How Can We Know

Brian Wansink was born in Iowa in 1960. He came from a blue-collar family who valued education, eventually earning a Ph.D. in marketing from Stanford University. He went on to teach at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and the Wharton School of Business at Wharton. He had subsequent academic appointments at the University of Illinois and at Cornell.

His research work focused on how people make food choices. Based on his research, he became the Executive Director of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. His work informed Americans on nutrition and eating guidelines.

Unfortunately, much of the work that he published and then made it into national nutritional guidelines was proven false. His research papers were withdrawn from publications. He was found to have distorted the results of his research by ignoring results that were unfavorable to his hypotheses. He was eventually fired from his position.

How is the general public to know what to believe when there is a growing trend of experts reporting results that are later proven to be wrong? Wikipedia has a section called List of Scientific Misconduct Incidents that covers virtually all areas of misconduct including those in STEM fields, the social sciences, and even the humanities.

Just imagine how these false research findings have impacted our trust in evidence-based research. There is little wonder how politicians and others can create doubt in challenging public policies. Climate science and vaccine effectiveness are the latest targets of those who want to call scientific studies into question. How are we to know what’s valid and what isn’t?

Now imagine the future of these misleading research findings when they enter the artificial intelligence (AI) world. Might they become the catalyst for a growing conspiracy epidemic? The old phrase GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) has now given AI steroids.

Can a democracy survive when there is no longer a way for average citizens to understand what is the truth?

* * *

“Truth is so hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible.” – Francis Bacon (philosopher and the developer of what we now think of as Scientific Method)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.