i.e., if you have science, then you necessarily have misinformation.
In this post, I want to point out that the converse implication also holds, substantiating the idea that science is natural and not fragile at all:
i.e., science is necessary in case of misinformation.
Science follows from misinformation. Humans will be humans. They will use language to express their understanding and produce information. The world will be complex, it will change. Unlikely events will eventually occur for the first time. Understanding will be updated because new experiences will need explaining. What was once satisfactory information will become outdated, incorrect, decontextualised, misleading information, reflecting the understanding of another time, another place, another people. Misinformation will inevitably come out of information. And science will necessarily happen again. Because it is humans’ natural response to the world acting independently of the information we have on it. The complexity, evolution and multiplicity of the world and of humans will test and degrade information that is not updated continuously and carefully recontextualised. Humans will be humans, they will notice. They will be curious and creative and try to get ahead of time to further test the information they have now, and find out how close it is to obsolescence and if they can already go forward and improve on it.
Seeing misinformation as the enemy of science and reason has clearly done nothing towards promoting a scientific mindset among the public. No great surprises there. The enemy of science is considering science as something sacred we have to protect and adhere to.
Science is not sacred and needs no adhering to. It’s natural, it’s mundane, it can’t be helped. Think of it: if you were very powerful and could travel back in time to prevent science from even emerging in the history of humanity, which point in time would you choose to go to and what would you do there? When were the seeds of science not yet in humans? When was the time where humans were humans — or on their way to becoming humans comparable to us — and they did not already observe the world, the sun, the moon, the weather, the seasons, what makes crop grow, what makes it die…?
Encyclopedia Britannica’s article “history of science” written by W. L. Pearce answers:
“Science […] is universal among humankind, and it has existed since the dawn of human existence.“
Science is a form of play and a way to exercise a power over the world. Humans will be humans, they will observe, they will experiment and test their ability to predict and to impose their will on parts of the world. When humans are discouraged from playing, a little angst is bound to build up.
Misinformation is part of the game. It’s misalignement with logic and observation that stimulates and makes the game worth playing: because there is improvement to be produced and because it’s in our power to produce it.
Seeing science as the inevitable natural pleasurable response to misinformation is worth a try, especially given how miserably the alternative, traditional view is failing to promote the scientific mindset among the general public. Misinformation might be worth seeing as a pretext to play the worldly game of science. We could reframe misinformation as an opportunity to encourage a scientific mindset rather than a threat to reason. That might make us come up with very different kinds of solutions and approaches to managing online information…