The Anti-Science Movement

I noticed recently that Stony Brook is hosting next week a panel discussion devoted to

a conversation about one of the most grave challenges to confront humanity: the anti-science movement.

There is a truly grave challenge being referred to, but a serious mistake is being made about the nature of the challenge. In particular, there’s no evidence of an “anti-science” movement, quite the opposite. Across the globe, if you ask people what profession they respect the most, “scientist” comes out on top (see here). Likely the organizers have in mind climate denialists and anti-vaxxers as prime examples of “anti-science” behavior, but in my experience such people typically show a great devotion to pointing to scientists, scientific results and scientific papers to justify themselves. An example would be Lubos Motl, who has put out literally thousands of pages on his blog about climate and COVID science (by the way, his blog seems to have gone “by invitation only”, anyone know what that’s about?).

The problem isn’t “anti-science”, but bad science, promoted for ideological reasons. This is part of a larger truly grave challenge to humanity, that of our information environment being flooded with untruth, on a scale that dwarfs the output of the Ministry of Truth that Orwell foresaw. For years now we’ve been living with this in the form of phenomena like Trumpism, and the past few weeks have seen the Russian government exploiting these methods to conduct a campaign of brutal slaughter. I don’t know what the best way to address this challenge is, but unless something can be done, humanity has an ugly and disturbing future ahead of it.

Sticking to the problem of what to do about the promotion of bad science, there at least I have some experience trying to do something about one example of it (although with very limited success). This problem deserves attention and a panel discussion, but a panel in which four of six members have devoted a significant part of their careers to promoting a failed scientific research program is a really odd choice.

The underlying thorny issue is that of how to evaluate scientific claims. Given the complexities of controversial science, non-experts generally have little choice but to try and identify experts and trust what they say. A major societal role of elite institutions is to provide such experts, ensuring that they provide trustworthy expertise, untainted by ideology or self-interest. A large part of what is going on these days seems to me to reflect a loss of faith in elite institutions, with an increasing perception that these are dominated by a well-off class pursuing not truth, but their own interests. As a product of such institutions I’m well aware of both their strengths and their weaknesses. We need them to do better, and in this case Stony Brook should come up with a better panel.

Update: I’ve heard that Lubos himself shutdown the blog, unwilling to agree to follow rules Google was now enforcing.

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42 Responses to The Anti-Science Movement

  1. Martin S. says:

    One way that is bad to support (good) science, is to be superficial. And making it a political issue is another bad thing.
    Thus regarding politicizing, when you bring the Kubrick’s clockwork guy, it begs for bringing the political negative of him that tries to destroy education (of math). When you damage education, in a decade no one will be able to recognize (good) science at all.
    And regarding superficial views, when you write about Kremlin vs. past weeks, it omits a crucial point: that Kremlin was liquidating free society in Russia for years, and that only such a destruction allowed them to turn life into nightmare even outside Russia.

  2. Paolo Bertozzini says:

    Dear Peter,

    I am not so sure … whenever I see around people with “clear and evident truths” in Their hands (or Their minds) and uniformly shared opinions (very common in today society dominated by influential marketing) … my fist instinct is to stop, doubt and rethink … and this applies also to “open support for *Science*”.

    Skepticism (especially in the forms linked to post-modernist epistemology and social constructivism) is often considered the main culprit of the “crisis of faith in *Science*” seen in certain “anti-science movements” very visible in populist circles.

    I am afraid that the “problem with *Science*” today is much deeper and very very unpleasant to explore: *Science*, as it has been on-purpose politically re-branded after the WWII with Popperism at the LSE, is hiding (since its inception) a more complex and unpalatable story. When I was a kid I used to be enthusiastic about everything scientific … now (after almost 30 years paying attention to “under-developed” countries) … I try to stay as distant as possible from *Science* and I tend to believe that *Science*, rather than a solution, has been and is actually playing a big role in support of the main causes of many of the problems that I would like to see eliminated from human society (inequality, racism, exploitation, just to mention those that are closer to my concerns).

    As every technological instrument and knowledge, science can be of great help to identify and solve problems (although its purpose might be unrelated to utilitarian aims. *Science* (note the *quotes*) on the other side, is not just identifiable with a methodology of “knowledge acquisition”, but it comes heavily charged with a dangerous ideology (something that was and is often denied claiming its objectivity).

    I repeat that the above “criticism” has nothing to do with “anti-vax” or “anti-green” conspiracy positions now raging mostly in certain “over-developed” countries.

    It is easy (and often necessary) to concentrate on localized issues (for example the trouble with theoretical physics or medical/biological research) … from time to time it is probably a good idea to have a wider panorama. I apologize in advance if this post is “out of topic” (or unwelcome) 😉

    Best Regards.

  3. anonymous says:

    The anti-vaccine/anti-lockdown movement is a bad example of anti-science, because at least in the United States is less about science/anti-science and more about American politics and which side of the culture war the issues landed on. For the first few months of 2020 when Trump was still in office, it was largely the Democratic aligned factions of the United States who were denying the severity of COVID, and it was the Republicans who were trying to prevent travel to and from the United States in order to keep COVID out. Then COVID hit New York City and all of a sudden both sides flipped their positions on COVID overnight. The same thing happened with the vaccines, while Trump was trying to speed up vaccine production under Operation Warp Speed, it was largely the Democrats who questioned the effectiveness of the vaccines and vaccine mandates. Once Trump lost the 2020 elections and the Democrats gained control of the White House and the Senate, the Democrats flipped and started supporting the vaccines, while the Republicans flipped to a more anti-vaccine position. The only constant throughout the COVID pandemic has been that the Democrats and Republicans had to politicize the issues and take opposite sides on the issues.

    A much larger issue with “Science” is the corruption of the scientific process and scientific institutions by corporations and governments and other self-interested parties. This is seen in climate science when energy companies such as coal and oil try to censor existing climate science of global warming in favor of more profits, in medicine when pharma companies aren’t being transparent enough or honest enough in their medical experiments of the effectiveness of their drugs, et cetera. It is this corruption that leads many people to lose faith in American scientific institutions.

  4. anon says:

    I think some default setting on has changed in the last few days. I have noticed that some other blogs hosted there have also gone invitation only.

  5. Thanks for this.

    In my view automated and unregulated lying is humanity’s worst problem, as it makes dealing with other serious problems practically impossible.

  6. Re Lubos: I occasionally drop by his blog (or dropped, before he closed it), and I noticed that Lubos developed a quite fierce anti-Russian stance after the invasion of Ukraine. Quite the opposite of the American alt-right, but not unparalleled in Europe, e.g. by the Polish government. My guess is that that got him into trouble with his previous friends.

  7. Shecky says:

    Another problem (a big one!), I think you’re bypassing here is science journalism! Journalism (especially in a day of ‘breaking news’ and clickbait) is inherently incapable of nuance and complexity, so “science” becomes waaay oversimplified as spoonfed to the public. If science tells you one week that coffee is good for you and the next week that coffee is bad for you, etc.etc., well, of course much of the public loses any confidence in it, and ‘anti-science’ arguments are easily constructed/promoted.

  8. Umesh says:

    The blog has ‘gone private’. It’s a universal feature of all social media providers these days to provide such an option to the account owner. If he/ she so chooses, they can ‘priv’ their account and have the option of approving (accepting/ declining) ‘follow requests’. It reduces reach, but that’s the price to pay if you wish a select audience.

  9. Peter Shor says:

    I would have to disagree that there’s no anti-science movement. Having talked to a teenager who was educated in a Christian school, she was definitely taught according to an anti-science viewpoint—that you can’t trust anything scientists say, because they have their own self-serving motives for saying these things. (This may actually be true to a much lesser degree—look at the string theory apologists. But the best lies contain an element of truth.) And I have to assume that this viewpoint is reasonably common among evangelical Christians, who make up around a third of the U.S. population.

  10. Tom WEIDIG says:

    Why are not also mentioning woke stuff such as gender issues, anti-racism, and so on. These political activists are constantly abusing “science”, especially social science to support their political cause.

    And about climate science, I simply disagree calling climate forecasting models science. They are forecasting models based on climate science, physics, chemistry and many other inputs. They are not science. So if I deny a climate crisis, I could just do in on the ground that I do not trust those models but that doesn’t mean i deny climate science.

  11. Doug McDonald says:

    But Lubo’s blog offers no way to contact him. Its probably some Google “cancel” spasm. My guess is that we will eventually find out what happened and it will be “the [unfortunately] usual”.

    One problem with “Science” is that what gets covered by the media gets softer and softer.
    And some parts that are still very “hard”, like particle physics, get filled with things that are ‘not even wrong’. Among those there is all the screaming about the “measurement problem” which is just a battle of words, and some protagonists insisting on “instantaneous” “wavefunction collapse”, which is indeed wrong. Its not instantaneous on the appropriate energy scale time intervals.

  12. Peter Woit says:

    Peter Shor,
    Yes, there is and always has been some religious anti-science movement, but I don’t think that’s what’s responsible for our current problems (white evangelicals make up about 14% of the US population). What’s new about our current situation, in an oversimplified formulation, can be simply summarized as: Fox News.

    As far as I can tell, Fox News is not particularly devoted to promoting religion or attacking science. What they are though is a propaganda machine, weaponized to distribute information not based on whether it’s true, but whether it advances the political aims of the Republican Party in the US.

    The challenge humanity is facing is not an anti-science information environment, but one toxically polluted by ideology (and yes, I’m well aware that it’s not only the right that is the problem, with identity politics warriors of all stripes showing little interest in what’s a fact and what isn’t). My complaint about that Stony Brook panel is not just that they may be addressing the wrong problem, but that scientists with histories of promoting bad science for ideological reasons are not the people one should look to for answers to the problem of ideological information pollution.

  13. Peter Woit says:

    Tom Weidig,
    I don’t want to host a discussion of climate models, or vaccine science or epidemiology and public health or anything of the sort, since I have no expertise at all on those topics. The challenge those topics pose is that of how society can put a stop to the ideologically polluted information environment surrounding them that we now live in and get most people trustworthy information.

  14. Peter Woit says:

    Doug McDonald,
    It looks like you are right about Lubos. I’ve heard from someone who contacted him that he has shut his blog down rather than follow rules Google is now enforcing. This is somewhat like what happened to him at Harvard, where I gather he did not renew his visa and left his position rather than agree to follow rules he didn’t like.

  15. Anonyrat says:

    The continued integrity of science places certain demands on practicing scientists. There appears to be a problem in this regard, and not just in the fields that Peter Woit writes about.

    There is a long history of anti-science instigated by powerful economic, political, religious interests. Social media has newly provided these a powerful tool of amplification. If science remains healthy, these will likely eventually be beaten back. But given the times we live in, scientists have to be even more diligent to keep science healthy.

  16. Some comments about pop sci media are too harsh IMO. I really DO want to know what happens if you stick your head in the path of an LHC beam (a recent pop sci headline). Were I not a sort of scientist, this would immediately make me want to become one.

  17. S says:

    Peter Shor,

    I think the situation you refer to among evangelical Christians is not so different from the vaccine or climate situations Peter mentioned. (This is a milieu I’m very familiar with.) They (or some of them — a minority probably) do ascribe questionable motives to mainstream scientists, but their response is not, “So science is worthless.” It’s to appeal to other “scientists,” and try to argue that those ones are actually following The Scientific Method. Meanwhile, areas of science without clear conflict with their beliefs are taught in a more or less totally normal way (sometimes well, sometimes poorly, as with other schools).

    tl;dr: I don’t think “anti-science” applies even in the situation you describe.

  18. Kirk says:

    I once over-heard a woman in a library discourage her son from reading a math book because it didn’t have Jesus in it.
    If you don’t even trust basic math, you’re not going to trust statistics in scientific models. Yes, we can always expect people to be enthused when a paper or study agrees with them, but cherry picking studies (especially bad studies that are later shown to be error ridden) is not being pro-science, it’s being pro ‘whatever will make people agree with me and makes me look good’. There are people in this world who generally loathe skepticism and say outright they don’t understand why people can’t just accept faith, but will happily ape the outward appearance of science and its skepticism in order to make their position look better. Their rule is ‘skepticism against everything that disagrees with me’. This is how someone can, for instance, throw 99% of all work on climate science and then in the next breath say ‘I trust climate science.’
    Science is a methodology. That doesn’t stop people from abusing the word when they aren’t doing or supporting anything actually scientific. This is no different from fascist banana republics that claim to be democracies. Just because they claim it doesn’t mean it’s so.

  19. Ash Jogalekar says:

    I am not sure I understand your distinction between “anti-science” and “pro bad science”. An anti-vaxxer for instance cites the “science” he or she thinks they know to support their claims, and yet they aren’t just promoting bad science but in this case they are demonstrating an opposition to what we consider the central evidence-based tenets of the scientific method. In that sense I would call them “anti-science”. What am I missing?

  20. Peter Woit says:

    Ash Joglekar,

    The problem is that they would claim they are following the evidence-based tenets of the scientific method, perhaps even quoting a published study and its data. In any case, if you think the problem of “anti-science” is people claiming to do science while not following the scientific method of rigorously testing ideas against experiment, is a panel with four string theorists the right group to be making this argument?

    What I’m arguing is that calling the problem “anti-science” is missing the point. Almost everyone involved thinks they are “pro-science”. Some people however are doing science well, rigorously testing their ideas against the real world and being careful to avoid being misled by ideology or self-interest, others aren’t. Again, this is the wrong panel to explain this difference to the public.

  21. Alex says:

    I mostly agree with the blogpost, but I don’t think the future is bleak. Nor brilliant. Human nature gonna human nature, it was like that for centuries, it will be like that for the centuries to come. Of course, social networks and globalization are new phenomena, but, for the same reason they allow the propagation of misinformation, they also allow the free propagation of truth. Ultimately, it’s on the user to decide to accept whatever thing is posted on the net, or search more on the same net to find the actual truths. It all depends on the open mind and critical thinking skills from the part of the user. And that’s where education institutions enter, since they should equip users with those abilities, so that they do not let themselves to be brainwashed either by organizations (religions in particular, but also political parties and ideologues) or social network algorithms. Of course, there’s a great deal of complicated human psychology and neuroscience there, but it’s time to start to incorporate that on the standard education, so that kids can know their brain’s tendencies to be biased. Furthermore, public policies should be directed at that, rather than trying to censor content or regulate the social networks themselves. Unfortunately, I think that both institutions and public servants are not doing a great job, they only seem concerned in looking for scapegoats.

  22. Peter Woit says:

    I’d like to believe that the new information environment provided by the internet will allow the propagation of truth, that all you have to do is get people to have open minds and think critically. Unfortunately I’ve seen no evidence of that happening, quite the opposite.

    Maybe a good way to think about the problem is that we’ve gone from an environment where information was scarce and regulated in many ways, to one in which it’s abundant but unregulated. I’m not a libertarian who believes the answer to all problems is to get rid of regulations. The problem with an unregulated information environment is it allows self-interested actors to pollute it. What happens when your information environment is full of raw sewage?

    The question of how to clean up our polluted information environment may be a much more difficult one that that of how to clean up and control pollution of our physical environment.

  23. Alex says:

    I’m not a libertarian either, but I would rather have free speech than excessive regulation, even if that allows interested and biased discourses. After all, that’s the spirit of the constitutions of all free western countries, and we learned to value that in the hard way. But, on the other hand, in the real and messy world, the solution probably lies in a balance between free speech and regulation. Who decides, and where, to draw the line? I don’t have an answer for that. Ultimately, that will come out from the democratic process, with imperfect results, as imperfect as the system is.

    But my main point was about the education of people regarding the psychology and neuroscience of bias and brainwashing. Not a perfect or definitive solution, but I do think it can help with this problem.

  24. Peter Woit says:

    I agree that getting people to recognize bias in their information source is part of the answer. Again, the Stony Brook panel is very much the wrong one to address this.

  25. zzz says:

    i know its a physics center hosting so they got physicists, but its very emblematic of the bubble thinking that is part of this problem

  26. Jackiw–Teitelboim says:

    After reading your post I remembered the following lecture by Gell-Mann which I believe is quite timely:

  27. Marco Masi says:

    A) I think that the good old Hegel’s dialectic could be useful as a methodological approach, since primary school. I made this experiment myself in pre-college education. Those students who exercised a thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis approach were less prone to pseudo-scientific nonsense. Nowadays, people (in the academic environment as well) rely too heavily on the “right” source, or on the “expert” authority, excluding every other point of view. Putting oneself in the shoes of those we do NOT agree with, is a difficult but highly enlightening practice.

    B) “For years now we’ve been living with this in the form of phenomena like Trumpism, and the past few weeks have seen the Russian government exploiting these methods to conduct a campaign of brutal slaughter.” –
    I think it goes the other way around. Trump exploited a disinformation tactic that Russia practiced since the times of the Soviet Union.

  28. dms says:

    These are political problems and they have political solutions. They don’t have anything to do with good science, bad science, or anti-science. I really do not like the implication that the problem is that everyone doesn’t think like a scientist and the solution is that we teach everyone to do so. I don’t think the world needs that many scientists.

    The people who think COVID is not serious, or vaccines are not helpful, or climate change is not real are insecure. Their fears and insecurities lead them to make incorrect judgments about the world. The thing to do is to address their insecurities, not to lecture them about science. And I think their insecurities are legitimate. White working class people have been in a steady decline since the post-war era, and this decline has not been addressed by mainstream politicians. I’m not saying that when their insecurities are addressed these people will correct their judgments, but they will be much less likely to stand in the way of solutions. Instead of being reactionary they’ll simply stop caring about these issues.

    Part of the problem is the academization of politics. As more people in the US have become more educated, the Democratic party has become the party of people with college degrees. As a result of this we get politicians succeeding at the national level without being able to talk to people without college degrees. Issues that were probably better off confined to academia have become mainstream issues. Voters who are more educated can do their own research and don’t need to be won over by rhetoric. But this leaves many less educated voters on the table, and unscrupulous people have taken advantage of this.

  29. SRP says:

    As I am a classical liberal , I find musings like our host’s about the desirability of regulating “misinformation” on contested topics ironic. The exact same forces that put four string theorists on a panel defending the scientific method would control any regulated information regime. Such a regime would probably “support” many of my opinions about economics , but it would still be bad.

    It is an acute observation that Peter makes, however, about everyone appealing to scientific norms even when they disagree with “consensus” science. That certainly applies to me when I find myself shaking my head at what seem to me to be ill-considered though popular scientific judgments. Right or wrong, I am not interested in playing by”anti-science” criteria of truth.

  30. Peter Woit says:

    I don’t know what the answer to these problems is, but it’s important to get people to think beyond bromides about “trust science” or “freedom of the press”.

    On the issue of regulating the information environment, we’ve already seen what an unregulated information environment looks like and how it gets weaponized by bad actors who want to tear societies apart. We’ve learned an unregulated Facebook is a great tool for anyone who wants to organize genocide of a minority population or destroy fragile democratic institutions.

    The current information environment is a regulated one, with regulations set by Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey (soon to be joined by Elon Musk), and whoever is running Google. Maybe that’s the best humanity can do, maybe not.

  31. More anonymous says:

    I personally think the solution to these problems lies in empowering the people’s judgement. For example, when it comes to any theory, irrelevant of how advance the mathematics of it are if it makes false predictions. Then there should be a cost in credibility to be paid. This is what the scientific method is practiced as well. (The case of no predictions should be looked down upon for a vast chunk of money was taken with 0 output).

    On the note of misinformation, again I would advocate empowering the individual’s judgment and creating tools which enable the same. The app ground news ( would be an example of what I’m talking about.

  32. SRP says:

    Peter, you already have become snarled in contradiction about Facebook (whose allegedly malign effects have been wildly exaggerated,BTW). Are we already regulated or not? Normally one tries to distinguish curation and editing from censorship. My conceptual test for this is whether user A is being vectored to material that user A would be expected to prefer if he had the time and knowledge to assess, or whether B has decided that A should not see that material despite knowing that A would be very interested in it.

    FB has veered quite a bit over time in how it polices and filters user-generated content. The overriding fact that volume makes considered human judgement of each user post impossible, while automated solutions remain highly imperfect, guarantees a large number of Type I and Type II errors regardless of one’s editorial goals. But it is obvious that FB has responded to threats from politicians by tightening (directionally) its filter on content. A visible manifestation of this has been their public outsourcing of many decisions to supposed “fact-checking” organizations whose biases are clear for all to see And those biases are of a very similar sort as the ones that put string theorists in charge of adjudicating what is “anti-science.”.

  33. Peter Woit says:

    Not sure what contradiction you’re talking about. All information environments are regulated to some degree and I’m not pro or anti regulation in the abstract. The devil is in the details.

    As far as Facebook goes, I think you’re not disagreeing with my point that its regulation policies are now in the hands of one person, Mark Zuckerberg. Possibly his main regulation criterion is that however its done, it not force him to hire human beings on a scale that would cost him too much money.

    For an example of regulation directly related to the posting, it seems to me likely that the shutdown of Lubos’s blog was caused by this March 23 change in Google policy

    Update regarding Ukraine (March 2022)

    Due to the war in Ukraine, we will pause monetization of content that exploits, dismisses, or condones the war.

    (Posted March 23, 2022)

    On March 22 Lubos’s rants about the war were allowed and monetized, then a Google executive or committee changed how they regulate speech, and now no more Lubos ranting. One can make a reasonable argument that they should not have denied us Lubos, or that they should have shut him down long ago, but this Google executive or committee is playing a huge role in regulating speech throughout the world. Maybe handing this over to our tech overlords is the best we can do, maybe there’s a better way. I don’t know.

  34. jjonhson says:

    Sudden dramatic increases in the reach of media — printing press, radio, television, internet — tend to be disruptive, and it takes time for rules (laws, licensure, etc.) to catch up. The internet presents special challenges, including speed of circulation, anonymity, unlimited points of entry, opportunities for unchecked amplification, and confusion of the distinction between public and private. Some controls have emerged — e.g. private firms responding to public pressure — but we’re not where we need to be and it’s hard to anticipate from the armchair where exactly that is. One hopes that accountable institutions are still robust and nimble enough to meet the challenge.

  35. SRP says:


    I don’t want to drag this out, but prior to arguing that tech bosses are in effect regulating speech, you wrote:

    “On the issue of regulating the information environment, we’ve already seen what an unregulated information environment looks like and how it gets weaponized by bad actors who want to tear societies apart.”

    So either we’ve seen unregulated or we haven’t.

    As for FB not hiring enough people to monitor the billions of posts they get each year…just think about the scaling. Even a non-profit willing to run losses wouldn’t be able to provide that level of contextually informed human review, and if the reviewers were human, a who-guards-the guardsmen problem results.

    At this point, Substack is the last mainstream venue for publishing views that anger online mobs and/or upset the worldview of coastal U.S. political and cultural elites.

  36. Peter Woit says:

    I was referring to the fact that Facebook had to introduce increased regulation in response to dramatic bad effects of their allowing some kinds of unregulated postings (e.g. the Rohingya genocide story).

    I don’t think the moderation problem Facebook has is one of technical difficulty in implementing a specific moderation policy. They have huge programming resources to throw at an AI-based approach and huge financial resources to hire humans to cover the cases where AI won’t work.

    The problem is not implementing Zuckerberg’s policy but what the policy is: it’s all right to use his platform for pure propaganda. Part of his reason for refusing to delete untrue posts is that it’s often hard to distinguish truth/untruth. But I suspect a larger role is played by his understanding that if he starts deleting propaganda from some sources, he’ll lose a large part of his user base that is devoted to that propaganda.

    In 2020 Zuckerberg’s policy was for instance
    There have been more recent statements from them about this, see
    In the last few weeks the war has created a new situation,
    one that makes very clear that in a wartime situation if you decide to allow propaganda you may be getting pretty directly involved in the slaughter of innocent people. I wonder whether this will change Zuckerberg’s thinking and thus Facebook’s future policies.

  37. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    I’m late to the party, but fwiw, I think you nailed it. People aren’t anti-science. They love science…as long as it doesn’t challenge any of their preconceptions or cherished dogmas.

    Now that we have limitless connectivity, anyone anywhere can find a credentialed individual who tells one exactly what one wants to hear, and hence they’re free to dismiss the so-called experts because Conspiracies. And credentialed individuals can spout whatever nonsense they like as long as they aren’t explicitly advocating mass murder because Freedoms. Sometimes even that minimum standard needn’t stop you.

    So, there is a “solution”: The average person consumes media judiciously, considers diverse points of view with both a willingness to listen and a healthy dose of skepticism, and is willing to educate themselves both about history and current events sufficiently well that the next time they cast a ballot they aren’t committing an act of civic malpractice.

    With that out the way, I therefore conclude we’re all fucked. Enjoy the tail-end of the post-enlightenment while it lasts, which seemingly won’t be much longer.

  38. SRP says:

    Peter, Zuckerberg had the right idea originally. Attempting to regulate viewpoints via blocking communications has never been a winning approach to promoting a free society. Nor would it be practical for FB to do a contextual, discriminating job of sorting out truth and falsity at the volume it faces.

    Nor is “propaganda” a good excuse. Listening to Tokyo Rose and Lord Haw-Haw caused more laughs than demoralization for Allied soldiers. Those who rarely hear dissenting views or propaganda are in the position of those with naive immune systems facing infections; Milton had it right when he said “I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue.”

    You may find this open letter to Elon Musk from the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education useful:

  39. Peter Woit says:

    About the only thing more naive and crazy than believing that this problem can simply be solved by “free speech” is believing that Elon Musk is going to save us…

  40. Santo D'Agostino says:

    Jonathan Haidt makes some interesting suggestions towards the end of his article here

    in a section entitled “Reform Social Media.”

    1. Social media companies need to verify users. This will reduce or eliminate bots and curb abuse.

    2. Modify “share” features to slow the spread of lies by requiring users to copy and paste instead of just clicking on a share button.

    3. Require social media companies to share their algorithms and data with researchers.

    None of these suggestions involve banning individuals or policing content.

  41. Mello says:

    wrt lubos, his response to the query about his blog’s disappearance is here:

  42. Peter Woit says:


    It looks like the plan of putting the world’s richest man in charge of our information environment is now going to be realized, we’ll see how that works out. Maybe putting everything in the hands of an insanely rich wacky Tech overlord not very interested in whether what he says is true or not is the best humanity can do under the circumstances.

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