Counterknowledge, a term coined by the U.K. journalist Damian Thompson, is misinformation packaged to look like fact and that some critical mass of people believes. A recent US (2016) president-elect, having won the electoral college, claimed to have won the popular vote as well, when there was strong and documented evidence that that was not the case. The counterknowledge was repeated. Shortly thereafter, a survey revealed that 52 percent of the president-elect’s supporters, tens of millions of people, believed this falsity. (Pg.168)
Counterknowledge and misinformation can be costly, in terms of lives and happiness, and in terms of the time spent trying to undo things that didn’t go the way we thought they would. True knowledge simplifies our lives, helping us to make choices that increase our happiness and save time. (Pg.254)
Critical thinking is not something you do once with an issue and then drop it. It’s an active and ongoing process.
Time spent evaluating claims is not just time well spent, it should be considered part of an implicit bargain we’ve all made. Information gathering and research that used to take anywhere from hours to weeks now takes just seconds. We’ve saved incalculable numbers of hours of trips to libraries and far-flung archives, of hunting through thick books for the one passage that will answer our questions.
The implicit bargain that we all need to make explicit is that we will use just some of that time we saved in information acquisition to perform proper information verification. Just as it’s difficult to trust someone who has lied to you, it’s difficult to trust your own knowledge if half of it turns out to be counterknowledge. (Pg253)
Daniel J. Levitin
Daniel J. Levitin is Founding Dean of Arts & Humanities at the Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) in California. He is also the James McGill Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Music at McGill University, Montreal. “This Is Your Brain on Music” , “The World in Six Songs”, “The Organized Mind” and “A Field Guide to Lies” (republished in paperback as “Weaponized Lies”) were all #1 best-sellers. His work has been translated into 22 languages. Before becoming a neuroscientist, he worked as a session musician, sound engineer, and record producer, contributing to records by Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, and Blue Oyster Cult. He has published extensively in scientific journals as well as music magazines such as Grammy and Billboard. Recent musical performances include playing guitar and saxophone with Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Rosanne Cash, David Byrne, Cris Williamson, Victor Wooten, and Rodney Crowell.
Edited by: EZorrilla