This is the age of the pandemic. And that is truly terrifying. But it is also the age of the “infodemic,” and that too has some chilling features. We are relentlessly bombarded by a tsunami of information, the reliability of which is often questionable, especially when the source is social media. When it comes to controversial issues, be it in the area of medicine, nutrition, or environmental concerns, bloggers and politicians with sketchy relevant backgrounds are as likely to throw their hat into the ring as scientific experts. Unfortunately, in the public eye, the divergent opinions of these groups are often given equal weight.
In face of the seriousness of the health and societal problems we have to confront, judging the trustworthiness of the information we use to guide ourselves is becoming more and more critical. However, making such judgments is not an easy matter. Possible vested interests, evaluation of appropriate expertise, sources of published information, extent of peer review, scientific plausibility, the difference between anecdote and evidence, reliance on confirmation bias, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and the reproducibility of cited research all have to be considered before we jump onto one of the many bandwagons that are rolling by. This year, to reduce the risk of leaping onto one that is destined to crash, the Trottier Public Science Symposium will address the question of “in whom do we trust?”
The McGill OSS welcomes Britt Hermes, writer, scientist, and a former naturopathic doctor, and Brendan Nyhan, Professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College, to the first evening of the 2020 Trottier Public Science Symposium, “In Whom Do We Trust?”
Britt Hermes – "Fake doctor. Real Harm. Confessions of a former naturopathic “doctor”
The practice of naturopathy is unscrupulous and dangerous. For three years, I practiced as a licensed “naturopathic doctor” in the United States. I can say that the overwhelming majority of naturopathic care relies extensively on dubious alternative therapies, rather than established protocols based on medical and scientific research. In this talk, I share the experiences that led me to be interested in natural medicine and how I became the most hated (by them) naturopath in the world.
Brendan Nyhan – “The Consumers of “Fake News”: Why people read untrustworthy sources online”
Concern has grown since the 2016 election about the prevalence of online misinformation and the ways social media has potentially exacerbated its reach and influence. Using unique behavioral data measuring online exposure, we measure the prevalence of exposure to untrustworthy websites about politics and health and show that the consumption of these sites is typically limited and concentrated among small, unrepresentative groups of people. These findings contradict popular narratives about the prevalence and influence of so-called “fake news” sites.
For more information on the #Trottier2020 speakers, please visit the "In Whom Do We Trust?" website.
The Trottier Foundation is a proud supporter of the McGill Office for Science and Society’s Public Science Symposium and believes it is a vital vehicle to promoting scientific communication and presenting scientific information to a broader audience.
Established in 2000 by Lorne Trottier and Louise Rousselle Trottier, The Trottier Family Foundation is a Montreal-based private Canadian charitable foundation whose mission is
to provide support to organizations that work towards the advancement of scientific inquiry, the promotion of education, fostering better health, protecting the environment and mitigating climate change. The Foundation believes that science, the environment, health, and education are crucial pillars in building a better world.