Two philosophers of science argue that social factors, rather than individual psychology, are what’s essential to understanding the spread and persistence of false beliefs—a phenomenon that has irked truth seekers for centuries.
...methodical and earnest ... The book contains useful summaries of the debates in the 1980s around the ozone layer and acid rain ... The one thing you begin to notice in this book is that propagating a reflexive skepticism and sowing discord aren’t terribly difficult, especially when there’s a vested interest willing to pay for it; 'merely creating the appearance of controversy' is often all that needs to be done.
Connor and Weatherall join the ranks of journalists and historians who churn out canned histories of the role of 'fake news' in America in the last two centuries, and their own such summary is smart and readable. But such summaries attempt to normalize the present by contextualizing it in the past; this is itself an attempt at creating fake news. This in itself is misinformation. There is no analog anywhere in post-Civil War America for the gushing font of frenzied, compulsive lying now being done every single day by the President of the United States ... The authors clearly want to ground the whole concept in a broader setting, but this is like the Fire Department rushing to a roaring inferno and beginning their rescue attempts with a 40-minute PowerPoint presentation on the history of house fires in America.
This guide to separating society’s factual wheat from its fraudulent chaff is useful more for the serious information-dissemination problems the authors explain than for any practical solutions they propose ... The book’s most appealing material is tangential to its main purpose: entertaining historical accounts of instances when, casting off the shackles of faulty conventional wisdom, scientists achieved factual breakthroughs in treating or preventing such ailments as puerperal fever, Lyme disease, stomach ulcers, and mercury poisoning ... While the authors call for further internet regulation and more journalistic self-policing, they will leave readers unconvinced that widespread motivation exists for such reform.