can lead to the spread of misinformation and the erosion of public trust in science and evidence-based knowledge. Lies repeated often enough do become truths to many people creating beliefs that evidence cannot shift

Science denial refers to the rejection of scientific ideas, theories, and evidence, despite being well-established and supported by a large body of evidence. This can manifest in many ways, from denying the reality of climate change to rejecting the safety of vaccines.

Both the illusion of truth and science denial can be exacerbated by the rise of social media and the spread of misinformation online. Online echo chambers can reinforce false ideas and make them seem more credible to those within them, while algorithms that prioritise engagement and attention can amplify false or misleading information. It has been shown that the flagging used by social media companies have no effect on the perception of the truthfulness of the information. 

Combating the illusion of truth and science denial requires a multi-pronged approach. This includes promoting critical thinking skills and media literacy, improving the dissemination of accurate and trustworthy information, and addressing the root causes of misinformation and denial, such as political, economic, and cultural factors.

Scientists, educators, and journalists have a critical role to play in promoting evidence-based knowledge and combating misinformation. This includes clearly communicating the science and evidence, being transparent about uncertainties and limitations, and actively engaging with the public to build trust and understanding. One of the difficulties is that the lies often are far more interesting than the truth and so garner greater attention.

Rubbish STEM is focussed on the fight against the illusion of truth and science denial and is about upholding the value of evidence-based knowledge. The ability to distinguish truth from fiction, and to make informed decisions based on the best available evidence, is essential for the health of our democracy and the well-being of society as a whole.

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