Some insights on why fake news and conspiracy theories are obvious to some but not to others.

Basahin sa wikang Tagalog.

I have been enjoying Alexandre Horowitz’ On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the art of Observation. It is an eye-opening (see what I did there?) book on how to better pay attention to our communities. One particular part caused me to reflect on the current debate about truth. What is true? What is false? What makes something or someone trustworthy? Why do some believe “conspiracy theories”? Why do others believe “science”?

Horowitz talks about grandmasters in chess and relates it to how we pay attention to something. Here is the quote:

“Grandmasters remember phenomenal amounts of chess. It is estimated that a typical chess master remembers on the order of 50,000 to 300,000 “chunks”—arrangements of five to seven pieces placed normally, not randomly, on a board. They might know, unconsciously, 100,000 opening moves. These memory stores allow them to recall the precise positions of a large number of pieces on a series of games in progress, having seen them once. Sometimes this ability even extends to random piece placements, since a randomly placed piece is surprising, and distinctive, to someone who can see the logic in the piece placement of a game underway. By contrast, when a novice chess player looks at a board, he sees a jumbled arrangement of black and white pieces. If he is attentive, he might later be able to remember a few squares of the board, or a handful of pieces neighboring one another. Nothing else. The difference is that the scene is meaningful to the chess master but not to the novice. To the expert, every piece relates to the others, and every arrangement of pieces on a board relates to previous boards the player has seen or made. They become as familiar as the faces of friends.”

Nahati sa dalawa: Isang master ng chess at isang baguhan. Magkaiba ang kanilang mga alam pagdating sa chess. When I posted the quote on Facebook, my friend Aaron, who also was provoked by the quote, responded.

“As I read this, I thought of a variety of things:

The earliest victims of fake news were Adam and Eve.

Where is the problem, with the “novices” or those who spread fake news and conspiracies? Is there anything we can do to combat this problem? Or it is just unavoidable because we each have our own “mastery” in life and associated with it that we will not be able to master all aspects of the world. For example, some people are good at technology, while others of us are good at history, politics or law. Those who are good at technology may not have “mastery” in politics or law, so they can also fall victim to fake news about it.

Scientists acknowledge that their “mastery” is to discover, improve our knowledge and find answers to questions such as where we came from. The church, on the other hand, also has “mastery” properties such as the strengthening of faith. But there are times when the teaching of the church does not match the teaching of science. Both have mastery, but there are differences. And if there are differences, who are we to believe? And if science has proofs of their findings and the church refuses to accept and continues to enjoy existing teachings that are contrary to the findings of science, who are we to believe? If science has proof but those in the church still believe differently, isn’t it like we are the ones spreading fake news to the members of our church?

These are just thoughts I just want to share. The curiosity of my mind is likely to attack again.”

Great, isn’t it? It caused me to start thinking again so here are my responses to him:

“Thanks for the reply. Your mind is really flowing. I think we will find the answer in the flow of the mind 😉 It is true that Adam and Eve must have been deceived-that is at least what the bible teaches about Eve. Adam knew very well what he was doing wrong.

When it comes to the idea of mastery, one part is experience. Chess masters will probably be good because they have a certain something. But they are also good because of the practice they do every day. I think, even though I know almost nothing about chess other than the basics of the pieces and layout, when I play every day, I will probably also have mastery somehow. Or if not mastery and at least I have an appreciation for the mastery of the master.

For us, it is important to give appreciation to people who are on the other perspective. Often, what we do is purely imaginary. We think that they are stupid. We think they don’t know. We think whatever. But how can we say that when we have no appreciation? There are reasons why those in favor of science are in favor of science. And those in favor of conspiracy theories etc. are in favor of that. We must first find out where they are. We will probably find the solution by talking.

This is the framework given to us by Ka Jose de Mesa when it comes to appreciation:

Attitude #1: Presume the cultural element or aspect under consideration to be positive (at least in intent) until proven otherwise.

Attitude #2: Be aware of your own cultural presuppositions and adopt the insider’s point of view.

Attitude #3: Go beyond the cultural stereotypes.

Attitude #4: Use the vernacular as a key to understanding the culture in its own terms.

Issues such as the conflict between science and faith are likely to be answered as well.

You? What do you think? Is this a solution to our problem of fake news? What would you add? Please use the comment box below. 

Remember sharing is what friends do.

Image by Rafael Rex Felisilda on Unsplash. 

One thought on “Some insights on why fake news and conspiracy theories are obvious to some but not to others.

  1. Pingback: Ang ilang mga insight kung bakit ang mga pekeng balita at mga teorya ng pagsasabwatan ay halata sa ilan ngunit hindi sa iba | Michael J. Fast

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