Lee McIntyre: Post-Truth

THU, OCT 13, 7:30 PM

(and online via Hall Center Crowdcast)

Are we living in a post-truth world, where “alternative facts” replace actual facts and feelings have more weight than evidence? In Post-Truth (MIT Press 2018), Lee McIntyre traces the development of this phenomenon from its roots in science denial, cognitive bias, and postmodernism through the rise of “fake news,” “information silos,” and alternative media. What exactly is post-truth? Is it wishful thinking, political spin, mass delusion, or bold-faced lying? By analyzing various examples—inflated claims about inauguration crowd size, bogus crime statistics, and unfounded allegations about the 2016 popular vote— McIntyre concludes that post-truth is not merely an attempt to fool us into believing falsehoods, it is an assertion of ideological supremacy. Yet post-truth didn’t begin with the 2016 election; the denial of scientific facts about smoking, evolution, vaccines, and climate change offers a road map for more widespread fact denial. Add to this the wired-in cognitive biases that make us feel that our conclusions are based on good reasoning even when they are not, the decline of traditional media and the rise of social media, and the emergence of fake news as a political tool, and we have the ideal conditions for post-truth. In Post-Truth, McIntyre also argue that we can fight back, but that the first step in combatting post-truth is to understand where it came from.

Lee McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University. He has taught philosophy at Colgate University, Boston University, Tufts Experimental College, Simmons College, and Harvard Extension School. McIntyre has authored several books, including How to Talk to a Science Denier: Conversations with Flat Earthers, Climate Deniers, and Others Who Deny Reason, and The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience.

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