Discussing the recent essay by medical statistician John Ioannidis on the was politicization and shoddy research around COVID-19 are corrupting science, philosopher Edward Feser focuses on a couple of his points, including this one, “the deleterious role that social media have played”:
Over the course of the pandemic, people of all political persuasions have confidently asserted that “the science” says this or says that, when in fact most of them have not read what scientists themselves have written and wouldn’t know where to find it if they wanted to. Rather, what they know is what politicians and journalists have claimed about what “the science” says. Worse, they know the simplified versions of what politicians and journalists have said that they find at Twitter, Facebook, and the like. The doubly indirect nature of this knowledge of the scientific research already entails significant distortions. Politicians and journalists of all stripes have biases, lack relevant expertise, etc. and this inevitably distorts their presentation of scientific findings. And when their own presentations are reduced to sound bites by social media, there is bound to be further distortion.
But it’s worse even than that. For one thing, social media do not merely oversimplify complex issues. They positively foster irrational habits of thought – snap judgments, snark and one-upmanship in place of dispassionate debate, groupthink, and so on. And too many scientists active on social media have succumbed to these temptations, which erodes the Mertonian norm of disinterestedness.Edward Feser, “Ioannidis on the politicization of science” at Edward Feser blogspot (September 11, 2021)