Philosophers Win NSF Grant to Study False Beliefs


Two philosophers have won a $431,892 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the formation and spread of false beliefs and their implications for the public understanding of science.

Cailin O’Connor and James Weatherall [photo by Steve Zylius for UCI]

Cailin O’Connor and James Weatherall of the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of California, Irvine will be using the three-year grant for research, course creation, and policy development. According to a press release from UC Irvine:

Using network modeling and analysis, they’ll study how tactics employed by journalists and influencers shape public understanding of science, how social dynamics converge with personal biases to shape beliefs, and how scientific consensus emerges—among scientists, and among the public and policy makers. Findings from their work will guide course development on combatting fake news and propaganda, aide regulatory bodies and industry giants like Facebook and Twitter in understanding how to protect public belief, and contribute to efforts to counteract illegitimate attempts to shape public belief.

The work “lies at an underexplored intersection between philosophy of science, mathematical social science, and public policy,” says Professor Weatherall.

More information here.

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