From Columbia mathematician Peter Woit at Not Even Wrong:
Perhaps the most disturbing thing has been seeing the way in which people’s access to information about the larger world has become more and more dominated by what has become known as “Fake News”: stuff which is not true, but which someone with an agenda successfully gets others to believe. This is a problem that goes far beyond obvious nonsense fed to rubes on Facebook, to the point of including what a lot of my well-educated colleagues believe because they read it on the front page of the New York Times.
Goodness. For a moment there, we thought he was going to finish the sentence with: to the point of [rubbish we are forced to assent to, in front of a gun aimed at our loved ones … ]
Whew! In a free society, more and more of us just ignore the New York Times, with no loss. It’s only important now if you still Care. Dr. Woit goes on to identify, most usefully, examples of Fake Physics:
Fake Physics VII just appeared and is rather bizarre. It essentially argues that the idea of assuming a Multiverse and using it to make statistical predictions doesn’t work. But instead of drawing the obvious conclusion (this was a scientifically worthless idea, as seemed likely to most everyone else), the argument is that we need a “revolution in our understanding of physics” that will make the idea work. More.
He also offers tips for identifying Fake Physics, which he thinks is “a related phenomenon” to Fake News. We think, for technical reasons, that Fake Physics is more usefully seen as a form of Fake News.
But why quibble? The unanswered question isn’t, as Dr. Woit suggests, what to do about fake news. The simple answer is, one can’t do anything about it.
Rumour (an old word for fake news) has flourished from time immemorial under every circumstance. Mediaeval authors decried its awful power but had enough sense to see that it was rooted in human nature.
The only thing we can do is change what people think it is reasonable to believe. There, I am afraid, the answer is not encouraging.
Some think it is reasonable to believe in a multiverse, without evidence, because one must otherwise confront the evidence that our universe is designed as actual evidence. Such thinkers will always find whatever multiverse they are looking for.
Better yet, large numbers of the same people probably believe that we did not evolve so as to understand reality. So they are exempt from having to make sense; they need only make deals with their colleagues to stay at the top.
Well, in that case, they will likely address the situation by trying to control the fake news market, so that their brand is dominant. Evidence-based science will doubtless survive somewhere anyway.
Added, and at Comment 10 below: Guys, the key problem seems to me to be this: Naturalism does not offer a basis for choosing between evidence-based and evidence-free cosmologies.
That inevitable weakness is the true reason for the fact that evidence-free cosmologies are – increasingly – taken seriously.
Dr. Woit seems to think that the cause of the problems presented by evidence-free cosmologies is the Templeton Foundation’s interference in science. But that is not sound reasoning.
Templeton could not interfere in science in this way except for the glaring weakness that naturalism inevitably creates. Others, in sufficient funds, could likewise interfere if they so choose – and naturalists will be helpless to do anything about it.
On must choose between naturalism and science and one senses that they have already chosen.
See also: What is fake news? Do we believe it?
Does fake news make a difference in politics?
What can we do about fake news that would not diminish real news? Critics of ‘fake news’ should go to China — only the government has the right to post fake news.
Follow UD News at Twitter!