Digital Common Place Book

The Rise of Junk Science during the Digital Age

The first source I found was an article from the magazine Popular Mechanics discussing the rising trend of scientific misinformation better known as ‘junk science’. The article cites several issues and reports that have and continuously mislead the general public for several years. More than often, scientists and individuals will disregard scientific theory to favor their own agendas and personal beliefs. This inaccurate process is extremely damaging to the scientific community and further reinforces incorrect ideas such as ‘correlation equates causation’. The articles gives a few examples such as: a paper that correlates deaths with the nuclear accident of Fukushima, anti-vaxxers and paranoid parents, to even scientific fraudulent reports (and confirmations) from peer reviewed sources. The article sites these issues all arise from the increasing role of news and media outlets and the increase of social media access to the general public. The issue becomes even worse when news sources start using social media as ‘proof’ to get the fastest coverage and story, encouraged by competition and ratings.

The linked video is an analysis and an agreeing commentary on renown physicist Neil Degrasse Tyson’s statements refuting the idea that GMOs are harmful in any way. Cutting between the video creator and the source, both eloquently state how the scientific community as a whole agrees that GMOs pose no harm to people, short or long term. I chose this video on GMOs because it has been a rising issue and have latched on to fear and health trends, especially those who promote a ‘natural diet’. Many have capitalized on various health fads by encouraging certain dietary lifestyles simply based on fear and paranoia. An additional motivation against GMOs is the anti-corporate movement, especially against a company known as Monsanto. The video creator cites numerous and well regarded scientific organizations including WHO that have repeatedly conducted thousands of tests that all prove that there are no negative side effects of GMOs.

After reading these sources, it has become clear why there is a perpetual spreading of misinformation. Have you heard of the term ‘mob mentality’? This is a manner of thinking among a group of individuals, usually causing decentralized decision-making. As the number of social media users increases daily, the spread of information is passed on faster, increasing the chances of error or worse, malicious intent. Millions of people now hide behind their screen, and can say whatever they want, usually without consequences (other than a few heated exchanges). Now, it can be difficult to determine the difference between sarcasm and parody from serious intent. This phenomenon is known as Poe’s Law. This law has become even more relevant the more and longer I use the Internet, as my exposure to unsubstantiated opinions increases.


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